Do you want to resolve your conflict?  Let go of your perspective. 

Standard
Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Last week a friend posted a cartoon on Facebook that purported to explain “white privilege.”  This stirred up all kinds of controversy in the comments, including a link to a counter cartoon.

The trouble is I could see elements of truth in both cartoons.

It has been my observation that many, if not most (or more!), conflicts arise over a refusal to consider the other person’s perspective.  Perhaps refusal is too strong, but at the very least an inability and at worst a refusal to walk in someone else’s shoes is an element of almost any conflict.

Looking from Other Perspectives:

If you want to resolve a conflict, you must begin by seeing the situation from the other person’s perspective.  This concept is echoed by many experts:

Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton:

Whether you are making a deal or settling a dispute, differences are defined by the difference between your thinking and theirs.  (Getting to Yes, loc. 685)

Mark Goulston, John Ullmen:

To practice connected influence, you need to break down the barriers that keep you from knowing what other people think, want, and need.   (Real Influence, p. 81)

John Maxwell:

If you want to connect with others, you have to get over yourself.  You have to change the focus from inward to outward, off of yourself and onto others.  (Everyone Communicates Few Connect p. 29)

Stuart Diamond:

People like to give things to others who listen to them, who value them, who consult with them.  (p. 32)

Stephen R. Covey:

If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.  (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 237)

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler:

People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool [of meaning] – even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs.  (Crucial Conversations, p. 24)

There is no way to resolve a conflict until you are able to hear and understand all parties involved.

The Struggle is Real:

While it is a natural human condition to be concerned primarily for oneself, it is not conducive to living peacefully with others.  Everyone has challenges.  Some are monumental challenges – a family member struggling with cancer, the loss of a job and financial struggles.  Others are less so – an extended bout of bronchitis, an unexpected expensive car repair.  However, the size of the struggle is in the eye of the experiencer.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

This became abundantly clear to my family about 7 years ago.  My niece was born a micro premie, with a birth weight under 2 pounds.  As you can imagine, this instigated a season of intense struggle and incredible challenges.

I am very proud of my sister and her family for how they came through the first year or so, and today they are all doing very well.  However, in those early days she received very little support from her church and other friends, to my mind shockingly little.  The simple reason was that the people around her had their own struggles to deal with and were unable to see my sister through her struggle.

My sister had the opportunity to become very bitter and resentful, but she didn’t.  Instead she taught me the truth I am sharing with you – that everyone sees the world through their own lens, and you can’t blame them for that.

The ability to step back and view the world from someone else’s perspective requires a level of maturity not required under normal circumstances.  Many people don’t recognize the need for it until they are in the moment and find themselves lacking.

A New Approach:

In the commentary under my friend’s post, most comments were between a very angry woman and a very exasperated man.  In both of their comments I could hear their pain; it was clear both had had very hurtful experiences, but I don’t think they could detect it in each other.  Instead, they just kept jabbing at each other, increasing the anger and resentment they already felt.

What if … just imagine, if instead of reacting out of our own hurt, maybe, just maybe, we were able to ask instead, “tell me what happened to cause you to react this way?”  How could things be different if we only listened, really listened and tried to understand each other’s stories?

 

Resources:

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Everyone Communicates Few Connect: What the Most Effect People Do Differently.  John C. Maxwell.

Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life.  Stuart Diamond.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In.  Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton.

Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing, Gain without Giving In.  Mark Goulston, John Ullmen.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.  Stephen R. Covey.

Read more about my sister’s story here:  Born at 26 Weeks Weighing Under 2 Pounds, This Happy Girl Shows Why We Stand for Life

 

The 101% Principle – a Key to Connected Influence

Standard

I once worked with a woman who rubbed just about everyone in the office the wrong way.  She was really good at her job, as she and I had some shared interests, but we never bonded.  By the end of my time with that employer, I found it very difficult to socialize with her, though I still managed to work with her on professional matters.

IMG_0640

August 2015. Photo by Tasha M. Troy

I tell my students that any time you have two or more people in the same room, you’ll have disagreement and possibly conflict.  No one agrees 100% on everything.

However, it seems some people thrive on focusing on areas of disagreement while others seem able to get along with everyone.  What could their secret be?

John Maxwell, the most prolific leadership writer, talks about the “101% Principle,” which states that when you are interacting with anyone, you should look for the 1% you agree on, then give it 100% of your effort.  I believe this is the secret great connectors understand.

11896470_10207431612973654_1858578553449445777_o

A special moment with my mentor John Maxwell. Photo by Christian Del Rosario.

In order to give that 1% agreement your full effort, you have to take your attention completely off of yourself.  This is exactly what not only John Maxwell says but also Mark Goulston and John Ullmen in their book Real Influence.

While I sincerely believe any two people can not agree on all points, I equally believe the inverse is true – you’ll never find someone with whom you have nothing in common.  I challenge you to become a “common ground detective” with everyone you meet.  You will be surprised by what you discover!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Four Barriers to Connection – The Double Curse of Knowledge

Standard

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”IMG_7296

If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m wrapping up a short series on the four barriers to connection.

 

The Barrier:

The fourth and final barrier is called the double curse of knowledge. Barrier number three was about when you are wrong; barrier number four is about when you are right.

Many times we are so familiar with our topic that everything seems obvious to us, but to people less familiar, there might be large gaps of understanding when we try to explain our ideas or our position.

In the book Real Influence, authors Mark Goulston and John Ullmen describe this barrier as “it isn’t just about them not getting you. It’s also about you not getting them” (p. 31).

They say “the best influencers… understand that the double curse of knowledge is in play in all of their interactions. These people realize that it’s all too easy to overestimate their own clarity when they’re communicating, and they are aware that they’re not always getting the full message when other people are trying to get through. It’s this knowledge that saves them from appearing arrogant and condescending when people just don’t get it.”

A Personal Story:

A few years ago, had a student who was extremely resistant to feedback, or even doing the assignments as they were assigned. For six months, the faculty struggled to connect with the student and to convince him to cooperate by doing the assignments as required.

Finally, during the last couple months of the program, I had him as my student in a writing class. Each week he was required to submit a short assignment on a specific topic, but week after week he submitted something completely different.

Finally it got to the point where he was in danger of failing not only my class but the entire eight month program.  I sat down with him to convince him to complete his assignments so that he could pass the class.  During our conversation, it came out that he was trying to prepare an article for publication, and he would really rather have feedback and editing on that particular article rather than on the assignments that he was required to complete.

Once I understood his perspective, what his priorities were, I was able to propose a solution that he found acceptable. After our meeting, he completed all of his assignments as expected and was able to complete the program successfully.

The Solution:

The solution to the double curse of knowledge is to keep aware of your audience, to do comprehension checks regularly, and to not make assumptions about their background knowledge.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.   One of the connecting practices is that connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple. John Maxwell gives five ways connectors can do this:

  • Talk to people, not above them
  • Get to the point
  • Say it over and over and over and over again
  • Say it clearLy
  • Say less

By using these five strategies, you can be more certain that your audience, whether it’s one person or many, is getting the message you intend to convey. In fact, I would venture that the larger your audience, the more important each of the strategies becomes.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The first barrier: The Fight or Flight Response

The second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The third barrier: Error Blindness

 

 

The Four Barriers to Connection – Error Blindness

Standard

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”IMG_7291

If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m continuing a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

Barrier number three is error blindness.

How does it feel to be wrong? This is the question posed by Kathryn Schulz in her TED Talk On Being Wrong.  Most people answer “bad,” “not good,” “embarrassing,” “uncomfortable.” However, Ms. Schulz points out that those are answers to a different question – what does it feel like to realize you are wrong?

It is extremely rare that someone is intentionally wrong!  Ms. Schulz emphasizes that being wrong feels like being right.  This is error blindness.

When we are wrong but think someone else “just isn’t getting it,” we will make one of three assumptions:

  • the ignorance assumption – they just don’t understand so I have to explain it again;
  • the idiocy assumption – they’re kind of stupid, so I have to explain it again; or
  • the evil assumption – they get it, they’re just making life difficult for me.

Anytime we make these assumptions, whether we are in the right or not, it interferes with our ability to connect with the people we are interacting with.

A Personal Story:

I work hard to develop a connection with my students. I know that working with adults, if they don’t trust you, they won’t follow your instruction and therefore not succeed or grow to their potential.  I know I can’t please everyone, but for about 90% of my students I am able to connect with them.

One year I had a student who was very resistant to my feedback, very resistant to my teaching and coaching. Because I know I put a lot of effort into connecting with my students, I assumed the problem was on her end. I thought that maybe she just didn’t connect with my personality and teaching style.

However, through indirect methods, I learned that she had gotten the impression that I disliked her personally. When I heard this, I was shocked.  At that point, I had a choice, whether to believe what I was hearing and act on it or to continue assuming I was right.

Fortunately, I accepted the feedback and took deliberate steps to correct the misconception and to build a better relationship with that particular student. As a result, she became more open to feedback and coaching, and was able to complete the program successfully.

The Solution:

In order to escape from error blindness, we must seek to connect on common ground.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the practices is that connectors connect on common ground. He John Maxwell give several ways in which people can cultivate a mindset of common ground

  • Availability – spend time with others
  • Listening – understand the other’s perspective
  • Questions – be interested in others
  • Thoughtfulness – think of others and thank them
  • Openness – let people in
  • Likability – care about people
  • Humility – think of yourself less to think of others more
  • Adaptability – move from my world to theirs

As we practice these elements and establish a common ground, you’ll find that you are less likely to fall into error blindness because you’ll be open to other people’s ideas to begin with.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The first barrier: The Fight or Flight Response

The second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge

 

 

The Four Barriers to Connection – The Habit Handicap

Standard

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way thatIMG_7295 increases your influence with them.”

If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m continuing a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

The second barrier is called the habit handicap. The first post in the series talked about the fight or flight response, which is a common response when we are under stress. If we don’t fall into the fight or flight response, we are very likely to fall into the habit handicap.

When we are deeply stressed we often go to our comfort zone, focusing on habits and behaviors that have worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, “our old patterns rarely fit our current circumstances” (Real Influence p. 22).

One of my favorite quotes by Einstein is his definition of insanity. He says insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

A Personal Story:

This habit is very easy to fall into. When I first started teaching, I worked with international students who were college aged and were preparing to study university courses in the United States. As a young teacher, I related to these students very well, and I learned very quickly how to connect with them.

When I first moved to South Korea to continue teaching English, I assumed that I knew how to connect with my students. However, my first year I was teaching children, not young adults. My focus on content and grammar did not go over so well, and I was not able to connect well with my students.

My second teaching position in South Korea was once again working with college-aged young adults, and I believed that I was back in my comfort zone. However, once again I failed to connect with my students because I assumed the students in Korea were the same as the students in the United States.  I learned the hard way that there are some key differences:

  • Teaching a group of students who all speak the same language is quite different from teaching students from diverse national and language backgrounds.
  • The Korean students have unique characteristics and shared experiences that have to be taken into consideration in the classroom, considerations that I was not aware of in the beginning.

By the time I moved to my third teaching position in South Korea, teaching business English to mid-career professionals, I had learned not to make assumptions, not to fall into the habits that I had developed in my first few years of teaching, and to focus instead on the needs and characteristics of my current students.

The Solution:

Anytime we want to break a habit, we have to put out the energy and the effort to make the necessary changes.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the connecting principles is that “connecting requires energy.”  He says that “connecting with other people doesn’t just happen on its own. If you want to connect with others, you must be intentional about it. And that always requires energy” (p. 72).

He goes on to describe five proactive ways to use energy in order to connect with others:

  1. Connecting requires initiative
  2. Connecting requires clarity
  3. Connecting requires patience
  4. Connecting requires selflessness
  5. Connecting requires stamina

I have found each of these ways to use energy to be very important tools I can use to connect with my students and others in my life.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The first barrier: The Fight or Flight Response

The third barrier: Error Blindness

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge

The Four Barriers to Connection – The Fight or Flight Response

Standard

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”

IMG_6651If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m starting a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

The first barrier is the fight or flight response. Most of us are aware that when we are under stress our body reacts in very primitive ways. This is the fight or flight response: “you want to either escape from the people who are upsetting you or hurt them” (Real Influence p. 20).

When you’re under stress and you fall into the fight or flight, it becomes impossible to connect with the people you’re interacting with. As Dr. Goulston and Dr. Ullmen say, your nervous system “doesn’t know the difference between a tyrannosaurus and a tyrannical boss.”

A Personal Story:

I experienced this recently when I asked a friend for some feedback on a project that didn’t turn out as I had intended. This particular friend had watched me go through the process, and I thought he would have some great insights that would help me to do better on similar projects in the future.

When I got his feedback, however, I did not react so well. His initial observation wasn’t anything I was expecting, and I definitely went into the flight or fight response. As a result, I did great damage to our friendship, and even today it is still in the recovery phase.

As I have reflected on this particular situation, I have come to realize that I frequently respond to this particular friend in a fight or flight response, especially when we communicate by email. As a result, I have set myself a requirement that anytime he says or does something that upsets me, I will wait 48 hours before I respond. This way I give myself time to get out of the fight or flight mode and time to respond in a more rational, calm, and connective way.

The Solution:

The solution to breaking the fight or flight response is to focus on the other person’s feelings.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the five connecting principles is that “connecting is all about others.”  He lists three questions that people are always asking when they’re interacting with you:

  1. Do you care for me?
  2. Can you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?

Stepping back and taking a moment to identify these three questions and how the other person might be trying to answer them can help you break out of the fight or flight cycle.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The third barrier: Error Blindness

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge

Intentional Connection – A Path to Influence

Standard

A few years ago, I had great difficulty in managing my class.  There were two students in particular who were very resistant to my instruction and feedback, and I found myself growing more and more frustrated working with them. IMG_7225

Finally, at one point, through indirect channels, I learned that both students had gotten the impression that didn’t like them on a personal level, and this perception undermined any influence I might have had with them.

In order to create successful outcomes for them and for me, I had to put forth great effort to connect with them individually.  This included apologizing for giving the impression – intentional or not – that I didn’t value them as individuals.  It also entailed listening to their perspectives and understanding where they were coming from.  Further, I had to be quite explicit in stating what I saw as their strengths and their bright future prospects.  Because of my efforts and their responsiveness, both were able to successfully complete the program and go on to further personal and professional accomplishments.

I have the great fortune to teach in a program with small class sizes, typically working with ten students at a time.  Of those ten, eight or nine will be naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style.  John Maxwell’s Law of Magnetism states that “who you are is who you attract.”  This creates a connection with most of my students without much effort on my part.

Of course, over the years I have also learned to do a few things to encourage this connection, especially talking about what I consider “parallel experiences”; while I may not relate to each student’s situation, from day one, I emphasize stories of my own language learning and overseas life experience, things I share in common with all of my students.

However, what about those who don’t naturally connect?

I am learning to be more intentional about meeting those students where they are – understanding their perspective and motivations, their goals and aspirations.  In past years, I would do this as a response to a crisis.  Sometimes I find students don’t relate to my personality, and other times they have different leadership experience and skills that make them resistant to my feedback.

Whatever the reason for the disconnect, as the instructor, and therefore leader, I have to be intentional about connecting with all students.  I do this by focusing on the student and his/ her goals as well as explicitly expressing what I see as his/her strengths.  I also paint a picture for each of my students of what I see them achieving.

If you feel like you don’t have the influence in your life that you need, it may be time to learn to connect at a higher level.  This has been the case for me.  I have found the connecting principles and practices described by John Maxwell in his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect to be powerful tools for connecting with not only my students but also with others in my life.

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increase your influence with them.”  Next week, I will start leading a “mastermind group”* through this book with the aim of helping people grow in their connecting skills.  I would love to include you in the group!

 

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)