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CPR Series: Difficult Conversations

CPR: Context, Purpose, Results

I really don’t like conflict. My superpower is elegant diplomacy, but it makes being direct challenging and so of course having a difficult conversation is agony. Any opportunity to even be told no is an opportunity I run fast and far from and tell myself it wasn’t that important anyway.

Over the years, I have had my hands held, word-for-word script written together with women so that I could take the leap (aka baby steps) to ask my “big asks”. Once was to my cell phone provider for a better deal (they said no) and another time for my doctor to take my husband on as a patient (he said yes).

And then one day my boss refused to consider me for a job opening on our team. She wouldn’t say why. I applied anyway and not once did she acknowledge she ever got it and, after a while, that I was even there. This got to the point where my boss was avoiding my annual evaluation. I was angry, frustrated, and worst of all, felt invisible. I knew I didn’t want to let this slide or ignore it even though it meant initiating a difficult conversation.

I took a few deep breaths to summon up to some courage, marched over to her office and said, “we need to schedule my evaluation.”

“Ok. I’ll put it in the calendar.”


I walked back to my desk quickly before all the blood drained from my limbs and I flopped down like a marathoner crossing the finish line.

At my desk, over the next two days I wrote a CPR for the conversation. I don’t recall the specific results, but I knew I wanted to leave the meeting knowing I was professional in tone and manner, and I didn’t let my fear detract me from asking questions or sink my confidence. And it worked! I was focused, mature and asked direct questions with a confident voice. (Fake it till you make it ladies!)

After having the conversation, I was clear that she had no inking or interest in my capabilities. I was not going to be considered for this role, or any other role on the team. I was squarely in a box, but it wasn’t going to serve anyone to pout about it.

There was a 5-week period until the new hire could start and I was asked to fill the gaps. I was moved to an office and hunkered down and worked my butt off. At the end of that month, I was called into my boss’ office where she was genuinely pleased and surprised with what I accomplished. She then gave me a $2000 spot bonus for being such a rock star. I still have the letter 6 years later.

Now, did that CPR directly result in my getting a bonus? Maybe, maybe not.
I do know that without my CPR, I would not have been as poised and mature during that initial meeting. I also doubt that I would not have let my hurt feelings bleed into the quality of my work.

Now, I still shy away from difficult conversations. If it were a martial art, I would be a yellow belt, at best. But steadily, with the women I trust and rely on in the Family of Women, I notch my victories one CPR at a time.


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