Navigating Challenging Conversations with Compassion and Courage

In our recent Compassion@Work session with participants from Northeast Kingdom Human Services, we explored what courage and vulnerability can look like in challenging workplace conversations. Inspired by Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead program, we discussed how to navigate these conversations with compassion and courage.

We reflected on how we can feel discomfort when beginning challenging conversations, and we considered how to initiate these conversations that focus on genuinely understanding each other’s perspectives. Together, we thought about conversation starters that are thoughtful, kind, and aim to learn about the other person’s feelings and needs. 

We also reflected on what happens if we’re taken by surprise with a challenging conversation. How can we hit pause to give ourselves space to regulate before responding, rather than reacting? Having some helpful phrases to “pause” a conversation can give us time for self-compassion, to recognize our feelings and needs, or to process the other person’s perspective. 

Together, we created our own resource of compassionate phrases to begin and pause courageous conversations. The dedication and excitement participants shared to explore this topic was so inspiring! 

Compassion@Work is all about acknowledging that everyone has feelings and needs. Feelings can be understood as indications of needs that are important to us. When we can stay curious about the feelings and needs of ourselves and others, especially in challenging conversations, we can problem solve in ways that support a more positive and productive work environment.

To learn more about Compassion@Work, please feel free to connect with Holly at