Is it time for a messy conversation?

As humans, we tend to avoid confrontations. They make our pulse quicken and our sweat glands kick in, and they are all around uncomfortable. Our fear of messy conversations keeps us from challenging the status quo. Instead we admire problems and discuss theoretical solutions. The unfortunate truth: we need to wade through sticky situations to make positive change. Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 2.51.52 PM

Having a messy conversation does not mean picking a fight. We have all worked with the person who feels it is their god given role to play devil’s advocate… about everything… all the time. A consistently negative approach and pedantic tendencies will not win any battles (or friends).

Two years ago, I wrote about one of my favorite books: Fierce Conversations. I still highly recommend this text, as it provides a quality framework for engaging in tough discussions. However, I was recently speaking with another new administrator, and I realized that there is some strategic reflection necessary before deciding whether or not a Fierce Conversation is appropriate.

As educators, we have one true compass north: do what is best for kids. The following questions help me decide whether a situation warrants a messy conversation:

  • What impact does this have on students?
  • What impact does this have on school culture?
  • What impact does this have on the work of teachers?

We may avoid a messy conversation, because we feel the struggle is not worth our time. If there is a negative correlation between the issue at hand and the work of our students, teachers, or school at large, then it is absolutely worth confronting.


messy conversations

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