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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.

Are Your Expectations Squeezing the Life out of You?

Picture 4

Photo by Keith Williams

Un-Game Principle: You don’t have your unexamined assumptions. Your unexamined assumptions have you.

Within a one week period, I spent 5 ½ hours in hazardous road conditions en route to an airport usually reached in two; I had a 3 hour delay at the airport; endured another 5 hour ride in unexpectedly hazardous weather conditions; suffered a 10 hour wait at the airport awaiting a return flight; spent an unexpected night stay in Chicago; and worried about hazardous Dallas road conditions which, thankfully, didn’t materialize.

I was not alone, of course, and what struck me is this:

  1. People everywhere on the roads drove carefully and courteously.
  2. People quietly accepted fates similar to mine, both at the airports and on the road.

What’s going on? It went against my expectations and prior experience. I’ve seen people tear their hair out for less, lean on their horn to scare you into moving over on the road, curse the airlines, etc. But none of that was happening. Hmm.

Could it be that when we recognize that something is out of our control (weather) and also out of others’ control (the airlines), that we just take a deep breath and let go of our usual expectations? Could it be that we intuitively recognize that Boston must have a higher level of effectiveness with snow than Dallas? Do we recognize that many rules that normally guide and support us get thrown out the window when circumstances clearly mandate otherwise (The speed limit announces 65mph but it’s icy.)?

It seemed to me that letting go of the rules was an unwritten agreement everyone on the road and at the weather-challenged airport accepted, and they did it with grace. I heard only two complaints, and one of those was rather cheerful.

So what’s my point? My point is really a wonderment. I wonder if we could envision letting go of our expectations even when we make the judgment “I see no reason why these expectations should not be met.”

Could we assume we don’t already know everything? Could we assume that there may be valid reasons for our expectations to not be fulfilled by others? Could we at least be curious about this? Could we envision not suffering when our expectations aren’t met?

These are good questions to engage with. I claim that it’s not our expectations that make us suffer, but our inflexibility at meeting foiled expectations in realms where we can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be met! And those are plentiful, aren’t they?

Would it be worth your while to value resilience and actively seek to cultivate it?

When we have expectations, and it must turn out the way we picture it, we make ourselves vulnerable. We become fragile and brittle. And this is neither what we need nor what supports us in what’s important to us.

So here’s what you can do when it happens to you.

Notice when you are getting upset (tight muscles, constriction around your heart region, ready to fight with the person who you see responsible for your unmet expectations), and STOP. Take a deep breath. This is a point of power. If you don’t do this, the next actions will not be your own choice. You will not be in charge of yourself. Your expectations will have you, instead of you having your expectations!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in that place. When I am, it makes me suffer. It squeezes me like a lemon and makes me sour.

Ask yourself this question when you notice you’re locked into your picture of what should happen: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be happy?” Careful. Most people would rather be right, although they would assert otherwise. Right about what? “I should have this. I deserve it. I did everything I was supposed to. If these jerks would just do their job.” But it is what it is. Can you get to acceptance of that? Accepting ‘it is what it is’ doesn’t mean you are powerless in what’s next.

It’s not the same kind of acceptance you get to when you see you have no control or influence over the weather. It’s simply the acceptance of breakdown as in “My expectations have not been met. Can I be curious about that rather than trying to force obedience from people who didn’t meet my expectations?”

Could you assume you don’t already know everything? Could you assume that there may be valid reasons for your expectations to not be fulfilled by the person who you’re talking to? Could you simply declare there’s a breakdown and now seek what’s possible? How could this change-in-perspective alter what’s happening with the person in front of you or on the phone with you? Could you envision them as a partner rather than an adversary?

As with the weather, you cannot control another person. But unlike with the weather, you can influence another person. Who is more likely to have influence with another: a person locked into their expectations or someone who’s flexible, open, receptive, clear and willing to work in partnership with another to seek solutions?

Who will you be? Think about your answer as you reflect on “Are your expectations squeezing the life out of you?”

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.

When Does Silence Speak Loudly?

ShhhUn-Game Principle: Authentic actions emerge naturally from clarity.

Women know this secret about jewelry: if it doesn’t add to the beauty of their physical presentation, it detracts. But do we, men and women alike, know the same thing about how we speak? Ok, forget about the private domain. Most of us while among our family and friends are seeking a refuge, not a training opportunity to be vigilant about our competency in communicating. But admit it, even in personal relationships, there are times we wish we could choose our words wisely. Or know when silence would be our best communication.

Here’s what I learned lately. During the holidays I didn’t blog. I wasn’t interested in writing about anything. I could launch into lengthy explanations, which, after looking at them, would all fit into the category of rationalization. OK, so let’s throw them out before they’re even uttered. Yes, silence beats explanations, rationalizations, and justifications. Have you ever noticed your own reactions to those?

If it doesn’t add it detracts.

If I had pushed myself to make something up, search for something, reach for something to blog about, I’m sure I could have come up with something. But my readers would not have been fooled. They, you, we, are as exquisite as bloodhounds hunting a suspect in locating inauthenticity and lack of passion.

Let’s let silence speak when speaking detracts.

What are some other times when silence can speak loudly? If you’re a manager, team leader, CEO (parents and teachers, you are in this group), and you have a meeting during which you direct an inquiry to the team (not a yes/no factual question), do you jump in as soon as you’ve decided enough time has elapsed to get some answers flowing? When IS that time? When you’re uncomfortable with the silence? Do you assess that no answers/comments are forthcoming? Would it be OK with you if you were wrong about that? A silence could reveal much, some of which revelations might surprise you.

Perhaps not everybody operates at your speed of thinking. Or in your particular “culture,” people expect others to lead in answering and engaging. Or they think you’re looking for particular answers. Or they know you will eventually give up and provide answers you’re looking for. There could be a host of reasons for the others’ silence. Find out. Wait twice as long as you usually wait.

If it doesn’t add, it detracts. The action of your silence may speak louder and more effectively than your words.

Silence is often not the preferred response to verbal attacks. Most of us feel obligated to defend ourselves, consider aborting a counter-attack unacceptable, or withdraw physically, emotionally, or both. Our body language, however, is not silent. We operate either under the duress of instinct or under the illusion that the best defense is a good offense. Maybe so. Maybe not. Why not find out? Each situation is different. Neutral silence may be our friend in response to a verbal assault that began perhaps with the un-winnable “You always….You never….What’s wrong with you that you are constantly…..?”

Silence in such situations is not a weakness. It gives the assailant a chance to retreat, cool off, get back into their right mind. Without another response from you to fuel their fire, they may wonder just where you stand in the matter. And they may question whether they’ve done the right thing (something they didn’t question at the time of their assault). You can wait for them to break the silence, or you can come back at a later time to have your say. You will have a chance to reflect in peace just how you intend to approach the other. Chances are you will do this a lot more responsibly than how you were approached.

Some people will accuse the silent one of being manipulative. It may even be the accuser gathering more steam by making that assessment. Silence can be manipulative. And it can be strategic. Simply look to your own motivation for your silence. If you’re silent to irritate the other, then you have work to do. Your silence is designed to manipulate, that is, to set up a win/lose paradigm in which you intend to emerge the winner. If, on the other hand your silence is designed to keep a cool head on you and to give the other some space to do the same, then you’re simply being strategic. Keep going!

Silence can sometimes be amplified by a non-committal response. “Hmm,” you might say to a verbal attacker followed by a loud, expansive silence. “Hmm” can be interpreted in a number of ways. Why not leave the interpretation up to the other? You may find out in later conversation how that response was received. In the meantime, you don’t have to enter the conversation on the other’s terms.

Silence can and does speak loudly to the other. In case of the manager who truly wants participation from the team, silence says “I trust you have something to contribute. I respect your process. I need your input. You are a valued member of this team. We’re all in this together. Each of us is responsible for our success.”

Those messages add. Therefore they don’t detract.

In the case of a verbal attack, silence can say to the attacker: “I am neither your assessments nor your feelings. Your assessments may be grounded. They may be ungrounded. I am open to future conversation with you about this.”

Silence adds.

Except when it doesn’t. Our communication skills have reached a higher level of competence the moment we can assess when silence adds and when it detracts. And that clarity empowers authentic actions in ourselves and others. It might even empower us to ask and answer as we speak in important conversations: “Will what I am about to say add or detract?”

Speaking about adding and detracting, do you have a comment that would shed a light on this subject? If so, don’t be silent.

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.

Whose Voice Should We Listen to as if Our Life Depended on It?

red telephoneUn-Game Principle: To meet the complexity of modern times, access to how and what we think is key to developing our more complex problem-solving mind.

Recently someone told me “You write with conviction and consistent, accessible wisdom about living a large life. Please make your voice more widely heard,” she urged, steadfastly insisting I make it an intention to write a recurring column in Oprah magazine.

The compliment was energizing. Who doesn’t respond to “I see you and like what I see a whole lot.”? It got me to thinking what makes a voice worth listening to for people who recognize, however dimly, that maybe, just maybe, we 21st century Americans are mostly in over our heads when it comes to meeting the challenges put before us by 21st century modern life. What makes a voice worth listening to among the clamoring of never-resting voices now trying relentlessly to get a foothold on our fragile attention?

The question might lead us to smart phones for answers. “What?” you ask with a slight edge in your voice. But think about it. Smart phones capture our imagination. They surface and fill a need we never even knew we had. The smart phone is all about us, and without it most of us could hardly imagine life anymore. The innocent-looking device keeps us endlessly engaged, instantly connected to what we care about, and unquestioningly committed to learning. “What all can this sucker do?” we wonder. And as we find answers to our questions, we discover a wider world that even our wildest dreams hadn’t been able to contain…up until now. It’s irresistible.

A voice worthy of being listened to will have many of the offerings of the smart phone. It’s  a voice that can lead you to the most incredible place on the face of the planet— your inner world, a world you do not know once and for all! How could you not be fascinated with the evolving you? Are you willing to pay as much attention to your inner world as to the wide outer world the smart phone offers you?

The voice you will listen to will capture your imagination with the fierce urgency of ‘now.’ You will instinctively conclude it has something you want, something that will enrich your life. The voice, ripe with promise and possibility, will keep you engaged because, contrary to conventional wisdom, you long to learn.

What do we long to learn in this era of tumultuous change? I suggest we long to learn how to have the roots to ground our life and the wings to fly it. If we are not consumed by the necessity of surviving, we are consciously or unconsciously on the lookout for friendly, compassionate support for this awe-inspiring task.

The voice we will passionately engage with, then, is one we trust will help liberate us from limits we presently cannot imagine extending all on our own. We want partners on our journey into the larger future that lies beyond the limits we may not, as of yet, have identified as the limits of our present thinking. It’s too hard to do this alone.

Yes, hard. And that could make learning about ourselves less attractive than learning the wide world of smart phone magic (I’m probably not up to the challenge of making “getting beyond the limits of our present thinking” accessible and irresistible, compliment of the admirer of my writing not-withstanding.). Still, I invite you to read on.

The greatest learning challenge we have in the midst of the technological revolution and its fallout is to achieve the mental complexity that would be sufficient to the complex demands of our time. Fernando Flores, (responsible for seeding the Newfield Network, the first ontological coaching program in the US. www.newfieldnetwork.com) addressed this challenge almost 25 years ago. He said:

“We live in an extraordinary time. Our thinking styles are severing us from our families, our religions, our ideologies, and nature. We are caught up in a pace of social and technological change that makes our work, businesses, and education sources of anxiety and unfulfillment. At the same time, thinking about our thinking and observing our observations can bring us a new world in which work becomes a place for innovation, and in which peace, wisdom, friendship, companionship, and community can exist. Let us design this work together.”

Clearly, Fernando Flores was prescient in inviting us into the possibility and the need to develop a higher complexity of mind. If we pretend to hover over American life in 2014, few would counter the assertion “Most of us are in over our heads.” Fernando’s assertion is more relevant than ever.

The clear and present danger of the dilemma of being ‘in over our heads’ makes for soil in which advice-givers grow vigorously. But it’s not advice we need. There is no one way to live in a heterogeneous American society. Gone forever (it only existed in homogeneous cultures anyway) are the days where the source of order, vision, and direction could simply be ‘breathed in’ by being with the people in the community who had gone before us. It may be sobering, exciting, and frightening, but tasks like…

  1. setting limits
  2. regulating relationships
  3. facilitating personal development
  4. taking stands
  5. exercising executive leadership
  6. maintaining boundaries
  7. creating and preserving the roles we play

…all those task today necessitate that we find the authority and support within ourselves!

Don’t misunderstand. It doesn’t mean we can’t ever look to outside authority for good models to accomplish the tasks above. However, we do need to develop our capacity to author and design our life. Today’s greater complexity has catapulted us into near chaos from which the old order can’t rescue us.

Why a higher mind-complexity to live modern life is ours to develop might be illuminated through this analogy: the difference between driving a car with an automatic transmission versus a manual transmission. In the former the driver is not responsible for shifting gears. In the latter the driver must. As long as there are plenty of cars with automatic transmissions, it isn’t necessary to drive a stick shift. But for the level of life-complexity our mind needs to deal with, we can no longer count on the effectiveness of the automatic. Counter-intuitive as this sounds, we must know how to drive a stick shift. Someone who can drive a stick shift will be able to drive an automatic. The reverse, however, is not true. And what we surely would want to avoid at all cost is a driver skilled only in driving an automatic transmission behind the wheel of a stick shift school bus full of children!

A higher mind-complexity to live modern life is ours to develop.

One example where a higher complexity of mind is now necessary is hidden in the question “What should we be responsible for (not an issue at all in homogeneous closed societies where continuity is prized)?” Do we make erroneous claims of responsibilities? Do we take on those that aren’t ours, and do we assign to others responsibilities that aren’t theirs? Do we not revisit what responsibility means in the first place in a massively changed and changing world?

If we can’t sort out our responsibilities (If you’re experiencing unresolved inner and inter-personal conflict anywhere, it’s possible that an erroneous claim of responsibility is at cause.), we cannot meet the culture’s demand to be good communicators, both in intimate as well as public life, especially the world at work.

So the voice that will command our rapt attention is not the voice of any advice-giver. It is the voice, like Fernando Flores’ and Robert Kegan’s (In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life and www.mindsatwork.com ) that identifies the tasks our mind must be able to do and the supports it needs in order to accomplish those tasks. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And while this is an invitation, not advice (lest I contradict myself which, of course, I’ve done a time or three!), you might consider a competent mind-set coach to become more highly skilled in observing your thinking. More and more we are discovering that we can only change our life when we can change our mind.

Our life may even depend on it.

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.

Only Business As Unusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change (Part 2)

Un-Game principleUnexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to prevent us from bringing about some change we’re genuinely committed to. That sounds familiar to you if you took the 3 steps (featured in Part 1 and developed by Drs. Kegan and Lahey of Harvard and www.mindsatwork.com) that showed you exactly why, despite your best efforts, you cannot produce the desired change. The results are both unnerving and exciting. Unnerving because we see clearly that we’ve come up against the limits of our present thinking; exciting because a blind spot has been revealed which now empowers us enormously to get to the goal that has continued to elude us…up until now.

“Just what’s next once I have a diagnostic of my immunity to change?” you might ask.

Does it interest you to learn what keeps this immune system in place? What sustains it? And how to disrupt it? I imagine your answer is “Yes.” So what’s next is completing the 4th step (Column 4) of your 5 column immunity to change mind map. It has the heading ‘The Big Assumption.”

To get to our BIG Assumption(s) we ask: “What must a person who has the hidden, competing commitments (Column 3) be assuming that generates those commitments that work against their improvement goal (Column 1)?” So the person who is committed to taking better care of herself (C1), who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2 behaviors against C1 goal), who’s committed to being completely available all the time (C3 competing commitment to C1 commitment), might have the BIG Assumption “If I’m not always available, then I won’t be the go-to person.”

BIG Assumptions keep the competing C3 commitments in place. They have a BIG BAD emotional component for its holder, namely you and me. For us this BIG BAD thing would happen if we were to discard the behaviors in C2 in favor of their opposites. “If I did say ‘no,’ then I assume I won’t be the go-to person,” says the woman with the C1 improvement goal to take better care of herself, be more relaxed, exercise more. So it makes perfect sense for her to keep the behaviors that actually work against her improvement goal (C2 not say ‘no’ enough) because those behaviors are the servants of the C3 competing commitments (to always be available).

I know you might be saying “Well, it’s obvious that this assumption doesn’t have to be true.” You’re right. It doesn’t. However, if the holder regards it as true, or even if we KNOW the assumption is not true but it FEELS as if it’s true or we’re unsure (“Part of me thinks it’s true. Another part isn’t so sure.”), we will be captive of the BIG Assumption. The BIG Assumption will have us; we will not have it!

Do not expect your BIG Assumptions to make rational sense to you. Once we remember the large emotional component that keeps us from changing when change is “dangerous”, we won’t insist that this make rational sense. Never mind that it makes no rational sense. Just notice that you cannot talk people (especially yourself) out of acting in alignment with the assumption.

Try it out for yourself. Follow the process for Columns 1-3 first, then, for Column 4, generate 1 to 3 BIG Assumptions you must be having to keep this system in place: one foot on the accelerator (C1) and one on the brakes (C3) on a goal that’s near and dear to your heart. What a bind, eh? Yes, AND there’s genuine hope for resolution. But before we get to the last column of our immunity to change mind map, let’s summarize.

If the 4 columns of the immunity to change mind map were told as a story, it would sound like this: “In the beginning there was the BIG Assumption…which gave birth to the hidden-to-me commitments…that generated the brilliant behaviors that guaranteed that the things I worry about…would never happen. There was just one downside to this brilliant, exquisite system. It guaranteed I would never score the goal and thus I would be denied the pure, unadulterated joy of reaching it.”

It may sound strange, but seeing the BIG assumption that is the foundation of your immunity to change gives you a chance to disrupt it!

The 5th and final column of the ITC mind-map is the biggest lever for overcoming your immunity to change. Like all the columns, the 5th column is also not business as usual. Business as usual would be to have a goal followed by an improvement plan. But that’s not what you’ve done. What you’ve done is revealed your immunity to change and identified the assumption(s) that ensures you stay stuck. Yet you now have something precious of which Einstein would approve. You have a “good problem to solve.”

So do we now finally do a new and improved improvement plan? No. Sorry. But we have a better idea. Column 5’s heading should be ‘Test of my BIG Assumption.” That’s exactly what we’ll do. We want to design, run, and evaluate tests of our BIG Assumption to see whether it’s accurate or distorted.

Spoiler alert. Only if you find evidence over time that your BIG Assumption is distorted, will you reconsider any of your competing commitments in C3 and the behaviors in C2 that serve your competing commitments so well. Without reconsidering, you will not make a change! So first choose an assumption to test (I suggested you come up with several, but there could be many. So don’t be shy to surface them.). Ask this: “If I could change any single BIG Assumption that presently makes achievement of my improvement goal impossible, which one would make the biggest, most positive difference in my life?”

Assuming you have an Assumption to test, how do you do it?

Here is a familiar acronym, but it won’t mean what you think it means. Yes, we design a S.M.A.R.T. test. Here is what it stands for.

Your test must be SAFE and MODEST. What can you risk doing or resist doing, on a small scale that might be inadvisable if you held your BIG Assumption (BA) to be true? Pick a behavior change that would give you good information about the accuracy of your BA. Yes, you must put yourself at some risk, that is, do something, not just put yourself in a position in which you feel uncomfortable.

RESEARCH-STANCE and a TEST, not an improvement plan. The purpose of the test is to collect data. Is the BA accurate or distorted? If you like the outcome of the test, that is, your behavior didn’t produce the catastrophe you had always envisioned, that’s a secondary gain. It’s nice to have, but the primary aim is to get data. And one test is only one test. You need to keep testing to get good data.

OK, the rubber is hitting the road. Where do you look for behaviors to test? Here are some choices. You are willing, aren’t you? Even if you don’t want to? And you’re very unlikely to want to. It’s so much more comforting to avoid the discomfort. Or is it?

You can look in Column 2 and alter one of the behaviors you’ve listed there. Or you can go to Column 3 and perform an action that runs counter to a C3 commitment. Or, you can start directly with your BIG Assumption in C4 (remember, you’re only testing 1 assumption for now). You ask: “What experiment would tell me whether the IF/THEN sequence built into the BA is valid?”

But here’s what I recommend first, and this is about getting your feet wet and being gentle with yourself. Remember that you’re doing something very strange and very courageous. Simply be alert and observe. “Don’t just do something, sit there!” is the maxim I start with whenever I create a new map (new improvement goal=new map). Where does your BA come up most frequently? Observe. Notice your internal chatter. Expect your immune system to be tricky. It wants above all to sustain itself. So think about how you could be assuring you will fail!

Yes, you heard right. Watch out for how you could set yourself up to guarantee that your BA is accurate. If, for example, your goal is to ask more directly for support when you really need it, and you’re testing the assumption “People won’t help me when I really need help,” you could guarantee the accuracy of that BA by asking a person who generally doesn’t help anybody very much, and you could be asking him at a time when he’s got 3 project deadlines the next day!

See what I mean?

Two more things. First, you are not only designing, running, and evaluating one test. Your BA won’t budge after one test. It’s best to do this over twelve weeks devoting thirty minutes a week to your testing. You should see some progress toward your C1 improvement goal in that time. Yes, that’s right. Good testing of your BA over time will have you start taking your glued-to-the-brakes foot off the brakes almost effortlessly. You’ll notice you’re finally accelerating toward your previously elusive goal.

Second, here’s a recommendation I experienced as very helpful. Write a biography of your BA. When did you first become aware of it? Under what circumstances? I remember very well the time and the circumstances when I made the decision (since revoked) to never ask anyone for help again. You guessed it. It was deeply emotional for me. So my BA “People won’t help me when I really need it” and its relationship to my immunity to change make perfect sense to me.

To anchor this, you could get yourself supported in many ways, for example through coaching. You could also do what you probably know how to do well. Define your first steps forward. (Tweak all columns of your map is a great example of first steps forward.) Define what significant progress would look like. Do it in terms of behaviors, of course. And define ultimate success. Commit this in writing. If someone else you know is seriously creating a mind map, buddy up with them. Give and receive feedback on each others’ plans and the quality of your tests.

I hope you will faithfully work on your ITC map. It can be a profoundly powerful and liberating process. Consider an undisputed fact. You are worth investing in. Could you picture yourself on your hero’s journey, creating a path through the deep dark woods where none has been? What if your hero’s journey is the successful negotiation between your desire to live a large, precious life and the immunity to change which would relegate you to live in just a few rooms of the mansion of your life?

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.

What Alternative Is There to “Just Do It”?

512px-Girl_Sitting_in_ChairUn-Game Principle: Don’t just do something. Sit there.

Blah. I don’t want to write this blog today. If I listen to the voice in my head I hear, “But you should. You promised yourself to do it every two weeks.” Predictably, the next thing I hear is “Why don’t you just do it? Get on with it.”

Does that ever happen to you? You’ve committed to something, and then comes that moment when you just don’t want to. If it’s a soft deadline you find a hundred other things to do. You’re cranky or low energy. When you push through, and I know you can and even do (often), the result you create is, well, sometimes pretty ordinary. You stare at it, and your internal conversation isn’t pretty. “Phew, it’s done, but who’d want to read this?” Or, “I bet Joe (the boss) is gonna have a bunch of crappy things to say about this.” Or, “I’ll never get this right. What’s wrong with me?”

And on and on.

Would it be alright with you if life were easier? Would it be alright with you if you didn’t act so much out of obligation? Yeah, me too. So here’s an alternative scenario to “just do it.”

Don’t just do something. Sit there! That’s right. You heard it correctly.

Let’s assume you have a soft or a self-imposed deadline, a work presentation you have to give in 30 days. On a day when you simply don’t want to do anything to start, why not simply notice that and choose consciously to not engage with it. Worrying about it drains energy. Consciously choosing to put it aside gives you energy. Don’t just do something. Sit there.

Try it with something as mundane as cleaning house. “You aren’t on the agenda today,” you say to the house. When you consciously choose to ‘sit there,’ rather than do the thing you don’t want to do, then worry about that thing won’t choose you! When you don’t consciously choose, however, worry is very likely to creep in.

Choosing consciously, even when you later decide it was a poor choice, is an exercise of power—the power to be in charge of your life through your decisions.

A few more days pass. Each day you consciously choose to not do the thing you don’t want to do. Of course you do other things—things you have energy for. After a while the day comes where you’re more energetic about starting the presentation (or the house cleaning, the blog or whatever). Noticing this rise in energy, be gentle and generous with yourself. Ask yourself what you want to do? What’s a low-hanging fruit? Ask “What do I want to accomplish before I move on to something else?”

Maybe you just want to come up with a list of the intended results for your presentation. That’s ‘conditioning the project’. You’re warming up. Maybe you just want to clean the small bathroom. Whatever it is, use your energy for what calls most to you about what you’re now willing to start. Make it small and finish that small thing.

What do you notice once that small task is done?

You’re right, of course. Completion energizes. More importantly, defining completion for ourselves energizes us even more. In the above scenario, the list of 3 intended results is completion. The small bathroom in the hall is completion.

“What?” you say. “How do you call this completion?!?  Simple. You said so! You’re in charge. You’ve got the power. Your boss might tell you what to do, but you get to decide how you do it. You’ve got the power. Let nothing distract you from that awesome fact. You’ll take the next step toward final completion of your project with more energy as your energy reservoir is filling up.

In 2014 we have a dizzying array of distractions as well as more and more expectations imposed by self or others at work or where we volunteer our heart-felt commitment, time and treasure. No wonder so many of us experience ourselves on a virtual, roller coaster ride that’s hard to stop. We may long for less outer-imposed structure and for more control. We may yearn for things to unfold more naturally rather than slogging through a long to-do list that brings no pleasant surprises. We want to stop and smell the…pick your favorite scent!

The alternative to obligation proposed here is to wait for inspiration when you can. You might say, “There are times when that’s not realistic,” and pushing through your internal “I don’t wanna” conversation seems like the only thing to do. Well, do it. If you’re a little like me, you already know how. Self-discipline is a great muscle to exercise. It would be imprudent to let it become flabby. But before I end this blog post which I’m finally inspired to write (!), perhaps you’d like to consider a practice which makes exercising self-discipline easier. After all, obligation and self-discipline are not easy friends.

Here’s a simple and profoundly powerful practice that may shift your inner experience from obligation to inspiration. It involves a little more of “Don’t just do something. Sit there”.

Look at why the presentation is important to you. What higher purpose would doing it with respect and care serve? (Not getting fired from your job is not a higher purpose.) Is it that you long to be an effective manager or team member? An inspiring leader? Find a purpose that resonates and write it down. Keep it in front of you. Picture your longing to be an effective team member fulfilled. What do you see yourself doing? Whose voices do you hear saying things that make you happy or satisfied in your role as manager or leader?

Keeping your higher purpose front and center can lead to inspiration. Obligation puts the reasons for doing the presentation outside of yourself. Being in touch with your higher purpose keeps the reasons where they belong, namely inside yourself.

Think you can’t get in touch with a higher purpose for house cleaning? Perhaps you long to be a creator of beauty. A clean house may be an expression of that for you. Or perhaps you yearn to be a loving family member/friend/partner and having a clean, organized home is a small demonstration of that longing.

To get back in touch with the ‘why’ of the thing that you don’t want to do but which is nonetheless important to you is intensely personal. And it is inspiring. It fills you with spirit. And spirit trumps obligation every time. Try it and see. But first, just sit there.

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.


 

Conversation for Action: Technology As Much As Art

Un-Game Principle: Clarity is the cornerstone of empowerment…yours and others’.

13-08-06 Conversation for ActionTo produce a desired result, be it in business or in our personal affairs, we have to be competent in what might be called ‘a conversation for action.’ How most of us have learned to produce action is through trial and error and learning from what seemed to work and what didn’t. That’s good. AND, would it be alright with you if you could be more strategic about conversations for action? Would it be alright with you if you could produce the results you want with greater clarity, focus, and ease?

There are verbal tools we need to understand, put into practice, and learn from. In Coaching Others on How to Be with Your Requests without Raising Hackles I featured requests without identifying them as a verbal tool for constructing a conversation for action. They are, but we’re not going to talk about REQUESTS here. We’re going to talk about another verbal tool we must master in a successful conversation for action. We’re going to talk about PROMISES.

Notice your visceral reaction even as you read the word PROMISE. Does your stomach tighten? Do your hands sweat? Does your heart beat faster? You may have many reactions, but neutrality is unlikely among them. Even the mere mention of ‘promise’ conjures up one or more experiences we’ve had around promises. Someone breaking a promise that was important to us. We breaking ours to others or to ourselves. Getting chewed out by a supervisor for not completing a report as promised. Oh, the sorrows of a broken promise!

Might it be worthwhile for us to expand our understanding of and our practices around promises? I say ‘yes,’ if we want to more often experience the heightened energy a fulfilled promise gives us.

Here’s what’s common knowledge. A promise can be kept or broken. What’s unfamiliar to most people is a third option. Good communicators intuitively exercise this option. But only a mentor of mine from nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Fernando Flores, former Minister of Education under the Allende Rule in Chile, named it. And there’s power in naming. Name it and you can claim it.

Dr. Flores taught us the third action in regard to a promise. We can REVOKE it.

A revoked promise is different from a broken promise in that you take it back before the date and time of fulfillment of your original promise. If fulfilling a promise energizes you and the person to whom you made the promise, and breaking it deflates the energy (It does. Check it out the next time. Your body doesn’t lie.), what happens when you revoke a promise?

That depends.

Revoking a promise, to be clear, is choosing to say to the other that you won’t or can’t fulfill the promise you made to them earlier. If you promised to have the report on your supervisor’s desk by Tuesday at 9 am, and you revoke your promise on the previous Thursday, do you and your supervisor have a different experience than if you revoked it at 8:59 am on Tuesday? Of course. At 8:59 am it’s not formally a broken promise (One minute later it IS a bona fide broken promise), but it has greater negative consequences than if you had revoked it on the previous Thursday. For everyone touched by the promise.

Revoking your promise the previous Thursday, well in advance of its fulfillment date, offers opportunity for a more creative response. So timing definitely affects the way a revoked promise is received. The negative consequences are far less when you revoke a promise early.

It’s important to know that when you revoke a promise,  you’re expected to make a new one. “I thought I could get this report to you as promised, but I can’t, given X Y Z, even if I work through the night. I can get it to you by Wednesday at 9 am. Will that work?”

Often there are no negative consequences at all. When you revoke a promise in plenty of time and make a new one, you gain respect for your clear and honest communication. You open up the conversation for a productive dialog and negotiation for a new date of fulfillment. You don’t break the promise and then scurry for all the reasons you had to. People hate excuses when they’re on the receiving end. Don’t you? One loses rather than gains the respect of the other person. Revoking a promise is an opportunity to be responsible, vulnerable, transparent, and yes, powerful. A new promise must, of course, have all the components of any other promise:

  1. You promise a specific action and
  2. You give (or negotiate) a date for its fulfillment

Revoking promises adds a powerful distinction to your repertoire of tools in your ‘communication for action’ tool kit. Mastering it begins and ends with practice. It’s both technology and art. Try it and see. I’d be interested in what you learn about yourself along the way.

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 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.

Courageous Conversation: Can You Coach Others on How to Be with Your Requests without Raising Hackles?

Un-Game Principle: Clarity is the cornerstone of empowerment…yours and others’.

13-07-31 Courageous Conversation Coaching others to be with requestsYes, you can, if you’re willing to be clear, vulnerable, and flexible.  And willing to take the road less traveled. There are no good widely-shared models for this.

Have you noticed that we often assume if we have spoken clearly, the other surely heard what we’ve just said so brilliantly? We won’t have to explain. And surely, if they didn’t get what we said, they’d ask for clarification. Dream on. Not so. And have you noticed that when we notice our error, we often either stay silent or try again, often with some thinly veiled irritation?

There’s a better way. You can coach another in many ways. One such way is simply to ask “What did you hear me say?” And then, after affirming what they DID hear, clarify the part they heard incorrectly or not at all. “Yes, I did say it would be good to meet about this. What you heard that I DIDN’T say is that we’d need to make it a top priority for today.”

I like coaching people to be with me around requests I make. It’s good for relationships. What I’m about to share is best applied with peers, as in team members, between husbands and wives,  partners, siblings, friends, or with people with lesser positional power whose skills you’re in the position to develop or influence. Children, for example.  Or in business, direct reports.

So let’s say I make a request of a family member (Picture a team member if easier). I’m clear a request is not a demand. A request can be accepted or declined without penalty. A demand not. That’s the first thing to be clear about. Since a request can be declined without penalty, you are open to an offer from the other person. However, they may not know this. A way of coaching them is to say “I have a request, and I can hear a ‘No’ on this.”  This will open up the emotional space. If s/he cares about you, as we would assume in a family or a team, they may not accept the request but could be willing to make you an offer they think might satisfy your need as they perceive it. You, the request-maker would be open and flexible to an offer. If you can’t be, your request is a veiled demand, and people will resent it. Up with the hackles.

Perhaps the other is not skilled enough to make you an offer. If the request is really important to you, you might make yourself vulnerable by being transparent (the road less traveled) and say “It’s ok with me if you decline this request. It’s not a demand. I wonder if you can make me an offer about this that I haven’t thought about and that would work better for you?”  Can you see these questions and comments as examples of coaching the other in how to be with you and your request?

If the person comes up with an offer, you can accept it, decline with a thanks, or make a counter-offer. You’ve opened up the conversation and sent out the meta-message beneath all the words “I’m grateful that you’re open to conversation about this.”  At no time in the conversation do you try to manipulate (aka coerce) the other into accepting your original request.  Ever!That, too, would send the meta-message “It’s not a request. It’s a demand. And if you don’t meet it, it will cost you.” Hackles up.

Ok, let’s assume the request you’re making is so important to you that it would be difficult to hear a ‘No.’ The first thing is to be clear about that. That way you won’t fall into the standard and customary trap which, for example, may look like this between husband and wife: He cajoling and making accusations, attacking you as a person. “You always” or “You never…” Or she crying or slamming the door, the meta-message being “You’re hopeless. Why do I bother?!”

After being clear that it would be difficult to hear a ‘No,’ it would be courageous to be transparent and vulnerable. Yes, it is a courageous conversation. Here’s how you might coach this person.

“I have a request, Pamela. And I want you to know that I’d have a hard time hearing a ‘No.’ Then make the request. Be alert. If you have not yet established how you all will relate to requests, Pamela will hear it as a demand. She is likely to need clarification. Her response to you will let you know if she does. She may be perfectly happy to accept your request, make an offer in case she can’t accept your request  as stated (which you can then accept with relief and gratitude or tweak in counter-offer form), or tell you in one way or another that she’s feeling indignant, boxed in and ticked off …Who are YOU to make what she perceives as a demand. If that happens, it’s your job to clarify.

Here’s the clarification. “Just because I said I’d have difficulty hearing a ‘No,’ doesn’t mean that I can’t. I mean it exactly the way I said it. The way I hope we can relate to requests in our family (team) is that we accept, decline, or make an offer around such a request. In no way should declining the request hurt our relationship. In fact, being clear and open should serve us well in maintaining and enhancing our relationship.” The road less traveled…

In relationships of equal positional power, demands are a last resort. And we and the other need to be clear that it’s a demand being made. Recently I was in a harrowing ordeal. I’d come to the end of my internal resources. I phoned my husband and said “Pick me up at the airport . And I can’t hear a ‘No’.” It would be midnight, and he’d have to travel 100 miles to get me. He knew from my voice as well as my words I was making a demand, not a request. Declining would have hurt the relationship. No hackles. Joe just showed up, hugged me silently, patting me compassionately.  What do you think?  A fine reward for being clear and coaching another on how to be with your requests?

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 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.