I received a personal note of Thank you from one of my clients who had been coached by me recently. He had his biggest breakthrough in that he was able to sort out his relationship with his business partner which had been on a rough terrain over the past two years, before he started his coaching.
⇒How often does our relationships with friends, trusted colleagues or other near and dear ones go pear shaped because of interpretations that we make of events and behaviors or reactions of others?
Life is full of interpretations and yet there are some incidents of people’s behaviors, actions and reactions which interpreted in our own way leads to many a challenging conversation thereafter. Each of us form stories in our own head, of things that happen in our daily life which includes interpreting some of our conversations. Every party to the conversation run their own stories in their head because of different perspectives and some of these perspectives, when not clarified, adds to the complexity in a relationship and the conversation not so pleasant.
Imagine you receive an email from one of your colleagues whom you have observed with behaviors which makes a conversation uncomfortable and tense. The email says “hey, I thought you had covered all grounds on this project, I was surprised with this unexpected delay that has come about, what is the issue?
You are already tense and feeling stressed out, that this project will be delayed by a week on account of a key trusted individual failing on his commitment. When you read the email, you have an ‘Amygdala Hijack’ moment. You are anxious and feel that this colleague is questioning your integrity and professionalism. You feel you are being blamed for the delay. In that emotional state of mind, you type out a terse response. You are about to hit that send button when a voice within you says, hold on, let me read it again.
⇒How many times have we been in a similar situation?
⇒How many times have we hit the send button and regretted and or suffered the consequences later?
⇒Could we reframe our communication and yet convey our message in an assertive but not rude manner? Yes, in 4 steps….
If the above email was from a trusted colleague of yours, how would you react? Would you interpret the email in the same way as you had interpreted the email from this colleague whose behaviors may be putting you on the defensive.
These are two similarly worded emails and the difference in interpretation arises on account of your mindset, your perception about the intention of the sender.
Your mindset about the colleague’s intention puts you on the defensive. You do not step back to ask: could this colleague be genuinely interested and cares about the project. Could it be possible that he is not blaming you but may be genuinely wants to help you overcome this challenge.
If you had not held back from hitting the send button, the email response may have triggered a series of hostile and defensive behaviors on the part of this colleague and taking both of you up the ladder of inferences and conclusions. The relationship gets strained further and you, your team and possibly your organization suffers. The desired outcome is not achieved, trust erodes and possibly you lose belief in yourself at some stage.
In that split second when you see yourself getting defensive or making interpretations, ask yourself, is it worth acting on the negative assumption and will you be able to achieve your outcome if you continue with the assumptions you make. If the answer is no, then you will make an effort to change your assumptions and negative inferences about the person and their behavior.
During trainings or workshops that I facilitate, when I mention, about changing your inferences in the moment to get your desired outcome, I often get a remark:……. but what if I am right about my inference?
May be you are right and if changing the inference to a positive one helps your mindset, why not choose to be positive?
Framing your thoughts and feelings in a positive light, helps you to reframe your communication, in terms of what you say, how you say and how you look in a way that is appropriately received by your audience.
Notice your patterns in terms of how you feel, how does your body react, what are your thoughts before the trigger to react in a not so desired manner such as raising your voice or changing your tone or facial expressions. This helps you to be aware and identify what you could do differently next time.
Redirect your thoughts by seeking to find out more. Ask yourself why is this colleague asking or stating whatever they have said on the email. E.g. What are your main concerns on this project? Present evidence as to why it got delayed and what are your thoughts on completing it within the required time frame. May be you could also ask your colleague, if he had some ideas on completion of the project.
Redirecting helps you to reframe your communication and the effort is towards discussing the solution to the problem at hand. It helps you to avoid pointing fingers at one other or someone else and discussion is not on whose view point is right but what could be the best solution for the problem at hand.
When our mind starts to make negative inferences or assumptions, right or wrong, we are focused on the person, their character and our emotional part of the brain is in active mode and we may tend to look at things from an intense emotional angle. Refocussing our thoughts on the end goal and the challenge at hand helps your brain to think rationally and logically and not necessarily from a highly emotional perspective.
Each of us have our default behaviors in some situations. Making yourself aware of these default patterns and taking steps to replace your default mode by one that is conducive to getting your desired outcome will inspire others. When you reframe, redirect and refocus you will be seen as a person who is empathetic, genuine and one with whom people can have good conversations with.
My client as a result of coaching decided to change some of his behaviors and inferences to achieve his desired goal. He cleared several misunderstandings that had happened over the past years between him and his business partner. Today they are back to being friendly, frank, candid and yet care about each other and their desired business goals.
The fact is we are all biased but we can make conscious choices to behave in a constructive way, instead of being led by our bias.
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