Tip of the Month — March 2019
don’t sweat it—solve it
When you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation in which you or another is experiencing anger, pause. Look under the hood. What, exactly, are you feeling? In what context have you felt that before? Is this the same context? Are you sure? What do you not know? What assumptions are you making? How will you find some answers to what you do not know? Equally important, what is your desired outcome? What is the most effective way to get there?
We all tend to react first, and our desired outcome is to stop feeling anger or discomfort. Our solution is to get rid of that feeling as quickly as possible, either by pushing back or ignoring it. But if we pause long enough to reflect, we can consider more constructive outcomes and more effective solutions to achieve what we want. We can respond rather than react.
Our tendency to communicate via text or email exacerbates a situation because so much context is lost. Humor and vulnerability are missing. You need to add more context—your own and that of the other. Pick up the phone. Meet face-to-face. Add pieces to the puzzle of why there is friction and disconnection.
And if you choose to vent to a friend, recognize that this person is likely to affirm your views and help you feel better in the moment, but this is a temporary salve and not particularly helpful in the long run.
In order to move into an expansive and expanding space, we need to reflect, engage, and solve a problem together. The end result may be to part ways, but engage first. When we misunderstand a situation because of incomplete information, we miss a wealth of opportunities, not only in terms of what is immediately before us, but also the potential for what we cannot yet imagine.
Contact us and we’ll show you how to get there, consistently.
Tip of the Month — February 2019
Cultivating connections across a divide
At this moment in time, with tensions high, it is hard to feel kinship with those on the “other side.” We find it easier to be compassionate towards those we think deserve it, and we struggle to see our kinship with those we think are idiots, evil, or both. To smooth the way, consider the following:
Recognize that you might be framing things in a stark, binary way. When we only see two sides—my side and the other side—then we assign all manner of evil and ignorance to a very broad swath of people. Step back from binary thinking and explore the diversity of viewpoints on any given side.
Don’t start with the most difficult relationships. When we learn to ski, we don’t start with the black slopes; we start with easier ones so we can gain confidence and learn what to do with small bumps, twists, and turns. Start with people who have a similar commitment to listening and engagement.
Focus on people, not politics. Explore what experiences have led to someone’s point of view. Explore what they think of when they start their day, or what makes them smile. While this might sound corny, the point is to stop focusing on what choice someone made in a voting booth. Find common ground, or even something you can appreciate in the other; it is the only way to start working towards a shared future we all can be proud of.
Tip of the Month – January 2019
The query that illuminates
The quality of our connections and depth of our insights is greatly influenced by the questions we ask, and how we ask them.
A question with barriers is: “How can you think that?!” It fences in the person who hears it and immediately puts that person on the defensive. Many of us ask this question in a milder form, believing that it is not aggressive when in fact it still is. “Do you really believe that…?” In reality, these are statements, not questions.
A question without barriers is an invitation to say more. “Hmm… I don’t see it that way. Help me understand your perspective; tell me more.” This is a statement that is in fact an open-ended question.
Start your query with “Help me understand…” It opens doors and makes conversations more interesting.
Tip of the Month – December 2018
When you find yourself in the presence of outrage over holiday greetings, either from the right or the left (“There is a war on Christmas!” or the reverse: “How thoughtless and insensitive to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!”), first consider whether you think this is an issue worthy of outrage.
If you do – hey, feel free to join in. If you don’t, sidestep the outrage. A fire fizzles when nothing feeds it. Talk about what kinds of greetings you like to give and why. Shift the conversation away from the grand bugaboo of what is wrong with “them” and towards what each of you chooses to do.
Tip of the Month – November 2018
SEE THE DIGNITY OF THE OTHER
All too often we forget to see, and speak to, the dignity of the other, particularly if the interaction makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps this person has different ideas about what is right and wrong with a situation. It could be a friend, a stranger, a co-worker, or a family member. Our discomfort is what we are most aware of, and this tends to distort the interaction.
One way to shift the dynamic is to take a deep breath, see the dignity of the other, and ask open-ended questions. It sounds simple enough, but it is surprisingly challenging to practice when we are in a heightened emotional state.
To see and speak to the dignity of the other is a touchstone to keep coming back to. It keeps our interactions flowing between us.
Tip of the Month – October 2018
When you find yourself reacting—either positively or negatively—to what someone says, tune in and listen to yourself. What was in the statement that triggered a reaction in you, and why?
You may need more time for reflection than a flowing conversation permits, so turn to inquiry:
“What did you mean?”
“Help me understand what you are saying (or why you feel that way).”
Invite the person to share more, rather than questioning in a way that either narrows the focus or puts the other person on the defensive.
Attentive listening and transformative listening are not the same. Attentive listening generally means that we repeat back what we heard (“Is this what you meant?”). Transformative listening, on the other hand, opens the space for the other person to clarify in ways that we might not anticipate or imagine. With practice, it really does transform a discussion and generate more insights.
Tip of the Month – September 2018
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
There is an unmistakable buzz of energy that comes from talking with people who see the world as we do. It’s natural and even essential to our well-being.
But it can be a slippery slope.
When we value being part of a group that diminishes those outside the group, we can no longer claim to want to build understanding, goodwill, and a better world for all, because this requires that we recognize and speak to the dignity of all.
Be honest with yourself. If you enjoy pointing out the failings of others in a demeaning manner, own it. If, on the other hand, you want to build a better world, then find ways to stand up for your values without diminishing other people.
Check in with yourself periodically to make sure you are in alignment with how you want to be in the world.
Tip of the Month – August 2018
How to Shift a Conversation
It is easy to fall into the trap of talking about a group as a monolithic entity with clearly defined characteristics and beliefs that apply to all. We pick it up from the media, who talk about groups all day long. (“The Republicans; the Democrats; etc.)
We all do it. But there is an easy solution for shifting away from this tendency.
The next time you hear yourself say: “They are…” change it to “I am…”
You can make the same point but frame it differently.
Instead of: “They are so stupid because they don’t see that…”
Change to: “I am concerned that…”
Shift the conversation away from talking about the failings of others to the impact you feel, and invite others to do the same. When someone says: “They are…” ask how s/he might re-phrase the same thought starting with “I am…”
It creates an opening to make the conversation more interesting. It is an opportunity to engage around why someone feels particularly strongly about one issue over another. When we shift to the "I" position, it makes it easier to peel back the layers to get to deeper concerns and motivations.