Yesterday, I attended a workshop run by a coaching colleague on the subject of ‘Fierce Conversations’. The coaching model I learnt was based on the work of Susan Scott, the author of the book with the same title. ‘Fierce’ in this context means honest and authentic (rather than scary and aggressive as you might imagine). One of the basic premises is that you ‘come out from behind yourself, into the conversation, and make it real’. Easy to say, quite extraordinarily difficult to do in practice.
If you don’t believe me, just think of the commentary that runs through your head when talking with someone you don’t particularly like. Would you say any of those thoughts out loud? Probably not. Social niceties like tact and diplomacy generally get in the way. Also, it’s worth asking yourself where those thoughts are coming from. Are they really judgements about the other person based on your take on the world, your view of what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘correct’?
To me, Scott’s principles are essentially built on the thinking of Carl Rogers’ person-centred approach and cognitive behavioural coaching. She advocates that we challenge people’s versions of ‘the truth’, ‘rules’ or ‘the way things are’ (especially pertinent in organisational culture) and we do not proffer advice – instead we ask questions which facilitate someone’s learning. Each conversation is conducted with positive regard for the person.
To have really honest conversations takes a huge measure of courage. But the quality of the conversation changes both participants for the better. As Scott puts it:
While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship, or a life – any single conversation can.