You spent time and energy preparing and holding an important conversation. You developed a useful purpose, acknowledged your conversation partner, and framed your message with skill. But, in spite of your best efforts, the situation does not improve: a direct report continues to be disrespectful; an important member of the team persists in showing up late or not at all; your teen's room remains a mess.
Chatting with my friend Amanda Ridings recently about lessons learned from our work, I realized that "fixing" is one that I continue to learn again and again. It seems to be in my nature to help, to offer, to be ready to do. I like that person in me who looks to solve problems and facilitate ease. It's just good to notice when I'm on autopilot and to be intentional about it.
It's an occupational hazard in my work. People come to trainings, request coaching, and look to my book, articles, and CDs perhaps hoping to be fixed. It's tempting. But....
When I think I'm the one with all the answers, here's what happens:
- I begin to believe I actually know what will help them.
- I begin to believe my answers are their answers.
- And I forget that all learning happens from the inside out.
After 21 years, I've gotten better at noticing when I'm on autopilot. I recall how I felt in Year One of Power & Presence Training, when I knew I didn't have the answers. I could only present the Aikido principles in physical form and ask the learner how it made sense for them, for their conflicts, their stress points, and their relationships.
I know this to be true:
Learning happens when the student has the Aha! When they understand something in a way they will never forget. They feel it in their bones, and they are changed because of that moment. I'm a lucky bystander.
It happened in Arizona recently when a student working through an Aikido movement had an insight...
What are the characteristics of a powerful presentation? Are you engaging your audience with every means available? What is your primary message and how will you convey it?
Whether presenting to an audience of one or one hundred, the quality and effectiveness of your presentation is influenced by many factors, and the most important factor is you. The success of a presentation is a direct result of your stage presence and your ability to communicate your core message.
Do tentative conversation skills get in the way of your work? Does lack of confidence stop you from offering a different opinion, saying no, or asking for what you want? As a conflict coach and introvert who engages in difficult conversations, I know we’re not born with these skills. It's all about understanding how to use your natural abilities and have the conversations you want to have with ease and true connection.
"Let's hope this is the worst thing that ever happens to me."
Have you ever said that to yourself in a moment of frustration? These minor energy drains can add significantly to your daily dose of stress. Or.... these "ki" moments can provide perfect practice opportunities to control your temper and improve your life, because ...
You'd think that after 21 years, I might have heard every possible response to the questions posed by the Aikido activities I use to engage participants in my workshops. Never. There's always a new way to view the activity, because the viewer has his or her own unique experience. That's just one of the many things that make my work so enjoyable.
I'd like to share two new insights with you today...
Is there a conversation you've been putting off? Is there a coworker or family member with whom you need to talk - but don't? Maybe you've tried and it didn't turn out as you had hoped. Or maybe you fear that talking will only make things worse. Whatever the reason, you feel stuck and you'd like to free up that energy for more useful purposes.
One of the most common reasons I hear in my workshops for not holding difficult conversations is that people don't know how to begin.
It was a difficult conversation with my husband, one of many on a theme that had followed us over the course of our 40-year marriage. I had made a statement that I thought reflected appreciation. However, he interpreted it as criticism and became upset. I could immediately see how the statement was misinterpreted and wanted to interrupt and tell him the real meaning and the mistake he'd made in thinking I meant something else.
"Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change.... And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with the resignation of power, and power with the denial of love.... Now we've got to get this thing right. What [we need to realize is] that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love withought power is sentimental and anemic.... It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Where do We Go From Here?"
Sometimes I feel discouraged, as the hymn goes, and think my life's in vain. There's certainly enough discouraging news. How can I help? What can I do to create more peace, justice, and love in the world? When I begin to feel helpless, I think of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and I understand that everyday I have the opportunity to make a difference--in the way I greet and interact with fellow travellers on this planet, in the work I do, and in the causes in which I invest my time and energy. A smile at the right time, a listening ear, focused presence on one who needs connection, all of these I can do. The energy emanates outward as ripples from a pebble thrown into a pond.
I've always loved the Chinese proverb:
"Unless we change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed."
What direction are you headed?
At this time of year in particular I tend to think about my direction, whether it's purposeful, and what obstacles might derail me.
Although Carrol Suzuki and I have not met, I subscribe to her blog. Her brief, cogent meditation on effective listening is a wonderful practice and a timely reminder on how to keep myself from veering off the path of peace, presence, and positive intention.
Carrol gave me permission to republish "Keeping it on the Road." I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Wishing you good ki and safe travels this year!