How do I reach people I disagree with?

Disagree

As a senior vice president, I used to sit around the table at corporate boardrooms and listen to varying opinions about the business.  Some I agreed with – others I did not.  When I experienced disagreement rising, I could feel my energy building towards argument and a need to somehow convince the other person about why I was right; the other wrong.

Such feelings are common.  It happens to each of us at various times in our professional and personal experience.  In coaching, we invite our clients to work towards “reaching others where they are,” which provides a means to bridge those gaps between humans.

Our journey bridging those gaps begins with the understanding of a concept called “Resistance.”  Resistance is really a basic form of energy.  It is effectively used by each of us to protect us from the unknown, which can include anything from fearing a roller coaster as a youngster to hearing a new idea in the corporate board room and quickly concluding that it might hinder our own efforts or even harm the company.

When we encounter an idea that is new to us, or that runs counter to what we “always” have done, we feel a resistance inside us.  As a coach I invite clients to “lean into” that resistance with curiosity and appreciative inquiry, helping them build awareness about the issue or idea before moving to action.

Rick Maurer who authored “Beyond the Wall of Resistance,” cogently explains resistance. Under ordinary conditions, it is experienced in three ways:

  • The first is “I don’t understand it,” which means you don’t “get” the concept or idea. Once sufficiently explained by the promoter of the idea, this particular “wall” of resistance generally disappears.
  • The second is “I don’t like it,” which could mean that the person presenting the idea keeps forcing the issue without fully explaining it. A wall goes up that is a stronger level of resistance.
  • The third is a high wall. If someone doesn’t understand the idea and comes to dislike it and the individual who is selling it, the outcome can move to “I don’t like you.”

In coaching, we work with clients to open themselves up to possibilities when dealing with others and to be willing to let curiosity be their mantra and appreciative inquiry and active listening their guide.  When we meet others as people and learn their viewpoints, the goal is not to win them over.  It is to overcome our own resistance, lean into theirs with curiosity, and then join with them and to learn about their ideas.  We can, by intention, choose to not move towards convincing the other person about anything else except our good will and openness to hearing them out.  Only when we have established a connection with another can we invite the other to hear our thoughts.

Marilee Adams describes two approaches – you can be a “judger” or you can be a “learner.”  The first leads us to draw conclusions about others nearly instantaneously.  We look at their looks, their actions, their mannerisms, their tone – and sometimes even their words – and then draw conclusions about them.  It is a fool’s errand to do so.  The latter approach – that of being a learner, allows us to understand someone else’s journey and approach in life.  It even invites us to learn more about their heart.

Similarly, we can do that by gauging the capabilities of others and never assuming their intentions.

I have worked with many clients who begin the coaching engagement by relating someone who works with them who “just doesn’t get it.”  I explore this viewpoint with them by asking questions like, “Please tell me what that person does get,” and then follow it up in-depth with questions about just how much they know about the other individual, including the challenges and the “backpack” she or he is carrying.  It’s always illuminating for someone to set as a goal learning about the “other,” rather than judging them and hiding behind Maurer’s third wall.

A quote from a professional hostage negotiator might seem like a strange place to conclude this Blog.  Christopher Voss, in a Wall Street Journal interview, speaks articulately about the neuroscience involved in just listening and then summarizing what another person says.  He relates:

“You want the other person to get a hit of oxytocin. You’re going to get that by getting them to say: “That’s right.” You do this by listening and then really summarizing their perspective for them. You especially want to focus on articulating any negative thoughts they have. Don’t dispute or deny them. When the word “but” comes out of your mouth you are denying and it is time to shut up.

Once you’ve articulated their perspective for them, they feel understood. And a person who feels understood is getting a feel-good wave of chemicals in their brain. The one you are really going for is oxytocin, the bonding chemical. Once they get a hit of oxytocin, everything is going to change. They’ll feel bonded to you. And if they feel bonded, whether it’s a little or a lot, that’s to your advantage.”

In these stressful times, each of us feels resistance about so much – if we set our goal at reaching others, rather than winning, that might just be the best way to start.

This article originally appeared on bostonexecutivecoaches.com

Why Can’t People Just Stop and Listen? “The Power in Pause”

stop and listen

I remember hearing a joke about a young man on a blind date. Over dinner, he spent hours providing his date with non-stop detail about his life, his thoughts, and his feelings.

At some point, though, in a rare moment of introspection, he must have recognized that perhaps he had talked too much and had not asked questions or, for that matter, even stopped to think or listen.  So, he quickly asked, “Well, that’s enough of me talking – tell me what you think of me!”

Few leaders suffer from such communication issues, but many fall into the trap of failing to take the time to listen, to be attentive, and to give space so that the other person or team members can feel themselves invited into the conversation.

Such leaders are thus limited in their ability to be attentive to others.  In order to provide that opening, they need to stop for a moment, to allow the other person to collect their thoughts and formulate an answer.  I call it  “the power in pause.” Read More…

I’m So Busy – How Do I Prepare for a Meeting?

Busy people

You’re a busy manager and it’s Sunday evening.  You’re trying to get ready for the upcoming week.  You log onto your work calendar and incredulously look at your Monday schedule wide-eyed.   You are booked with continuous back-to-back meetings from 7 am until 6 pm!

“What happened?” you ask yourself.  Then you remember that a dozen people have access to your calendar and, being the ultimate pleaser, you have agreed to every meeting request.  Without realizing it, you have set yourself up.  It looks as if you will have no down time at all during the day.

And you won’t have something else:  The ability to mentally and physically prepare for each scheduled meeting.  From one-on-ones to team sessions, you will jump from conference room to office and back again continuously.  And at the end of the day, you will try to make meaning of it all.

“I’m just incredibly busy – and that’s the way it is,” some clients tell me.  Others try to convince themselves – and me –  that they are exceptionally good at multi-tasking, and besides, “I just facilitate the sessions and direct others – I don’t need to do the work that comes out of the meeting.” Read More…

How Do I Give Feedback To My People?

Giving Feedback

You’ve made it into a leadership position. You are finally a manager! You take the new job seriously, knowing that the responsibilities include meeting strategic goals, managing budgets, and making presentations to senior management. Those challenges are daunting, but you feel well prepared, due to your background, education, and business experience.

And yet there is one area with which you are uncomfortable – the ability to give feedback to the women and men on your team!

While your formal education likely focused on balance sheets, corporate finance, and strategic planning, the idea of giving meaningful perceptions about professional growth to others was likely not formalized – and it was probably left to your own devices and experience.

Many clients with whom I have worked were not provided much in the way of meaningful, timely feedback or instructions on how to do it. For some, even if it was taught, such training was limited, and for most individuals, regrettably, it was a bit of an afterthought. Read More…

How Do I Find Hope?

Quoc Pham - Photo provided by Dave Bushy

by Dave Bushy

“Always Have Hope.”

This philosophy informs the simplest and most profound outlook humans can hold in their hearts.  It is a quote from one of the men I admired most in the world.

I often ask those around me how they feel about the times in which we live. Many point to the headlines and express various emotions, including a declining sense of confidence, a level of fear they have not had previously, or, sadly, a void in their own sense of hope. They struggle to find the armor of optimism that will allow them to gain perspective and realize that this world has always had enormous challenges and has inevitably overcome them.

Perhaps it is the endless nature of the news and social media cycle that weighs on everyone today. But many of the feelings we have originate within each of us, for it is we who do the work of convincing ourselves, allowing our perspectives to be overshadowed by emotions and the weight of “information” overload that currently exists in our society today.

But we have choice. And we can choose to lean into our own curiosity and regain critical thinking that will allow us to begin to see other possibilities in today’s world, helping us to understand that the totality of today’s issues, while daunting, are not insurmountable. We can once again allow hope to inform our journey in the process. Read More…

Attend to Others – Give Them the Gift of Yourself

Listening

I learn from every client.  One lesson in particular that comes to mind came from a young leader with whom I recently worked.

My client was extremely curious about how others saw her.  She worked hard at becoming aware of her own well-developed sides and those she discerned might be less developed.  She was a veritable sponge for learning!

Her growth as a leader was amazing, as she honed skills at dealing with others who might have different styles and perspectives, recognizing her own resistance to change and then setting judgment aside, using the lens of learning and appreciation for others. She worked hard in listening and in taking the time to pause.  It was a remarkable journey to watch. Read More…

The Leader as a “Heat Sink”

In everything from soldering circuit boards to dissipating the thermal energy created by computer server farms, the technological world appreciates the value of a “heat sink.”  Without heat sinks, we would have far more component hiccups or even outright failures.

Heat sinks serve a vital purpose in dissipating energy and allowing a device to function.

But what happens when the leader becomes the metaphorical “heat sink,” taking in all or most of the heat and energy that is emanated from the crisis, the organization and the people with whom he or she is dealing?

Coaching women and men these past four months, I have found myself using this heat sink metaphor often  – inviting the leaders who deal with the current crisis to think about the human emotion and “heat” that has been built up on their teams and themselves.  Some of the calmest and most centered individuals I know today are now struggling as never before, with the weighty issues and unknowns facing their personal and professional world.  And the “heat” from that often finds its way into a ready conduit – the leader himself.  Some call it stress, others call it workload.  My clients readily appreciate the metaphor of “heat.” Read More…

The Two Best Bosses You’ll Ever Have – Continuing Lessons From My First Sergeant

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was sitting with another G.I., commenting about my commander in the military.  The animated discussion I was engaged in was with a non-commissioned officer – a “NCO” –  commiserating about actions my commander had taken and how I wish he could somehow be different.

The NCO, a U.S. Army E-8, listened intently and heard my complaints – and my venting – for long minutes.  When I finally stopped, he simply smiled and asked,

“So who are the two best bosses you’ll ever have in your career?”

Non-plussed by the question, I sat there in silence, not really knowing what to say.  By then I had spent enough time in the Army, though, to realize that a senior NCO draws on a lifetime of experience leading people.  For those open to learning, top sergeants are always ready to provide perspectives, often in the form of parables or aphorisms. Read More…

The Path to Reopening: Leadership in Times of Crisis

In the past two months, I have had the opportunity to witness teams facing the most challenging situations they have ever experienced. It is an honor to be working with such remarkable leaders during these times, be they involved with companies, governmental groups, or non-profit organizations.

Daily, I learn how they regularly meet the challenges of this crisis.  The teams and their leaders do it with ingenuity, caring, and a focus on problem-solving and learning.  While each story is unique, there is a remarkable consistency in how the best leaders and the strongest teams approach the situations they are now facing.

The path to reopening is a subject that is both fraught with emotion and shaded with a multitude of opinions.  The teams that meet the challenges seek to embrace and understand those aspects of the crisis and then bring to bear tools that serve them in any circumstance. Read More…

Leadership in Times of Crisis: Vulnerability as a Strength

Leaders emerge during times of crisis, formal titles or not.  They provide support, strength, and vision for those around them.  And they give something else of themselves: vulnerability.

Our presence as leaders is not only about projections or manifestations of strength.  It is about being open to the concept of vulnerability – which, paradoxically, in and of itself is a strength.

Is there anyone in the world today who does not feel vulnerable?

In speaking with leaders in recent days, I find that many are struggling with their personal situations (working at home with young children, for instance), as well as their own insecurities and fears.  They confess to me that they are reluctant to tell others what they are experiencing, although they realize the emotions they feel are universal.  These leaders sometimes conclude that telling others what they are experiencing might be a sign of weakness.

I ask my clients “What do you feel vulnerable about now?” and “How would it serve you and your team by talking about it?”  Also, “How can you best establish a connection with your people during this crisis?”  Finally, “What do you think your people concerned about?”

What emerges from their answers?   That opening up on a personal level is what people need.  And a leader who speaks of his or her own challenges opens up the possibilities for others to speak about theirs.  That solidifies the connection – that human contact – which is so important to each of us. Read More…