In the past week, I’ve been in at least two situations that, years ago, would have made me very uncomfortable. That’s because they involved delivering unpleasant news. In one conversation I had to tell someone that they didn’t win a bid and in another, I challenged a business owner/client on some of her assumptions. Many of you may find these conversations easy, but I imagine that like me, many people equate these situations with conflict. I used to do anything to avoid conflict, even preferring to break bad news via the modern, chicken sh*t-way…email.
But these conversations were surprisingly easy and I’m so glad I had them. Having them meant that I was acting authentically, presenting my genuine self. And, the conversations gave me the idea for this post (and a few more to boot).
Over the course of the morning, I’ve been thinking about all the ways we avoid being uncomfortable. We go to the same restaurants, hang out with the same friends, engage business with like-minded people, design things the same way…anything to avoid getting outside of the comfort zone. And why should we want to leave that comfort zone? It’s cozy, familiar, safe.
And that, my friends, is a problem. Being safe (professionally speaking) will keep you with the same colleagues, the same ideas, same designs and the same outlook. And this, I believe, translates to a limited amount of growth, in both the personal value that you add to your relationships and even to the amount your company (or salary) can grow. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard:
We can’t do it that way. That won’t work. She always does that. We always do it this way. My way is proven and it works. No use reinventing the wheel. Blah, blah, blah.
The meaty stuff, the hard stuff, the uncomfortable stuff that pushes you outside of your comfort zone is what will keep you growing and ultimately, thriving, in your professional life. Probably your personal one too.
So try doing something really uncomfortable. I’ll give you a suggestion. Apologize to someone. No one likes to admit they’re wrong, but the next time you are (if you can even recognize it), just say so. It is amazingly freeing and you may be surprised that it doesn’t make you look incompetent. Rather, it makes you more trustworthy.
I read a great book by Aaron Lazare, titled On Apology. If you’re unsure about the power of apologies, check out this little gem of a book. One reason people fail to apologize is that they think it will make them appear weak, especially in the business world. On the contrary, a sincere, well-timed apology makes you appear strong and confident.
A client last week apologized to me for mis-communication. Wow, how refreshing! He totally could have sidestepped that situation, even blamed it on me since I do work at his discretion. The result of his apology means I want to work that much harder for him. It showed humility, leadership and confidence. How cool is that?
Will you go out of your comfort zone? And if you do, let me know. I would love to hear how it goes.