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5 Ways to Build Courage and Competence for Difficult Conversations Being courageous isn't enough. You have to be competent, as well.

By Ellevate Edited by Dan Bova

This story originally appeared on Ellevate

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Some people think I'm courageous. I've lived and worked all over the world and regularly speak in front of hundreds of people, so I must be, right? Well, no. For whatever reason, I don't find that scary, and courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. What would take courage is for me to jump out of a plane. So, I don't do it. And I'm comfortable with that because, let's face it, there is very little upside in falling through the air.

One thing that most people find frightening is speaking up when faced with decisions or actions they disagree with. And that makes sense: Many of the stories we hear about people speaking up end with the individual facing some kind of negative outcome, including, in extreme cases, being ostracized. There are few movies or books written about employees who point out a problem and are immediately thanked and rewarded for doing so, and yet that happens, too -- and more often than you might think. When people speak up effectively, they can find that not only do they survive, but thrive.

My favorite example of this is a man I met in London. A highly-paid banker early-on in his career, he became the owner of a chain of successful antique shops. He no longer relied on his day job to pay the bills and so started to speak up, questioning decisions he felt weren't adequately reasoned out and asking questions that previously he might have avoided in case he came across as less than all-knowing. Suddenly, his peers and the people above him began to notice him, and he made extraordinary progress very quickly, repeatedly being promoted.

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