Difficult Conversations are HIIT for your brain

Difficult Conversations are, well, difficult. So are HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions. HIIT can boost your physical fitness, difficult conversations can boost your professional fitness – or maybe even your general mental wellbeing, since difficult conversations might not be restricted to your work environment.

Difficult Conversations are actually a great mental workout – in the right measure. Your muscles can thrive on 2-3 short HIIT sessions per week – otherwise, you risk injury. Your brain can probably do 1-2 difficult conversations per week – otherwise, you risk burnout. “Normal” meetings would be the equivalent of the low-intensity cardio training you do in between 😉

Here are the three main reasons why I’ve learned to appreciate Difficult Conversations.

It’s a time-saving alternative – though you need to prepare

HIIT is quick – 15-30 min are usually enough to get the full advantages of the workout. You need a plan though, and a watch to be able to track yourself.

Difficult conversations are not necessarily that short. But they are far more effective than hoping for the best / hinting / complaining to fellow colleagues / indirect comments.

Of course, you need to prepare. Regular 1:1s can be pretty simple – you get in there and talk. For a difficult conversation, you need to review past data, plan a strategy and define your goals beforehand.

You get directly to the core (a.k.a. it may hurt)

HIIT is usually not quite fun. It may hurt. It requires willpower (or a good coach) to not abandon the training halfway through.

Difficult Conversations aren’t really fun either. Especially if you value harmony, it can be painful to seek out those moments of controversy. It requires willpower to not reschedule again and again – or a good coach/mentor/your own lead to help you prepare and debrief.

You can see yourself growing

That’s obvious for HIIT. Both your heart as well as the muscles directly used will get a boost through short and intense workouts – and you’ll most likely see the effects pretty soon in the mirror.

Difficult Conversations boost your conflict resolution muscles. You’ll learn to listen actively, to ask the right questions, to get to solutions. Yes, it takes practice (and it is stressful) – but it will get better!

Now, make sure to tackle those Difficult Conversations regularly. As soon as it becomes a habit it won’t be scary anymore.

[This post is part of my journey with my career coach Stephanie Vora, a perk offered by Automattic. You can find all posts here.]

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