My big challenge – will you join me? – le Bulletin ‘Conversation’*

Today I’m putting myself out there.

I’ve decided to start a challenge. I’ve decided to challenge me!
So as to make sure that I perform at my best, I’ve decided to make sure that I’m operating in an environment where I’m constantly challenged.
And I’d like you to play an active role in this challenge…
Yes, you! Are you up for this?
An important part of my challenge is the role you will play in it!
This is ‘My big challenge’ – but will you join me?
Are you in?
If you’re here then I guess the answer is yes,
but read on to be sure!
And let me know if you’re in, in the comments below!

my big challenge - Are you in? le bulletin conversation - - Member only newsletter

Let’s start with a few questions which I’d like you to ask yourself to help set the scene for ‘My big challenge’.

How are your relationships?

  • Are they strong? I mean really strong? I mean, not just loyal, but ROBUST!
  • Are they honest? Yes, I mean really honest!
  • Are they open? I mean transparent!
  • Do they recover well from disagreement, criticism, conflict?
  • Of course, we all have many different types of relationships, don’t we?
    • Our partner
    • Our family
    • Our work colleagues
    • And many, many more…

Please take a moment to really think about your answers to these questions.

Do you dare to disagree? Is conflict thinking?

The seed of the idea of challenging myself in this manner, came when I was chatting with a good friend Gael, who lives in Marseille and is soon to move to beautiful Cassis. Amongst the ‘1000’ topics we covered in our chat last week was a TEDTalk Gael uses for her English language students. It’s a talk born in the world of medical research but the topic is one which is valid for us all.

It’s about conflict and being afraid of conflict. When Gael said: “It’s a TEDTalk and it’s about how corporations think.” My reaction was. “Well, they don’t ‘think’ well – from my experience.”

Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan in this TEDTalk shows us, good disagreement is healthy, in fact, it’s central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners are not echo chambers — and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree. Margaret says: “Conflict is thinking.”[You’ll find the link to this TEDTalk at the base fo this Conversation]

She says that to be sure we are getting the very best outcome [out of ourselves, others, teams, corporations] we need to step outside our comfort zone; we need to seek to surround ourselves with people who are different from ourselves: different backgrounds, disciplines, ways of thinking and then we need to work out how to engage with them. She adds that that requires a lot of patience and energy.

I want to take this idea one step further.

I found myself wondering how this approach to thinking can help me be better at what I do and who I am?

Where am I going with this?

All of this had me thinking about how I’m going with my life goals.

“Have I built an appropriate support team around myself to really really challenge me to perform at the best of my ability? Do I have mentors and sponsors? Do I hold myself accountable on my path to reach my life and career goals? Do I hold myself accountable as to progress on my path toward leading my dream life – to be the person I want to be? Well, do I?” I asked myself!

I then thought more about my relationships and how I handle disagreement, criticism and conflict: one-to-one and one-to-many.

Coincidentally, I’d recently been thinking about how as a modern western society we do NOT sufficiently challenge ourselves or those around us. And when we disagree or challenge ourselves or others, often we don’t do it well.

I then asked myself the following questions – perhaps you’d like to do the same right now: –
(and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below)

  1. Am I comfortable that my performance is the best it can be?
  2. How is my progress toward my life/career goals?
  3. Am I who I want to be and living my dream life – or am I stuck?
  4. Do I have enough appropriate and supportive people around me – those who challenge me to get to where I want to go, to live my dream life?
  5. Do I invite these people and others to challenge me? Do I listen? Really listen?
  6. Are my relationships sufficiently robust to handle the probable resulting disagreement and conflict?
  7. Have I surrounded myself with people who support me by ‘calling-me-out’ if I’m wrong or if I’m off-track?
  8. Do these people ‘call-me-out’ in a constructive, supportive way?
  9. Do I do this sufficiently with everyone possible: my loved ones, my colleagues, in my professional capacity?

You see…
I don’t think that our ‘anglo’ culture sufficiently encourages this behaviour!

Interestingly, I believe that French culture is better at it than the Anglo culture.

We are not, in my view, actively encouraged to disagree, to criticise or to argue for that matter. Disagreement and criticism are thought of as being negative and hence to be avoided.

“Not only does the avoidance of conflict stifle individual passion and subsequent motivation, but the current “zero-tolerance” era where conflict in the workplace is deemed inappropriate, has fueled a passive aggressive culture, which is highly detrimental to workers and organisation alike. Organisations should embrace open debate and healthy conflict in a controlled managed environment.” says Sheelagh Kennedy in the comments on the website.

In fact…
Few of us seem to have well-honed skills to constructively debate, or criticise without becoming either offended or worse, aggressive or defensive!

And more particularly…
We’re often too concerned about being either ‘politically correct’ or even so polite or well-mannered, that we don’t even dare to go there!

  • Well, aren’t we?
  • What do you think?
  • I find that often I don’t dare to disagree!
  • I’m not good at handling disagreement or conflict and often I tend to avoid it, so in the past, I have not actively encouraged those around me to challenge me!
  • But I should be better at handling disagreement and taking criticism and handling conflict.
  • I want to be better!

My answers to these questions have caused me to think deeply and then to create…

‘My big challenge’. A challenge – by me to me!

I know what I’m going to do – starting right now!
I’m going to audit my support group and review how I get these people to challenge me – get them to dare to disagree with me. I’m going to ask others around my to challenge me!
And I am also going to dare to disagree more often in my life!

This is what I want you to do – starting now!

I challenge you to challenge me.

I encourage you to challenge me!

I want you to challenge me!

Constructively, actively challenge me!

Do you agree?

Challenge me about what, you ask? Well about everything, anything?
Open slather! for example…

  • What can I do better? Yep, your opinion counts! Tell me!
  • Call me out if you think I’m off track – right now & in the future.
  • Call me out if you think I should be doing more for you.
  • Call me out if you think I should be doing more for me!

Starting right now! Are you in? Let’s get busy daring to disagree. Let’s get better at thinking!

And my big challenge involves you!

How many of you will challenge me, I wonder?
Will you dare to share your thoughts on this topic?
Will you dare to disagree?
Will you dare to continue to challenge me?
Will you dare to take on this challenge yourself?

See you in the comments section below – here is your chance!
And remember that you need to log-in to get involved – it only takes a second.

This is our first trial of le Bulletin ‘Conversation’ in a format where you can not only openly interact with me, but you can also interact and dare to challenge each other – respectful constructive challenging – here we go – Enjoy!

And in closing here is the Margaret Heffernan’s TEDtalk:
Dare to disagree’. Here you can watch/listen to it.
I’ve set it with French sub-titles in my attempt to create a tenuous link from today’s Conversation back to France in some way 😉

C’est tout pour aujourd’hui – That’s all for today – See you in le Bulletin and the ‘Conversation’ next Saturday!

Merci d’avance

PS: * What is the le Bulletin ‘Conversation’?
– Le Bulletin is the private weekly newsletter for community members.[Join and you shall receive.] – Le Bulletin provides your weekend French immersion: our newest magazine articles to help you ‘Frenchify’ your life!
– The ‘Conversation’ is a weekly essay; a conversation of sorts, between Judy & members.

As we are a community comprising many curious Francophiles, myself included, there is no limit to the themes we cover in the ‘Conversation’! Each ‘Conversation contains at least one theme which can range from the meaning of life to French fashion to travel and experiences in and/or from France.

It is intended to be thought-provoking and often takes a philosophical approach to the challenges of life, relationships, careers, self-awareness and self-improvement.

We’re open to theme and topic suggestions and we dare you to disagree!

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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  1. Marie Z Johnston Mar 19, 2017 at 5:50 AM - Reply

    Hi Judy!

    I think what you are committing to is fabulous… it is also very challenging and at times quite difficult. I made a similar decision about 3 years ago while waiting for my home in California to sell and struggling under the weight of the responsibility for the house, the conflicts with my sister (who co-owned the house) and my EXTREME frustration at being stuck for so long someplace I really did not want to be…. well… several of my friends (who are all back in CA and who I sincerely miss so much) really called me out, more than once on a variety of whiny, boundary-less, victim-like behavior I was embracing. “So not like you” “So tough to listen to” “such bulls***” And they were right too. Thus began a journey inward to find my true voice, to re-discover my courageous self and more importantly, my truthful self. A worthwhile investigation that, in truth, will never end due to the nature of life. Fortunately, my friends in France are all like that… butt kickers!

    YES! I commit to participating in this worthwhile adventure! Good for you… now onward and don’t look back

    XO MarieZ

    • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 9:54 AM - Reply

      Marie – oh thank you! I really appreciate firstly you committing to challenge me! (anyway works for you! – I’m looking for more loving “butt-kickers”) and secondly for sharing your ‘challenge’ story! It’s funny but what I’m doing doesn’t feel brave or courageous, it just feels being true to myself 🙂 That “journey inward” that you describe really started with me some 18 -24 months ago with an auto-immune disease which caused me to review EVERYTHING and RESET my life.
      I’m happy with how I’m progressing in many ways but everyday I’m striving to be more on-track and more true to myself, hence the challenge.
      With the coaching I do I’ve become really good at guiding and coaching others in a strong and supportive manner (according to all the testimonials) and I now want to re-listen to my own advice and really listen to what I feel! I want to get better and better at being true to myself and staying ‘on-track’.
      Bisous et merci mille fois !
      PS: I’m so looking forward to this journey together <3

  2. Otir Mar 19, 2017 at 6:32 AM - Reply

    Bravo ! C’est très courageux de votre part de vous lancer un tel défi !

    I found it true that it is a very challenging thing to disagree, and to call out accountability. My experience is that people tend to become very defensive when someone has a different opinion, and because of this defense mechanism, they identify and infer that they are “identical” to another person when even the slightest of their opinions would be the same.

    Then, they would be taken aback if something comes up that is not aligned entirely. Truth to the matter we are all unique! and entirely different, so we can get along, we can share, we can communicate, we can laugh, cry, move, etc together, but we will always have to disagree on different things! and it is the beauty of this world to have such diversity.

    J’aime beaucoup la culture française de la discussion politique, mais j’ai toutefois l’impression que de plus en plus, les réseaux sociaux favorisent les mêmes mécanismes que dans les pays anglo-saxons, une forme de nivellement par catégories, par “camps” pour et contre… et le dialogue devient très difficile.

    It takes time, courage and energy to disagree respectfully and most of all to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, to understand their point of view. Unfortunately, it is even more difficult (at least for me) when we have to do it behind the comfort of our screens.

    Good luck with your challenge! Looking forward to hear how it unfolds!


    • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 10:05 AM - Reply

      Otir, Wow, Thank you so very much! I don’t think we’ve really spoken before, it’s a pleasure to ‘meet’ you.
      – YES, I agree with you wholeheartedly, many people indicate agreement and in my view, that can be a lazy habit. A habit that many adopt!
      – YES, I agree “It takes time, courage and energy to disagree respectfully and most of all to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, to understand their point of view”. It takes, time courage and energy and EMOTION to disagree respectfully, for as you say really putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is far from easy! It can be exhausting and it can be draining! It’s an investment! An investment in that relationship, but also an investment in being true to yourself.
      On that basis is it about choosing which wars to win, which battles to fight? I’m thinking about that one right now!
      Otir, I look forward to you challenging me going into the future and if there is anything I can do for you please get in touch

  3. Kristen Dorian Mar 19, 2017 at 5:28 PM - Reply

    Chere Judith

    I so agree that the French are so much better at robust arguments than Australians. We are too scared of causing offence, and too quick to take offence. How can we learn if we are not prepared to listen to others’ points of view?!

    I am definitely not living my best life currently…. I look forward to reading more inspiration here to help me be the best I can be.

    Gros bisous, Kristen xx

    • Sophie Caramigeas Mar 19, 2017 at 6:46 PM - Reply

      Hahaha, Judy is looking to rock the boat 😀 but I think you already do that, don’t you?

      Interesting Ted talk, questioning things is important but I agree that a lot of people do not know how to do it. I do not know if French culture is better than others. My experience when still living in France and working there, tells me that in a working environment people are afraid to voice issues or just do not know how to do it.

      I am the mentor of 3 young engineers at the moment and they come from different nationalities and they face the same difficulties about how to raise their concerns.

      Now what I think is you do not engage the same way with people of 20, 30 or 40 years old. But we all have to level up our self confidence to achieve whatever goals or objectives we set for ourselves. And to get to the point that we can question things openly and constructively, nurturing and developing emotional intelligence is key. Education, mentoring, blocking undermining people or even our own undermining thoughts is a challenge, a mindset that people would need to shift to.

      Also, on another note, there is so much drama that you can take, and sometimes to walk away is ok too 😀

      My 2 cents…you are free to disagree xx

      • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 10:20 AM - Reply

        Oh Soph salut ca fait longtemps… J’espere que tu va bien à Londres ! Rocking the boat – I love it 🙂 perhaps that’s what I’m doing but not why I’m doing it 😉 Maybe I’m rocking the boat internally. As a French woman who has lived for years in Anglo countries, I’m particularly interested in your view about the cultural dare to disagree perspectives. Unfortunately it seems that in business/corporate environments there seems to be that fear to express individual views rather than following the corporate line irrespective of whether its in France, UK, USA or Australia… However, I’m pretty sure that in France people are more skilled at voicing and defending their viewpoint. Us ‘anglos’ tend more to ‘wilt’ or shout or even worse cry!

        Then your other point – well, sorry Sophie, but I entirely agree with you! There is only so much drama that one can take. There comes a time where I ask myself is this battle worth fighting for? I wonder how you and others view this whilst at the same time striving to be true to yourself? I’d love some thoughts on that 🙂

        Soph I look forward to you challenging me – on anything/everything! and I’m here for you too if you ever need it.

    • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 10:08 AM - Reply

      Oh dearest Kristen, thank you, I look forward to you continuing to challenge me 😉 and please remember that I’m here for you for support and also for challenging if and when you’re looking for that. More inspiration? Well, let’s see what we can do about that.

  4. Virginia Jones Mar 20, 2017 at 3:19 AM - Reply

    Great idea Judy. Having been born and raised in the south, I have for most of my 71 years, been reticent about expressing my political views, although I’ve been pretty vocal on others issues in my teaching career etc most of the time! This past election year I have found my voice and it’s loud and really angry. I am trying to channel my negativity into more positive ways, joining a group of politically active women in my area, peaceful marches etc. I am aware that for the first time, many of my conservative friends (and there are a LOT of them in this town) have probably unfollowed me on FB and that’s ok. I’m not hiding my opinions any longer. Having said all of this, I guess I’m saying tired of hiding and keeping quiet and hopefully finding a way to be heard, be strong and get things done while keeping positive. As far as my work is concerned, since it’s an after retirement endeavor I’m lucky I can choose the direction my photography goes. I I can turn down jobs that don’t appeal to me or that I’m ill equipped to take on and instead find new creative outlets to keep me excited about what I do. I’d love some direction, critiques and mentoring, so anyone who feels the urge, please contact me. Photography and blogging has opened the world, literally, to me. I’m so grateful that I can sit at my computer and follow the creative paths of so many amazing women and I consider you as one of those. V

    • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 10:32 AM - Reply

      Virginia you raise numerous really interesting concepts and challenges… Being true to yourself and voicing your real views is one thing and/but if that is anger how do you not let that eat you up! In your example learning how to channel anger positively whether it be politically based or not is an important life lesson. I have been doing a lot of work on positivity. Not superficial positivity as it smiling whilst in denial but instead working out how to channel that energy into worthwhile positive pursuits for myself and others.

      Your photography is superb Virginia! I’ve always loved it 🙂 Tell me though have you noticed any change in your work due to your stronger inner self? I’d love to know if how you view yourself and how you’re now portraying yourself has changed the creative you… ?

      Yes, I too am grateful for the wonderful people I’ve met, interviewed or got to know through MyFrenchLife magazine. I adore the strong international network of people I’ve developed and whom I call ‘friends’, many of whom happen to be women, but quite a few are males and based all over the world!

      Virginia, I look forward to having you beside me as I continue this challenge! Please remember that I’m always here if there is anything I can do for you too, at any time

  5. Jacqueline Dubois Pasquier Mar 20, 2017 at 5:34 AM - Reply

    Judy, I have been reading your very interesting announcement! it’s true that as a French who has already lived among ‘anglos’, I understand your point. Your move is extremely brave and unique, and for such, I am willing to ‘challenge’ you though as of now, I am not sure I understand how to. We’ll see. Count me in! it’s an adventure in the unknown (and I like that)!

    • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 10:35 AM - Reply

      As a French woman Jacqueline your support of my challenge means so much! for someone who has for much of your life lived in anglo countries you of all people would be able to see the different ways we deal with the ‘dare to disagree’ and ‘dare to be true to yourself challenge.

      There will be ways you’ll find to challenge me you’ll see! Call me out Jacqueline I’m looking for you to do it 🙂

  6. Cynthia Caughey Mar 20, 2017 at 12:20 PM - Reply

    Hi, Judy, what a brave and unique concept. Thank you for including me. I must admit that I have a deep abhorrence to conflict. In my family conflict wasn’t allowed so everyone stuffed all their anger and feelings. I brought that into my adulthood and it has not served me well. Even in my marriage I avoided conflict (mostly because he would threaten to abandon our marriage whenever we got in an argument which only deepened my desire to avoid conflict – and he was French!). But I will add that from that marriage I learned that conflict could be helpful, healthy and necessary, and I have made a new commitment in this past year to stand up for myself and if that means conflict, so be it. I applaud your desire to embrace conflict as a learning tool and hope to feel the same someday, but that will take time. I would be happy to support you on this journey and look forward to learning from it myself. Cynthia Caughey

    • Judy MacMahon Mar 20, 2017 at 12:34 PM - Reply

      I think many of us ‘anglos’ were raised in a similar fashion Cynthia, especially us girls! Interesting that you call me brave because I feel that you are the real meaning of the word! You may not be ready to take on this exact challenge but the challenge that you have undertaken is enormous! and you’re well on your way – not long now and you’ll be living in France – I think you’re awesome! I noted your book on moving to France and I’d like to work with you to help spread the word 🙂 Let’s talk about that later.
      I must admit that I’ve become a bit of a ‘learner’ I’ve become someone who always looks for the positive – what have I learned from that type of person. I don’t mean superficial learning but challenging learning like this one. It is making me robust I must admit and I am managing to be truer to myself, but I have a way to go! That’s where I need your help and that of other brave people! Thank you Cynthia I really appreciate your commitment to challenge me!

      • Robert J. Stove Mar 20, 2017 at 7:49 PM - Reply

        This is the first chance that I’ve had to contribute something to Judy MacMahon’s requested feedback. I think it’s only fair to remember that the French have all too often carried disagreement to the point of killing each other – the French Revolution, the purges after World War II, and Algeria, to name but three instances – but overall I think the point is valid, that the French are better than are most Anglo cultures at expressing vigorous disagreement with one another without wanting to exercise the conversational nuclear option.

        Part of the reason, I think, is that it seems far harder in France than in Britain, the USA, or Australia to surround oneself entirely with one’s own kind, with one’s own political thinkalikes, with members of one’s own social class etc. The “epistemic closure” so notoriously easy to achieve with Anglo cultures – whereby an addict of Fox News would never condescend even to look at The Guardian or, of course, vice versa – has few if any French counterparts, if only because the French have historically found it wise to “know your enemy.”

        • Judy MacMahon Apr 5, 2017 at 3:22 PM - Reply

          Gosh, Robert I hope that my level of commitment to being true to myself and being brave and more skilled at disagreement doesn’t lead me to WAR! Thanks so much for your comment and your valid reminder “know your enemy”! Merci.

  7. Glenda May May 1, 2017 at 1:22 PM - Reply

    I love your questions Judy – they demonstrate real emotional intelligence. I agree that we Aussies are not great at disagreeing with others. We seem to take it personally. I am frequently coaching others on how to disagree respectfully with the idea not the person. It’s one thing I love about the French language – the many expressions to help us disagree and express opinions. It’s something that we could all practise more of.

    • Judy MacMahon May 2, 2017 at 6:52 PM - Reply

      Bonsoir Glenda – Yes! I agree! Disagree with the concept, the argument, the idea, even the performance but never the person. I believe that our Anglo-Saxon education is more focused on political correctness and being ‘people-pleasers’ than becoming skilled in being objective and good at direct respectful communication. I feel that much communication these days has also lost the ‘respect’ piece, you only have to look at politicians to see the way they address each other – in my view it’s appalling.
      So, in closing I’d like to ask you to be vigilant and ‘call-me-out’ when I could or should be doing better – whatever that may be.
      Merci mille fois

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