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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.

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.

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!

How Else Can I Look at This? – A Gateway to Creativity

doorwayUn-Game Principle: We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think.

I recently read one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read: the first-hand account of the 16 year imprisonment of a friend’s mentor in China from 1963-1979, much of it in solitary confinement. Despite his experience Sidney Rittenberg was able to keep intact his sanity, his integrity, and his love for China. One reason for this was the question he asked himself : “How else can I look at this?”

In coaching “How else can you look at this?” is a question I frequently ask my clients. What I realized long ago is that our thinking is invisible to us. When bits and pieces of our thinking do become visible to us, it is our great leap across the chasm of disempowerment and despair. As soon as that which had been invisible to us is now in plain view, our natural ability to do something about what we’ve become aware of kicks in. We are magnificent in that way.

What’s behind the question “How else can I look at this?” is the fact that in western civilization our thinking is primarily binary thinking, that is, we think in either/or pictures. “Either I’m going to college, or I’m going to be a failure in life. Either I work 16 hours a day, or I won’t get ahead. Either I get that promotion or I will quit my job. Either we are for taxing the rich or against it.”

At the very base of this constrictive either/or thinking is the choice of being on the right or the wrong side of the thing in question. “I can either be right or wrong.” I don’t have to tell anybody which side we want to be on; after all, who wants to be on the wrong side of history?

Is there a third choice? Is there any other way we can think about this?

Yes there is. Anyone who’s a good problem-solver knows that in brain-storming

a) you must have more than two contributions to consider, and

b) you don’t stop to evaluate every contribution offered as it is being offered. In other words, we consciously get ourselves out of our limiting either/or thinking paradigm by requiring more than two choices, and we protect against arguing for and against (either/or) before we have freed our mind from its usual self-limitation.

There is something peculiar, baffling, and mysterious about this (What? Three choices again?!). Let’s assume only Americans are reading this. How come we have been able to successfully escape, albeit for a short time, our limiting thinking? One answer is that Americans are known to be excellent problem-solvers (I won’t offer at least two other reasons, even though I could. This answer suits my purpose.).

Americans are good problem-solvers. However, we need to ask a second and related question: “In what domain are Americans good problem-solvers?”

I won’t get an argument from anyone about Americans being great problem-solvers and therefore very creative in the domain of technical challenges. Silicon Valley is full of geniuses, individual and corporate, too numerous to mention. But there is a domain in which most Americans are not good problem-solvers, and that is the domain of human interaction in which the superb technical problem-solving mind and skill-sets are not nearly enough. In fact, in some instances those skills are totally counter-productive.

In human interactions, unlike in technical problem-solving, there’s a whole lot less we can control. What we can control is ourselves, and even that’s not easy because unbeknownst to ourselves we can be controlled by our either/or thinking.

If we are unaware of our thinking, then we don’t have our thinking; our thinking has us!

In part, what we need in order to change ourselves in a non-technical domain (aka the adaptive domain, which requires of us changes in how we act), influence others to change, and to change the situation we find ourselves in is to free ourselves from our either/or thinking trap and ask more and more often “How else can we look at this?” Let’s look at what that question assumes.

It assumes that there could be many good answers. It assumes no one of us is as smart as all of us. There is wisdom in a group. It assumes an answer of quality can be found which every group member can support. This is a good start. What this doesn’t guarantee, however, is that when we arrive at an answer everyone can support, that we won’t fall right back into the constrictive either/or paradigm. We’ve found a great answer. Yeah! But let’s not be so possessive of our answer that we now promote it as the only right answer!

To not fall back into the binary trap of either/or, right/wrong, them/us, win/lose is near impossible for those of us who’ve grown up in the western tradition. Near impossible but not always impossible. First it takes being willing to become aware of “the thinking that thinks us.” Second it takes being willing to observe our thinking and tell the truth about it. This is hard, because we dislike discovering we, too, are caught up in this mind trap that calls for some skills we have not been taught. Third it takes being willing to learn those skills that can release us, at least somewhat, from the thinking that, despite its immense and often catastrophic costs in productivity and suffering, continues inexorably to attract us like a magnet does nails.

We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think (more/less, there is that binary thinking again!). Our “thinking that thinks us” makes us less in charge than we think. Our being willing to become aware, to become observant of our thinking, and learning the skills to at least temporarily escape our self-limiting thinking makes us more in charge than we think. One welcome by-product of our temporary escape from binary thinking (“How else can we think about this?” is the opening of the cell door.) might just be an unexpected burst of creativity. How much do we wish that? Would that be a great relief? A soaring joy? Our poor, gripped-in-either/or thinking Congress comes to mind. How much I wish for their escape! Wouldn’t it be ours too? It’s not an either/or!

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.