Defense is our most practiced strategy when it comes to conversations, and most of the time our weakest game. Offense which implies using emotional intelligence; empathy the ability to listen and self-awareness the ability to listen to our assumptions and feelings is our best strategy. So how do we make the shift?
It is a very simple method where instead of arguing, you and your (partner, co-worker, friend) agree to mutually explore the assumptions that are at the root base of your point of view.
A classic example of how people jump to conclusions within personal relationships is when you share an insight with your partner only to receive a glazed over reply of acknowledgment, you then leap to the assumption that they are bored and then skip to the more damaging over generalization that they don’t care about your insight or plans you’ve been working on. So you tell them, “I’m disappointed in you.”
Here is the “learning organization method” to unlearn theses defensive habits of conversation, provided by Nick Zeniuk President of Interactive Learning Labs, a company that has evolved organizations to save and earn millions, by employing such techniques. In our Personal life I feel this is priceless.
- The comment “I’m disappointed in you.” gets listed under a heading: “What Was Said or Done.”
- The more critical data, goes under another column “Unspoken Thoughts or Feelings”; that the glazed over reply meant they were bored and not caring about your shared insight, others involved, and even your time together. In this column too, go your own feelings of hurt or anger.
- Then, Test these hidden assumptions against reality by talking about them. For instance we may discover that the glazed over reply was not from boredom but rather exhaustion due to a hard week at work or recent stressful news.
This exercise in learning to articulate what we are thinking and feeling – but not saying aloud – allows us to understand the hidden feelings and assumptions that can create otherwise inexplicable resentments and puzzling situations.
This practice brings together a large range of emotional intelligence skills beyond self-awareness, which allows us to articulate our feelings and view the assumptions being made. Empathy is needed to listen sensitively, when the heat would normally be turned on and frustration running high. And, social skills to be able to collaborate productively, in exploring these hidden differences – and loaded feelings – that surface.
What I found most powerful about this inner exploration and technique that has great applicability in the workplace – this approach saved Ford motor company over 60 million dollars on a single project – is Daniel Golemens statement that,
In a sense, the real conversations are the inner ones, if only because they reveal how people actually think and feel about what’s going on.
Take the step into cultivating your self-awareness today and explore the reality of your own defensive habits of conversation, and make the shift.