Category Archives: interpersonal communication

Innovation: Why We Need to Connect with Each Other

Click on this post to view a short fun video that shows us that the connected mind is where good ideas come from.

How to Get Out of the Drama

We say we don’t want drama in our lives, especially in our interactions at work. Drama usually means unpleasantness, frustration, conflict, lack of productivity.

If it meant “real drama,” i.e. the joy and sadness of life, or dramatic performances that make us feel and reflect, it would be OK. It’s the unnecessary drama, the interpersonal politics, the constant irritants that we don’t want. They take up energy and distract us from getting important things done.

WHY is there drama?

As any team member or manager knows, people tend to play non-productive games in times of stress, when they feel threatened, or when they are bored.

Some people can stir up tension with remarkable regularity. Others fall into drama in response to triggers such as layoffs, new policies, rumors of closings or reorganizations, complaints, and either getting too much direction or too little, either too much feedback or too little.

In other words, workplace drama has plenty of possible material. If asked, most people would say they don’t participate or don’t want to.

We all play games some of the time.

Few people are skillful at recognizing their own hooks that get games started or keep them going. Dr. Eric Berne’s 1962 bestseller, Games People Play, named this phenomenon and began to provide clues to getting out of the drama. His student, Dr. Steve Karpman, contributed the Karpman Drama Triangle, capturing the three main roles of Rescuer, Persecutor, and Victim, which we all play when we engage in games. And yes, we all do engage in games some of the time.

The more hooked we are, the harder it may be to recognize that we are indeed participating. It is helpful in avoiding games to be very open to recognizing how we are hooked and the roles we play out.

Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim Roles

If we are overtly critical and harsh with others, we are playing the Persecutor role. If we are often going out of our way to fix and solve things for others at our own expense, we are playing the Rescuer. If we keep finding that people let us down and we get the short end of the stick, we know something of the Victim.

As a rule, we do not want to see it when we are hooked, so it can take active investigation to uncover how we are keeping an undesirable situation going. All these roles can come in socially acceptable disguises.

If something’s happening that is non-productive, especially if it seems repetitive, it’s likely that people are playing all the roles; Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor; in some way.

Dissolve the myths

The way out of the drama begins with yourself. You have to dissolve the myths that go with the roles, usually beliefs that diminish your ability to stay positive and get on with it.

· To move out of Persecutor, you might have to see that the other person’s point of view makes some sense too.

· Moving out of Rescuer might mean saying a difficult “No.”

· Whenever you think you are someone else’s Victim, remember how you got here and what choices you are making now.

Almost always, drama conceals feelings and wishes that have not been communicated. Unspoken requests and expectations leave room for people to create their own dramas, feeling judged and thus victimized, or judging others from a persecuting or rescuing perspective.

Clarify requests and agreements

A very good bet for stepping out of the drama and on to whatever is next is to clarify any requests or agreements that you have with the other person. “You agreed to have that report done by today and I haven’t seen anything about it so far. Is it under way?” is a lot better than worrying and glaring, and having the other person spend their time figuring out what you might be upset about.

A genuine tone of clarifying, rather than a disguised Persecutor or Rescuer attitude, will come across as intended. If you step into the other person’s shoes and listen from their standpoint, you can probably tell if you are coming across with a hint of judgment.
This is the hardest and most important part of stopping drama — owning your part of it.

Don’t see your part of it?

When your part is hard to figure out, and the drama is continuing, it is time to ask a friend or a professional for coaching. Someone else’s observations may help you recognize the unintended, unconscious, but still active, ways that you are participating, and help you see new options.

One thing for sure: if you blame the situation or the other person and don’t find new actions for yourself to take, your claim not to want the drama doesn’t hold up.

Once you, and hopefully, the other person, are out of the cycle of drama, it might be worth a good laugh and a reminder not to take anything too seriously.

Read the whole newsletter here.

Lucy Freedman interview March 16

Tune in to my interview on Hollis Polk’s internet radio show,
“Your Life, Your Relationships”
on Wed., 3/16 @ 3PM PDT!

Listen live at Progressive Radio Network!

Afterward you will be able to download the podcast at that address.

We will start off with the topic of my latest blog on Integrity –
and who knows where we will go from there!

Also, Hollis takes phone calls from listeners during the show.
Hope you can join us.

Everyday Integrity

How often do we betray ourselves or others?

One of our most highly valued – and highly defended – qualities is integrity. Who doesn’t aspire to wholeness, accountability, and honesty in our actions and relationships?

The interesting aspect of this is how we can hold these intentions and then in daily life slide away from them, mostly outside of our own awareness.

We can ask ourselves: what is so important to us about believing in our own integrity?

We know from childhood on that being in integrity – telling the truth, being trusted, taking actions that lead toward what we care about – feels a lot better than lying, cheating, or breaking promises. It is a significant aspect of self-esteem for most people.

Integrity in the sense of making and keeping one’s agreements is practical as well. When you don’t know that someone will do what they say they will do, it’s very hard to organize, plan, and deliver results.

We may not think we are losing integrity when a deadline passes without acknowledgment, or when we make excuses to ourselves for not doing what we promised.We aren’t living up to our own expectations. Then we tend to get out of integrity with others as well.

Bit by bit, not keeping agreements without renegotiating them nibbles away at both integrity and self-esteem.

I would add that this happens when we are not honest with ourselves about our own feelings and needs. Short-term thinking, such as, “I can let it go this time,” leads us not to tell others when we are hurt or something we care about is being trashed. Or, “I shouldn’t be upset. They didn’t mean to step on my toe.”

We gradually lose the sense of our center and our boundaries. The other person doesn’t know they should remove their foot.

This is not to say that we should confront every single disappointment. We need to know where to draw our own line and what is really not worth fussing about.

If we practice reflection, meditation, or other forms of introspection, we can check our internal compass and guide ourselves back into balance.

Sometimes that will involve being courageous enough to clear up an issue with someone else. Doing it with integrity would mean owning that we are speaking about our own responses and feelings, accounting for our part of the situation, and taking responsibility for what we will do in the future to avoid similar breakdowns.

Or we can decide to release our negative feelings without discussing them with the other person – if we really do release them.

The way that I can tell I that I am out of integrity is when my internal conversation is one of justification. I make a case for the rightness of my position and how the other person is wrong. I am more likely to complain than to make a clear request.

Several of the common justifications to watch out for are ways of discounting oneself, the other, or the situation. For example, “She’s just not able to handle feedback,” so I don’t give it. “I am not good at conflict. I’d rather work it out by myself.” “It won’t do any good anyway. Things around here never change.” They definitely won’t change if no one speaks up.

Real integrity requires a good deal of skill, not just good intentions. As we mature, we need to examine our own abilities and keep expanding them.

One of the main benefits of practicing the Syntax of Effective Communication is that it keeps us in integrity. That means knowing our goals, both the big picture and the details (PLAN). It means meeting other people where they are (LINK). Getting and giving relevant accurate information keeps us in integrity (INFORM). Taking in feedback and making changes is part of our integrity (LEARN). And, as mentioned before, making requests and keeping agreements is central (BALANCE).

Is there something you are holding onto and justifying today, on which you could instead take a new approach?

Who are the role models whose integrity you admire?

What are the potholes you tend to fall into and what are you doing to build the muscles that keep you out of them?

Integrity is a huge subject and there is much more worth exploring. The only time we have to live it is today. May these thoughts inspire and encourage us as we step through today in wholeness, accountability, and above all, honesty with ourselves.

Radical Cooperation

Small efforts make a big difference

We may take for granted the extent that we rely on good communication to get things done every day. The central skill of people who are great to work with is excellent communication. They are able to
articulate goals
build rapport
make clear requests
keep their agreements
provide information that is low on distortion and high in relevant detail
pay attention to results and learn as they go.

What does it take to be one of these people? It takes a mindset that breaks away from much of our cultural / business programming, and overrides reptilian responses. It takes a willingness to back good intentions with conscious attention.

This is radical. Radical means going to the root. If we keep in mind the purpose of our communication — i.e. go to the root — and focus on what will forward the action, we are aligned and powerful.

I work on a number of committees and teams, as I am sure you do. Everyone’s time is tight. We are all dealing with life stresses, some more than others. This pressure, along with inner voices such as, “Don’t rock the boat,” “It’s not my job,”or “They should know this already,” lets us off the hook.

It’s not that we need to carry others’ responsibilities, just raise the bar for ourselves, creating ripples of rapport and accuracy rather than conflict and confusion. If you care about the results and have the courage to act, even in little ways, you can help create the kind of workplace where people want to do their best.

If we willingly take one extra step to do any one of the following when we see an opportunity, that radical act can change the outcome.

We can:
include relevant details
provide a sentence of background
turn a complaint into a clear request
pause to get in sync with another’s tempo
read colleagues’ messages all the way through before replying
prepare an agenda or a summary
express sincere appreciation
think ahead about what we want out of the conversation
ask the other person what they want out of the conversation
find out how to spell their name
send copies to those who need to know and take off the “reply all” addresses who don’t need it
bring attention back to the goal of the conversation
I know, it’s a lot to ask…really??

Even those small actions that are unsung or don’t seem to make a difference in the moment are activating good will and generosity, at least for us. And most likely taking annoyance and stress down a notch or two.

Unless, of course, we do any of these actions with an attitude of smugness. No one likes a righteous radical!

If radical cooperation catches on, who knows, we might start having a ridiculous amount of success and fun getting things done. Go ahead, do something radical today!

Communicators’ Rule No. 1

What is the biggest obstacle we face when we are dealing with a communication breakdown? Whether it’s the spouse not doing XYZ when they said they would, the boss who isn’t hearing how overloaded we are, or the customer being difficult, we can be blocked by the “common cold” of communication: making someone wrong.

In our own thinking, we document our side of the case and its reasonableness. Of course we are right. That means the other person must be wrong. What is up with them?

Discussions intended to prove our position and clear everything up – just speaking my truth, you know – don’t have a high rate of success.

Years ago I learned from master teacher David Crump, in his famous Essential Experience Workshop, to remember Rule No. 1.

It is simply, “No one is made wrong.”

This was especially challenging for people who were tapping into anger and disappointment from their childhoods, or people who were certain that if the other person in their life would just change, things would be fine. When we heard stories that would lead us to judge someone as hopelessly and maybe harmfully wrong, David would suggest that we all “take a bath in Rule No. 1.”

Sitting with the intention to make no one wrong eventually produced a deeper, different way of resolving the issue. Often it led to a healing that had seemed impossible.

Most of the time, we run more subtle versions of making people wrong. It’s an easy trap to fall into when something is not working out according to expectations – or when we are not clear ourselves or are afraid of speaking up.

Even more insidious is how we make ourselves wrong. “No one is made wrong” includes us.

Three things to keep in mind about this right-wrong bias:

1. It always has a cost. Whatever your argument, whatever your “rightness” in the situation, being right will come at the cost of someone being wrong. That will come back to bite you one way or another.
2. You do not need to give up your position, your choices, or your perceptions. Knowing that the other person has different perceptions doesn’t mean that one is right and one is wrong.
3. Getting hooked is an opportunity to learn. When you find yourself stewing or feeling old familiar feelings, use the opportunity to catch the thread of one of your own old stories: how you are a victim or how other people don’t measure up. By yourself or with a skillful friend or therapist, follow the thread and release energy that has been bound up in that story.

As a communicator, the first and perhaps most helpful thing you can do in communication breakdowns is to invoke Rule No. 1. The process of adopting it may take a little while. Once people get there, there is room for everyone to be heard. Forward motion becomes more likely.

This is a good time of year to bring Rule No. 1 into our conscious awareness, as shorter days, family gatherings, and work demands may all bring up sensitive feelings and interpersonal pressures.

While you’re feeling buoyant and anticipating the coming months, set yourself a reminder that when things start to get touchy, no one – including yourself – will be made wrong. It’s quite possible that this will lead to a new level of mutual understanding.

What Can Communication Coaching Do For You?

Especially at work, what we communicate is who we are. As leaders and co-workers, we enhance or detract from the success of our enterprise with the communication competence we demonstrate. This is a skill set that has to grow to keep pace with complexity.
Working with a communication coach is a high-leverage way to accomplish several objectives at once:
-dedicating time and focus to this crucial area of your work life
-learning new skills tailored to your style and your goals
-and, perhaps most important, having an observer who can give you feedback and a place to test your thinking.

Many well-known C-level executives and other leaders rely on coaches, particularly to prepare for communication situations. If you want to reduce the stress and optimize your traction in communicating, it is likely that your HR folks or your department’s budget can provide funds for coaching.

No longer seen as remedial, communication coaching is fuel for career advancement and business success. For entrepreneurs, the return on investment is easy to measure through direct results.

Some criteria for selecting a communication coach:
– they make a clear contract for a number of sessions and / or a measurable outcome
– they do not have a conflicting relationship with you, i.e. they are not your boss or your best friend
– they are able to explain their approach, the communication models or assessments they use, and how this is applicable to your goals
-they will have an introductory conversation with you to determine best fit.

One of the criteria for choosing a coach is what you can learn from him or her. Coaches who are skilled with communication models help you put them into practice on a daily basis.

We all have blind spots, or simply preferences that don’t match up with those of co-workers or customers. Coaching can help prevent breakdowns or help us learn from them. An extra benefit is getting a reality check from a trusted advisor. Priceless.

We live in an amazingly complex world and an information-rich environment. The more intelligence you bring to it, the more you gain. Communication coaching helps you focus on what matters most to reach your goals. If you’re ready, let’s talk!

Nothing Substitutes for Attention

Attention is the essence of who we are, the elixir of communicating with others.

There’s an old saying that “The master’s gaze fattens the flock.” Our full attention to what we are doing and the people around us fattens the flock of our dreams. Especially now, with distractions pulling at us constantly, we are challenged to focus our attention on our priorities.

Hurrying and overload both diminish the quality of attention we can pay to both people and details.

The wastefulness of hurrying was underscored last week as I exchanged email messages about a business transaction. Some of the details came through garbled. I asked for clarification. Rather than reading her own email to see what I was asking, the sender sent me an explanatory attachment which did not at all clear up the garble. It took us three more exchanges plus apologies and extra phone messages before we backed out of that minor mis-communication. Nothing substitutes for actually looking at the details.

Hurrying leads to such things as sending on an email message without changing the subject line, hitting ‘reply all’ to avoid choosing the relevant recipients, jumping to conclusions rather than listening. Then we have to hurry even more to undo all those extra steps.

Overload makes it hard to focus and keep track of what is important to us. It’s good to remind ourselves that giving attention to too many things means we are giving full attention to nothing. If we have been on the run too long, we can get locked into overdrive. Those around us never receive that long loving look or deep listening from someone they trust. We don’t tap into our deeper resources for ourselves either. Nothing substitutes for attention to people.

Sometimes we get stuck, whether in overdrive, or in obsessing about something in the past or future that we cannot influence in this moment.

Even when we think there is no time, it is helpful to step out of the rush, shake loose from demands, worries, and trivia, and take an inventory of where our attention is. Come into the present, feel your physical self, take a breath, clear your mind.

Discover again what matters, and put your full attention there. With attention, time is well spent.