How to… have meaningful conversations with confidence!

How to… have meaningful conversations with confidence!

Blog by Adriènne Kelbie, Chief Executive, ONR

The Office for Nuclear Regulation Chief Executive, Adriènne Kelbie. Picture date: 24th January 2019. Location: ONR Bootle, Liverpool. Photo credit should LAUREN HURLEY for DESIGN102/ONR. CROWN COPYRIGHT on OGL.

Adriènne Kelbie, Chief Executive of the Office for Nuclear Regulation and ambassador and mentor for PfW, writes our latest guest blog in support of women and their careers. As a follow-up to her popular POWERful Connections breakfast on pursuing what you want, she explores how you can have meaningful conversations with confidence.


Confidence – precious, free, and limitless

When was the last time you had a difficult conversation and, most importantly, did you have the confidence to be honest?

I understand having scary conversations isn’t always easy. But it’s essential to your success and happiness. Fear of failure is a monster that holds us back, egged on by its henchman, negative self-talk. And together, that dastardly duo literally kills our confidence.

The truth is that a lot of the time we imagine other people are more confident than we are – but fear is a reality for everyone. We often clutch defeat from potential victory as we catastrophise about how our conversations could go wrong, all the barriers, all the times we didn’t get things absolutely right. Our brain is Velcro for criticism! And we fail to recognise all the amazing progress we’ve already made… All the tough conversations we’ve already successfully tackled!

These are symptoms that our inner “imposter syndrome” (where we don’t feel our success is deserved) has crept up on us and gnawing away at our confidence. It’s time to banish that rat! Confidence is one of your best tools – it’s limitless, always available, and free. Why wouldn’t you use it freely?

So, I would love to share some tips about how you can free your mindset and approach your conversations with confidence!


My top 5 tips for having meaningful conversations with confidence:

1. Be open minded and prepared to dig in – It’s important to go through the discomfort of trying new things, know that it’s okay to feel ‘not ok’, and to learn from it.

2. Don’t assume other people have more confidence than you – Most people are thinking just the same! So use your power instead of worrying about theirs. You have all the confidence you need; but you must consciously decide how to use it and be aware when you’re making excuses to yourself, never mind anyone else.

3. Be honest and clear about what you want – If you don’t show the confidence to ask for what you want, why should anyone else believe it is important enough to give to you? It isn’t rude, it’s good business and it strengthens relationships.

4. Be prepared to engage – Listen, reflect, and speak up. Are you truly engaging and being present? If you’re staying below the radar, you’re not adding value. I’d rather discuss a comment I don’t agree with, or an incorrect answer, than wonder why you bother to be at my table and prevent someone else having that chance…

5. Recognise your comfort zone – Progress requires constructive tension. If you don’t raise diverse views or confront disagreement, you are not growing. Your comfort zone is a warm place, but it will kill your potential. Do just one thing every week that makes you uncomfortable – and feel your confidence and learning grow.


Preparing for meaningful conversations

As you may have experienced, communication is rife with misunderstanding (which isn’t helpful for anyone). Can you remember the last time what you said was misinterpreted or miscommunicated – or even caused offence or upset? When we say, “I was disappointed that”, others might hear “you upset me”, or “you’re always attacking me” when this isn’t what you’re saying. And starting from that distortion, it’s pretty difficult to get a good outcome.

We can’t always control the way others perceive our messages, but we can prepare our communication so that we have the best chance of being understood. So, how do we do this?

Here are two handy tools that can help you prepare with purpose, which I’ve sought to learn effectively with the support of Alex Pett of River Leadership.


1. Getting clear about the silent conversation ….

Before you have the conversation, mark up three columns on A4 portrait paper:
• In column one, write what you intend to say out loud – the exact words.
• In column two, write what you think the other person will think you actually mean.
• In column three, write what you think they will actually say.
Reflect on the conversation that’s not happening and consider why that’s the case. Is it actually the one that needs to happen? What are you avoiding and why? Why do you think they will think differently to what they say?


2. Then, bring structure to your statement
Having a clear framework for communication leaves less room for misinterpretation and means you are more likely to be successful in communicating what you want.
• Frame the conversation – what do you want to talk about? And what are your expectations?
• Name your point of view – how do you see the issue/topic?
• Explain your point of view – why do you see things this way? What are the consequences?
• Explore their point of view – what do they see that you don’t? What do they think of your position? Does this change your point of view? How do you both/all move forward?


What now?

Be honest that although pursuing and communicating what you want isn’t always going to be easy, it is rewarding! Know that “I tried” is always better than “there’s no point”. And use practical tools to build your confidence and take charge of your conversations.

I’d love to hear about your confidence journeys. And if you would like to explore personal or small group confident conversations coaching, let me know via Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram by clicking the icons below.