Braver than a 5th grader?

24 Sep

This week I must address a matter of student behavior that caused some problems last week at my Taekwondo school. The matter involves a few kids, ranging in age from about 8 through 12.  For the purposes of this post, the particular issue doesn’t matter. Rather, what matters is that I need to address it, I will, and, hopefully, will do so well.

I want to resolve the matter because I don’t want to lose any students. Sure, I don’t want to lose any paid enrollments. But much, much more so,  I don’t want to lose any student(s); I want to help them grow, develop, flourish, and move along in various ways. I want them to fulfill their potential, and I want us to be part of that.

Addressing “issues” as we do with students parallels such situations in families or school classrooms except that, in the case of my school, a student or parent can easily decide to leave. Unlike a family, where its members are generally fixed in place, or a school, where a student generally has to be there and will continue to be there, my students (or assistants, for that matter) can just pack up and leave at a moment’s notice. It might not be quite that easy for them to decide to do so, but it’s a lot easier than doing so in family or a school.

Dealing with such things is part and parcel of what I do, what families do, what teachers do. It’s also what colleagues and peers and employees and team members and bosses and leaders do in organizations.


And usually the DON’T DOING IT results in somebody leaving in some way, at some point, usually for the worse.  Bad things happen. Bad reviews. Hurt feelings. Bullying. Alcohol abuse. Lost revenue. Lost jobs. Surgical mistakes. Plane crashes. Death. Really!

With kids — the younger, the better — we’re pretty quick to jump into a touchy conversation (which can be a simple as some firm discipline). As kids get older (teens), or as we move into realms where we’re dealing with adults (spouses, bosses, employees, fellow church members), our willingness to initiate, and our ability to well-handle, touchy conversations tends to disappear faster than (insert your own appropos metaphor here). Faster than almost anything else?

We avoid them. And we stink at handling them when we havethem.

When our Friday morning church men’s group studied the book Crucial Conversations, I was greatly taken with the content.  For reference, the authors of that book define a crucial conversation as any conversation where 1) the stakes are high, 2) emotions run strong and 3) opinions vary.  Why don’t people venture into challenging conversations past the point in life where they are dealing with a 5th grader? Why are people willing to let bad things happen, or continue, rather than address the matter? Further, once started, why are we so poor at handling such crucial conversations? The authors of the book help greatly with answering those questions, and make it easier, but it is still hard.

My purpose in this post is not to venture into particular whys and hows of crucial conversations. As far a considering those things, I direct you to this summary, this summary, or these notes of the book, or the book itself.

Rather, my intent today is to point out that we each need to consider which conversations  with whom am we not having, why we are not having them, and which ones we want to or will have.  Having them well is a next step. Read the book, or a summary.

What conversations are you not having that really should happen? What conversations hold the potential to, eventually at least, take away stress, increase your life in some way, improve your situation at home or work, improve the situation of others or something you care about. Which conversations can stop not-good-things from happening? What situation in your life needs conversation-attention that’s not getting it?

Once you — and I — decide those answers, it’s time to take the next step. Or not. It IS a choice. In which case, I hope I’m braver than a 5th grader.

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