Facing Fears & Finding Courage
At Dialogue Partners, we regularly talk about our fears, what we are afraid of and use this to find our own strength, intention and then courageously (albeit with a few nerves) step out there. A workshop, created by Carmen Ekdalh and Stephani Roy McCallum entitled From Fear to Fulfillment has inspired me to do a lot of my own reflection and share this story.
Recently, I had the pleasure of training a group of participants who are preparing to host a series of difficult, messy, all the while quite possibility, transformational conversations. These participants have volunteered to serve as mentors, hosts and guides through what is likely at minimum a dynamic, and more likely, an emotionally charged, change process. Nearing the end of the session, we had together developed the facilitation skills, knowledge, tools and yet the room was still filled with the distinctive smell and taste of fear. (I was never a believer that strong emotions connected with our five senses but I stand corrected!) Just like facts don’t make you feel better, nor do facilitation tools and skills ensure positive outcomes. I was sensing that while their heads were ready to go and their hearts were stopping them before they even opened the “dialogue door”. Taking my own big breath, I decided to stray from the agenda and dive into the uncomfortable. I asked everyone to take a couple of minutes and reflect on what we’d covered so far, how they were feeling in preparing for hosting their first conversation and what were the absolutely most afraid of…what was the worst possible thing their participants might say to them…then write it down and sit with it.
Forming a large but closely connected circle, each person was asked to share with the group, using their best imitation of the speaker, their worst fear. Here some of what I heard:
- · Who are you to stand up there?
- · I thought you were with us….now you are siding with them?
- · This is a complete waste of my time!
- · We are spending money on this?!
- · This is a pile %#$%
Fast and furious, a multitude of facilitation nightmares got spun into a whirlwind of anxiety, dread, trepidation… it built and built till it was a significant force in the room and yet that’s when the shift happened. When no new fears emerged from the circle, I asked everyone to share their fear again and this time the power of their angst was sizably diminished. When checking in with the group afterwards, they shared that the words (and their fears) had less hold over them. That process had sparked their courage and allowed them to acknowledge their own vulnerability; their own fear and they found solace in the shared experience.
No magic wands or fairy dust was used in the making of this story, instead it’s key ingredients were people, just regular people who were willing to bring their whole, very best, imperfect selves to a brave conversation. So I’ll ask you reader… what’s keeping you up at night? Is keeping it all bottled up really serving you well? I’d love to hear your story!