I had an interesting conversation the other day. It was a conversation I didn’t want to have. I had tied myself up in knots about it because I was sure that it would go badly.
I like people, I like conversations, but I don’t like conflict at all. So I wanted to hide, I wanted to shoot from behind my keyboard. I wanted to be able to take the time to carefully craft my sentences.
But sometimes it’s better to talk in person.
In fact, my Mother always told me, ‘Talk in person, and if you can’t do that, talk on the phone, and if that’s impossible, then write.’
Let me set the scene.
I am giving a talk for our church soon, and I have been working with the women’s ministry team to prepare the talk. I want the talk to be suitable for their situation. They want it to be right too. It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m thrilled to be doing it.
The ladies organising the talk made some suggestions to me about how I should proceed. I thought through those suggestions and decided I didn’t want to do things that way, I wanted a slightly different take. I needed to tell them, but I was scared.
I was worried that I was wrong, that I was being proud, that I should just take their suggestions on board and go with them. It sounds like humility (a good thing) but I think it was just imposter complex (a bad thing) masquerading as humility.
The thing is, I’ve been a lecturer for ten years, I know how to talk in front of people, I’m trained in it. And yet, here I was, stressing about these little changes. Stressing because I wanted to do things my way and yet here was an email (and an in-person conversation) suggesting that I should do things another way.
So my first instinct was to write an email. A list of very good reasons why my way was better. A strong argument where I could put my thoughts in order and push these people over to my point of view.
The email I wrote instead asked if we could meet in person and talk about things.
After sending that email, I stressed. I spent time thinking of exactly how I wanted to phrase my arguments when we chatted. I thought of the best way to start, the way to push my point across, the way to make sure we were still in relationship afterwards.
Over and over again I replayed the possible conversation. And then I would pray and give it to God and get on with life. I had to wait a few days until we could meet and there was nothing I could do. I decided not to keep stressing, there was no point. But I also replayed my points to myself several times a day so I wouldn’t forget them. I’m not real good at letting go of the stress, can you tell? But I’m trying.
So then the day came, and we had the chat. And I have to say, the women were lovely. They are really great people. They weren’t holding tight to their suggestions, the ideas were just that – suggestions. I only got out maybe two of my carefully rehearsed sentences, they weren’t needed. We had a great chat about all our thoughts about the night and then prayed together and left.
And I laughed at myself.
Imposter complex is so difficult to overcome. In fact, it was really only as I was writing this that I fully realised what was going on there. So I guess that’s one take-home message: check whether your humility is imposter complex or fear in disguise.
But the other thing is, I can see looking back that our conversation could have escalated into a horrible resentment and anger on both sides (or at least on mine) if I had allowed it to continue by email. It would have been impossible to read the subtle body language, the joyous laughter, and the side comments. We would have got more stilted, more precious, and it could have brought disaster.
But dealing with the conflict in person blew all those cobwebs away, made see just how little conflict there actually was, and has left me free and light and ready to go for it with my little talk.
I wish I could keep this wisdom with me all the time. I know I’ve stuffed this one up more than once.
The online world is wonderful and I love messenger and email for giving me the ability to converse easily as an introvert without having to actually get out of my house and see people 🙂 but sometimes, with these difficult conversations, I think my Mum’s wisdom stands:
Talk in person if you can, otherwise talk on the phone, and only write if you absolutely must.
What do you think?