What Are You Waiting For?

My client kept saying, “Once I know whether I’m going to get this promotion, I will …”  She put her life on hold without realizing that waiting doesn’t change what’s happening now.

Although we don’t like to admit it, fear is usually the reason we keep looking to the future for certainty.  We may feel safer avoiding a tough conversation or the risk of making the wrong decision but what opportunities might be missed if we wait?

  • Making a relationship better
  • Broadening or deepening our skills
  • Exploring a new opportunity

I invite you to get out of your holding pattern by:

  1. Identifying what is keeping you there
  2. Envisioning what you want instead
  3. Taking the first step toward that vision right now…

Want to be a Better Negotiator?

Unless you are a professional negotiator you may not enjoy this aspect of doing business.  Many of us avoid negotiating because we don’t like confrontation, we are uncomfortable advocating for ourselves and/or we don’t want to lose.

Whether we are negotiating with a business partner or a family member, emotions can get the best of us.  The author of this Harvard Business Review article Emotion & the Art of Negotiation says, “Bringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process.”

One way to reduce negative emotions even in the most contentious negotiation is an exercise called “Just Like Me,” which asks us to consider:

  • This person has beliefs, perspectives and opinions, just like me.
  • This person has hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities, just like me.
  • This person has friends, family and perhaps children who love them, just like me.
  • This person wants to feel respected, appreciated and competent, just like me.
  • This person wishes for peace, joy and happiness, just like me.
  • Because this person is a human being, just like me.

I invite you to try making these statements out loud.  Then notice how you feel about the person on the other side of the negotiating table and envision how the outcome might change.

Ending Well

With December around the corner, I’m reminded of conversations with coaching clients about ending well.  At the end of a coaching engagement, we look back to where we started and review progress toward the objectives that were identified.  We also recall lessons learned and how to apply those going forward.  Then, we celebrate successes.

As you reflect on this past year, consider whether any of these questions could help you end well:

  • Whom do you need to forgive (including yourself)?
  • What conversation could clear the air and improve a relationship?
  • How can you take the high road?

I invite you to take action on at least one thing that will give you a reason to celebrate a success and end your year on a positive note.

I Feel Your Pain

Are you the person everyone comes to see when they need to vent?  Do you spend a lot of time comforting colleagues, friends and family members and then find yourself depressed and exhausted?

We are told that empathy is important in understanding how others feel, and yet it can drain us if we take on too many of someone else’s negative emotions.  Practicing compassion along with empathy enables us to relate to others who are suffering without becoming too distressed.  Taking actions such as avoiding blame, encouraging cooperation and giving to charitable causes helps us feel that we can make a difference and gives us strength to resist the temptation to wallow in someone else’s misery.

If you are a naturally empathetic person, I invite you to consider approaching the other person’s pain from your point of view rather than trying to mirror their feelings, and notice the impact on your mental health.

Need to have a Fierce Conversation?

In a recent webinar for the Society of Women Engineers, I had the opportunity to speak to more than 850 people about Fierce Conversations. You may be familiar with the book by Susan Scott, who defines a Fierce Conversation as one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. That means we have to be authentic and say what we mean. We have to resist the temptation to answer, “Everything is fine” when it really isn’t. We have to say what is true – in a way that others can hear it.

Often we avoid engaging someone in a conversation because we worry that they might feel hurt or get defensive. They might refuse to talk or get emotional. But Fierce Conversations can’t be dependent on how others respond. If you know something must change, then you’re the one who must change it. 

The Fierce Conversations model includes an opening statement in which you:
  1. Name the issue
  2. Provide a specific example of the behavior or situation you want to change
  3. Describe your emotions about this issue
  4. Clarify what is at stake
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve this issue
  7. Invite the other person to respond
Then you can:
  1. Listen and ensure that the other person feels understood
  2. Reach resolution and determine how to move forward
  3. Make an agreement and commit to holding each other accountable
As Susan Scott says, “Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. The quality of our lives is largely determined by the quality of the questions we ask – and the quality of our answers.”  
 
What Fierce Conversation do you need to have?

It’s Not Always About You

I received a very snarky comment on a team building evaluation recently and it really upset me. This was a particularly challenging group and I worked hard to give them what they needed to learn about themselves and each other and to practice communicating and collaborating while having fun.

Because the comment was harsh and not at all constructive, it threw me right into my stress behavior. I couldn’t focus on all the positive comments because all I could see was the negative one. It took me several days and multiple conversations with trusted advisors before I realized, “Maybe it wasn’t about me.” As I always tell my team building participants, “I teach this stuff and I still forget it sometimes.”

The person who made the comment obviously didn’t get what he needed in the session. If the evaluations hadn’t been anonymous, I would have asked him what was missing. Asking others what they need is a foundational practice I teach in team building. What I forgot is that focusing on the other person’s needs can be really difficult when I am not getting what I need.

The ideal scenario is to meet the other person halfway, but that requires two willing parties. Sometimes you have to go all the way to the other side to find out what they need. That might be easier if you remember that their behavior may not be about you.

Whom do you need to meet halfway?