When it is good to feel uncomfortable

Sometimes feeling uncomfortable is just yuck.  Like when you attend a networking luncheon and realise at the end, as everyone is paying for their meal, that you forgot your wallet.  What about those beautiful new shoes you bought that are now feeling as though they are permanently imbedded in the skin of your heel and no first aid kit, to put a barrier between those gorgeous beauties and your blistered skin, is in sight?  Or worse!  That new pair of underwear that has suddenly started…to…creep…up!!!  Yep, uncomfortable is not good. 

Having said that, we generally will not change our behaviour unless we feel uncomfortable.  Now that could be to throw those undies straight in the bin or it could be to learn how to have an open, honest and genuine, robust conversation that needs to happen.  Most people feel uncomfortable having difficult conversations due to past experiences where possibly the message came out wrong; was ill received; or failed to produce the intended outcome.  I find it is at this difficult point when people want to give up.  I get that and yep, we have all been there, but you know what? as uncomfortable as it can be learning a new skill, you need to stick at it if you want a different outcome.  Remember it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. 

When you lift weights, you tear the muscle a tiny little bit.  When your body repairs these tiny tears, the muscle grows stronger (and bigger).  The first time you sprint 100m you may experience pain in your chest as your lungs struggle to get enough air and your legs burn.  Repeat this practice daily for a fortnight and you will find your lung capacity will have increased and it is now not as difficult to breathe.  Your legs probably still hurt but that’s what you get with cardio.  Over time though, by enduring a little discomfort as you practice your new skill, you become more proficient and the discomfort becomes less.  Just like getting stronger and fitter each day, practicing robust discussions will mean you become more confident in having a conversation with someone who is a bit fiery, quick to retort and not up to par with their work performance.   

The reason new practices and processes become easier the more we repeat them is that we are building new neural pathways in our brains.  Just as we flex muscle and huff and puff around the running track, new activities engage and flex our brain.  Neural pathways are like superhighways of nerve cells that transmit messages. The more you travel a superhighway i.e. practice a skill, the more solid the pathway becomes.  We can change these pathways at any time as the brain is always changing.  This is called neuroplasticity. 

To retrain our brain and change our practices we need to firstly identify the habit we want to change e.g. avoiding a conversation with someone who has in past been confrontational i.e. a negative experience.  Secondly, focus on your current behaviour and how that impacts you i.e. allowing their poor performance to continue results in you picking up the slack; and finally, focus on where you want things to be i.e. they are aware of the expectation and pull their own weight.  Focusing on the new intention and positive outcome helps to guide you to develop new neural pathways.  And remember, if you are supportive and fair in your approach, the listener’s behaviour reflects on them and it is their choice – do not let it impact you.  This is where the uncomfortable becomes no longer quite so uncomfortable and you know what, You have got this!  Or if you would like assistance, touch base with us at Focus HR and we will be happy to assist you.