Courageous conversations are discussions that are likely to be difficult and leave us feeling unsettled before we hold them and while we hold them. 

It’s a conversation where you speak up and express how you feel about issues that are bothering you or weighing you down.

But it’s not just about having conversations with others.

For Lorna McCallum, a life skills coach who specialises in helping people move from their comfort zone to their stretch zone, having a courageous conversation with yourself and listening to your ‘inner voice’ is just as important to help you think about a problem in a different way.

In this blog, Lorna explains how her own courageous conversations have helped her ‘dig deep’ to really understand her emotions and feelings in challenging situations.

“Last year, I was appointed the internal communications lead for a big local authority project. It was to be a full-time, one-year contract. I immediately had a great feeling about this particular project, as we were all new to the team, gelled well from the outset and had a lot of good ideas bouncing around.

“Yet within two months of having that initial feeling, I resigned. I personally like working to a strategy, having a plan and time to think. When the overall management of the project changed, it became clear it would be a very different way of working to what I thought was required with a greater emphasis on short-term activities and tasks.

“I was getting increasingly stressed out and just finding it really difficult to cope because no matter what I did, I knew it wasn’t working well. I couldn’t continue like that, so I sat down and had that first courageous conversation with myself, asking: ‘Right, what is really going on here? Have I got the desire (and the skills) to make the jumps I’m being asked to do?’ And it was a really useful process to go through.

“My courageous conversation really made me appreciate that the kinds of environments I thrive in are ones where it's about taking the long-term view so it’s not just about delivering the project, but also about engaging employees. Whereas the new management viewed this primarily as a short-term project.

“And when I looked at what was being asked of me and where my natural abilities lay, I realised the gap was just too big; I couldn’t make that jump. Another contributing factor was the increasing pressure of caring responsibilities with my Dad, who's got dementia, and my Mum who needs a lot of support.

“I captured this self-talk on video and explained to myself the reasons why I was actually going to resign, and it really helped. I can remember that sense of sheer relief at making a decision, recognising my own limitations and addressing when I can step up or when it's just a bridge too far. My body felt lighter, and my head felt clearer. I knew I was making the right decision.

“Following that courageous conversation with myself, I had the strength to walk away in a professional, non-emotional way so that my decision wouldn’t disrupt the project. I was really proud of how I handled the situation.

“I think without having that courageous conversation with myself, there wouldn't have been as good an outcome as there eventually was. I was in a better state of mind to be able to manage myself in a way that lessened this emotional situation for the management and staff too. It wasn't anybody's fault, there was just a misunderstanding as to what the role entailed.

“Having regular, courageous conversations with myself like these has proved so useful. Part of my prep is to listen to the Grit audio on Your Virtual Mind Trainer which talks about attaining success through endurance, perseverance, resilience, passion, hard work, and practice, practice, practice. 

“Sometimes if I'm not feeling terribly resilient or I don't feel like standing up to things, my learned habit is just to either ignore it and hope it goes away. But listening to the questions posed in the audio really helps me think about a situation in a different way.”

About the Author


The Your Virtual Mind Trainer team includes experts in clinical psychology, coaching and organisational behaviour.