Conversing openly with other people can take enormous courage! Think about the number of times you have withheld how you feel to a loved one because your long-held beliefs were in conflict or you chose not to speak up during a staff meeting to reveal your ideas out of concern of being ostracized or even fired. Our relationships are defined by the conversations we have (or do not have) with the people in our lives.
Courage comes from the medieval Old French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” When you speak from your heart and spirit you are being true to yourself. Simply using the word “courage” to describe an action and outcome activates your voice and sets a context for positive action.
One of my corporate coaching clients said, “I am so used to ‘filtering’ myself I almost forget I am doing it. My test of courage has been being able to share openly my deepest dreams and fears and true thoughts. With one exception in my life I have always kept a certain core totally to myself. Yet, when I was able to let go and candidly share this core, I felt enormously liberated.” This sixty-one year old client yearns to speak from her heart. Once she attains this level of self-realization (and eventually self-fulfillment) she is able to demonstrate her authenticity. Then, when her time comes to pass on, she will not be filled with regret or resentment.
Authentic means “genuine; real.” When you combine the original meaning of courage (“heart and spirit”) with authenticity, you get the true you! If you long to alter the context of your life, to break through and achieve your noblest aspirations, then speaking the language of courage is the right tool.
You can determine the quality of your relationships by analyzing your conversations. For example, do you stay resentful toward your boss or partner telling others of his/her faults or do you take a stand in courage and make a declaration to speak to him/her? Ask yourself these few questions:
- Am I using courage to declare my feelings? •How do I create my conversations with others?
- Do I blame my boss/mate instead of generating a new context for listening?
- Do I take responsibility to speak up to reveal the truth?
The action of conversing with courage makes something new happen. Below are three examples of how you can converse using the language of courage:
- Become a detached “observer” of yourself. When you notice you hesitate to share something that you have determined “should” be shared, start with this phrase: “I want you to know that it takes courage to share…” This sentence sets the stage for a different kind of listening and helps you to be authentic.
- Begin to notice when you feel regret(s) about not speaking up. An editor of a newspaper wrote an article about long-held regret called “Learning to Speak Up.” She still lives with a regret that took place twenty years ago in a high school gym. Painfully, Angela wrote that she still kicks herself for not speaking up about the horrible gym incident she witnessed. She wrote, “I should have offered her some compassion. I guess I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse…I failed my schoolmate that day, and I’m sorry. But I’m also grateful to her, because the incident she endured taught me to never be silent again.”
- Watch for this phrase: “I wanted to say…” One evening, sitting in a restaurant with my friend Daniel, he excused himself to go to the men’s room. Two women were sitting kitty corner from our table talking about an incident at work. Based on my observation, they seemed to be in well-established positions, but that doesn’t really matter. One woman leaned her shoulders over the table’s edge and said to her friend, “You know, I really wanted to say…you have an issue with…” Her friend said, “But you didn’t.” Her friend’s response was correct. The other woman chose to withhold her true opinions. Women have a tendency to swallow their words of wisdom. They are reluctant to speak up with contrary or during “against the odds” situations. Why? They may lose their jobs/image/esteem/friend (whatever!).
It takes conscious choice and effective action to dive into your heart and spirit to claim who you really are. Conversing with courage means you are unwilling to let anyone else design your life. Then you are not filled with regret.
Moral of the story: Design your life with the courage to converse. Listen to your heart and choose to transform yourself through language. Don’t simply visit this world.
Share some of your stepping up moments at work.
“Call on your courage to stand up for the self you know to be you.”
— Sandra Ford Walston, COURAGE: The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman/Reclaiming the Forgotten Virtue
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