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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.

Can Yesterday’s Deprivation Be Tomorrow’s Abundance?

From PJL.

From PJL.

Un-Game Principle: Things are rarely what they seem.

We face daunting physical and moral challenges, yet it’s fair to say that as a people we’re firmly entrenched in the Tower of Babel…babbling in a chorus of off-key voices about what doesn’t matter…Black Friday, Cyber Monday, faux breaking news. It’s not that we wouldn’t want to escape the Tower of Babel, if as a nation we could envision something else and then be supported in taking action to bring our vision into reality.

Sadly, as a body we have no coherent vision. (Where is the leadership in homes, schools, government, media, business, academia? We aren’t talking to one another.) Many individuals and groups do have vision. But many of us have never lived any life other than the one we’re living now. As upper, middle, and former middle class Americans, we are at a far greater disadvantage for facing hardship than our perhaps “less fortunate” grandparents and great grandparents.

Disadvantage may be the new abundance.

Let me explain. My earliest memories were of a recovering-from-World War II Germany. We were “rich” to have a telephone and a car, which we only had for business purposes. Locally there were no stores other than the butcher, baker, grocer. There was no hardware store. No toy store. Barely a mechanic. No veterinarians. (Average people didn’t have pets as per middle class Americans’ vision. There were no pet-specific food and services around despite a hefty population of dogs and cats.) I could go on.

In such an environment…oh, it was marvelous…creativity ruled. Making do with what you had was the norm. Every part of every single thing was used for something else. Missing a part for the car? Not an unsolvable problem. You used the community to find it, or someone had the skill to make it (We had a simple VW van). You butchered your own chickens and you used every part. Garbage pick-up? We didn’t need it. We found a use for everything. And of course there was none of the obscene packaging so ubiquitous today. The butcher used newspaper to wrap the meat. Old newspaper also had a necessary function in the toilet.

Taking a bath? Of course we had no facsimile of even the American middle class bathroom of the 1950s. My parents had a business dying clothes (You couldn’t buy new, so you gave your clothes a facelift. Well, why not??). We had a large tub that was used in that business. It doubled up as a bathtub. You get the picture.

Yesterday’s deprivation is today’s abundance? You bet. The creativity applied to survival and the values fostered by the circumstances are important today but may become priceless tonight or tomorrow. The values of being alert to opportunity, of being thrifty, respectful of and creative with what we’re given, of living in supportive community, of living lightly on and in harmony with the earth that is our life line—all these values are values that today guide most of the people who’ve grown up with deprivation. An interesting note: All of us were in the same boat. We would not have labeled ourselves as being deprived. Perhaps deprivation is only an experience we can enter into when there’s someone with whom to compare ourselves unfavorably?

Almost every person who was poor or challenged in some way while growing up who became a successful citizen and contributor to his or her community, prizes the adversity of their former circumstances and largely credits them with the richness of options that occur to them for handling their challenges effectively.

Yes we will! No matter what.

There are more benefits to yesterday’s deprivation. This deprivation is an abundance that keeps on giving. We are facing, some would say, an uncertain future. Others would claim the future is quite certain, and it looks bleak. The people who’ve lived through crises can and will adjust how they live. They know how. They’ve done it before. It’s in their bones. They can imagine a world different than the one everyone except poor Americans was born into since the 1950s.

What you can imagine, you can create. Let’s hope there are enough of those who have transformed their deprivation into a source of abundance that they can be models for those “poor” people who’ve never had anything but the assumed permanent…and now fleeting…abundance of their outer world of privilege: houses, cars, gadgets, clothes, and easy opportunity.

Given the Tower of Babel we live in, I work to bring people into real conversations, courageous conversations about what matters. I long to see people become able to collaborate and coordinate with others, become skilled in meaningful conversations, rather than the mindless chatter and/or the blaming conversations that result in nothing except perpetuating what is that shouldn’t be.

Why not avoid the shock of deprivation when we notice with angst in our every cell that inner resources were always those that were priceless?

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.

Courageous Compassion Part 2: Standing for What’s Important to You

Un-Game Principle: Being willing to be courageous and compassionate can be a conscious choice even under circumstances people generally experience as very difficult.

CourageIn Part 1 of Courageous Compassion, courageous compassion was defined as ‘the ability to stay in caring relationship while simultaneously taking a stand that another’s behavior is unacceptable and you will confront it’. It focused on relationships where the parties would describe themselves as having equal positional power: colleagues, friends, husbands and wives, partners. There are also examples of what a courageously compassionate interchange might sound like. But what about courageous compassion in so called unequal relationships like you and your boss, for example? Or a parent or teacher and a child? What might a courageously compassionate interchange be like when there’s the experience of conflict for one or the other party?

It’s counterintuitive to imagine that both parties to a conflict actually have the same responsibility, namely to take care of the other without losing sight of taking care of oneself. It’s easy to envision a good boss taking the leading caretaker role. After all, he or she has more positional power, and the stronger is supposed to protect the weaker. In the office scenario, the boss surely wants to keep the good employee. Turnover is expensive. Besides, he might really like and value Melinda even if she “winged” the meeting whose success hinged on her report.

Let’s say Gene (the boss) knows that his positional power gives him some perceived advantage in the interaction. He has the power to fire or make Melinda’s life miserable. Fear of loss of job might make Melinda compliant. But Gene is wise enough to know that what seems like an advantage can hide a potent disadvantage. Compliant people aren’t the best employees. He wants creative, motivated employees. This is an important value for him.

Gene’s care-taking will include a conscious decision to minimize the impact of his positional power and maximize the use of his personal power to drive the interaction. In personal power we all have the opportunity to be equal, be it in incompetence, minimal competence, or even virtuosity. The playing field is level, and Gene wants to play on that field as much as possible. On the field of positional power, a disadvantage is that his position dramatically enhances the chances of Melinda going “out of her rational mind” and into ancient instinctual survival responses of fighting, fleeing, or freezing.

Not good for business. Not good for a well-lived life outside the business context.

Gene is smart to NOT use the greater power of his position. It’s one of those examples that challenges the stubborn assumption “More is better.” In fact more is sometimes less, and most often, more is simply more and nothing else!

Let’s assume he’s stated his assessment of the quality of Melinda’s report. Here’s what he didn’t say. “This report is not of the quality I’ve come to expect of you. You were not prepared. If it happens again, I’ll have to take some drastic measures. We can’t afford mediocrity. It’s not who we are.” (The veiled threat and the lecture are a reminder of who’s got the power. As if Melinda needs a reminder!)

Gene, wanting to keep Melinda engaged and wanting to minimize defensiveness, could use his personal power and begin the conversation like this: “Let’s evaluate how the meeting went. How satisfied are you that we accomplished our objectives?” Then Gene and Melinda enumerate the objectives. “What was outstanding? Satisfactory? Missing?” A discussion and learning conversation ensue where Gene doesn’t censor his own input. “I had expected X. It looks like you didn’t have that expectation since it was absent from the report. Help me understand. Tell me your thought process. ” More conversation ensues. “What will you do and by when to provide X?” Gene and Melinda settle on an action that satisfies them both. Gene could also make a demand. But he can soften it by simply asking, “Will that work or do you need to make me a counter offer?” (if a counter offer is acceptable).

The interaction between Gene and Melinda has the ingredients of a courageous compassionate conversation that moves a project along and enhances their relationship.

Let’s switch to Melinda having a problem with Gene that she wants to talk to him about (OK, she doesn’t really want to. But she’s willing because it’s occupying most of her waking hours. By now she has horrible-ized whatever Gene did, didn’t, and will do.).

For many people it is simply unimaginable to consider confronting (standing in front of) a boss precisely because of the positional power difference. They can’t imagine what courageous compassion for him, her, and self would look like.

But it’s possible even under circumstances perceived as difficult.

First of all, Melinda would do well to remind herself that in the domain of personal power she and Gene are equals. As a matter of fact, it’s precisely confrontations like the one she’s dreading yet contemplating that will give her the practice she needs to increase her personal power. To acknowledge that and then to actually proceed are courageous acts.

Secondly, Melinda needs to consciously choose to be courageous. The act of conscious choosing comes from the best in ourselves, not from an emotion like fear. It is powerful and proactive in any interaction, but especially one in which the “confrontee” has more positional power than the “confronter.” Melinda needs to act on what she intellectually knows: She is not her fears. She has fears. And she can be bigger than her fears!

And finally Melinda can consciously choose to be compassionate with Gene, remembering that in the domain of personal power she and Gene are simply two human beings doing the best they can with the light by which they are able to see. Gene, too, is no stranger to the fight, flight, freeze response defending against imaginary tigers and lions, his greater positional power being no help to him at all.

And so Melinda decides to talk to Gene who calls her frequently on weekends for non-emergency situations. She privately assesses that Gene thinks he should have unlimited access to her at any time.

Here’s what Melinda doesn’t do: she doesn’t sigh and silently acquiesce to all of Gene’s requests. She might begin by noticing her assessment. It’s only an assessment. There seems to be good evidence, but can she really be sure it’s what Gene really expects? Is he putting out a demand or just a request that she can accept or decline?

Melinda might open the conversation with “Gene, how important is this? This is my family time. Can we explore on Monday how I can help you accomplish X without cutting into my family time?” (Melinda is signaling she wants to help, would do so if it is really important, and intends to protect her private time).

Gene has an opportunity to see what may be a blind spot. Perhaps he does think he is entitled to Melinda’s time. Or he gets to consider just how important his request is to him. In any event, the conversation is off to a good start. The next move, if Gene sputters a version of “But, but…,” is for Melinda to hold her ground, quietly and firmly. “I’ll give you an hour (if she’s willing and able), but this has to be an exception rather than an expectation.” If Melinda can envision playing the long game, she knows it’s not sustainable to give up her private time and space. She will act with courageous compassion. Not just for Gene but for herself!

The truth is that confrontation in any relationship, be it among equals or those unequal in positional power, is risky. That’s what necessitates courage–the courage to be willing to lose something important. But the confrontation, expressed with courageous compassion also opens up the possibility to gain something profoundly important, namely to connect genuinely with another person and to experience the deep satisfaction of growing one’s personal power one interaction at a time. The ultimate prize is freedom to be what seems exceedingly difficult for most of us, namely to be ourselves! And the ability to stand for something…because if we don’t…chances are we’ll fall for anything!

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.

Can You Make Discomfort Your Friend in Difficult and Courageous Conversations?

Un-Game Principle: Self-awareness through self-observation is a path to masterful communication, self-empowerment, and the empowerment of others.

13-09-11 Make Discomfort Your Friend in Difficult and Courageous ConversationsA courageous conversation is a difficult conversation NOT avoided. Of course it’s also more than that. But first, what’s a difficult conversation? A difficult conversation is any conversation where the thought of actually having it causes you discomfort. Discomfort could range from mild to acute.

The next question you might ask is “What can I learn from my discomfort that could make a courageous conversation possible for me?”

Let’s be clear. A successful courageous conversation doesn’t mean you get comfortable like lying in a hammock on a sunny, 75 degree fall afternoon. It just means you’re able to skillfully lean into the discomfort that now is a 3 rather than a 10.

While not a complete list, here’s what would allow us to befriend our discomfort and turn difficult conversations into courageous ones:

  • Challenging, and yes, discarding the belief that a passion for the inner life takes us away from the world…that paying attention to our inner world is self-obsessed, selfish, and downright unproductive (Remember, the American mindset is very partial to action, and self-reflection and action seem not to pair up well).
    • What does it take to challenge and discard a belief?
    • Doesn’t it begin with first seeing that you have this belief? Don’t believe everything you think. Your mind is unreliable. There’s much more to our mind than our conscious mind.
  • Your recognition in action that conversation is not all talk. Conversation can be verbal (words, tone, and voice) and non-verbal (facial expression, body postures, gestures, and movements). It pays to link your discomfort to those aspects of conversation.
    • Navigating a courageous conversation depends on cool heads and a willingness to be still. Your non-verbal conversation will speak very loudly…unbeknownst to you but not others. It will give away your beliefs even as others might not be able to articulate the belief you’re demonstrating. Isn’t that a good reason to lean into your discomfort and learn more about it? It’s the price of greater self-awareness and higher consciousness.
  • Having an open mind. If you have the judgment “I HAVE an open mind”, beware. Judgments constrict open minds including the one where you insist “I have an open mind!” An open mind is not static but open even under pressure. Might that statement be a defensive action against the discomfort of seeing that your mind may be closed?
  • Having an open heart. Having an open heart is the antidote to cynicism. You can’t simultaneously be cynical and have a courageous conversation. That doesn’t mean you relinquish being cynical, but you’re not cynical in this conversation. Might the very notion of having an open heart make you feel vulnerable (and therefore uncomfortable)?
  • Having an open will. An open will is the capacity to have your conversation be guided moment by moment by the commitment with which you entered the courageous conversation in the first place (for example, to know the other and to be known by them). What it means is that you won’t allow your fear to dominate you. You will continue, in other words, to lean into your discomfort and keep your focus on your intentions. No diversions! Easier said than done. Watch out especially for rationalization, excuses, and justification, if you’ve ever allowed fear to dictate your conversation. We have a very intense desire to keep our high self-regard. No one likes to admit they caved to fear. So we sanitize that realization through rationalization, excuses, and justification to keep us comfortably in line with our idealized self-image.

These five conditions and qualities that let us know and befriend our discomfort (which then make courageous conversations easier) are actually necessary for all fruit-bearing relationships. Another way to acquire competency  is to have grown up in homes and communities where these were the norm…but who’s been that fortunate? Most of us must practice self-awareness by stepping outside of ourselves for a helicopter view of ourselves. OK, not easy to do, but nobody promised that growth was easy.

If this is very clear, stop reading. If not, here’s a concrete example of observing your actions (behaviors) which can take you back to your congealed beliefs that have birthed the behavior.

Let’s say you’re mad at Sally. She “threw you over the cliff” at that last team meeting, you assert doggedly to yourself believing it’s the truth. You picture yourself and Sally in conversation . You notice you’re uncomfortable, so you know it’s a difficult conversation. Imagine yourself reducing the difficulty of an eventual conversation with Sally by having a courageous conversation with yourself first. It’s safe practice! With an open mind, heart and will, you’re poised to challenge your belief “Sally threw me over the cliff.” Did she really? If she had, would you be here to tell about it? So it must not be the truth. Hmm.

So what IS the truth? For purposes of becoming cool-headed, define the truth simply as what happened (or didn’t happen) in physical reality. In other words just the facts. Facts observed can help make us cool-headed. Maybe Sally broke a promise she made to you and brought information to the group you didn’t want them to have.  What meaning did you attach to her action? “She threw me over the cliff. Bad, disloyal Sally!” In other words you observe that you attached a disempowering interpretation to her behavior (she broke a promise) that facilitated your own behavior, namely avoiding a conversation with her. No wonder. How convenient. You already know the outcome of any conversation where someone accuses another of betraying them. So it’s smart and easy to justify not having it!

The truth (by our definition) is that Sally did what she did, and you did what you did.  That’s IT! You observe all that. Hmm. You wonder with your open mind, heart and will (aka courage!), “How else could this have gone if I didn’t have this interpretation?” “Might it be easier to have a conversation around Sally’s broken promise rather than about my judgment that Sally betrayed me?”  “It’s not the truth. It’s just my judgment, and I am free to have Sally’s broken promise mean something else.” Hmm.

You see that you’ve put yourself in position to observe your own as well as Sally’s behavior.  Great job! You‘re no longer only the actor. You’re both actor and helicopter-pilot-observer. A very powerful perspective.  It occurs to you that you can

  • acknowledge to Sally her broken promise
  • your dismay about that fact and…
  • ask Sally for a new promise. If Sally breaks it again, you can be more selective about the information you share with Sally in the future.

Hmm.

Does this example of working with your discomfort rather than against it open up new possibilities for having a difficult conversation which then is more likely to become a courageous conversation? Can you see more empowering possibilities? Which ones?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , 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.

The Child is the Father of the Man: Reflections on Setting Up Conversations That Matter

Un-Game Principle:  The very moment we see that which has been indistinct for us… is pregnant with the power to transform our life right then and there…forever.

My grandson, Ian, is practicing to be an adult, and as expected, he’s a bit uneven. He thinks he’s too old for some things but seeks refuge when adult behaviors are uncomfortable.  I texted a request to him recently. No response. I resent it. Still no response. Wait a minute. Has that happened to you with an adult? Have you ever done it yourself? I can say “yes” on both accounts. So what’s going on here that’s worth talking about?

I imagine saying to Ian: “When I was in high school, we read a poem by William Wordsworth. There was a line I just didn’t understand, and it drove me nuts. No matter how the teacher explained it, I wasn’t getting it. The line was ‘The child is the father of the man’. Impossible, right?” In my mind’s eye I see him nodding.  He understands something about that. He’s just now beginning to try out abstract thinking.

As a metaphor for life, “The child is the father of the man” could mean “How we are today creates how we are tomorrow.” Maybe I didn’t understand Wordsworth’s line in high school because even then I strenuously objected to the assertion that the past HAS to create the future. But don’t many people, accept that as truth rather than as a belief that can be explored and exploded? And if that’s your unexamined belief, then “The child is the father of the man” becomes truth for you.

 I fantasize telling my earnest grandson: “Ian, what we practice becomes our practice! No response IS a response.  Ignoring another’s request when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient becomes the practice once we do it often enough.  Are you curious about having more than just this one option?”

Ian might say “No,’ I’m not curious, Omi (that’s German for Grandma), and I won’t fall into the trap of telling him, “Well, you should be.” He’ll probably be curious later if my meta-message is “It’s up to you whether you want to have more choices…and thereby more power.”

Employees, colleagues, someone you report to, and even someone at home may not want to engage in a conversation that could challenge their closely-held beliefs either.  However, when you respectfully and age-appropriately ask them to engage with you around an issue that concerns YOU…who are a fabulous asset to your organization…most will say yes. So you set up your meeting for your hoped-for course-correction conversation.

A course-correction conversation is a potentially life-changing opportunity and a point of power for all involved.

  1.  You empower the other to become conscious of what they have previously seen as unassailable truth. And …
  2. If you stay open, receptive, and flexible, you might even be willing to look at and examine your own closely-held beliefs, opinions, and conclusions.

Yes. I will have a conversation with my grandson to offer him a course correction. “If the child is the father of the man,” then let’s let the “child” be the practices we establish that support us in becoming effective, powerful, adult communicators. In my next blog, we’ll look at a distinction whose mastery sets up a course- correction conversation that enriches your relationship and supports a successful outcome.  I welcome your comments and questions.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach 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.ingridmartinelifecoaching.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.  .

 

Information-Bloated, Wisdom-Starved (Part 3)

The second thing you can do to practice self-observation may look on first blush as if it has nothing to do with  an experience of information glut or the scarcity of time. I wish I could take credit for this brilliant exercise , but I heard it from my coach first and then from some Unity Church congregants next. Take on the project of giving up complaints for 21 consecutive days! Put a reminder wrist band on one wrist. Notice how well you do. If you slip, no problem. Just put the wristband on the other wrist and start again.  See what you notice and what you learn. I’m doing this myself. So far so good, but I’m only on day one. It’s fascinating what I’m observing and learning.

A third thing you can do to hone your self-observation skills is to ask the powerful question “Who am I longing to be at this season of my life?” On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is most important), how important is it to you to be an effective manager? A visionary leader? A successful communicator? A loving family member or friend? A great mentor? A contributor to my community? A successful business owner? Entrepreneur?  Fill in the blank. Not who should I be?  No. Who I long to be! Not what do I long to do? But who am I longing to be? Be interested in your 4 and 5 scores.

When your daily activities are a demonstration of the purposes that give your life meaning, they warm your heart and nourish your spirit. You create goals that are a demonstration of those purposes. Hard work is not struggle. You effortlessly make the next play on goal. Your activities give you energy; they don’t waste it. You act in harmony with your natural wisdom which tells you you’re making the unique contribution that’s yours to make now. You might find different purposes important to you a year from now. This is just for now. Be here now.

Would it be useful to be curious about the purposes that give your life meaning now? You can’t find out by problem-solving. Nor can you find it out as a “once and for all” answer to a question asked just once. Keep asking the same question and listen to your heart’s longing. Listen  to that small, still voice of wisdom that ventures out and becomes stronger when you decide that inquiring may yield information that’s worth having and gives you the means to discard information that blinds you from seeing what really matters to you. Inquiry will lead you to what you need. Perhaps you need support in setting goals that are a demonstration of one or more of your longings. Perhaps you’re excited about ways to demonstrate your intentions, and you just need some encouragement. Whatever comes out of your inquiry, you will have supported your quest to act on behalf of what truly matters to you. May wisdom grow within you one observation at a time. And may you enjoy the experience of sufficient time.

I’d love to hear what you’re learning about yourself that makes you a better self-observer. I hear that it takes the average participant 7 months before they can go 21 days without complaining. What about you? And what are you learning about yourself and what you find valuable to spend your time on? Is self-observation a practice worthy of your time and attention? Are you gaining wisdom? In what way does that help you make the contribution you’re here to make?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach 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.ingridmartinelifecoaching.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.  .

 

Information-Bloated, Wisdom-Starved (Part 2)

To discern what information to use and which to ignore becomes the same type of challenge as the decision what foods to eat and which ones to bypass or limit. Your first step with your relationship to food may be to take stock of what’s in your pantry, what you eat, how much, what quality.  You look and you observe. Sometimes you’re surprised. You’d been unconsciously consuming food, not savoring it. Eating on the run in your car. Hmm. What you’re seeing could even lead you back to your assertion “I don’t have time.”

Could you get useful information if you were curious about y our assertion “I don’t have time”? Is it true, or is it a thought you have? Do you believe every thought you have? Might it be a conclusion you  think is not a conclusion but the truth?  Be interested if you’re insisting that yes, it’s true. End of conversation.

What discomfort are we running from anyway that we think we don’t have time?  Most of us are used to going full tilt and trying to power ourselves down the road. If something doesn’t work, we just work a little harder, do more, do it better, do it faster. Would it be useful to take notice—or should the things we do again and again or that bring us no satisfaction or short-lived satisfaction—be information for the “ignore pile”? What about the things we do that cause struggle or needless effort and don’t move us forward? Useful or “ignore pile”? Would it be useful to notice when we judge ourselves as “not good enough” unless we meet our rigid expectations for perfection? Or should this information go to the “ignore pile”?

To discern what information to use and which to relegate to the “ignore pile”.  Hmm. What’s the cost if we send this information to the “ignore pile”?

Perfection, repetition of thoughts or actions that cause struggle or limited satisfaction are symptoms of driven behavior. Driven behavior wastes energy and time. Did I get any of you?  If so, may I suggest that rather than assuming you have a problem with too much information and/or too little time, that you be curious about the discomfort you may be avoiding by your driven behavior?

We’re attracted to our driven behavior the same way we’re attracted to food that appeals to our taste buds.  Are you more attracted to pizza than to broccoli? So to be curious about our discomfort, we need a dollop of courage and a cup of self-observation… which many of us may not stock in sufficient quantity in our skill-set pantry.

Notice if you’re  protesting?  Is that useful information too? How so?

To help us get started on learning or honing the skill-set of self-observation, we have many options (Remember, we’re not problem-solving. We’re making room for our natural voice of wisdom.). Here’s the first of three we’ll consider.

Go to www.rescuetime.com. This is an easily-installed automated tracking software that allows you to see what websites and applications you spend time on and how much time you spend.  When you actually SEE that you spend 11 hours total on email and social media, you’ll know just what authentic action(s) you’re willing to take. I’m implying that self-observation in and of itself could be curative. No effort. No struggle. Just observation. It will activate your voice of wisdom as you begin to observe the driven behavior you may increasingly recognize in yourself.

In our next post we’ll look at the second option to practice self-observation. In the meantime I’d love to hear from you about how you practice self-observation. We can all learn from each other.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach 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.ingridmartinelifecoaching.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.  .

 

Information-Bloated, Wisdom-Starved (Part 1)

Have you ever had the thoughts “I have too much information and too many choices without a way to choose what’s right for me.  I don’t have time to do all I need to do. I need to go on an information diet.”?

“I need to go on an information diet” is our solution to the uncomfortable experience of feeling information-bloated and time-deprived.

What happens to most of us when we’re uncomfortable ?  We consider that a problem. We naturally want to get back into our comfort zone.  That would be the obvious solution to our problem.

But what if that’s not the most powerful thing we can do? As with a food diet, more often than not, when we solve the weight problem the diet was supposed to address, we go right back to the behaviors that caused us to see the diet as a solution in the first place.

What if, instead of seeing the discomfort and disequilibrium around the information glut as a problem, we see it as a wake-up call to become more discerning? In other words, we see it as an opportunity to observe and to learn what information is powerful for us and which is irrelevant.

 Notice your energy when you say “I have a problem.”  Go ahead. Say it out loud or even just in your thoughts. Now say “I have an opportunity to learn something about myself that could make my life easier.” Do you experience a difference? The first activates a different part of the brain than the second.  With the first statement you get your rational self in gear. You focus on being in problem-solving mode.  With the second statement you may have an experience of spaciousness and possibility. You ‘re open and receptive. There just might be an adventure around the corner. It invites you to be alert and to observe.

Hmm. Observation as a path to wisdom.  Interesting?  If so, I invite you to become curious about becoming an exquisite observer of your experience of information-overload that has you propose going on an information diet. Maybe that’s a good idea. Maybe not. No need to decide. You have time.

“No, I don’t have time,” you protest. Not surprisingly, people’s number one concern—while unceasingly bombarded with information our incredible technology makes possible—is not having enough time. Yet we all have the same amount of time as everyone else. What we may have precious little practice in, however, is to discern what information to use and what information to ignore. We’re vulnerable to distraction. Unconsciously spending time on social media or reading that fascinating article of the two-headed cat they discovered in China. Oh, it’s so easy.

In our next blog we’ll explore just what questions to ask that we’re not asking and what we might choose to observe in order to hear our voice of wisdom which may presently be muted by what we don’t focus on.

I’d love to hear from you. What distractions are you vulnerable to? And how do you decide what information is powerful for you to engage with rather than relegating it to the “ignore pile”?

        Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach 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.ingridmartinelifecoaching.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine

Business as Un-usual – Would it be Okay if There Were Less to Your Challenges Than Meets the Eye?”

  Join author, Ingrid Martine for a presentation of: “Business as Unusual: Would it be Okay if There Were Less to Your Challenges Than Meets the Eye?” June 26, 2012 – 11:30 AM Clifton Lions Club – 2nd and Cedar Park, Clifton, TX  76634