Subscribe to our Blog!

Podcasts

Ingrid Martine and Rick Maurer - The Un-Game Book Interview

Subscribe To Our Feeds

emotional intelligence

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

When Is Surrender a Demonstration of Your Emotional Intelligence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does anyone come to mind?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Empowerment: As Simple As ABC?

Un-Game Principle:  Things are neither as simple nor as complicated as they seem.

13-11-12 Empowement as simple as ABCIs empowerment simple? Yes and no. Empowerment may be simple, but not necessarily easy. And it may be complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Empowerment, the capacity to direct action on behalf of your cherished concerns, starts with A-ATTITUDE. If your eyes are glazing over, I understand. That assertion has been so overused that we close off all possibility that there’s more to learn about it. “We already know” may be the three most dangerous words in the English language.

The powerful secret to attitude is the deep understanding of our power to choose it. If we’re waiting for the sunny disposition to arise, we’re thrown into darkness.

But what kind of a choice is attitude?

To choose our attitude is to choose who we are willing to be…now…and now…and when tonight becomes…NOW. Moment by moment we have a choice as to who we’re willing to be.  It’s that simple. So why is it not easy? Probably more reasons than I can conjure up, but here’s an important one. We haven’t been taught the distinction “We have feelings. We aren’t them.” Successful people, of course, have learned this. What they may not have mastered yet is actually choosing who they’re willing to be even when they don’t want to be…generous, enthusiastic, supportive, etc.

Notice I said “willing” to be. We can choose attributes of contribution such as courageous, truthful, compassionate, clear, alert, focused, appreciative. We cannot guarantee that we will demonstrate them in action. All we CAN guarantee is to be willing.  We can choose, let’s say, three of the qualities of contribution for this upcoming tough meeting with an employee whose performance we must review. Then we can let those qualities guide our actions. Afterwards we can review our own actions to see how well or poorly we demonstrated them. If we have an attitude of continuous improvement, we’ll learn much from our own reflection. If we keep practicing en route to excellence (Perfection is impossible), we’ll be able to notice how well we’re doing right in the interaction itself, not just after it. Simple, huh? Not easy, right? But with the attitude “I am willing” even when I’m having an “I don’t wanna” fit (“Hey, I just want to kick Sam out the door!”), I will not fail. A winning attitude is mine.

The B of empowerment is BELIEF.  What we believe is not so much a choice, but which one of our beliefs we empower is a choice. An un-accessed driver of excellence is the ability to focus. Focus on what? If we’re stuck in the belief mentioned in the opening, namely that we are our feelings, then we’re quickly thrown into darkness once again. Rather than treating feelings like the comings and goings of the relentless crawl on the bottom of our TV screen, many of us let them determine how we act. We let feelings determine what we focus on and how we execute what we focus on. However, having gotten our mind “right”, that is, let’s assume we have made our first choice…who we’re willing to be right now in this interaction… then we can notice how much sway our thoughts and feelings have over us and realize we have yet another choice. The choice is to focus on a belief that’s more interesting to us than the one that disables us. How about “I value my feelings, and I’m in charge of when I give them permission to determine my actions.”?

It’s a mistaken belief that we can replace one belief for another (a good reason to be very suspicious of our beliefs. Do you have to believe everything you think?!). Beliefs continue to populate our conscious and unconscious mind. You can, and probably will, again pull out the one which doesn’t empower you.  “Sam is a jerk.” The choice you have is not to resign yourself and let your feelings dominate the decision-making landscape. You can realize that focusing on an empowering belief “It’s my job as manager to develop my people. Sam is one of my people.” is not a one-shot deal. You may need to choose again and again until…yes, the time will come…it becomes easier and easier to stay with the empowering belief.

The ability to shift our focus is easy. Try it. Focus first on the words you’re reading right now. Are you doing it? Good. Now shift your focus to any place else in the room? Did you do it? See how easy that was? I hear a “Yes, but…” My answer to you is this: “Could you envision how shifting your focus to a belief that’s more interesting to you, given that you care about management and developing your people, is made easier through practice?

OK. Before you say to me…“Well, sometimes you don’t develop people, you fire them.”…and before I agree with you, let me speak to the C in the ABC of empowerment. The C is COMMITMENT.

Commitment is also driven by the choices outlined so far. In addition it’s driven by deeply-held values, and it behooves us to make those values visible so that we can consciously choose them to guide our choices and therefore our actions. Through the coaching model of the Academy for Coaching Excellence in which I am trained, I got such a tool. Contact me, and I’ll send it to you free of charge. Who are we longing to be in the world? To be an effective communicator? To be an effective manager, mentor, coach? To be a loving family member? A contributor to our community? What would behavior that’s guided by the longing to be an effective communicator and manager look like when you’re focusing on the difficult conversation with Sam?

Well, you’ve chosen your Attitude. You’re willing to be clear, truthful, and courageous. You’ve chosen a Belief you are willing to empower, and when your mind wanders, you’ll refocus it gently by saying to your willful mind: “Thanks for sharing, but I’m more interested in being an effective communicator and manager right now. This will automatically fuel your Commitment to see the conversation through. Simple, huh? But not easy. It may well be that Sam is not right for the job. Would a transfer to a position that’s more suited to his strengths be a win for your team and for Sam? Would letting him go be best? Or could a genuine inquiry into the behavior that’s causing friction reveal surprising facts that could lead to Sam’s development as an outstanding contributor? You’ll never know unless you demonstrate the ABC of empowerment in your own actions. It’s both simple and complex.  Like all the rich things in life we treasure.

Are you interested in a spontaneous role-playing of a conversation you are not yet empowered to have? I’ll do that with the first three people who contact me. We’ll go through the ABC of Empowerment together.

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 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.

High Tech High Touch: You Need Both

Un-Game Principle:  Don’t just do something. Sit there. There’s power in good observation.

13-10-01 High Tech High TouchBusiness as Unusual? Well, it’s becoming usual. Or, at least in words, if not always in action. Companies are very well aware that the business environment has changed dramatically. Just think. Prior to the appearance of the i-phone, Blackberry was king, and now it’s fighting for its life.

Companies for the most part are quite good at the technical expertise of their particular industry.  Let’s call that high tech. What might be referred to as high touch…for example having people skills,  foresight, being nimble, being responsive, creative… may however be missing or in shorter supply.

It’s not that companies don’t think about high touch. But there’s a huge blind spot for many companies even if they have a corporate culture that is aware of the prerequisite for developing high touch attitudes and skills. This prerequisite is a growth mind-set rather than a fixed mind-set (Growth here is not limited to growing revenue). People who have a  growth mind-set demonstrate very different behaviors than those who have a fixed mind-set. Without going into a lot of detail, a fixed mind-set is rule-dominated, bases behaviors on those rules and on “We already know,”  and/or “There are only right or wrong answers,” and/or “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The growth mind-set on the other hand is process-oriented and depends on accountable conversations, “We don’t already know”, and “We believe that continuous improvement is possible and desirable.”

So what does that have to do with high tech and high touch? It means that a company (or an individual because you can apply this to your own life) will recognize that they can’t get where they want to go with technical learning only. What they need is also high touch. High touch as referred to here means that the companies care about maintenance of the physical, emotional, intellectual well-being of their teams, their individual producers, everybody associated with the company including suppliers, regulatory entities, etc. In terms of education and training it means that companies recognize that they need to supply training in the non-technical kind of learning, also known as adaptive learning (learning which leads to changes in how people act).  In order to not just talk, people need to demonstrate the high touch in their every day life. And this takes daily practice.

Be very mindful. You may think it’s happening when in fact it is not, at least not enough for the message  “both high tech and high touch are equally important” to get through.

I belong to an organization that thinks it’s high touch. However,  I haven’t experienced this organization as high touch. Just one brief example. Contributions that team members have made frequently remain unacknowledged. Research confirms that recognition energizes. High touch/maintenance is not happening in this example. Task is king.

This post is not about giving you ideas of “how to” be more high touch. I bet you already know. This post is about alerting people as to how come this persists, even in organizations that depend on high touch (Let’s say a sales or a coaching organization). So here goes.

There is an underlying  standard narrative in our culture that says “We’re action-oriented. To produce action we must focus on task. Task is king. Maintenance is not as important. Besides, we don’t have time. We gotta get this done. Maintenance takes too long. Suck it up. This, after all, is work.”

The narrative could be languaged differently, but you get the picture. This narrative is powerful because it’s unacknowledged as a narrative at all. We experience it as true, and therefore it can’t be subject to change. However, if we are to change anything of substance, we must position ourselves to interrupt this standard narrative that has such power over us. We can’t empower a new narrative without first being aware of the narrative that has us ( Make no mistake. We don’t have it. It has us by the throat until we become conscious of it!). It’s like a force field into which we get dragged.  So, to really do business as Unusual, we first have to recognize this narrative (this story we tell ourselves without examining it) and then consciously decide to empower a different narrative.  Difficult? You bet. Necessary? Absolutely. So here’s what you can specifically do to learn to disempower a narrative that has you.

Don’t just do something. Sit there! Observe. In this way, it becomes possible for the narrative to no longer have you. You have it. And that’s a huge difference.

Yes. Observe. Observation may prove to be curative. Go slow. Challenge the “We don’t have time” part of the power narrative. In meetings or any other interactions, notice how much emphasis is given to Task (high tech) and how much to Maintenance (high touch). High touch may be where

  • people build on another’s ideas
  • team members draw in a quiet person
  • someone takes the timer to rephrase someone’s contribution to check their understanding of what another person said
  • you notice ideas followed up on or dropped without acknowledgment. And you say something about it to make others aware.
  • you look in the literature about companies that demonstrate both high tech and high touch behaviors, and you see what you might learn from them.

The list is endless. You get the picture. Once you notice that you are way more task than maintenance oriented, try to include more maintenance type interactions on your own part. Others may follow eventually. Someone has to lead the charge on the new narrative.

The bottom line is this. Change needs to happen not only in words but in deeds. Be the change you want to see. Someone has to take the first step. Why not you?

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.

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.