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    A memo from… Susie Barron-Stubley

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    I’ve had a tricky few weeks with some of the relationships in my private life, and it’s given me cause to pause and reflect about how hard we find it to have important conversations – both personally and professionally. 

    Most of us instinctively shy away from confrontation, conflict and disagreements, and from saying something to someone that could potentially hurt or upset them. I needed to tell someone I care about deeply something that I knew would sadden them, and I put off having the conversation for a week or two. 

    What happened to me in those weeks was sleepless nights and a constant knot of anxiety in my stomach, and it quietly subjugated my daily life. It was eating away at me and took my focus and attention away from other things to which I should have been giving my energy. I knew what I had to say and how I had to say it. The problem was I just didn’t want to do it, and it was fear of an unknown outcome and reaction that was holding me back. Quite predictably, during this time, the issue grew and the situation deteriorated, and the conversation I had to have was becoming harder the longer I avoided it. I was being the proverbial ostrich and choosing to stick my head in the sand. 

    Inevitably, the conversation finally happened. It was hard, it hurt me and it hurt the other person. When it was over and we parted I felt emotionally drained and utterly exhausted, but I also felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. When I got home and reflected on what had taken place, I realised it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared.

    Much of the work I do with PAs centres around relationships, and relationships rarely glide along without the need to untangle some friction in one of its many forms. In fact, it’s our business relationships that are often more complex to manage and deal with ifthere is divergence of opinion. Every day we work with a multitude of different personalities, personal agendas and political wrangling – and, of course, there is always our own at play as well. We see behaviours and actions that are inconsistent with our own values, and tension in business relationships is something that most of us have experienced at some point in our careers. 

    One thing I do know with absolute certainty is that sidestepping issues that are concerning us is damaging. As I’ve experienced, it keeps us awake at night, it causes us unease and fear and draws our focus away from where we should be spending our energy. When we know that we need to speak up and have a conversation with someone, however uncomfortable or thorny, we need to plan the exchange – and have it at the earliest opportunity. Situations that need addressing rarely go away and resolve themselves on their own. 

    Ostrich don’t fly. They can run fast and kick pretty hard, but they don’t fly. By taking our head out of the sand, we can take control of our circumstances and relationships, both at work and in our personal lives. Of course, how we approach and tackle these conversations requires skill, kindness and integrity, but happen they must. The view and exhilaration from flying high is a better prospect than having sand in your ears.

    Susie Barron-Stubley has been coaching and training Executive PAs and EAs for almost a decade. She is the author of Create A Business-Busting Partnership With Your Assistant – The Executive’s Guide, creator and presenter of The Secrets Of Top Performing PAs training DVDs and runs high-level public training programmes for senior-level personal assistants.

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    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson