Three reasons to have a scrappy conversation

A scrappy conversation is a bit bitty, a sketchy take on a subject that doesn’t yet make sense. The permission to be scrappy means I can just blurt what’s on my mind however disorganised my thinking – definitely not perfect – it’s messy with no pressure to find a tidy solution and that’s what works!

As someone who needs to articulate what’s on my mind to make sense of it. I’ve frequently fallen foul (especially in corporate life) of speaking before I’m ready and immediately regretting not presenting my idea more coherently or sensitively. As a result, if a subject felt difficult I’d hold back, telling myself ‘I’m not ready,’ and then miss the opportunity to contribute my idea or make my point.

Scrappy conversations have changed all of this for me.

They’re a way of signalling that it’s OK to just talk, to express what you’re thinking and feeling about a subject in the moment, without it having to be thought through and set in stone forever. It’s a great way to dream out loud or express what worries you about a situation.

“Can we have a scrappy conversation about this?” says my husband, “sure,” I say, with relief. We’re talking about where we’re going on holiday next year, a difficult subject for us because often we want different things from our time off. He likes a city break and doing lots of activities, I like some relaxation too with at least a few days near the sea or a pool.

Our time is precious and depending when the subject is raised the pressure to agree and make a decision can lead to an unsatisfactory outcome – aka an argument! Usually this is because one of us is distracted, not really sure what we want so we try to delay the conversation, or don’t engage with it fully and then we start to compromise and no one wins.

Here are my three reasons for a scrappy conversation:

  1. Where there’s a subject that’s difficult to talk about with someone, like my holiday scenario. A bit like a mini brainstorm it can unlock a problem and because people know it’s meant to be imperfect they don’t get all ‘judgy.’
  2. When your own thoughts about something aren’t fully formed and you need help from a listening ear to get things straight in your head.
  3. When you sense that someone has something on their mind and isn’t talking about it. It takes a bit of courage and curiosity but gets to the heart of an issue more quickly and moves it along.

I use scrappy conversations with my coaching clients whenever I feel there’s something they want to say but don’t quite know where to start. Being scrappy gives them permission to blurt it out, and strangely, once voiced issues aren’t ever as scary as they seemed.

Who can you have a scrappy conversation with?

Just start the conversation with ‘can we have a scrappy conversation about this?’ and see where it goes…


Carol Conway CPCC
Coach & Collaborator
eight circles

What is your word worth?

This is something I have been debating with friends and family for the past two weeks.

What is your word worth?

We all seem to be:

  • doing more – just look at your to do list, your experiences and don’t even mention the holiday planning!
  • being more – how many roles are you playing? mum, dad, friend, partner, sibling, boss, colleague and of course add in your job title!

Have we lost focus on our word to ourselves?

I was once described by a colleague and boss as being ‘reliably reliable’ at the time I didn’t see this as a compliment, I just thought wow that sounds like I’m boring. Today (and 10 years on from that conversation) I’m proud to be called ‘reliably reliable’.

More often than not, if I say I’m going to do something for someone I do it – I allow very few things to get in the way. What I’ve realised is my word is worth more when it’s for other people (can you relate too?) – when it’s about helping them, making them feel great, making things easy for them, keeping them company. Don’t get me wrong I love doing all these things – no one is twisting my arm or forcing me to do something I don’t want to.

It did get me thinking though, what is my word worth to me?

Honestly, I feel I’ve got better at keeping my word for myself – however, it’s a daily exercise in being aware – of what I am doing and what I am thinking. Sometimes I can be swayed by the allure of a new movie over updating my web page or talking to a friend over going to yoga. I have realised that these are conscious decisions I am making (before I used to make them on auto-pilot). I guess it all comes down to choice and what’s more important to me in that moment.

So, what is your word worth – to you?

Coach, Communicator & Collaborator
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What me and you have in common with Usain Bolt!

Who else was captivated by the recent, revealing documentary ‘I am Bolt’?

Broadcast on the BBC ahead of the London 2017 World Athletic Championships, it was compelling viewing for me, on so many levels.

What fascinated me most is that even Bolt, the charismatic, charming, champion of athletics has fear.

As a coach, helping people handle fear is a big subject.

Our fear instinct is designed to keep us safe. It keeps us ‘in our cave’ out of harms way – great if there’s a saber tooth tiger outside – not so great if it’s a job opportunity or an exciting experience.

Fear often shows up as an inner critic, an internal voice, some call it the saboteur, or gremlin. Whatever you call it, it shows up when we face a challenge and if we pay too much attention to it, it can hold us back and keep us small.

So back to Bolt – it seems that not even the fastest man in the world can out run fear.

The documentary revealed that at the start of every season fear calls on Bolt. He’s wracked by worry that he’s lost his ability to be the fastest sprinter and maybe this time he won’t be the best.

Fear tells him that despite all the effort of training, practice, physiotherapy, healthy eating and sleeping it won’t be enough. And despite the wise words of focus and encouragement from (the other star of the documentary) coach Mills he won’t be good enough.

And yet every season he shows up, literally puts himself on the line and runs anyway.

The antidote to fear, as Bolt finds out each season, is action.

From somewhere he finds the courage to risk looking foolish and failing, taking action despite the presence of fear.

Just like Bolt I feel fear – especially when I’m challenging myself to show up in front of people. And the voice in my head says versions of…

  • ‘You’ll mess up’
  • ‘No one will read that’
  • ‘Who cares what you’ve got to say’
  • ‘They’ll never pick you’

Now let’s be honest unlike Bolt I’m usually only risking not being good enough in front of myself and a small number of people. But still it feels daunting.

What I’ve learnt is that just like Bolt I can’t outrun fear. That fear is part of the experience. In fact, when fear shows up I know I’m on to something. This challenge matters and I can use this to spur me on – by reminding myself why it matters – and make that more important than the risk of not being good enough.

And it works – every time!

I’ve discovered – like Bolt – that my fearful thoughts are not true. When I show up and put myself on the line the experience gives me new information, I learn something, I connect with others, I receive support and whatever the result I build respect for myself.

The documentary ‘I am Bolt’ finished on a high with him conquering injury, a lack of motivation and showing up at the Rio Olympics to win three gold medals and the applause and adulation of his fans.

What makes his story even more fascinating however is the last chapter of his sprinting career, which played out last week in London at the World Athletics Championships. This time Bolt arrived as the underdog – not in tip top form.

He said he was looking forward to it, I guess he was hoping, as were his fans that he’d pull something out of the bag and he’d go out on a high. I also imagine that there was some of that ‘what if…’ fear lurking in his mind.

He competed anyway.

He was third in the 100 meters and he got cramp in his leg on the anchor leg of the 4 x 100 meter relay final and collapsed hurt on the track in front of the stadium of fans.

I imagine that Bolt showed up because he loves to race, he loves the crowd in London and he committed he’d be there and he didn’t want to let his fans down.

I imagine that he made all of that more important than his fear and worry.

And in the end, even though he collapsed, Bolt won huge respect from everyone present, for showing up, taking part – captivating us with his personality and passion.

If, like me you recognise fear showing up in your moments of challenge – know that you are in good company.

Bolt’s story inspires me to show up to my challenges, despite my fear, maybe even because of it – knowing that on the other side – win or lose I’ll gain experience and most importantly self respect and that’s good enough for me.

My most recent example is writing this blog – it seemed like a great idea last week and then as I started writing – bingo fear arrived. Not the earth shattering scary monster kind of fear, it was disguised as a sensible voice that said…’what are you doing? You know nothing about running; no one is interested in your view on this – what a stupid idea!’

…And yet I couldn’t drop it – I had committed that I’d write a blog this week. So in the end I chose to make my commitment more important than my fear of writing a rubbish blog and if it inspires just one person to show up for themselves despite their fear, it will be worth it.

Over to you…

What will you make more important than your fear?

Carol Conway CPCC
Coach, eight circles


Dementia – a perspective

Last week, I shared a post on Facebook about how dementia lives within our family – the empathy and supportive comments I have received have touched, surprised and overwhelmed me.

By sharing my perspective on dementia I have connected with friends and family on a new level, we have more in common than I realised. Dementia is a growing issue that gets hidden by shame and worry – for me it was the shame that people might pity me and the worry that people would think less of my Mum.

My Mum has dementia – there I’ve said it – this is a topic close to my heart, along with many other families who are affected and deal with the upsetting things this disease brings into their lives on a daily basis.

It’s tough when your loved one asks; who are you? and what are you doing in my house? When your Mum says; have you met Jim? And Jim is your Dad.

It’s not easy when they forget who Jim is and wake up in the middle of the night worried about sleeping next to the stranger in their bed.

When I think about it too much it’s sad and upsetting and I wish I could do more to support Mum, Dad and my sister, who does an amazing job helping out with the day to day running of the household.

There are good days too. We go for walks, Mum has always been fit and healthy, a local tennis champion she played until well into her 40’s, she now goes for a walk twice a day. She’s creative and still goes to art class every week – sometimes she even remembers to take her kitty money for the tea and biscuits! The photo is me and Mum getting creative together a couple of years ago.

When I take time to just be there and listen, Mum shares some lovely stories from her past of playing tennis and helping her students.

Anyone who knows my Mum knows she was the best cook – her shortbread was legendary! Making and sharing food was how she demonstrated her love for us. On my last visit she refused to eat all of her lunchtime sandwich saving her last quarter for me because she wanted me to eat something and look after myself! That’s Mum, she’s the kindest person I know and that hasn’t changed.

I realised I didn’t know very much about dementia and when I started looking into it this is what I discovered.

Dementia – the facts

  • There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, it will be over 1 million by 2025. This will soar to 2 million by 2051
  • 225,000 people will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes
  • Sadly many of us already know someone who has the disease, one in six of us will get a form of Alzheimer’s – and many of us will be affected by becoming a carer for members of our family
  • Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, ahead of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. As a country we spend much less on dementia than on these other conditions
  • There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of deaths from the condition, saving 30,000 lives a year
  • Dementia research is desperately underfunded. For every person living with dementia, the annual cost to the UK economy is over £30,000 and yet only £90 is spent on dementia research each year
  • Alzheimer’s Society is committed to spending at least £150 million over the next decade on dementia research to improve care for people today and find a cure for tomorrow.

If you’re wondering what prompted me to share my post, well my husband, David was doing Ride London – 100 miles of cycling around Surrey and London to raise money for Alzheimer’s UK.

When I told my Dad about the race he tried to give us way too much money ‘to help them find a cure for dementia so other people won’t get what’s happening to Mum.’ Who wouldn’t want to do that if you’ve seen the impact this has on someone you love?

By sharing what felt like my dirty little dementia secret it’s made me realise that many families are in the same position, feeling conflicted, hurt and worried and not talking about this disease.

Talking about dementia has helped me to begin to make sense of what is happening to my mum and made me feel more connected to those around me who are also touched by dementia in their lives.

Carol Conway CPCC
Coach, eight circles