Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Denise Green of Brilliance Inc.

 

Fragile Beginnings

Recently, a client of mine told me he was a little embarrassed about taking criticism personally. He felt that, at his level in the organization, he should have tougher skin, so to speak.

I asked him, “So, do you think you’re unusual for taking criticism personally?”

I assured him that every client I’ve ever worked with, no matter how amazing, successful, and outwardly confident they appear, feels the sting of criticism.

And there are good reasons why. One is that they care; they want to do excellent work and be seen as capable, competent, well-intentioned people. But there’s a deeper reason: humans are biologically wired to take things personally.

Human beings are one of the only animals on the planet who are dependent on others for more than a decade after birth. Sea turtles, for example, are born alone in the sand and left to dodge predators while scurrying for the deep. Only a fraction of the turtles make it, yet there are no turtle psychologists or self-help books for the survivors—just hard shells.

As infants we learn how to connect and communicate so we get basic care. As a result of this early fragility, nearly every human suffers at some level from two basic fears: I’m not good enough, and I will never be loved.

These fears plague us to varying degrees depending on our upbringing and our current mental and emotional state (e.g. how much sleep we’ve had, or how much stress we feel).

Some people try to develop virtual hard shells so they feel the sting less intensely or less often, but there’s a significant cost to this approach. Because we can’t filter which emotions we feel, we sacrifice real connection with all our emotions. They risk losing the ability to authentically and fully connect with other people. They risk losing the ability to feel joy and meaning.

There’s a better way to deal with these universal fears.

Here are steps you can take to develop emotional resilience:

1. Notice & Name:

Instead of immediately attaching negative meaning to your reaction, just notice it and name it for what it is—your adaptive “I’m not enough” story.

Then take a deep breath and

2. Assess:

Ask yourself,

  • How have I personalized this in ways that aren’t grounded in facts? (e.g., what assumptions am I making?)
  • How might this person be triggered? (What might they fear?)
  • How can I respond to their best intention with the best in me, and mitigate their fear?
  • What piece of the criticism resonates and how can I use it to grow?

3. Re-Orient:

Remind yourself of the truth. Come up with your own handy mantra that’s easy to remember and brings you a sense of relief from the “unworthy” story. It could be as simple as “This is just a story that no longer serves me.” I have one client that tells her inner infant to “Shut up.”

4. Be Transparent (Without being emotional):

Be honest with others and say something like “I realize that I’m taking this personally and I don’t think that’s your intent.” Then take a breath and respond from the part of you that knows that you are both divine.

5. Thank Them

Yes, thank them for their criticism. While it may not take courage to anonymously blast someone online, when someone shares their perceptions about us directly, it’s a gift, even if it wasn’t shared in the most gracious way.

No Shame Required

The more you practice these steps the easier it will be to shift your emotional state to one that’s more authentically confident, where you confidently assess your strengths and weaknesses without judgment.

The Antidote

Now that you know that the rest of humankind is taking things personally too, why not give someone some genuine praise today? Trust me, they don’t hear it enough. Start with yourself.

Books and articles:

This may be the best article ever written about how fear triggers our brain and what to do about it.

“No matter what problem might arise in a relationship, the first step toward solving it generally involves redirecting your attention — usually outward to the other person.”

- Winefred Galagher, RAPT

 

photo credit: woodleywonderworks and Celestine Chua

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CMO.com has some good basics to better storytelling via Kevin Spacey – yes, that Kevin Spacey:

“Isn’t good storytelling just luck and a guessing game?” he asked. “No. Good content marketing is not a crap shoot—it has always been about the story.”

Then Spacey shared his three key elements that make better stories:

1. Conflict: “Conflict creates tension and keeps people engaged, and the best stories are filled with characters that take risks and court drama,” Spacey said. “It’s the decisions that characters make in the face of these challenges that keep us glued to our seats.”

It’s also true in advertising, he suggested, noting Nike’s ability to play off the tensions found amid our own aspirations. “They channel the voice in the back of our heads—get your ass off the couch,” he said.

Illustrating from his own life, Spacey described the past 10 years of his life working as artistic director of the Old Vic theatre, in London, as one of the most fulfilling periods of his life. “I am a better actor today than when I started,” he said.

Tradition held that instead of the theater, Spacey should have kept making movies and lots of money for his agents. But he decided that tackling the unexpected would be more rewarding. This holds true for the stories we tell, as well. “Our stories become richer, and become far more interesting, when they go against the settled order of things to achieve the unexpected,” Spacey said.

2. Authenticity: Spacey’s next point was a vote for authenticity and truth in storytelling. The actor recalled the time Volkswagen first began selling the Beetle in the U.S. The German manufacturer took some risks by bucking the big-car trend. But rather than hide the Beetle’s small dimensions, it emphasized cost and parking advantages in a successful advertising program.

“Yes, I’m cheaper, more economical, and squeeze into any space I want!” Spacey said. “The truth? Face up to it. Consumers appreciate this authenticity.”

Continue story at CMO.com>>

Our Resource for Super Storytelling >>

Photo Credit: Paul Hudson

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by Chuck Kuglen

Google is pretty smart as a company. But as companies go, they too have a lot of morons working there. Let’s not take them too seriously as they begin to get into virtually every aspect of our lives. A “very” well qualified friend recently told me, for example, that one of their “People leaders” told him they did not want him to meet his hiring manager early in the hiring process. They said it might “taint” the initial overviews he’d already passed! He laughed at that.  They were all about 20-something and this guy was one of the most critical Finance people who helped build Apple. Anyway, thank God others in that company have sense, we know a few of them. This guy, Laszlo Bock, for example, has a lot to say about resume etiquette. Enjoy the Trade Show season!

In the interest of helping more candidates make it past that first resume screen, here are the five biggest mistakes I see on resumes.

Mistake 1: Typos. This one seems obvious, but it happens again and again. A 2013 CareerBuilder survey found that 58% of resumes have typos.

In fact, people who tweak their resumes the most carefully can be especially vulnerable to this kind of error, because they often result from going back again and again to fine tune your resume just one last time. And in doing so, a subject and verb suddenly don’t match up, or a period is left in the wrong place, or a set of dates gets knocked out of alignment. I see this in MBA resumes all the time. Typos are deadly because employers interpret them as a lack of detail-orientation, as a failure to care about quality. The fix?

Read your resume from bottom to top: reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation. Or have someone else proofread closely for you.

Mistake 2: Length. A good rule of thumb is one page of resume for every ten years of work experience. Hard to fit it all in, right? But a three or four or ten page resume simply won’t get read closely. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” A crisp, focused resume demonstrates an ability to synthesize, prioritize, and convey the most important information about you. Think about it this way: the *sole* purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. That’s it. It’s not to convince a hiring manager to say “yes” to you (that’s what the interview is for) or to tell your life’s story (that’s what a patient spouse is for). Your resume is a tool that gets you to that first interview. Once you’re in the room, the resume doesn’t matter much. So cut back your resume. It’s too long.

Mistake 3: Formatting. Unless you’re applying for a job such as a designer or artist, your focus should be on making your resume clean and legible. At least ten point font. At least half-inch margins. White paper, black ink. Consistent spacing between lines, columns aligned, your name and contact information on every page. If you can, look at it in both Google Docs and Word, and then attach it to an email and open it as a preview. Formatting can get garbled when moving across platforms. Saving it as a PDF is a good way to go.

Read more from Laszlo Bock on Resume Mistakes at LinkedIn>>

photo credit: resume-wizard

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by Terry Gault

This question often comes up in my conversations with clients. Speaking in front of a group of people, it’s easy to feel exposed and self-conscious—which tends to exacerbate any anxiety we may feel about how we represent ourselves or how we feel about the strength of our content. The main goal is learning to be self-aware (so that we know how we are representing ourselves) and can make choices in the moment.

Here are some tips I recommend about what to do with your hands while on stage:

1. Bigger Is better.

Try using broader gestures. They draw the eye and project dynamism. Develop a vocabulary of gestures. They are both an effective and efficient way to communicate.

An example where more dynamic gestures will fit is when you provide the audience with a list as in, “The first point that is important is… The second point is…” Often, presenters will use what I call the Small List. Their elbows are close to their body, and their hands are within the silhouette of their body—this posture is not visually compelling to an audience. Instead, you should use gestures to visually separate the various items on your list, as though you are drawing out a spreadsheet or table in the air.

2. Stay open, not closed.

Some presenters hold their hands in the “prayer” or “professor” position. This always seems either awkward or pretentious to me. Others bring their hands in front of them, like this:

Another common phenomenon is what I call “T-Rex Arms.” In this case, the speaker is gesturing, but their elbows don’t leave their sides. This makes them seem stiff and constrained rather than free and open.

Any closed posture projects the need to protect one’s self. It raises the question in the minds of the audience, “Why do you feel the need to protect yourself?” Open postures project a sense of openness, power, and confidence.

3. Practice stillness.

Some speakers have fidgety hands, which makes them look nervous and unsure of themselves. When not gesturing, try letting your hands just fall in a relaxed way to your side. This will project more openness to your audience. In addition, your hands won’t distract from your message. But be careful about letting your hands slap back to your sides when you’re done with your gestures. Work to sustain the energy of the gesture while letting your hands smoothly descend all the way back to your sides. You may even try leaving your hands in a sustained gesture.

The fundamental truth I learned in my acting training is that our emotions are driven by our actions.  Hence, when we behave in a way that represents ourselves as confident and powerful, we will actually start to feel confident and powerful.

Incorporating these behaviors into your practice will drive that result—more confidence and power.  So go forth—and let your hands help do the talking!

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tim Cigelske

Don’t be put off by those who text or tweet when you speak.

It’s not easy speaking to an audience of people who appear to be distracted by their cell phones, or are clattering away on their laptops or burying their heads in their iPads. We have all been to conferences where people seemed to pay more attention to their electronic devices than to the live person on the podium. As smartphones connect people to their busy lives, this phenomenon will only become more common.

It is tempting to address this issue by trying to ban cell phones at presentations and imposing what author and speaker Scott Berkun calls “a fantasy of obedience” on an audience. But this rarely works.

“Fundamentally, this problem is ageless,” Berkun writes on his website, scottberkun.com. “It has always been very hard to keep the attention of any group of people — at any age, at any time.”

The distraction epidemic calls for a different type of approach — one that can engage people, not just force them to stare silently. Here is what you can do to capture the attention of a distracted audience.

Let Down Your Guard
What’s the first thing you normally hear when someone is giving a speech? “Please turn off all cell phones.” The last thing you want is to have your cutesy ringtone interrupt the speaker. Author and social media expert Chris Brogan turns this decree on its head during his speaking appearances. “Why is it so quiet in here?” he asked the audience at a presentation I attended in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “This isn’t church. Go ahead and turn on your cell phones. Send tweets. Post to Facebook. Do what you have to do.”

This accomplished two things. First, it established a rapport between the speaker and the audience by creating an informal, friendly setting. Given the choice, most people would rather chat informally with a friend than be required to sit at attention during a speech. People tend to remember interactions with friends, so turn your speech into something that resembles that situation.

The second thing Brogan achieved was the creation of another potentially vast audience. By encouraging people to tweet and post on Facebook, he was expanding his reach far beyond the room. Additionally, audience members who participate this way during presentations become more engaged and attentive; they focus on conveying the speaker’s main points for the digital sound bites they post for social media users.

Another benefit: By reading these posts later, the speaker gets instant feedback and sees what was most memorable to the audience or what may have fallen flat.

Public speaking coach and trainer Lisa Braithwaite says some people learn best by doing something else while listening, whether it’s doodling or using a phone. She assumes the best intentions when she spots someone on his or her phone while she’s speaking.

“I tend to take a positive view that this is a person who’s taking notes, [or] tweeting what a great speaker I am, or is someone who needs to do something with their hands to pay attention,” she says.

Sometimes she has been surprised by what registered with people who seemed to be distracted during her speech. “The same people who didn’t make eye contact or looked down would come up to me afterward and tell me they learned a lot from the presentation.”

Encourage Participation
When I began researching this article, I gave a speech to my Toastmasters club and instructed audience members to act distracted — or to actually distract themselves. They excelled at this, surfing the Web and holding conversations with each other. Some even took photographs with a flash. At one point, I took a break and invited the group to discuss how a speaker might engage a distracted audience. Members were then able to focus on the topic of distraction. Requesting audience participation had helped.

“I like that you asked us to answer a question,” one club member said. “It kept us engaged and comfortable.”

It’s a good thing to remember: When audiences are involved, they are more engaged. You want audience members to become companions as you lead them to the final destination or purpose of your speech. When I was a college freshman, one of my English professors insisted on a regular two-minute “talk break” during every 50-minute class period, no matter how busy we were. At first it seemed a little forced to stop discussing Macbeth or Beowulf to talk about our weekends with the person next to us. But over time it helped us bond, and ultimately the classroom became a better environment for learning.

Braithwaite, who is based in Santa Barbara, California, does the same thing with her audiences if she notices that something resonates with them and they start talking among themselves. She’ll encourage audience members to turn to their neighbor to share a story or an example related to that particular topic. Braithwaite calls that a positive distraction.

“Make use of their distraction and include it in the presentation,” she says of audience members who are chatting with each other about what you’re saying. “You don’t want to punish them for being interested and wanting to engage more.”

Be the Guide
A few years ago I attended a speech by someone involved in education reform. What I remember was a phrase she used: “The teacher needs to become less of the sage on the stage and more of the guide on the side.” Braithwaite reinforces that idea, saying a relaxed speaking environment is more productive and enjoyable for the audience.

“When I was in school, you got in trouble if you did anything but face forward and look at the teacher,” she says, “and that’s just ridiculous. It’s not human.”

For speakers, too, it is best to relax and not judge the appearance of an audience — or more precisely, the appearance of electronic devices in an audience. When you speak to a group of people, it is about making a connection and giving the audience something tangible to take away.

You can find a connection, even amid the clattering of laptops and flashes of iPhone screens.

 

photo credit: Joi Ito

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Kimberly Davis of  Onstage Leadership

Oh my gosh.  Night-before-last I did the parent-thing that I swore I’d never do.  My kiddo was talking a million miles an hour and I was….well yes, I was on Facebook…and according to witness testimony, I was nodding and smiling and responding to what he was telling me.  Ten minutes later my kiddo came back into the room and made reference to what he had said earlier and I turned to my husband and said, “Did he just say he was  performing a piano solo in the camp show?”  My husband said, “Yes.  He told you that ten minutes ago.  You even said, “That’s great, Jeremy!  I’m so proud of you!”

I have no memory of that exchange.  None.  I’d swear it didn’t happen, except my husband assures me it did.

I’m a bit horrified  Horrified for many reasons, among them:

(a) I was so not-present during this conversation (yes, the woman who teaches the importance of being present )

(b) That in the midst of being so not-present, apparently I was faking being present (yup, that’s right, the authenticity-chick…)

The irony of it all.

Here’s the thing.  What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much I learn and practice and commit to being my best,  I mess up sometimes.  It happens.  It’s part of the being-human-thing.  Oh by the way, you do too.  It’s nothing personal.  We all do.

So last night, as I started writing this post, I was committing to being better!  To being more present!  To being Super Mom!

And I caught myself doing it again.  As I’m writing my blog post about not being present with Jeremy, he’s talking to me and I wasn’t being present with Jeremy.  It wasn’t work hours, it was Jeremy-time, and I wasn’t there.

“Blah, blah, blah… Minecraft….blah, blah…my castle….Mom?  Mom!  Are you listening?”

No.  No, I wasn’t.

“Sorry, Honey.”  I closed my laptop and gave him my full attention.

The irony of it all.

Thankfully for me, I suspect I’ll get many opportunities to practice being more present with Jeremy.  I sincerely hope I improve – as I the legacy I want to leave with him is that he’s worth it to me – to be present.  That I’m interested in what he has to say.  That he’s important.

But I know this isn’t true for many employees.  What I’ve heard from participants over, and over, and over again, is that if their leaders aren’t present, they won’t come back for more.  They stop bringing ideas.  They stop sharing their challenges and their wins.  They stop turning to their leaders for support.  They stop caring.  At least about their leader.

You see, when people sense that we’re not invested in them – that they’re not important enough – they stop investing in us.

As a leader, can you afford that?

Being present is probably one of the hardest things in the world to do.  It’s hard to do as a parent.  It’s hard to do as a leader.  Heck, it’s hard to do as a human!  We’ve got so many things competing for our attention!

But it’s worth it.

When I tucked Jeremy in bed last night, I asked him, “What was the best part of your day today, Honey?”

“Playing piano at the camp show was awesome!”

“It was!  You rocked!”

“But my next favorite thing, Mommy….showing you my cool castle on Minecraft.  I really liked that.”

“Me too, Honey”, I said – so glad I had shut my laptop.

It’s worth it.

 

photo credit: Scott Robinson

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When I hear people using the phrase ”dumb down” as in “I need to dumb this topic down”, I wonder, “Do they really think their audience is dumb?  Or are they not smart enough to know how to simplify your message to suit the target audience?  In which, case who should ‘dumb’ be applied to here?”

The phrase is insulting to the audience and it doesn’t say much for the user either.  The phrase signifies that the speaker isn’t approaching the matter with the right ‘frame’.  The frame they need instead of “dumb down” is “simplify.”

Simplifying your topic so that the audience ‘gets it’ is a sure sign of intelligence in the speaker.

My recommendation to my clients is beautifully articulated by noted smart guy Albert Einstein who said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

One step that I invariably apply with all my clients when working on an important message is to help them distill their message down to one compelling sentence.  I call it the Main Takeaway Sentence.

For example, in the most viewed TED talk of all time (28 million views and counting), Sir Ken Robinson clearly articulates his Main Takeaway Sentence when he says, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

In a business setting, the Main Takeaway Sentence also has to answer the question that all audience members are asking: WIIFM or what’s-in-it-for-me?
Here are some examples from some recent coaching sessions with clients:
  • If you can authentically acknowledge someone at a deep level, you can sell to them and the whole process will feel easy and fun.
  • The new features of Xamarin 3 will make developing applications easier, faster, and more enjoyable.
  • To execute a successful Agile transformation, you must start with the big picture and look at each and every part of the organization in order to get it right.
Once you have defined the Main Takeaway Sentence, you have achieved two key objectives:
  1. You understand your message at the simplest level.
  2. You have a very clear editing criteria: Does this piece (slide, story, image, etc.) illustrate or support my Main Takeaway Sentence?
    If not, the piece doesn’t belong and should be cut.
    If you have too much material and it all fits the Main Takeaway Sentence, then simply pick the strongest points that are most likely to shift your audience point of view.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

If you apply this practice regularly, I predict you’ll find the phrase ”dumb down” just as ridiculous as I do.

—————————–
Author’s Postscript: This is the fourth in a series of Pet Peeves.  While the title includes “#5″, the numbering is NOT to be interpreted as any sort of ranking.  We’ll eventually aggregate my Pet Peeves into a ranked list.  I feel fairly confident this will be the first of many and a Top 10 List will not be hard to compile.  (Aarrgghh!!)

More Pet Peeves >>

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There are many tips for delivering a great presentation, and while it is important to grab your audience at the beginning, what you do at the end can make all the difference in your presentation’s overall impact and success.  Check out these tips from Eric Holtzclaw at Inc.

Getting rid of the “questions?” slide.

To start, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t end a presentation with a slide that asks “Questions?” Everyone does and there is nothing memorable about this approach.

Ideally, you should take questions throughout the presentation so that the question asked and the answer given is relevant to the content presented. If you choose to take questions at the end of your presentation, end instead with a strong image that relates to your presentation’s content.

Effective endings

To be truly effective, take questions and then finish with a closing that is as powerful as the beginning of your presentation.

Here are three techniques for creating a memorable ending include:

1. A quote

Use a quote that will stay with your audience members long after they leave the room.

I saw a fantastic presentation on what it takes to motivate a staff. The manager had provided a list of tips and techniques that worked for her, but I most strongly remember how she ended the presentation… read more>>

You can see Scott Harrison of charity:water‘s amazing use of a compelling story with an awesome call to action below.

 

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by Terry Gault

Periodically, I will be asked about how to effectively present data in ways that are meaningful for an audience.  The short answer to that question is, “Frame it in a story.”

That doesn’t give our clients enough to know how to do that step-by-step.  The following piece from ThinkWithGoogle offers some excellent suggestions on how to present your data in a meaningful story.

Most organizations recognize that being a successful, data-driven company requires skilled developers and analysts. Fewer grasp how to use data to tell a meaningful story that resonates both intellectually and emotionally with an audience. Marketers are responsible for this story; as such, they’re often the bridge between the data and those who need to learn something from it, or make decisions based on its analysis. As marketers, we can tailor the story to the audience and effectively use data visualization to complement our narrative. We know that data is powerful. But with a good story, it’s unforgettable.  Read More >>

Super Storytelling Resource >>

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Erica Groschler of TPS Consulting

When you hear “conflict” which of these statements ring true for you?

a)      Oh no, conflict is bad

b)      Conflict should be avoided

c)      It’s better not to stir the pot

d)      Someone did something wrong

e)      Bring it on!

Most of us are not comfortable engaging in conflict – whether at work or in our personal lives.  The messages we received while growing up shaped our thinking and core beliefs about conflict. These messages, (don’t rock the boat, conflict should be avoided at all costs, better not to bring it up) are often reinforced through the various environments we are immersed in – family, friends, school, community, and social groups.

Because a common belief is that conflict should be avoided, leaders and employees seldom step into dialogue about difficult issues that could get ‘messy’.  The negative affect of avoidance on interpersonal relationships comes with a high cost to the organization. Avoiding possible conflict tends to inflate issues and diminishes employee and organizational performance, ultimately influencing an organization’s culture – particularly if the conflict goes underground.

While there is no question that workplace conflict can be messy and at times daunting to address, you can develop the skills and knowledge required to proactively approach a conflict in order to get to resolution.  One model that can support the development of these advanced skills is the Drama Triangle.

Drama Triangle

This model has helped me personally and professionally, and has made a significant difference for many of the clients I’ve worked with through workplace conflicts. The Drama Triangle is something we are all familiar with as we have been socialized with it as young children:

Consider any children’s book you have read, or soap opera, TV drama or movie you have watched.  In every story, these key roles are at play:

  • Victim who has been unfairly treated (think princess in tower)
  • Villain who is taking advantage of the victim (think wicked witch or mean ogre)
  • Hero who is there to right a wrong and rescue the victim (think prince with shiny armour on horse)

Drama Triangle – A Workplace Example:

Abby and Charles have worked together for several years and have an amicable professional relationship.  They are friendly but don’t divulge too much personal information to one another.  Every week they go out with the team for coffee break and conversation is usually light – work gossip, plans for vacations and weekends, etc.

Abby and Charles have an interdependent relationship in terms of their work priorities and need one other to be successful. Both report to Bob who has been working with them for years.  Until recently there has never been an issue.

In the past month, Abby has been coming in late or leaving work early and, as a result, she has not been meeting her deadlines. This has caused Charles to miss his deadlines. Charles is frustrated with Abby because he prides himself on the quality and timeliness of his deliverables.  He feels his reputation is at stake.

Charles supposes there is something going on with Abby’s personal life but he’s hesitant to ask; he believes it’s not his place to probe about anything outside of work.  Meanwhile, he’s getting more and more upset with her but he’s afraid to raise it with her.

Charles has one good friend at work – Don – and shared his frustration about Abby and how it’s impacting his work.  Don has a somewhat closer relationship with Abby and has offered to step in and see if he can figure out what’s going on with Abby and maybe get her back on track.

Let’s look at this through the lens of the Drama Triangle:

 

Victims:

  • Charles is playing victim in this scenario because he is upset by Abby’s actions impacting his quality/timely work.
  • Abby may be a victim in this scenario as well due to the fact that she has personal issues going on at home.  Her mother was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and Abby is trying to juggle her mother’s care with her job.  She feels she is not getting the support she should be from her boss Bob (who knows her predicament), and Bob has not adjusted her workload to help her out.

Villains:

  • Charles is making Abby out to be the villain because she has not met her deadlines and it has negatively impacted his work.
  • Abby has made Bob a villain because he is not helping her out (even temporarily) as she tries to adjust.  Abby may also be making the organization a villain because the ‘company doesn’t help us out when we are stuck with these personal issues’.

Hero:

  • Don has stepped in quite easily to play the role of the hero and try to help smooth things over. He has offered to find out from Abby what is going on (enabling Charles to not have to talk with Abby about ‘this stuff’.)

Rather than Charles approaching Abby to share the impact on him and explore what may be going on for her, he is choosing to stew about it, talking about it with others and creating “Interpersonal Mush”. (Dr. Gervase Bushe, Clear Leadership).

According to Gervase, “most of the time conflict is due to interpersonal communication (aka miscommunication)”. He explains that miscommunication results in our sense-making – that is;

  • we make up stories based on what we know (and don’t know), then
  • we build up evidence to support our stories, then
  • we enroll others into our stories, then
  • we discard any facts that do not corroborate with our story, and
  • eventually our stories become our truths.

This “interpersonal mush” hampers the opportunity to create a culture of clear straight talk whereby real conversations occur so that people check out their stories with one another from a place of curiosity.  Beginning with curiosity invites a better understanding of each person’s perspectives. It is through open clear dialogue that they can reach resolution; this means stepping outside of the triangle and focusing on the issue.

Tips for Moving through your conflict

The following are a few tips to help you move from the drama triangle to clear communication:

-   Identify the issue

Clarify the real issue by identifying the facts that have occurred.  It’s easy to get caught in your story-making and feelings about the conflict versus focusing on the facts.  A great strategy is to pretend you have a video-camera replaying ‘what happened’ so that you only focus on the facts and don’t get caught with your thoughts and feelings about what happened.

-   Step outside the drama triangle

Acknowledge that every person usually feels hit as the ‘victim’ first.  Once you’ve acknowledged your inner victim and licked your wounds, focus on the key issue that upset you.  By making this as factual as possible and determining what a ‘win’ would be for everyone involved, you are stepping outside the triangle and maintaining objectivity versus personalizing the conflict.

-   Determine your want

Get clear about what you want as a result of exploring this conflict situation.  Until you determine this, it will be harder to get to a point of resolution.  It’s important that you can articulate this as you work through the conflict.

-   Determine your non-negotiables

Before engaging in a dialogue with the person you are in conflict with (i.e., who you’ve made out to be the villain), it will help you to identify  what you are willing to be flexible about and what are your non-negotiables.   Articulate this and provide context so they understand why these are important to you.

-   Be curious

It is very difficult in a conflict situation, when in our victim position, to consider any other perspective than our own.  If anything, we are looking for other people to corroborate our position and find a hero to right our wrong. If you are truly committed to resolution, you must listen and seek to understand the other person(s) perspective so you can better appreciate what the impacts have been on them.  This is the path to a realistic and sustainable resolution that works for all parties involved.

This model can help you talk through a conflict with someone:

(Young President’s Organization, Clean Talk, and Dr. Gervase Bushe, Clear Leadership)

Walking the Cube and Using Clean Talk

Observations  

  • State the data on which you base your assessments
  • State it objectively, like a video recorder
  • Whenever possible use their exact words
  • Be sure you have agreement on the data, or else limit the conversation to whatever data you can both agree on

Examples:

  • I noticed that ….
  • When…
  • When you….
  • Last week when you said….

Thoughts 

  • State your assessment or judgment
  • This is not necessarily the truth about anything
  • it is merely what you find yourself thinking
  • your thoughts…your story…your judgment
  • Use appropriate words to indicate the strength of your commitment to your assessment like:

Examples:

  • I firmly believe that…
  • It’s my opinion that…
  • It’s my story that….
  • It’s my fantasy that….
Wants 

  • State what you want from the other person
  • Include what you want for yourself
  • The more your want is measurable and specific, the better chance you have of getting it.
  • State your want in the positive – not the negative.

Avoid:

  • We, You or One
  • I need
  • I want you to know….
Feelings 

  • State your emotion
  • Use a real feeling word:
    • Happy
    • Angry
    • Sad
    • Afraid
    • Hurt

Remember that word that end in “ed” (like frustrated, betrayed, disrespected) point the finger – so avoid passive words like these.

If you want to use them then use them as thoughts/assessments not feelings.

 

In summary, being able to navigate through a conflict with clarity and objectively can allow a person to get clear about the issue, discuss the issue with those involved in a respectful and detached manner and find resolution.

For more information on Conflict Resolution and the Drama Triangle, check out Gary Harper’s  book on the “Joy of Conflict”

And for more on Clear Leadership and Interpersonal Mush

photo credit: mindaugasdanys

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