A challenging conversation with Elvis

Thursday – delivering a workshop on managing challenging conversations with a colleague for a corporate client.

Friday evening – flying overnight with my wife to The Seychelles via Dubai for some much needed rest and rejuvenation.

Saturday early afternoon – arrive and pick up the hire car. We are met by a helpful young man who quickly takes me through the paperwork. “Here’s my mobile number in case you meet any difficulty”, he says. “Thanks”, I reply, “and by the way, what’s your name?” “Elvis”, he tells me.

As we settle into our car, our first tropical down-pour helps us discover that the driver’s window will not close. Time for a challenging conversation with Elvis. So I go back into the terminal to find him. But Elvis has left the building.

After much fiddling and cursing, the window closes. I remember one of the options for handling challenging conversations: accommodation. So we pay Elvis that complement in his absence and drive off.

That evening, looking for somewhere for dinner. As dusk falls we discover that the headlights don’t work and there are few streetlights. Elvis doesn’t answer his mobile. Ah, but there’s a second switch and the headlights come on. Reminder to self: before instigating a challenging conversation, check your facts, forget blame and complaint and get curious.

Sunday – lying on a fabulous beach. Just stay in the sea while a brief shower passes. Drink from a fresh coconut. Elvis is forgiven.

Monday – an even more fabulous beach. I’m no longer thinking about challenging conversations as I watch last night’s rainwater slide off the mountains and snake across the sand as waves break on the reef that protects a perfect bay.

Then eight US Marines arrive playing drum ‘n’ bass at a volume that makes their tattoos shimmer. But I let it go, and the music switches to The Chili Peppers and then they turn it off when they go to play boisterous games in the waves. Further recall: it’s useful to know how to have challenging conversations but it’s also good to know when, and when not, to.

As we slough off the stresses of everyday life, languid conversations with my wife naturally occur. Swapping stories of recent times, enjoying the present together, exploring the future: the types of conversation that can get squeezed out by day-to-day operational imperatives both at work and at home.

Reminder to self for our return: less doing, more being. Or as Elvis might have put it: a little more conversation, a little less action.

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