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Curiosity Pact Act #1: Embrace Discomfort

We’ve all been in that awkward situation. Sitting in a meeting room, virtual or otherwise, asked to share our ideas and honest feedback.

Depending on our work environment, it can be a stressful moment. Especially if we are on a team where trust and respect are in short supply, or if we have (or are) a leader who doesn’t actively encourage dissenting views.

Yet most teams usually have sticky problems to solve and ambitious targets to meet. The clock is ticking, and the pressure is on. It can get deeply uncomfortable in that space.

In that moment, inconvenient thoughts start flooding our brain:

“What am I being asked to do?”

“My boss just wants us to rubber stamp their decision.”

“Will my team just sit there and stare at me again?”

“Speaking out always comes at a cost.”

“I have no idea how to help.”

“Every time we do this, [Joe or Jane] slams my ideas.”

“Oh no, [Jack or Jill] is going to dominate the conversation AGAIN.”

“Can’t we just jump to the answer?”

It’s perfectly natural to feel discomfort when faced with the social pressures of collaborative work (or just work), or diving into the unknown when the stakes are high and success is far from certain. It’s also human nature to avoid discomfort wherever possible.

It’s also easy to feel weak, defensive, discouraged, or even angry in those situations.

But here’s an idea - what if that discomfort is actually a STRENGTH and not a weakness? What if by Embracing Discomfort, Curiosity Pact Act #1, we unlock the deepest value of collaboration itself?

An uncomfortable idea, perhaps? Before you decide, hear us out.

The Value of Discomfort

Being uncomfortable is a natural part of growth. If we don’t experience discomfort at all, we’re probably stagnating. During collaboration, some of our questions might get answered, our social insecurities might lessen, but discomfort will never completely disappear. Accepting discomfort as part of collaboration is the first step to leveraging it.

Collaboration is dynamic and ever-changing. As we create and learn, more unknowns will emerge. We will always be somewhat uncomfortable, but not about same things. As we collaborate and grow, our comfort zone expands (and sometimes contracts) in many directions.

That’s why we need to view discomfort as our friend. We can use it to spark our curiosity. Discomfort is a signal for what to pay attention to, guiding us in asking the right questions if we can somehow view it as an ally and not an enemy. Therefore, we need to embrace it, not fight it. It’s part of being an effective leader and teammate.

How to Embrace Discomfort

Here are some practical strategies and thought-provoking questions that can help you embrace discomfort with curiosity and compassion:

Recognize and Name Your Emotions: How Do I Truly Feel?

One of the gifts of being human is our ability to experience an enormous range of emotions. Take a moment to notice and give a name to what we’re feeling, even if it's uncomfortable. Write them down and/or intentionally sit with them. Identifying and acknowledging our emotions is a key part of the process of embracing them.

Distinguish External and Internal Influences: What's Behind My Discomfort?

Discomfort can stem from both external and internal sources. There is discomfort caused by our internal system of beliefs. Others are more driven by external factors, such as social interactions and expectations. By establishing what is causing our discomfort, we can understand the root cause and gain valuable insights into ourselves and our environment and help those around us do the same.

Release Control and Embrace Wonder: What If I Asked, "I Wonder...?"

Often, when discomfort arises, we try to regain a sense of control by imposing rigid expectations on ourselves and/or others. Do you find yourself saying “should” or “ought to/need to” often when you are uncomfortable? Look for those signals. They are natural sign that we want to be safe, we want to drive. It is hard for us to give the wheel to someone else. Instead, ask,

“I wonder why I feel this way?”

“I wonder why this person said…?”

“I wonder where this will take us?”

“I wonder how we will make this happen?”

Confront Your Fears: How Might I Overcome Them?

When we are honest with ourselves, we may realize that fear is at the root of most of our discomfort. Instead of retreating from it, ask yourself "How might I overcome this?" Embrace it as an opportunity for courage and development for yourself and others. Courage comes before confidence - so facing our fears is the shortest path to individual and team mastery of collaboration.

Sounds easy in writing, but…

We recognize that despite reading about the value of discomfort and strategies to embrace it, it can be extremely tough to do in real life. It’s visceral and primordial, and summoning the courage to face negative feelings can be difficult for all of us.

That’s why carefully designed and facilitated collaboration systems can be instrumental in overcoming the behavioral barriers that prevent us from bringing our best to difficult situations, challenging topics, and complex environments.

And that’s why the Curiosity Pact and Curious Collaborations exist! To help us get started and help us move ourselves and our teams beyond discomfort into true collaboration.

Have questions? Need Help? Reach out to us through our Contact Page.

For more information, visit our Approach and Inspiration Pages.

And stay tuned for Curiosity Pact Act #2 - dropping soon!