What are identity concerns?
Identity concerns are the internal questions that arise and make us feel attacked when faced with tough conversations.
We race through all that’s going on around us, all we can remember about the situation being discussed, the data points we have about the person talking with us, and perhaps most important all the questions we have about ourselves.
Identity concerns look like the following:
- Why are they saying this to me?
- What do they think of me?
- What do others think of me?
- What are they NOT saying?
- Am I good enough?
- Am I worthy of this relationship, this job, this opportunity?
- Am I capable?
As the questions swirl in our head, anxiety grows, and we began to move along the spectrum of fight or flight. Our body tenses and emotions take over. Our ability to hold a quality conversation diminishes as we get lost in our stories.
These thoughts complicate the situation and inhibit our ability to be truly present and engaged in the conversation at hand. We introduce dynamics that cloud our judgement and prevent moving the conversation toward resolution and the outcome we truly want.
Dealing with our identity concerns helps us get back in conversation and keep communication flowing. It helps us move from a place of blame and judgement to contribution and mutual purpose.
Start by naming your identity concerns.
What questions or concerns about yourself are popping up most and generating emotions which are in the way of dialogue?
Look for patterns:
- Is there a recurring trigger that generates the concerns?
- What personal filters are you applying to how you give and receive information? Perhaps the conversation is about performance in a new job.
- Are you feeling attacked about your capabilities instead of being open to learning opportunities?
Having results from an assessment such as StrengthsFinder, Birkman, MBTI, or other is helpful. For example, knowing your Strengths provides specific insight into how you process information.
People high in Strategic Thinking Strengths will tend to seek more data for deeper understanding of the issue. People high in Relationship Strengths will tend to focus more on the impact on relationships and people.
A good understanding of your specific results provides a means to name and categorize your perspectives, so they can be addressed and managed.
Next, normalize your identity concerns.
You’re human. You think and feel. ou’re not wrong or crazy for having identity concerns.
Feelings don’t mean you’re weak or sensitive. Breathe. Try not to worry that you have the concerns. We all do. You’re normal. Acknowledge the concerns as opportunities to guide your conversation and address them as part of the conversation if appropriate to clear up stories.
Finally, consider if it’s time for a change in behavior.
Now that you’ve named and normalized your identity concerns, they are another data point for you as you engage in the tough conversation. Perhaps you’ve identified your trigger for the concerns that have blocked you from truly engaging in not only this tough conversation but others.
What are you willing to change to address the trigger and identity concern so they don’t get in the way in the future?
Being open to and making changes doesn’t mean your not good enough, not worthy, not capable, etc. It’s you acting in strength and wisdom, adjusting your behavior for your personal success in getting more of what you truly want.
It’s mind boggling to think about all the dynamics involved in tough conversations. Identity concerns are only one element. And, guess what! It’s all going on inside the other person’s head too.