You have toilet paper on your shoe... and other awkward (but important) conversations

coaching leadership Feb 22, 2022

*Photo by Kev Bation on Unsplash


I was at a conference a few years back and was getting ready to give a presentation. 

I was in the bathroom, calming my nerves and making sure I didn't have left-over lunch in my teeth. 

As I walked out, a woman rushed up from behind me and held my arm for a moment. It startled me!

Then she looked me in the eye and whispered, "Imagine I'm your best friend for a have toilet paper stuck to your shoe." 

We both laughed, and I was simultaneously embarrassed and tremendously grateful!

It would have been SO MUCH WORSE to walk up to the podium with toilet paper stuck to my shoe!!!


Have you ever been in that situation? 

Or worse, in a situation where NO ONE TOLD YOU that you have bad breath, or lipstick on your teeth, or your fly is down, or you have a typo in the slide presentation you're about to deliver to your boss? 

(Go to the comments below right now and share your stories with me! I can't wait to hear them!)


I was so grateful to this complete stranger for stepping into that awkward moment and it taught me a valuable lesson about speaking up about hard things. 

(Of course, that was a "low stakes" situation, and sometimes it's much harder.) 


A friend and I have been going through a rough patch. 

The other day, we finally had a rich and healing conversation, and the essence of what we both shared was this: 

"here are the things I didn't say when I should have said them that would have stopped us from getting into this mess!" 

We both had good reasons for not speaking up about a few things that were bothering each of us, but we were missing the bigger picture... 

When we don't speak up, damage still happens!

  • Problems persist
  • Resentment grows
  • Our "stories" about what is going on start to feel like facts

And then we often withdraw or ruminate, or we get much more aggressive than the situation warrants. 


Why do we do this??

In a nutshell, it's because speaking up about hard things can be awkward for both parties, and we may not have a good track record of success with this activity in the past. 

We give ourselves lots of excuses like…

  • "that's not my problem to fix."
  • "speaking up will make it worse"
  • "they should know better"
  • "I've made the same mistake so who am I to point this out"
  • "they should know how it feels for me"
  • "this is already too complicated"

and more…


There's a better way!

When you encounter a challenging situation that you want to address but feel reluctant…

  1. Get Ready. Understand that speaking up can be hard, but the payoff is worthwhile. (You should also think about what will happen in the long run if this behavior becomes a persistent pattern.)
  2. Be helpful, not hurtful. Make sure your heart is in the right place and that you are seeking a mutually agreeable way forward. 
  3. Commit to understanding, and let go of being RIGHT. The key is to ask questions and offer your thoughts, but NOT to fall into the trap of believing that your ideas or perspectives are superior. 
  4. Stay with it. Sometimes it takes awhile to resolve these issues. Take breaks and come back when needed. 


The Pay-Off

If you commit to having these kind of quality conversations when things get tough, both YOU and your relationships will get stronger. 

Your courage and confidence will grow, and the people around you will come to realize that your intentions are helpful and that you can be counted on to be calm and consistent. 


Think ahead: Imagine your workplace in the future, when you and your team have all strengthened your ability to give helpful, consistent feedback to one another! The learning and growth potential is astounding!

This is exactly what we will learn and practice together (with all the supporting skills and tools you need) in my upcoming Coaching for Excellence LIVE course. 

You'll learn what to speak up about, and how to support a person as they grow through their challenges. 

Class starts March 16th and space is limited. Don't miss it! Register today!


Join the email list for Claire Laughlin Consulting