Emily Walsh is an Alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program.  Emily is the Assistant Director of Education, Youth and Family at B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan.  She can be reached at emiwalsh@gmail.com.

A week after I moved to New York City, a friend was playing in a concert at Carnegie Hall.  I looked up directions online and got there very quickly; proving much easier to get to Carnegie Hall than the well-known quote otherwise indicates. 

New to the city, the stereotypes seemed to state it well:  polite and passive Midwesterner encounters direct and pushy New Yorkers.  Stereotypes aside, the past year and a half I’ve devoted a lot of attention to being more direct in my personal and professional life.  Difficult conversations are, well, difficult for me, and I try to avoid them at all costs.

I recently encountered a challenging scenario with someone I work with tangentially.  While reflecting on the experience afterward, it seemed easy enough to let go and forget about it, but I decided to do otherwise.  Since I don’t work so closely with this person and the stakes seemed low, I thought maybe I could “practice” having a difficult conversation.  We met, and we both shared our frustrations, and how we experienced working together.  It was hard for me to be direct, even scary as I searched for the words.  But I pushed through it; after all, this was just “practice.”   Not only did I survive, but I came out of the conversation feeling accomplished, more confident, and ready for the next one that comes my way.

Finding my voice and feeling confident in being direct is a must if I am to be successful in my career and life in general.  Looking at each difficult conversation as practice for the next helps put each situation into a greater perspective.  After all, everyone knows the real way to get to Carnegie Hall is through practice, practice, practice.