Interrogate reality doesn’t only mean the other person’s reality. It means we begin with our own. Always. If we harbor thoughts like “John is unreasonable. How in the world can I tell him without him getting defensive?”, we’re looking in the wrong place. Courageous conversations are first of all conversations from the heart. Courageous derives from the French word “coeur” which means heart. Our hero’s heart, as in the archetype which contains both the masculine and the feminine form. And courageous conversations depend on our ability to tell the truth.
“What is truth?” you ask wisely. A crucial question to have an empowering answer for. I like a working definition of truth I learned in my coach training program. “Truth is what happened or didn’t happen in physical reality” Not in my mind, but in reality. In other words, just the facts, please. By that definition “John is unreasonable” is never the truth. See how certain I am? It’s because you and I can’t see “unreasonable” in physical reality. We can only see actions John performs or doesn’t perform which we interpret as unreasonable if we conclude “John is indeed unreasonable.”
So the answer to the question “How can I tell John he’s unreasonable without him getting defensive?” is… you can’t. Of course even the word “defensive” is an interpretation and not the truth. We’re limited by our need for short-hand, and so I’ll use the word “defensive,” but I’ll use it consciously knowing it’s my interpretation of whatever John does when I share my thought with him. He may say “What? Me? Defensive? You’ve got to be kidding. You’re the one who’s….”. “Or, he may say nothing and glare. Or he may say “Tell me more” although I doubt it.
I doubt he’ll be interested in you telling him more. Why? Because you haven’t told him the truth. The truth might be “I hesitate to open a conversation with you, John, because I’m afraid it won’t work out very well.” (What didn’t happen in physical reality is a conversation you’ve had in your mind, and if you report on your inner state it’s probably accurate that you had the thought it wouldn’t work out very well.). Notice how you experience your energy around your heart region. Notice the difference between the energy generated by the truthful statement versus your other one.
You continue. “I’ve had the thought that you’re unreasonable. But what I realize is that you promised to have the report in by Friday, and then you asked for an extension that caused me to scramble. I was resentful. Let’s talk about this and see where our process broke down.”
That’s a pretty good beginning of a courageous conversation. When you have a good working definition of “truth” you can practice being truthful, and you will eventually do it with ease; the truth shall set you free to have a courageous conversation whenever one is needed. Imagine if our public discourse were populated with truth-tellers. Let’s imagine it and let it begin with us interrogating our own reality. If and only if we’re clear, we have a chance to help John interrogate his reality.
Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play. For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind: Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:

Author's Bio: 

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, immigrated to the US at age eleven, from Germany. Her fascination with human behavior began when she read mythological stories and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. They fired her imagination to understand people. She wanted to solve the puzzle of people losing their enthusiasm for learning, and became an educator. She has a Master’s degree in French Literature and speaks three languages fluently.

Moving into the world of business—first as a consultant, then as an internationally certified executive/team coach with clients in North America, Europe, and Australia—she got interested in unconventional models of learning.

While working as a teacher with inner-city at-risk youth who seemed to hate to learn, she began developing innovative educational models. Certain that a disdain for learning is unnatural, she submits that learning environments must help people—adults in corporate America included—get out of their own way.

Her ability to create rich learning environments was facilitated by non-traditional learning experiences which required her to be “client-centered,” and by her graduate work in psychology and experiential education design. Her intention is to engage you in a learning process that supports exceptional effectiveness at work and transfers to your life beyond work.