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Monthly Archives: December 2014

When Is Surrender a Demonstration of Your Emotional Intelligence?

Un-Game Principle: Mindfulness is the gateway to making distinctions and using them as guides for acting with clarity, focus, and compassion.

1024px-White_FlagFor those of us who say we hate conflict, I have bad news. Conflict is unavoidable. Try to avoid inter-personal conflict, and conflict merely stays where it originated– in YOU! You experience intra-personal instead of inter-personal conflict. For most of us we get busy trying to get away from the inevitable discomfort. Rationalization, justification, blaming are among our favorite strategies.

Just how well is that working? How much of your energy is tied up in creating an uneasy peace with yourself? Would it be OK with you if this were easier? It can be when you are guided by empowering distinctions you can learn to make by being mindful.

For something to become distinct, it first has to be indistinct. Fuzzy. Foggy. In the fog we proceed with caution. The sunshine we would welcome with a sigh of relief comes from our ability to make something clear. When we see clearly, we can act. So here are two distinctions we should not collapse, even though the dictionary appears to do just that. I offer the distinctions of surrender and submission.

Surrender does not have to be submission. In submission we experience intra-personal conflict. Makes sense. To submit is defined as the act of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. Yielding, capitulation, compliance. There’s superior and inferior, and we’re on the inferior side. It seems to be an involuntary act, or one motivated by the understanding or the fear of an outcome that is worse than if we didn’t submit. It goes against our natural yearning  which is to be the author of our own actions.

I found no definition of surrender that even implied a positive act. Some sources make it synonymous with submission. The most benign definition I found was ‘the act of giving up control of something.’ I can work with that in an empowering manner. How? Allow me a short detour to answering.

Have you met anyone (even been that someone from time to time) whose mind is not open? Who is not transparent? Not receptive? They can’t see any lessons they might be able to learn from a given situation, let’s say an inter-personal conflict they’re having with a colleague, boss, child, partner, parent? They experience the situation as one which begs them to rid themselves of it, not a situation from which they might learn something of value, for example, becoming more skilled and/or compassionate with others? They long to be in control, so they hang on for dear life to “life as they know it,” thinking that’s the way to stay in control?

Does anyone come to mind?

What would it mean to surrender in an empowering way in a conflict situation? Go ahead. Let’s say it’s you in an inter-personal conflict. Why not define surrender as simply saying YES? Not ‘yes’ to the other’s point of view, request, or demand, but simply ‘yes’ to the question “What is mine to learn here? What is my lesson?” To answer that question, you might request a time-out acknowledging you want to get some distance from any compelling and perhaps run-away feelings that come up for you. You know the old adage “When you’re in the midst of alligators it’s easy to forget your objective was to drain the swamp!” You can request a time-out and make a mutual promise to reconvene. What you’ve stopped is the train heading for derailment. Not shabby.

With the distance you’ve created for yourself, you have a chance to get back into your mind (Yes, in conflict many of us are ‘out of our mind’, that is, out of our pre-frontal cortex and into our amygdala where all reason is absent ). You can then explore, identify, and surrender a second time, this time to saying ‘yes’ to a lesson that’s uniquely yours to learn. A lesson which, if you learn it, is a contribution to yourself and your community.

Perhaps your inter-personal conflicts keep telling you a lesson that’s yours to learn is to be more curious about others’ point of view. Maybe your lesson is to learn to express more clearly what it is you want. Maybe it’s to learn to say ‘no’ without being aggressive about it. Perhaps it’s to not hide your thoughts or/and feelings. Do you manipulate? Placate? Is there a lesson in this to be more direct? There are hundreds of lessons any one of us can learn to be a more emotionally intelligent person.

Can you envision that it might be valuable to identify a lesson that’s yours to learn and apply in future similar situations? How would that serve you and others? How would that impact your relationships? What would continuous learning about yourself and your ever-increasing self-awareness do to your desire to be deeply connected rather than isolated and/or lonely? How would increasing satisfaction in relationships affect the quality of your life? Of the decisions you make?

It isn’t easy to step away from blazing or even smoldering emotions when all we want is to defend ourselves and be right. It isn’t easy to search for a lesson when we’re certain the other is ______ fill in the blank (manipulative, sneaky, selfish, stupid, uncaring…all of which are only assessments designed to make us right and the other wrong…in other words, not a contribution). Stepping away and asking the question are acts of surrender, of saying ‘yes’ to ourselves to being the author of our experience rather than having the experience be authored by our feelings (submit). When cooler heads prevail, there’s a chance to see a simple truth: The circumstances are what they are. People do what they do. You do what you do. Those are the facts. But what we make the facts mean is up to us! Is that yet another opportunity to make an important-to-living-a-good-life distinction? A distinction between Fact and Interpretation of the fact? Hmm. The facts are the facts; they are not what we, being only human, make those facts mean in the heat of the moment…

The opportunities for mindfulness are ripe, ours to harvest. When we resist our lessons, all we get is a barren field. Nothing changes.

If what we’d like to see change doesn’t, it could be that we’re looking in the wrong place for the trigger. Change doesn’t depend on those others changing; we have no control over them. Might it be wise to look to ourselves and ask ourselves if we are willing to surrender, willing to ‘say yes’ to learning the lessons that are ours to learn? Consider that this kind of surrender is an act of great personal power and one that simultaneously increases what we today call our emotional intelligence. It makes us the author of our experience, the designer of our life independent of our circumstances. In the domain of personal power (emotional intelligence), kings and paupers are equal; the pauper can be king, and the king can be the pauper. It all depends on our ability or dis-ability to surrender to our unique lessons and learning them, one by one by one.  Could you imagine this to be comforting?

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.