At CFNE, we call it “entering the danger”, those tough conversations you need to have with people regarding anything from not following through with something, to showing up late for work, to telling someone they seem to have an unhealthy relationship with drinking, to letting someone know they need to work on their “people” skills. They’re the talks that give you a pit in your stomach because you know it’s not as simple as telling someone that they are pulling early on their power cleans or even that they have something in their teeth.
I think of the danger zone as a place on the comfort spectrum similar to our lactic threshold training. If our lactic threshold training is the place when things get really hard (muscles start fatiguing, battery acid starts racing through your lungs, round 3.5 of 5 rounds), then the danger zone is when a confrontation with someone tips over into that place when the sunshine and rainbows disappear and you start wondering whether you’re ready to take on the weight of that heavy talk.
The danger zone and lactic threshold training have another very important similarity: when done well, they both provide the best opportunity for growth. These are the times in our training when we actually improve our level of fitness (we get stronger, faster), and when a person can become a better version of themselves (they become aware and embrace the challenge to change the way they are used to doing something).
BRING IT, right? Who doesn’t want all of those results? But, what it takes to get there is a lot easier said than done. Just as it’s easy to say we’re all in for a hard workout if it offers the prize of better fitness or a leaner body composition, it’s easy to say we want to help someone become a better person by taking that tough conversation on.
In my own experience with entering the danger zone, I’ve had the best results with this: when you take on the opportunity as a chance to help someone that you genuinely care for, rather than a time when you need to teach them a lesson and try to convince them that your way is better than theirs.
When the danger zone is approached from a place of empathy and caring, things go a lot smoother.
Caring, however, isn’t something you can, or should, fake. There is nothing worse than someone who pretends to care by “saying” the right words. Caring starts with listening, really listening to what they’re feeling and what got them to where they are…not formulating your own assumptions while they’re talking. You need to ask questions, listen to answers, ask more questions based off of those answers, repeat and repeat and repeat…until, finally, there is a mutual foundation of trust from which change can start to happen.
We all know that our most valuable resource is time because it’s so limited and once we use it, we can never get it back. So, when someone sees that you’ve invested time into them, they can trust that you actually care. And, when someone can trust that you care, they can feel safer being vulnerable. If someone can feel vulnerable, they can be open to seeing the need for change. And, all of this is where positive change can begin.
We all want the sunshine and rainbows to stay around, but sometimes they have to disappear for a while so they can come back and shine brighter than they previously did…or, ever could if you weren’t willing to enter the danger.