"A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have," says Tim Ferriss in his book, "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich."
It's a real paradox: The conversations we try to avoid are the ones that benefit us the most in the long-run. Basically, being vulnerable (or willing to have "the talk") helps people relate to and respect you — and the more people respect you, the more invested they'll be in your success.
One of the hardest conversations you might have at work is one where you have to go back on your word — you can't meet a deadline, you can't help out with a project, you're unable to reach your quarterly goal.
Since most people don't love it when we break promises (who does?), our first impulse is usually to find an excuse to avoid responsibility altogether. But, doing this only alienates people, which then makes them less forgiving.
A few weeks ago, for example, I realized I couldn't achieve the revenue numbers I'd promised my investors without sacrificing my company's other goals — like hiring a great team and responding to customers' feedback.
I contemplated all the elaborate stories I could tell to make it seem like this wasn't my fault. But then I realized — I didn't want that kind of relationship with my investors. I wanted them to understand my goals and rally behind them.
So, I explained why growing the team and fixing the product were so important to me. I talked about how much progress we'd made and how much more I believed we could make with more attention to those areas. Then, I detailed the logistical reasons we couldn't bring in the revenue I'd predicted. At first, they were skeptical. But, once I explained myself fully, they were glad I was focused on the right things.
Here's what that experience taught me about going back on your word and using those tough conversations to your advantage.