"Can we talk about something that makes me uncomfortable?" she asked.
"Of course. Smart people have tough conversations," he answered.
That feeling in my throat. It comes when the conversation gets real. When I have to be vulnerable. When I'm ready (or forced) to talk about something that makes me sad, or overwhelmed, or just simply drudges up a mixture of emotions that have been safest living in my own chest. It's so much easier to avoid those conversations because who knows how my counterpart might react.
The fear of honest conversations is real. Navigating these conversations with true compassion is a deeply rooted fear for so many of us. It's hard. It's scary. It requires great care in the face of deep emotions.
Last month, I had the privilege of visiting KIPP: Infinity in Harlem, New York, as part of the Teach for America School's to Learn From. Each year schools from around the country complete a rigor application process to share innovative and incredible practices to colleagues in an intimate three-day school visit. KIPP: Infinity was the first stop on the 2015-2016 tour.
Infinity is one of the flagship KIPP schools. Their staff and work is all around impressive. Spending three days in their space reminded me that there are so many different ways to education our children. It also reminded me of how much I have to learn about leadership.
Listening to a panel, surrounded by an incredible group of educations, Infinity staff could not seem to talk about the school, their kids, or education without the idea of partnership dripping from every comment. The dedication, shared vision, and absolute love they felt for one another in that school was palpable.
During this discussion one young teacher explained the staff commitment to this idea of Full, Frank, and Rally:
No one is ignored. No idea or conflict or pain goes unnoticed. That would be unacceptable and they have built a culture that fosters the kind of relationships in which hard conversations take place with compassion. Conversations are real and honest. Probably most important, solutions are reached with a collective desire for action. It was obvious that this protocol worked, and even more obvious were the results it yielded in the love this staff felt for their school community.
I have been thinking about this for the past month, letting it sit heavy on my chest. How many times are my conversations not full and frank? How often do I leave a tough conversation without something I can all rally around? What am I doing to create safe spaces of controlled conflict and powerful solutions of action?
Holding even more weight for me was the personal reflection this caused me. How can I hold the hearts of others gently enough to be full and frank in a way that is based in love-- or, in the goal of "rally"?
If our goal is come out of every tough situation with something we all rally around, imagine how powerful our subsequent actions could be? Imagine how the reach of our conversations and the depth of our relationships would grow.
What we rally around could be the thing that changes us, satisfies, or just fixes something that is broken. And the process of getting there could be the healing we have been looking for.