One minute my grandson was chatting happily about leaving for the movies, the next moment he was in a pitched battle over putting on shoes so that we could get in the car to go (and get to the movie on time).
My grandson lost his focus, which is easy to do. Many times focus on a goal or outcome we are aiming for is detoured by one simple comment or action. A stimulating conversation about family memories goes south when someone remembers details differently than another. An opportunity to get needed training is derailed because someone is unhappy about a particular aspect of the meeting space. Or, a meeting is hijacked by a question that makes others uncomfortable. In each of these situations, in the snap of a finger, emotions run high.
Our natural reaction in these situations can take three basic forms: fight, flight, or freeze. The reaction we use is ingrained in us from our childhood. It’s a conditioned behavior that has become a habit. We aren’t even conscious of it, though we may feel very uncomfortable after the fact. We might ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?” or “Why didn’t I say that instead?” We might experience a sick gut feeling that we should have handled it differently, or should have just stayed quiet.
The good news is: YOU can take charge! You can make a conscious decision about RESPONDING rather than reacting in these uncomfortable situations. How? Get CALM!
1. Connect with the disconnect. When you sense those uncomfortable feelings, take a moment to breathe deeply. This gets air to your brain, and helps you overcome those churning feelings. Ask yourself, “What is my motive in this moment?” “What does it appear that I want?” The answers may be the same. In this uncomfortable moment, do you want to be right, to win, to save face, to avoid embarrassment, to retaliate, or some other motive? Noticing the unconscious shift from your original focus allows you to shift back to conscious choice.
2. Ask yourself questions to refocus.
“What outcomes do I really want for this situation?” Think in terms of the results you want for yourself, for others, and for the relationship. In the case of the derailed training, is it more important to find the right trainer and training experience, or a setting that meets all of the varied comfort expectations? What relationship results do we want from this training? Is there a way to have it all? What other options should be considered?
“What am I telling myself about this situation?” What is the story I have in my head about this? Think about whether you believe that the other person doesn’t care, or is vindictive, or is trying to tell you something that you don’t want to hear.
3. Listen and link. Set aside the issue(s) and begin to listen. What are the interests of the other person? How can you link those with the original goal or focus for the conversation? Find the common purpose that will benefit you both. That’s a win-win!
4. Move to action. Once you have found the common goal, blaze the trail forward.
For my grandson: the mutual goal was getting to the movies. His goal was having a choice; mine was putting the shoes on. Using the CALM method, we used his need for choice: “Will you put the right shoe on first, or the left?”
With family: the common goal was to enjoy each other’s company and reminisce. “It seems like we remember things differently. Isn’t it funny how that happens? Do you remember the time…”
With the training: “Our goal is to learn how to have healthy interactions that will drive our business forward. Thanks, Susie, for checking to be sure the facilities will ensure the best training results. Is there anything else the group would like for us to consider in the decision about this training?”
Conversations can quickly become wrapped in unconscious reactions. If you or your team need help to turn reactions into effective and appropriate responses, contact Joy at Joy@MaximizeYourLeadership.com.