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The slide from disagreement to ‘I HATE YOU’

18 Jan

It happens.  A woman in a recent workshop asked about:

‘Having an argument and ending with saying: ‘I HATE YOU.’

The best thoughts on this slippery, painful, communication slide come from Melissa, a twenty-something middle school teacher outside of Portland, OR.   I’ve never met Melissa, just heard about her response from Laura, a mutual friend about a year ago.  I found this so brilliant it’s been in the back of mind since then.

Here’s the scenario:

Melissa was startled by all the conflict – and resulting tears – amongst her girls.  Best friends one day, declared ‘I hate you’ enemies the next.

So (and here’s the brilliant part):  she ASKED a student proclaiming her hate one day what the deal was.  (forgive the paraphrasing);

‘Do you really hate her?’

‘No’

‘Then what?’

‘I just don’t want to sit next to her at lunch every day.’

‘Then why don’t you just tell her that?’

Problem solved!  (Or for the moment!)  Melissa identified the key to help her student express her true needs, saving the relationship and more importantly teaching her students to say what they mean without being engulfed in the emotion.

joycelyn-ainee.blogspot.com

Wow!  It’s all so simple – yet not.  After hearing this I was reminded how many times I say things I don’t mean, but don’t have the time or where-with-all to stop and think through what I’m feeling, thinking, and what I want.

Of course, at this stage of my life, I usually say nothing.

And that’s no better.  In fact it is worse.

So what’s the key?  Or should I say Melissa’s key?  Good old-fashioned ‘I statements’:

Sharing the facts (using Melissa’s example):  When you sit with me at lunch everyday

I feel:  (ah, the emotions of a middle school girl):  uncomfortable?  unhappy?

And I realize most girls – most people don’t talk like this anymore.  Then again, maybe we need to both simplify and focus our talk for better communication.  

What I want:  To sit with other girls sometimes, and to sit with you sometimes.

Because:  I want to be friends with you and also be friends with other girls.

I didn’t get a chance to share this in the 45-minute workshop with the woman in need.  But over and over I realize how important it is to say what we mean and hope to be heard.  Or rather hope the receiver is open and listening.  And that’s a whole other issue!

I’m going to use this more.  I need to use this more.

What’s your greatest communication challenge?  

Email me at katz.communicat@gmail.com  and I’ll write the anonymous response here!

Here’s to 2013 being a year of saying what you mean when you need to to get what your values met!

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Overcoming skill-building challenges with Friends: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park! Vol. 7

16 Jul

What frustrates you about friends and colleagues?

How have you overcome challenges when working and learning with friends?

N. was focused and open about his challenge and issue to be resolved as he sat at my Bryant Park coaching table.

A relationship conflict:  mixing business with friendship, or more specifically having goal focused skill building sessions with a friend.  One slight problem:  his “friend doesn’t appear to be doing the work”.  His friend appears to be “holding himself back.”

Listening, I knew it was time to focus N.’s challenge by using MoMA (Moments of Awareness) https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/decisive-actio…the-park-vol-4/ ‎:

Q1:  What are you feeling:  frustration

Q2:  What do you want:  Growth – in the skill they are both working to develop

Q3:  What can you do differently:  Let him go at his own pace

Sounds good, right?  It took us time to ‘get here’.  Strong emotion guided his frustration.   Answers to these questions initially focused on his friend: what his friend needed to do, what his friend wasn’t doing.

N.”wondered why people ‘do that’.  He wanted his friend take action and pursue this skill growth with his discipline.  Confessing he couldn’t change his friend didn’t make it easier to focus.  It never does.

Further discussion found N. sharing this same frustration with others:  his dad and with those he coaches for medical school interviews.  He admitted he becomes frustrated when he is asked the same question 3 times.  He doesn’t want to waste people’s time – even if they don’t mind.

The DiSC is a great tool for insight into action, reactions, conflict, and career focus. This image is from www.suehansonspeaks.com. To take an on-line assessment go to: http://www.personalitystyle.com

 The essential two tools:  I believe are indispensable to provide N. insight into his behavior.   The results can provide direction and strategies to achieve his goal and  eventual answer to Q3 above:  letting his friend go at his own pace.

  1.  The DiSC assessment tool.  http://www.personalitystyle.com  will identify his communication style. This good quick version of the tool provides great information.  (Stay focused on one aspect of your life as you take it.  Questions?  The Coach is IN)
  2. The values assessment tool tunes you to:  ‘the radio station we all listen to’:  WIIFM:  What’s In It For Me.  WIIFM’s are our values and explain our motivation and a key to action AND insight into underlying causes of conflict.  N.’s values are (likely) key to his own motivation -and conflict with his friend’s actions.  A very simple assessment tool:  http://www.career-test.biz/values_assessment.htm .                                            Values also drive our financial decisions, so use them to assess your spending and saving actions!

The hard part of course is putting it together and understanding (for N.) his own behavior and then recognizing his friend likely has a very different style and values.  Recognizing, accepting, and learning from these tools are key, and, I can’t repeat it enough even for myself, challenging.

N.’s next step is to communicate his needs to his friend.  He can only talk about himself  and his needs and should’s.  This is a great opportunity to begin a conversation and learn more about his friend.

I suggested a modified ‘I Statement‘ approach adding some open-ended questions:

  • The reason I want to build this skill is:
  • I want to build it with you because:
  • It’s important to me because:
  • I get frustrated when you (specific action)
  • What is your reason to build this skill?
  • Why do you want to work with me?
  • Why is important to you?
  • What do you think we can do differently for us both to grow better at this skill?

Our 10 minute session stretched to almost 30 minutes as we went through these 2 tools and 2 processes.  A full coaching session (as N. and I discussed) would work through the assessment results and fully formulate communication strategies to use with his friend and interview coaching clients!

A good first start and a good demonstration of how coaching meets my value for meaning (and helping others).   

How do your values match your daily actions? 

Decisive Actions: The Coach is IN: ‘A Talk in the Park’ Vol.4

9 Jul

Are you decisive?

What risks do you take to reach your dreams?

As scary as coaching in the park may be for ME, I imagine it even scarier for the person questioning across my table.   Sitting down labels my  ‘coachee’ (not a word I

My ‘advertisement with Bryant Park’s Monday night movie screen as backdrop

know) as someone in need of help.  Most people wouldn’t admit that need. Especially in ‘cool’ Bryant Park.  Especially in New York.

So when a young black man, stopped and stood, stared and waited, I was thrilled when A. accepted my offer to sit .  Dressed in black with a heavy backpack he didn’t take off, I strained to hear his soft-spoken question about coaching.  He responded to my offer for action steps in relationships and career with a shy smile.

Which first?  Relationships.  Specifically, he wanted to learn to be a better friend.  WOW!  Right?

I started asking what does a better friend ‘look like’?  That’s a hard question for most of us to answer, and A. shut down to my query.  Reminder to self:  keep my questions simple.

What did A. want to improve?  Why did he think he needed to be a better friend?

Referring to one friend, A. felt it was his fault this many was always on the phone when they were together.

I used Moments of Awareness (http://www.creating.bz/our-reading-circle/fifth-discipline.html)   to uncover the issues:

Q1:  What was he feeling?  Anger

Q2:  What did he want:  His friend not to be on the phone so they could TALK

Q3:  What could he do differently:  He wanted to yell at his friend, but as we discussed there were better communication techniques.

There’s this special energy created when working with someone so intent.   We next worked on using ‘I’ statements, to replace getting A.’s needs communicated.  He agreed words would work better than yelling.    ‘I’ statements,  are a popular and basic communication technique taught in communication and conflict classes.  But as I told A. they aren’t often heard.

Why not?  Good question, ‘human’ answer:  Emotions.  It’s always easier to yell and blame the ‘other idiot’.

It takes lots of practice to actually change the way we communicate our emotions.  I had to admit that even my ‘I statements get washed away in the face of conflict.  I too need to practice and a good plug for the importance of a coach to practice with!

A. and I worked through the steps (bold-faced), practicing them along the way.  One of the many cool things about this is that A. was easily able to supply good talking points (in italics).

Step 1When you (the facts):  talk on the phone when we are together

Step 2:  I feel:  angry

Step 3:  Because:  I want you to talk to me

Step 4:  I would likefor you not to be on the phone when we are together

Step 5:  BecauseI would like for us to talk

Step 6:  What do you think?

Simple and straightforward.   I wanted A. to practice, reminding him (and me and all of us) of the difficulty in changing how we talk and the power of being swept away by the emotions.  I suggested 100 times.  Yea, right you are probably thinking as he did too!  He felt like he could do it 5 times.  5 times works!

I recommended A. practice in front of the mirror.  I often recommend ‘mirror’ practice often (though nothing to do with fixing hair or touching up lipstick).  Practicing in front of the mirror and looking yourself in the eye lets you see what you look like in uncomfortable positions.  PRACTICING until you can smile and see

Bryant Park’s public restroom gets top ratings thanks to fresh flowers and classical music!

your confidence provides yet another step toward success when the situation arises.  Practice puts the words into long(er)-term memory.  ‘Mirror practice is great preparation for public speaking too!

Building a confidence smile and words seemed especially important with A.   His shy smile, soft spokenness seemed part of his MO.  I had him sit up straight.  We practiced shaking hands (not really as silly as it sounds).  His initial limp shake was soon replaced with a firm, more confident grip, eye contact and a smile.

I learned A. was in Welfare-to-Work.  Practicing these basics was a first for him.

He shared he was ‘indecisive’.  It was hard for him to take action.  Like me, you are likely shaking your head and cheering him on.  I reminded him HE SAT DOWN.  HE ASKED.  HE WAS PRACTICING.  No, he is NOT indecisive.  (And how often do we all, in perhaps less challenging situations, allow negative beliefs to define us?)

One more thing:  career help.  A. wanted to be rich.  Well, successful and to get out of welfare.  What did he need to be successful?  I couldn’t help but I told him who could:  his supervisor.

Another scary step for him but asking his supervisor would be a way to gain help and support while demonstrating his decisiveness.

Simply, I recommended he communicate:

  • I want to be successful.
  • What can I do to be successful?

Leaving his nickel, sharing a smile and solid handshake, A. walked away – decisively.  I was left inspired.  I realized in a half-hour, A. demonstrated his decisiveness,  practiced his hand shake, and learned two communication techniques to help him be successful.  Imagine if every person had 30 minute coaching sessions each week?  Imagine if A., and everyone in Welfare-to-Work programs had this opportunity?  Imagine!