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Creating a Real, not a ‘Boutique’ Win in Your Relationships

Office Party0001Un-Game Principle: Challenging our own and others’ unexamined assumptions is not only a contribution, but a necessity so that important relationships can flourish.

To order a copy of The Un-Game Four-Play to Business as Unusual click here to purchase on Amazon or email coach@ingridmartine.com.

A win/win is an occurrence that two or more people consider positive; or it is a solution to a problem, which parties with differing stakes or points of view, can rally around.

Those of us admirably dedicated to creating a win/win between ourselves and another person (or group) usually buy into one of the definitions above. We work hard on satisfying the other person (or group members) so that we can claim being someone who rejects win/lose and lose/lose results. Yet don’t we sometimes wonder why we feel so let down, even irritated. You know, you and your partner agree after some discussion about a vacation destination, but he doesn’t seem genuinely supportive of the decision. Hmm. Might it be that your partner said ‘yes’ when s/he meant ‘no’? In that case that partner entered into a pretend win/win, and it’s actually a lose/lose situation.

Or do you sometimes try so hard to please the other that you end up noticing you didn’t dedicate yourself to creating a ‘win’ for you. The result is the same—either a vague dissatisfaction or outright irritation or anger (often at the other person) or, if you’re honest with yourself, a slowly seething irritation or anger at yourself. A lose/lose scenario?

It could be said that there really are no win/lose scenarios except in a domain like sports and politics. Of course we want winners and losers there. Or in books where we love to hate the ‘bad guy.’ In human relationships that matter to us, when one person loses, the other does too. So what we really want is a better understanding to guide us into creating a ‘win’ for all.

So in the example above, when one of the people notices the faux win/win, they must become the challenger. The challenger reopens the conversation with the intent to go for the real ‘win’. Most of us have a hard time challenging. Do you? We don’t have good models for challenging. We have good models for being in a role of oppressor/persecutor. This role was first identified in the 1950ties by Stephen Karpman and is labeled the drama triangle (More about the drama triangle and its 3 roles, oppressor, victim, and rescuer in the archives).

We have lots of practice playing in the dreaded drama triangle. It can be very subtle. For example, “You never say what you really want. How can we come up with something we both are happy about?” Familiar? I thought so. This is really an accusation, and the other feels victimized by you, the oppressor. You can tell that’s happening when the predictable result is that the so-called accused gets defensive.

A challenger does not accuse. A challenger is totally committed to creating a win/win. So the challenger is the great truth-teller. The challenger stays on his or her side of the street, tells what they see, and makes clear offers or requests.

“I’m sensing you aren’t really on board with our decision. If my perception is correct, I want to talk about this again. I’m unwilling to go on vacation without your full endorsement for our destination.”

Can you see this is a challenge? It offers a perception (You’re not on board…not couched as fact which gives the other some breathing room) which the other now has to speak to, particularly when they hear that their partner requests to talk about it again. It clearly states where the challenger stands (unwilling to go unless it’s a ‘win’ for both) and what the consequences would be, if they don’t have this conversation. It doesn’t in any way negatively characterize the person being challenged.

And yet, because people are so unpracticed being outside of the drama triangle, the act of challenging is, well, challenging! Why? Because the person being challenged may very well respond in an oppressor or a victim role (We easily move between roles in the drama triangle). The person who perceives himself accused and who is therefore defensive, even though you did a great job of challenging, quickly moves from victim role to oppressor. He might say a hundred things. Here’s just an example:

            “Here you go again. Never satisfied. I’m going. Isn’t that enough?”

The challenger must be clear that s/he won’t be pulled back into the drama triangle. The above comment is indeed the invitation to do just that. People are comfortable in the drama triangle roles. The roles are familiar even as those roles make us unhappy. We must resist the tendency to restore the equilibrium the person being challenged is trying to get to. We must challenge again. Darn!

“Actually, no it’s not enough for me. I don’t consider it a ‘win’ for us when you give me an unenthusiastic ‘yes’. I want to have a good time, and that’s impossible for me if you’re only going because you think it makes me happy. For the record, it doesn’t.”

We are not used to keeping up the challenge. I think back to my younger years when I taught high school. The administration often put out rules, and kept their fingers crossed that the tough kids, who really were the target of those rules, would obey those rules. Often when they didn’t, the administration looked the other way (felt they were the victims of the oppressing students). Or, if parents challenged a rule, the administration often abandoned the rule rather than dealing with the perceived oppression of the parents. A lose/lose scenario for everybody.

Here’s what people who are committed to creating a win/win must know that they often do not know, and that we haven’t yet talked about. A win/win is sometimes perceived as a win/lose by one of the parties (the tough kids considered the rules as a ‘lose.’). Another example, a two-year old wants to cross a busy street. She considers that a ‘win’. (I want what I want is normal and natural for a two-year old). Her mother or father, of course, will not let her cross the busy street at will. Despite kicking and screaming of their daughter, parents know what a win/win is in this situation. They restrain her.

As challengers we need to know when to stand strong, no matter the reaction of the other. It’s rarely as clear as in the above examples, but there are times when the challenger has superior knowledge: appropriate rules enhance safety or freedom. A challenger with superior knowledge is willing to take consequences that upset the other.

When the challenger is willing to take the consequences of a deliberate decision that affects him or her alone, he or she gets to decide what a win/win is. For example, my mother wants me to mow my lawn before the company comes. Let’s say it’s not important to me. Only my mother’s feelings are affected. While I like to please others, I consider it a lose/lose when I please them at my expense. I am in charge of my ‘yes’ or my ‘no’ (and sometimes I may choose to say ‘yes’ to my mother about the lawn, but if so, it’s my choice, not hers). I consider it a ‘win’ for my mother when I don’t enter into the drama triangle with her.

When we unconsciously get pulled into one or more of the roles in the dreaded drama triangle, creating a win/win becomes impossible. Why not challenge me on the content, intent, or spirit of this article? We may all learn something important about being the challenger and creating real, not faux ‘wins’ in our important relationships.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for individuals who want to be in charge of their lives, coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://courageousconversationswithcoachmartine.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Challenging Your Popular Notions

Un-Game principle: Belief creates the fact. You don’t have to believe everything you think.

I’m experiencing some troubling, now-chronic health issues in my family. Since I love my family, I feel emotionally vulnerable. In reflecting on this state of my affairs, I noticed that I was acting on my thought “You have to be in good emotional shape to coach.” In my readers’ and clients’ lives, this might look like “I have to be in good shape to manage well.” Or, “I have to be in good shape to run for office.” Or, “I have to be in good shape to have this confrontation.” You fill in the blank.

What popular but constricting notions, thoughts, conclusions, or assumptions of yours are you willing to challenge?

Actually, let me tweak what I just said about ‘acting on my thought’. I wasn’t acting on my thought. My thought was acting ME! I was a puppet on a string, not the author or creator of my actions. I wasn’t even aware of the thought…until…I became aware.

We will automatically, unconsciously live in alignment with an assumption, thought, or conclusion we empower. That’s a fact. Whenever I had a coaching client while I was not in good shape according to my thought, thanks to my internal critic, I acted like I couldn’t be a very good coach. I occasionally caught myself thinking about my woes rather than my client. I drifted. I was unable to listen really deeply. You get the picture.

I can’t be in charge unless I’m conscious. You can imagine that I am grateful to have noticed; I immediately became conscious, and my options dramatically multiplied.

I could challenge my thought (conclusion), or at least I could do research on it. I had wonderful opportunities to test out the validity of this long-standing conclusion ‘I have to be in good emotional shape to coach well’, which in retrospect I experienced as rock-solid truth (A conclusion is never a fact. It’s merely what we make the facts mean. Lawyers are adept at recognizing this. We not so much.).

My research was as close as my next coaching client. Up until I became conscious, I just felt a queasiness in my stomach, and I noticed thoughts that were clearly worry thoughts. “Would I be able to serve my client? Should I cancel/reschedule to be fair? Would I be good enough so the client would come back?” The moment I became conscious of the conclusion “I have to be in good emotional shape to coach well,” the options I could exercise became apparent.

#1 – I asked myself “What is the most important quality I bring to coaching that makes my coaching successful?” The answer was almost immediate. Being present. To be present in any interaction with another person is to listen whole-heartedly and with a clear mind. The other is the only entity that exists for you. They are the most important person in your universe for every moment of time you spend with him or her. While this in no way means you don’t take care of yourself, your own problems don’t exist while present to this interaction. If they did, you would be absent from (and not present to) the interaction before you.

#2 – I asked myself “Can I be present to my client for the next hour?” The answer was a confident ‘Yes.’ I also knew I could ask the question again for another client. And I was confident I could come up with the same answer, but I didn’t need to future about that. The time would come soon enough.

For me, becoming conscious was enough. I have some skills and make some distinctions that enable me to move from a Victim-orientation (The oppressor was my sad circumstances) to a Creator-orientation. The creator moves in a different paradigm. S/he knows how to get out of the drama triangle ( see here, here, and here for more on the drama triangle). One question the creator knows how to ask and answer is the question “Who am I willing to be in order to produce an extraordinary result out of this interaction?” The creator also knows how to measure whether he or she has acted in accordance with the qualities that are the answer to that question. S/he would reflect on the action(s) taken and say, “Yes, my action is congruent with being loving, a quality I said I am willing to be: not smoking in a house where I want healthy air for my family is acting in accordance with being loving.”

You get the picture.

I answered the question “Who am I willing to be…..” with “I’m willing to be present, courageous, and open.” I thought those qualities of being would serve me well, and they have as I reflect on my coaching sessions. While I couldn’t guarantee that my actions would be a reflection of those qualities, what I could guarantee was ‘I am willing.’ Magic is invoked from being willing. It is different from ‘I want to’ where we act more on our feelings, and not necessarily on our commitments. We act on our commitments when we declare ourselves ‘willing.’

For others, becoming conscious will be the first challenge. Many people do not think about what they’re doing. You are probably not one of them, if you’re reading this. Those other folks just ‘pick up the club and swing.’ They avoid their polar opposite– people like me.

Not thinking about and not observing are usually not the path to assuming the Creator role in your life. Being the creator often is simply the result of shifting consciously to the creator path. Put yourself and your actions on a make-believe movie screen in front of you. You must look with the intention to learn. Not to find out why you do things. That’s analyzing, not observing. Observe yourself and your actions in order to surface the thinking that drives your actions. My thinking was “I have to be in good emotional shape to coach.” Really? Says who? And what actions did that thinking make im-possible?

With discipline and practice you can become the challenger of your own heretofore unexamined notions that drive your actions. The gift of challenging yourself are wisdom, compassion, and love for life. Those gifts are not fool’s gold. They are the real deal.

Test it out. Consciously choose the Creator role. You might ask “If I am being the creator here, and if I choose to be present in my next interaction, what does being present ask of me? What would that way of being look like? What would I not be doing that I’m doing now?”

Questions like that are powerful. You eventually live into the answers. Rather than thinking of the destination, empower the thinking ‘The journey is the destination.’ Wouldn’t that influence your experience? I rest my case (smile). In other words, you don’t have to immediately act on what you now see. Just observe. Look for when the old notion shows up again. Trust me. It will. Be kind to yourself and just notice.

You have a well-worn neural pathway in your brain for that old conclusion. You’ve acted on it many times. Now you can just observe it. It is said that observation is often curative. Good will come of your self-observation. Stay alert. You may be surprised. Sometimes things just change when you find another conclusion more interesting. As the creator, you can always declare the conclusion you are willing to empower with action (In the beginning there was the word!). Here’s one that interests me: ‘I am able even in hard times to be present in my interaction with others.’ What conclusion are you willing to act on? And what conclusion are you willing to sideline? You are in charge.

Don’t Characterize! Criticize What They Do, Not Who They Are

Un-game Principle: Appreciative relationships are limited by the boundaries of your ability to separate facts from fiction.

Admit it. You’ve heard yourself say: “That’s different“–tone of voice and eyebrows raised with indignation. Maybe you’ve just told a significant other, a son or a spouse, that they’ve been inconsiderate (they broke a mutually-agreed-upon meeting time). They quickly remind you of a time when you left them metaphorically ‘standing in the rain’. Before you can take the next breath, but after you recall the referred-to incident, you assert what inevitably starts a discussion, which leaves both of you unable to get on with what could have been a lovely, productive day.

“That’s different.” Balled fists and quivering lips, you are out of your ‘right’ mind and into your fight, flight, or freeze emotional straight-jacket. Say so long to valid assessments of what’s happening. You are not separating fact from fiction.

What’s behind this? Why are we so likely to discard the very criticism we’ve just lobbed at someone else? “No! That’s different (I’m different). You’re wrong,” we insist. How we paint one another with the brush of our critical words diverges from how we see ourselves…almost always.

Let’s explore.

Pretend it’s your teenage son whom you’ve called ‘inconsiderate,’ and who has predictably told you in an angry, wounded voice that you, too, are ‘inconsiderate.’

Consider the following: None of us can stand being (negatively) characterized by another person. When we say to someone “You’re inconsiderate,” we are characterizing the person; we are not describing facts, that is, what they did or didn’t do (The fact is that your son met you at 3:15 when the agreement was to meet at 3:00. He broke a promise since both of you agreed that you would meet at 3:00.).

A characterization–“You’re inconsiderate” is a story we make up: “This is the way you are. And we want you to change who you are.”

Well, your son, like you and me, bristles at your characterization of him. He can no more change who he is than willfully change his height! We all can only change what we do. And with consistent doing we eventually change who we are…by our own choice and in our own green time.

No wonder we get so upset… and so ineffective with someone else’s characterization of us. A negative characterization attacks our being, the very thing we cannot (but are being told to) change. Of course the knee-jerk reaction is “No I’m not inconsiderate!” And we would be correct in our assertion. We are not another’s characterization of us. We aren’t even our own characterization of ourselves! If we take that breath and get into our ‘right’ mind, and if we think about it, we can probably find some ways in which the ‘inconsiderate’ person has acted with love and caring…and recall some times when we ourselves did not.

A characterization, negative or positive, is not a fact.

We are alike in so many ways, often especially when we see ourselves as most different. I invite you to watch out for insisting “That’s different,” or “I’m different.” It’s a slippery slope as well as an opportunity for personal growth. Which one interests you more?

It’s easy to see that characterizations can hurt. Rather than facts, they are what we unconsciously make a fact or a series of facts mean (In this imaginary scenario, your son arrived 15 minutes after an agreed-upon time. That’s a fact. Now what did you make that fact mean?).

Don’t get me wrong. We can’t help it. We will interpret facts. To be human is to attribute meaning to facts. It makes sense out of a world which otherwise would be chaotic. What we can do to make life easier and more satisfying, however, is to become conscious that we do this rather than think that our interpretation of the facts are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It might make us curious about what happened when someone was late to an appointment with us. It makes possible a conversation between two engaged rather than two well-defended minds who ‘already know everything!’

There’s validity to the statement “Minds are like parachutes. They only work when they’re open.”

“What about those whom you would characterize (there it is again.) as chronic late-comers?” you might wonder. “Aren’t they inconsiderate? Isn’t that a fact?” No, you still have a characterization of them. Characterizations are either grounded (you can provide lots of evidence/facts for making that characterization) or they are ungrounded (using another characterization to ‘prove’ this conversation’s original characterization. For example, “He never keeps his promises ” is an ungrounded assertion and a short step from characterizing him as unreliable. Believe me, he’ll find at least one example of having kept a promise!).

Does that mean you have to suffer the person who is often late? No. Grounded characterizations can be the opening for a conversation which you can no longer put off lest your relationship suffers significant damage.

Here’s a fact: a confrontation will go a lot better when you can speak about two things: (1) the impact of the other’s behavior on you…arriving late…and (2) what you will do to assure that your daily comings and goings are not negatively affected by what the other does and doesn’t do. At least one of you will be in your ‘right’ mind! The chances of handling the other’s defensiveness will be enhanced when you concentrate on the behavior and the impact on you rather than on a shaky characterization. The other will probably still be defensive, but their defensive posturing will lack the intensity called forth by a characterization.

The start of the conversation may go like this.

“Son, it not only makes me anxious (fact) that you’re late so often, I’m also hesitant to coordinate plans with you (fact). We’ve missed the beginning of the play/movie/church/synagogue, conference 3 times in the last month (fact) and I hate feeling hurt and resentful. I hate thinking of you as inconsiderate. I hate feeling disconnected from you, which I do when I’m resentful (all facts). Can we talk about this? (This is an offer or invitation.) With or without you I need to find a way out of my dilemma” (This is an announcement that you will take care of yourself even if a mutually committed-to solution either does not get generated or results in another broken agreement).

You’re off to a good start when you criticize what people do, not who they are. Why not choose to see yourself and the other in all your beautiful, shared humanity –warts as well as wisdom? In ways that count, we’re not so different after all. I find that comforting. How about you?

Photo Credit: By State Library of New South Wales collection, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

You Want to Be Effective? Expand Your ‘No Problem Area.’

Un-Game Principle: Thoughts are the engine that powers action. Every moment is an opportunity for a thought-engine ‘tune-up’.

No, I’m not advocating Pollyannaish thinking or putting a positive spin on a bad situation. And I’m not saying problems are bad. It’s in our self-interest to become or access exquisite problem-solvers for real problems—technical problems like fixing a broken air conditioner or a flat tire. I’m talking about that which we identify as a problem in our day-to-day interactions with ourselves, family, friends, the community, and the world. In an increasingly fast-spinning, fear-driven, fragmented, isolated-yet–connected-by- technology world, we are experiencing a vast sea of uncertainty which we are consciously or unconsciously grappling with and trying to control.

And we’re quick to experience what happens or doesn’t happen around us as a problem. Our teenage son is pushing us away with “Dad, you wouldn’t understand.” Our aging parents won’t listen to reason when it comes to giving up the license. Our spouse doesn’t want to spend the money to replace the 2005 Honda Civic.

Imagine a rectangle with the long side down and a line dividing it into two panes like a traditional window. The top pane represents your NO PROBLEM AREA. Whatever happens in it is ok with you. You accept what is. You probably extend energy here, but it isn’t problem-solving energy. Here you enjoy, even savor your relationships and simply go calmly about the business of living your life.

The bottom pane is your PROBLEM AREA. Everything here is a problem for you. The dog needs a walk and you don’t have time. Your family doesn’t share in the housework. Your son’s room is messy. Your daughter keeps secrets. Your employees spend too much time not working. You get the picture.

Everyone’s NO PROBLEM AREA is different from everyone else’s even though we’re largely convinced that “If you had my life, you’d feel and act exactly like me.” Some people’s NO PROBLEM AREA is very large. Others’ is very small. You can probably guess who is more satisfied with their life.

It would do most of us some good to expand our NO PROBLEM AREA and shrink our PROBLEM AREA. Would it be alright with you if life were easier?

There are more than two ways to expand your NO PROBLEM AREA, but I’ll focus on just two.

  1. Be guided by the definition for: Whose problem is this?
    • It is NOT your problem if the only thing that’s impacted is how you feel about it. Your feelings are your responsibility. They are not caused by someone else. What someone else does may trigger your feelings, but he or she isn’t doing it to you. Your feelings are your responsibility. He didn’t make you mad or cry. If you’re assigning responsibility outside of yourself, you are making yourself into a victim and someone else into an oppressor. You are definitely in your PROBLEM AREA. And you are unlikely to get out. Many of us just use a version of “kiss and make up,” but it’s an uneasy peace.
    • It IS your problem when there is an impact on you in physical reality. Your son’s messy room may embarrass you if company sticks their head in his room, but there is no physical impact on you. So it’s not your problem by the working definition. I know. I know. You don’t like it. But I promise I won’t make that my problem (smile). Your family not sharing in the housework, on the other hand, has an impact on you in physical reality. You spend more than your share of time keeping a home in order that belongs to every family member. So this is ripe for a “We have a problem” meeting.

You can see that taking ownership of you as the generator of your feelings would expand your NO PROBLEM AREA. Imagine the discord averted when each of us is the author of our feelings. It won’t stop us from talking to others about our hurt or angry feelings. On the contrary, we’ll be much more open and direct about them! And others may even be different around us when they simply learn how we feel without being made responsible for having caused the feelings. “I felt hurt when you said I wouldn’t understand. I wish you’d try me to find out whether I do or don’t.”

The other person said something. That’s a fact. But my hurt feelings belong to me. They are the result of what I told myself about what the other person said. I could have said “Hmm. He’s frustrated and doesn’t want to talk to me right now. Maybe I’ll come back later.” See what I mean? Two different thoughts. Two different feelings. There are any number of scenarios. How then could the listener possibly be responsible for another’s feelings?!

  1. The second way to expand your NO PROBLEM AREA is to ask yourself “Does this have to be a problem? How else could I look at this?” When we take both a breath and a step back, we see things differently than when we’re in the midst of an experience we don’t question. “As the parent I have a right to…..We’ve always done it this way. Joe is just not a very good employee. It’s the right way. We should have replaced that car a long time ago.”

Stepping back allows us to see our thinking. It allows us to be critical, not as in criticizing, but in thinking critically. We’re alert and using our rational brain, not just following feelings and unexamined thinking. In such an environment you could reveal your hopes and your worries about making a new car purchase. You can tell the truth about your feelings without having to defend. You can explore under what conditions it would be possible to get a new car. Or if you even both need a car! You can have a real conversation, not an automatic one. And your NO PROBLEM AREA is expanded.

Our thoughts drive what we feel and what we do. While most of us don’t care how a car works—we just want the car to get us where we want to go—we care deeply about expanding our effectiveness and our joy for living. Expanding our NO PROBLEM AREA may well be the tune-up our internal engine needs to get us where we long to go.

Photo Credit: Ines Zgonc

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Your Wisdom in 500 Words?

Un-Game Principle: The life you’re living today is a mirror of your wisdom to date. You are doing the best you can with what you know. When you know better, do better.

Recently Inspire Me Today invited me to be a Luminary and share what I learned from my life in just 500 words. My knee jerk reaction was a sense of constriction in my heart region. Then I applied one of the key learnings from my life.

Trust the process. 
Deciding on the biggest wisdom nuggets of your life in 500 words is only a way of focusing. It’s a direction for you, not an ordinance. When your energy feels constricted, look and see what thoughts you have that make you suffer. Ask: “How else can I look and this?” Then trust the process for answers to emerge.

OK, I focused and enjoyed the process. Here’s another nugget.

Make enjoyment important in your life.
My family of origin lives the notion ‘Life is hard.’ Play is a reward for work. Hmm. How else can I look at this? I could wonder “ Is it inevitable to make a separation between work and play? What if I had the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy to focus on creating work that is also play for me? Can I even do this in my work now?” Asking myself great questions challenged, coached, and led me to another important-to-me learning.

The key to creating what you love is self-knowledge, accurate self-observation moment by moment, and the desire to see your blind spots.

Some outliers create the life they love without my key. But this is my story. Take what you can and leave the rest!  I once had a blind spot, an unconsciously-held belief, that I should apply any feedback I get. Phew. What a prison! When I saw that blind spot I reflected on how that notion on feedback had bruised my ability to be at ease in relationship. This increased my self-knowledge and made something distinct that had been indistinct (and therefore useless) to me. Now I reflect on every bit of feedback I get, use what I can, and you guessed it, lustily toss the rest. Here’s my next nugget.

Clarity is power. All extraordinary results you produce begin with clarity.
Clarity about what? First of all, my intention is to get clear and be clear. I am clear that I’m always at choice (not about what happens, but how I will respond to what happens). My first choice therefore is who I am willing to be at any given choice point. Who am I willing to be in order to produce an extraordinary result out of any interaction? I often choose ‘I’m willing to be present, compassionate, and vulnerable.’ Present, because the real, not second-hand experience, lives only in the now, not in the past or the future, or in our electronic devices. Compassionate because compassion allows us the very present experience we hunger for– connection. We connect with people when we see that we could be just like them, for good and for ill. Vulnerable because true power derives from vulnerability, not from trying to control and fix everything. You can’t be vulnerable without also being courageous. Test it out sometime. If you don’t feel at risk, then what you’re about to do is in your comfort zone! No courage required. Here’s a test. Observe whether the following is so for you: The first thing we look for in others is their vulnerability. The last thing we look for in ourselves is our vulnerability. Hmm. Just how important is vulnerability really? If we are willing to be truthful, very important.

In summary: Being determines Doing. Stop looking for change in your actions first. Do look for change in who you’re willing to be now, and now, and when tonight becomes the now. And summon the courage to be vulnerable even if you get hurt. The moments that make us are moments of struggle. Avoiding the struggle is an allergic reaction to your vulnerability. Which leads me to my last nugget (And yes, I’ve gone way above the 500 words. No problem. This is just a dry run.).

Be the change you want to see in the world. Be your best self. You are whole and complete and don’t need to be fixed. Neither does anyone else. They, like you, are capable of making their own changes, when they see their blind spots.

The need to control and fix things and people messes us up and leaves our relationships gasping for breath. If we hunger for others to be vulnerable but work hard to hide our own vulnerability, we hide the very quality that everyone is hungering for. So summon your courage and be the change you want to see in the world. Lo and behold, your little corner of the world will become a mirror for you. Not immediately, but persevere. Your need to fix things and people will diminish and eventually disappear. Might it help to redefine vulnerability not as psychological fragility, but in the words of a former coach of mine, “Vulnerability is letting the winds of life blow freely over your soul.” Might that make being vulnerable easier? Might it make life more fun? Might we be more able to shed the exhaustion many of us wear as a badge of courage in our day-to-day life in favor of a bolder, more robust and more joyful vision?

And speaking about vision…can you share in 500 words the nuggets of wisdom that have shaped the life you’re living today and the vision you have for the tomorrow that has you leap out of bed expectant to meet your challenges and opportunities?

Photo Credit: Stephen F.E. Cameron.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Be Patient with Yourself : You Are a *Chef-d’Oeuvre in Progress

Un-Game Principle: Self-reflection and self-observation are the keys to our personal power and the freedom to be ourselves.

Do you get excited about people seeing and acting on new possibilities? Like when you glimpse the wonder in a child’s eye the moment they see… yes, they can!

And are you generous with children as they’re learning to make their way? I imagine you probably are.

I’ve spent a lot of happy energy and time learning to make my way and to shed the burden of self-talk that hinders me from designing my life and the goals that light my fire. That’s why I was a teacher (I taught French, German, English, and Spanish) and now am a coach having spent the better part of 35 years as an educator/consultant/trainer in various business environments. And of course it’s no accident that I wrote The Un-Game: Four-Play to Business As Unusual; how people learn, including how I learn, is a source of endless fascination for me.

Many people I meet through coaching are very, very (did I say ‘very’?) hard on themselves. They want to get things right away. They are impatient and self-condemning. They have a lot of self-limiting chatter, much of which catches them unawares. When learning how much this self-limiting chatter dominates their thinking and action, people attempt to get rid of the chatter and to change what they’re doing (or not doing). In trying to get rid of it, people get to see just how familiar and seductive their pattern of self-condemnation is. They condemn themselves for not succeeding to rid themselves of self-condemnation!

Sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it? No exit.

I’m not promising you an exit from self-limiting chatter. If you’re willing to consider the possibility that your self-limiting chatter is your biggest opponent on life’s playing field, and that you actually need it (After all, if you have no opponent, can you even have a game?!), what I can promise you is that you can learn to outplay your opponent. And it can even be fun. After all, who doesn’t love to win?

To outplay your self-limiting chatter (Our Buddhist friends call it monkey mind. Don’t you love it? It’s so visual.), you need to be willing to become self-reflective and self-observant. If you’ve been reading my blog, you already are. But self-reflection is a relationship with yourself that you keep deepening. And to self-reflect means to have something to observe about yourself. That’s why I like to challenge my (and your) thinking. It gets us to our unexamined assumptions about how we are and how life is. And that’s where the change we’re looking for is hiding.

To facilitate challenging yourself and your standard and customary thinking and your monkey mind (self-limiting chatter), I will be including links to some of the interviews I’ve had on my book. Good interviewers, like good coaches, know how to ask good questions. Whether you’ve read The Un-Game or not, the interviews are likely to make you think about the most fascinating subject in the world: YOU! I’m not saying this to promote narcissism on your part. Being self-absorbed is not at all the same thing as being self-reflective. But that is a different subject for a different day. In the meantime, be patient with your impatience. You’re a chef-d’oeuvre in progress.

*Chef d’Oevre  = Masterpiece

Photo by Dutch artist Peter Klashorst, entitled “Experimental”

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

How Much of Your Energy Are You Willing to Invest in Your Freedom?

Un-Game Principle: You are free to the extent that you are able to choose freely.

If I ask you “How important is your freedom to you?” you will without hesitation answer: “very important.” If I then narrow the inquiry to freedom in relationships, could you identify specific examples of where you feel restricted? For example, do you trust yourself to interact freely with a spouse, or do you often internally monitor what you are saying for fear of negative or unintended consequences? Ditto for an interaction among colleagues, a boss, friends, or with subordinates.

As I reflected on the issue of freedom–yes, it’s very important to me too– I realized it’s largely because so many of us feel so “un-free to be ourselves” that I wrote my book The Un-Game:Four-Play to Business As Unusual.

Next I asked myself just what a powerful definition of freedom is. I landed on Cicero’s, statesman of ancient Rome. He asserted “Freedom is the participation in power.” Far from being abstract or too ancient, this definition is the perfect guide not only for identifying and acting on our public-good priorities, but also on our personal ones.

Let’s stick with the personal. Isn’t it our personal priority to be free, for example, to unselfconsciously be ourselves? Who wants to walk around on eggshells with spouses, children, employers, employees, colleagues, friends and relatives? Yet we often do, don’t we? Could it be that we are missing major opportunities to participate in power by the way we imagine and thereby limit the horizons of our relationships?

Take for example a conflict situation (oh no!). How do we participate in power now? Most of us suffer from a failure of imagination. Mostly unconsciously, we generally limit ourselves to only three roles ( and by the way, this can be an internal conflict where there’s only me, and yet I can play any and all three roles all by my lonesome!). We can’t necessarily consciously identify these roles, but all of us recognize them. They are The Persecutor, The Victim, and The Rescuer. (How many of us have mercilessly berated ourselves for something we wish we had done differently? Hello, Persecutor.) These roles, by the way, were identified in the 1950ties in the Karpman Drama Triangle.

A simple example is Person 1 upset with Person 2.  Assume that ‘upset’ is clearly reflected in the tone of voice of Person 1.

Person 1: Why didn’t you pick up after yourself?

Person 2: If you had had the kind of day I had….

In this small interchange Person 1 feels as if they are the victim of Person 2. Person 2 has violated some explicit or imagined agreement. Person 2, however, sees Person 1 as the persecutor. Rightfully so. The question is not a question for information. It’s designed to attack, whether the tone of voice is whiny or accusatory. It could be said that Person 2, in trying to then explain, is acting in the rescuer role, but is probably perceived by Person 1 as now acting the victim. Next may come an argument about whose pain is greater or more important.

Dismal, eh? And familiar, right? And certainly both parties feel anything but empowered. No freedom here by Cicero’s definition. There’s no participation in power in this drama triangle. Our choices for action are so impoverished precisely because we feel so powerLESS!

I suspect that we get stuck in a persistent loop of disempowerment in our important relationships because we become blinded by our emotions, and we can neither imagine nor articulate roles we could play that would guarantee our escape from these life-threatening roles of persecutor, victim, and rescuer. The freedom we so cherish remains just outside of our reach. And we are miserable.

So how do we make this shift to participating in power and thereby having a real experience of delicious freedom?

The Un-Game is a story that takes readers on the path to empowerment and therefore to the freedom to design life rather than submit to it. Stories are powerful teachers because stories are like Velcro. They stick!

But there are avenues to freedom other than through the slow discovery in a good story. Contact me to have a direct experience of the coaching The Un-Game is based on. Or, ask google to connect you to coaching colleagues of mine who also have articulated a brilliant antidote to the dreaded roles of the drama triangle. David Emerald and Donna Zajonc have written The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic) in which they identify and illustrate the roles we play when we are truly free, that is, when we participate in real power as opposed to the ersatz power of the persecutor, victim, and rescuer (lest you doubt that the victim exerts enormous power, think again!).

The roles we play in The Empowerment Dynamic triangle are The Creator, The Challenger, and The Coach. If you do nothing except allow yourself to wonder what these roles might look like in your life, you will have taken an important step toward the freedom to design the life you long for.

Just how much energy are you willing to invest in your freedom? If you hear yourself saying “But I’m too busy. I don’t have time. I can’t…”, I’m here to tell you it’s not true (really!). What role in the drama triangle are you playing? If you find yourself being irritated by my  “It’s not true” assertion, and you notice yourself protesting “But it is true! What do you know anyway?”, do you at least allow yourself to wonder whether you’re in the role of challenger in the empowerment triangle? Hmm. Keep wondering and looking. There may be uncoveries to be made. Go for it. Freedom is not free. Invest in your freedom to be your best and most powerful self.  How sweet would that be?

Image credit: Xenia Rassolova

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Why You Should Want to Have Your Mind Blown

By Rafi B. from Somewhere in Texas :) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Un-Game Principle: While not comfortable, the examined life is an empowered, more peaceful life.

Caution. The word ‘should’ should raise a red flag in your mind. It’s usually used in a sentence that has someone else’s answer for a problem or challenge of yours. If only it were that easy. But no, answers that work for us are usually hard-won and gained in our own green time. What you can do is try another’s words on to see if they make sense to you. To your best Self, not your worst self, that is. You do know the difference, don’t you?

In our comfort zone nothing blows our mind. By definition, we’re at ease there, even when we’re critical of something or someone. After all, it’s familiar, and familiar is comforting. Life looks and acts as we expect, and we ourselves are well-applauded actors on its stage. That would be just fine if life stayed put or we were willing to settle for a tepid existence. But life doesn’t stay put. Rather it is unpredictable and impermanent, and like it or not, that’s the challenge and opportunity that’s ours to master. And to master life’s challenges, we need to expand our comfort zone.

What expands our comfort zone is a good question to engage with. Not just once because if you have an answer, you close the inquiry down, and learning something depends very much on an awakened sustained curiosity. Yours!

Consider the following as one answer of possible many answers:

Your comfort zone expands only when you get out of it and are willing to consider something that blows your mind (is at the edge of or outside of your known territory). ”I can’t” is generally a statement that calls the comfort zone home.

A manager (parent/teacher) who has the belief “I should control and correct my employees” (children, students) would have his or her mind blown by someone who believes “Employees (children, students) produce ordinary results when micromanaged.” Imagining oneself in a different mindset with different behaviors is akin to drifting in a rowboat without oars. Needless to say, few of us could imagine ourselves relishing that experience, and so many of us stay right where it is comfortable. We do the same thing over and over again. And if it’s uncomfortable, we keep on anyway, hoping for different results. Exhilarating? NOT!

No wonder things don’t change easily. No wonder we wonder: “Isn’t there more to life than this?”

Our discomfort has much to teach us. If we’re courageous and do what feels counter-intuitive, namely embrace the discomfort and engage with the thing that blows our mind and may send us into an “I can’t” fit, we may discover that there are some surprising gifts. We might see an employee from whom we stopped expecting good work become motivated. “Hmm, I wonder what my micromanaging had to do with his underwhelming performance?” Or we may hear words of genuine appreciation that were sparse when we micromanaged. We may get better results than the results we were able to even imagine with our old mindset and behaviors.

Who knows? Life (and people) are unpredictable. Accept rather than fight it.

If we persevere, we may discover more and more benefits of being a catalyst for our and others’ growth and learning rather than the embodiment of the command and control model that’s decidedly dead, just not buried everywhere yet. More importantly however, we get to discover that the new mindset and behavior, so strange and uncomfortable at first, has now been incorporated into our comfort zone. Our comfort zone has expanded. And so has our peacefulness.

Isn’t that prize worth the willingness and the courage to have your mind blown?

Try it on something you think you could not possibly change. How about doing, doing, doing? Hurrying, hurrying, hurrying?

Have I now gone from preaching to meddling? Welcome to your discomfort zone!

Bully, Wimp, or Neither?

Un-Game Principle: If you can’t make distinctions, you cannot act powerfully on behalf of your intention to be a visionary leader, an effective manager or an effective communicator.

A CEO client of mine called me to prepare for a “difficult” conversation with his team. He and they had participated in a workshop I designed for them on the hidden drivers of performance excellence. The hidden drivers had included a segment on conversations that produce effective action. We routinely engage in those conversations, but often do so unconsciously and therefore ineffectively. The CEO and his team had learned the linguistic distinctions of requests, promises, assertions, declarations, and assessments as well as the language moves that are the glue that hold a conversation for action together: making requests, promises, and offers; accepting or declining a request; making a counter-offer; revoking a promise; committing to commit later, distinguishing grounded assessments from ungrounded ones, and so on.

In giving the team their workshop evaluation to complete, I had set it up as yet another learning instrument to deepen the skills and the distinctions they had learned. They had accepted my request to return the evaluation by a certain date (They could have declined or counter-offered, but they didn’t.).

The date of the fulfillment of the promise came and went. Half of the team broke their promise. My client was irritated with these team members and wanted coaching for the ensuing conversation he would have with his team.

I asked him what he wanted to achieve in the conversation and what role he envisioned for himself . . . judge or coach. He wanted to be in the space of ‘coach.’ He has a self-acknowledged history of alternating between coming down hard on his team and of letting things go that he wishes he hadn’t let go. Being ‘coach’ with his team aligns with his intentions to be an effective manager and a visionary leader.

With some good coaching questions, my client became clearer on the pitfalls of judging although judging was like a second skin to him. “Isn’t that my job?” he thought.

It  IS part of his job. However, judging people’s behavior and their emotional intelligence  is different from judging their technical skill, for example their ability and role in designing a new product. Technical skills are measurable; the achievement of a goal verifiable. No slippery slope in this domain.

Judging others’ actions, however, usually sets everyone up to lose. Justification and rationalization abound, and one quickly can enter a quagmire from which it is difficult to emerge. It’s best to stick to the facts, namely that which is verifiable: the broken promise.

The CEO as ‘coach’ wants to change his corporate culture to a learning culture. With the ‘judge’ he takes a step backwards from his deeply desired goal. His team will defer to him on any judgment even if someone respectfully disagrees (perhaps, someone will, but s/he is not yet likely to persevere; the learning culture is still fragile).

The team loses because a judging environment is neither safe nor challenging for learning anything except self-protection. It’s hard to ask questions, offer a new understanding, be confused, and think out loud in an environment where one is judged by another, especially a judge with greater positional power than yourself.

With a clear perspective of ‘coach’, the CEO can assume that he doesn’t know everything. Ah, what a relief! In fact, all he has to know is to ask good questions and then listen and clarify what he heard. Perhaps the evaluations were sent but not received, and there were no broken promises at all.

Let’s assume there was in fact a broken promise. The CEO doesn’t have to judge the “reasons why the evaluations were not done ” as valid or invalid. It happened. Period. Now what can be learned from this? Anything else will merely distract.

There’s a saying that guides me: “In life, you either have the results you want or all the reasons why not.” The promise some of the team members broke did not seriously affect the business outcomes in the short run. They presented an opportunity to learn to produce effective action, the learning of which will affect business outcomes in the long run.

In the space of ‘coach’, the CEO can get into an inquiring mode whose purpose is shared understanding. He can ask the team members what they could have done to avert breaking a promise (this would deepen the learnings from the workshop). He could ask about the effects of broken promises, and what’s necessary to clean them up. He could ask what they could have done differently. And what they will do in a future, similar situation. He could ask them whether they’d like to make a new promise, and what that would be. He could help them link it to their own clients who sometimes irritate them with broken promises. What is it like to see that they engage in the same behaviors they complain about in their clients? Might this make them more compassionate and better in dealing with their clients? The list goes on.

In other words, the CEO could have a very rich learning conversation whose message is very different from the message the ‘judge’ would have sent. The ‘judge’ could easily have fallen into the “I’m right/You’re wrong” trap, which can quickly lead to acting the bully or the wimp. He could deftly back away from the trap. He could simply decide and practice being ‘coach’ and take a giant leap toward creating the learning culture that would make his life so much easier, so much more engaging, and so much more rewarding.

Would It Be Alright With You If Your Relationships Were Easier…And Sweeter?

220px-Cherry_Stella444Un-Game Principle: Being able to make distinctions allows us to be more productive and peaceful.

I’ve been called twice for jury duty in as many months. I found myself slightly irritated. But realizing that it was my expectation to not be called again so soon, I reflected on the ability of our expectations to cause suffering, especially in the domain of relationships. Relationships mean so much to us whether we admit it or not.

So why us it important to distinguish between Expectations and Expectancy? The dictionary doesn’t make a big distinction. They both mean, ‘to live in a state of expectation.’

It’s important because expectations, unless shared by each of the “relators,” cause breakdowns, distance, isolation, disappointment, regret. How are you experiencing your energy right now just confirming the last statement? Restricted around your heart region, right?

Expectancy on the other hand is different. Relationships blossom in the wake of expectancy. It loosens the grip of expectations. It brings both “relators” into the here and now. The relationship comes alive with possibility. Something mysterious and miraculous can emerge. Closeness, not distance or isolation, is the more likely experience. And this experience can be had at home and at work. In fact, it can be had in any setting.

How are you experiencing your energy around your heart region right now as you imagine such closeness? Go ahead, and check in with yourself. If you have a deep experience of it, you may live more in expectancy than expectations.

I resonate for the most part with what Matt Hohmeyer, a Baptist minister in Marble Falls, Texas, has to say about the difference in the experience. To his thinking, there is a great difference between them. Pastor Hohmeyer says:

“Most of us live our entire lives with expectations all around us.  We have expectations for ourselves.  We have expectations for others.  Others have expectations of us. We have expectations of our God and for our relationship with God.”

He continues. “I struggle with expectations.  I struggle under the weight of them.  I struggle to uphold them. We are bred under the weight of expectation. These may serve to motivate and drive us to some degree, but in the context of relationship expectations only serve to inhibit, constrict, and control that which is meant to be free and dynamic.

Expectations are set and specific in nature. Expectations lend themselves to static systems that are easily managed and defined.

But relationships are non-linear and dynamic in nature. They do not progress evenly along a given slope, but are living organisms that have life of their own and are not meant to be managed but lived.

This is where expectancy enters the equation. Relationships are made for expectancy. With expectancy there is freedom instead of law, there is fluidity instead of rigidity. There is an expectancy that should exist within our relationships. Whether we are together or apart, there is an expectancy of being together, of laughing, and talking and experiencing life with one another. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else.

If this expectancy is exchanged for expectations, then legislation enters the relationship.  For example we feel the need to set certain times and frequency of meeting.  We are expected to perform a certain way within relationship.  Living relationship deteriorates into a static formality with rules and requirements.

“My greatest hurt and disappointments in relationships (with humanity and with my God),” Hohmeyer continues, “have been a result of others not living up to my expectation for them and our relationship. My greatest joys and my healthiest relationships are those lived in expectancy. Expectancy allows those we are in relationship with to be fully themselves and to love us and invest in us in the fullness of what they have to give and we have the same freedom toward them.”

“How different would our relationship with God be if we did not limit our relationship with our expectations?  How different would it be if we stopped living under the weight of what we believe to be God’s expectations of us? What if we simply lived in a state of expectancy of God moving in our life and our responding as He leads? Can you imagine how that would free you to respond and how it would free God to move beyond any of our small, limited, constricting expectations? Such freedom, I fear, is rarely experience among believers.”

Hohmeyer goes on to imagine how different our relationships would be with one another if we dropped our expectations. This is where he and I part company. I suspect it’s not even possible to drop expectations. Furthermore, I claim that it could even be detrimental. I do accept Pastor Hoymeyer’s earlier claim that relationships should not be managed. They should be lived. Fair enough.

However, what is important is to manage expectations within a relationship! Make important-to-you expectations explicit. You do not have the right to have all of your expectations met. No one does. You do have the right to put your expectations out to another and then clarify, and if necessary negotiate them, to where both parties declare their commitments or move on with their plans separate from the other for this moment in time.

“I’ll come to visit if you’re able to have dinner with me or spend the afternoon with me.”

The explicit expectations exchange leaves room for some other conditions of satisfaction that haven’t even been mentioned to emerge.

“If you come on Saturday instead of Friday, we could spend the afternoon and have dinner.”

“Oh, great. I hadn’t thought of that.”

This scenario could not happen without the conversation that made the expectations visible. Making expectations visible doesn’t invalidate what Pastor Hohmeyer puts forward. We can still live with one another in a state of expectancy. Living in relationship expectantly is being open, receptive, kind, compassionate, curious. It’s coming from a permeating mind-set of “All is well. My good can’t be taken away from me. And your concern is my concern.”

Throw out the rigidity of silent expectations and you open yourself up for the delight and surprises of expectancy. Would it be alright with you if your relationships were easier…and sweeter?