My chiropractor operates on a walk-in basis, and offers yearly plans for unlimited services. So I go fairly often - especially since he is so close by.
I used to have trouble with my feet - which is pretty foundational. I credit my stretches, dance and his regular adjustments for the fact that my feet are happy now. However, despite regular visits, there is a catch in my neck that persists. We had focused on it previously, but I hadn't brought it up for months. This week, I decided I'm ready to take that on.
I entered his office yesterday and told him, "We haven't made much progress on the tightness in my neck on the right side."
It wasn't a mean, nasty, horrible, evil way to raise the issue. My foot only went half-way in my mouth. But it it wasn't gracious or fair, either. Yes, he adjusts my neck every time I come. But it has been months since I mentioned this particular obstruction. We've been more focused on overall ease of movement, plus my feet and hands. The fact is, I feel like those challenges are taken care of enough that now we can shift the main focus of our efforts to the obstruction in my neck, (which is in no way debilitating and has been with me for ages.)
What would have been a better way to say it? How about:
That wording speaks to our next focus and future opportunities instead of implying existing failure. My chiropractor invited me to remind him of this focus every time I come, and he gave me a stretch to support his efforts. I will remind him as requested - and I will be gracious and fair when I do it.
Or maybe I won't. Perhaps next time my foot will go a just quarter of the way in. Unravelling the obstructions in my spine and joints is a process - and so is learning how to introduce a new area of focus with graceful assertiveness.
"Keep on walking until someone tells you to stop." Ever since an admin told me that was her policy, I've been sharing that advice with other admins, following it up with, "If no one has ever told you that you've overstepped your boundaries, you are probably playing it way too safe." We don't know what the boundaries are until we test them. We don't know how we can best serve someone (or love someone) until we get in close enough to see their world, and that runs the risk of feeling intrusive.
This advice applies to elderly parents as well. I am supporting my father in new ways, and that means getting much closer and more personal than we've ever been before. Of course, there are times where I tread in areas he does not welcome me. That's how I find out how I can help - and where the boundaries are. If I feel the need and benefits are strong enough, I will continue until I'm sure he understands what I'm telling him - which can take some doing.
Recently, a colleague of my father visited him. This man was full of useful ideas for my father. He also was wary of intruding, even though he felt that my father needed the help he could offer. I was surprised with what came out of my mouth. I said,
I spoke these words because I knew their time together was limited and precious. I wanted to encourage him to do what he could rather than tiptoe around the truth as he saw it. But I also heard my own words as instructive and affirming.
It affirmed that I no longer avoid angering people at all cost. I don't enjoy triggering anger, but if a higher motive guides me, I will risk crossing the boundary. It also affirmed that I don't feel a requirement to control anger in others. I don't need to try to change his reaction. We go through it and then decide where to go next.
I can't say letting someone get mad is fun. But it has preceded some major breakthroughs. So I just keep on walking toward our shared vision until someone tells me to stop. But even then, if I deem it necessary, I will stand up for my efforts to provide the help I was asked to offer.
1. While some of my father's concern about boundaries and privacy might be unwarranted and/or an obstacle to achieving what I have been tasked with, I was reminded that it is easy to innocently trample over legitimate boundaries. I had suggested to my father's colleague that I could give him the information to log in to my father's computer so he could print things on my father's printer as I do. Only after we had agreed to that idea (but before I shared the log in info,) it occurred to me that before I give anyone complete access to my dad's computer, I just might want to run the idea past him.
2. While there have been uncomfortable moments in this process, by being more open with each other than ever before, I have discovered that my father is one of my favorite people in the whole world. He is interesting, bright and playful. Despite his linear nature (in contrast to my constellar approach to life,) my father "gets me" in ways others don't. What a great discovery!
Yesterday I posted about how guiding visions provide context that changes the way our words are heard. Today I have an example.
Angela is my assistant, and she proofs my blog. But she's much more than that. She is one of two people on the planet who have a deep understanding of what I'm up to, what I aspire to, and how I operate. Plus, she lives in her heart. She is my traveling buddy. I am blessed to have her.
So why was I disappointed in her last night?
Because she proofed a blog post without a comment. Horrors! ;-)
Now, when I say I was disappointed in her, that sounds critical. It sounds like I think she did something wrong. It sounds like she let me down. Yes, I FELT let down. That was my experiential reality. Yet I knew without question that in objective reality, she hadn't actually let me down.
We all have experiential and objective realities coexisting in us. That can make conversations about interpersonal issues challenging. What do you do when you feel disappointed, offended, angry, and/or a myriad of other emotions and yet you also know the other person did nothing wrong?
As a recovering passive, I am also a recovering victim and recovering passive-aggressive. So I'm a bit of an expert on victim mindsets and behaviors and passive-aggressive behaviors. Victim thinking nurtures wounds and builds self-righteous cases against perceived villains for their imagined (or exaggerated) wrongs. Passive-aggressive punish others indirectly, in ways where the aggressor can hide behind a posture of innocence. By doing that, they protect themselves from facing the smallness of their story, BUT they also miss the opportunity to transform an immature reaction into an opportunity to reach higher levels.
As a recovering passive, I am reluctant to admit when I still feel the residuals of this kind of thinking - but choose to feed the larger story. I am also reluctant to admit those feelings to my readers - you. I'm doing it anyway, because I believe my process here is actually both normal, and the way, or a way, that transformation happens.
I saw my psychological/experienced reality as a signal that I had a desire that wasn't being met. I turned it into an opportunity to figure out what I wanted so Angela and I could set a target together. My disappointment was a small story which opened the door to find the bigger story.
Half the population can correct typos. Only Angela can bring out the best in me and my writing as she does. Only Angela can mirror where I am in a way that helps me move closer to where I'm going. Only Angela can remind me of the bigger context of what I'm working on when I falter in my own vision of it. So only Angela can review my blog posts with her eye and ear and catalyze my excellence like she does.
What would be likely to happen, if, consciously or unconsciously, I ask Angela to review my posts wanting her to bring out the best in me, and she thinks I'm inviting her mainly to correct typos?
Disappointment. Not because Angela is deficient, but because she is so important to me. And that speaks to her gifts. That is what we needed to talk about. We needed a shared vision of her role. Then, we could consider options to facilitate her newly defined role, like my creating posts with a longer lead time, or structuring discussion of them into our morning meetings.
We could have created those options without the shared vision. But it's much more rewarding this way.
"I learned a lot in your session," an attendee told me.
"Can you share something specific?" I asked. He did, and his words were music to my ears. What he noted was something I had just added.
He said, "I liked the part about being willing to put my foot in my mouth."
In the past, my presentation emphasized the end result - what excellent communication looks like. This time I spoke a lot more about the path to Speaking Strong. The two are not the same. Sometimes we need to speak up before we feel ready, and our words won't be as polished as we'd like. Sometimes we need to speak before we have a deep understanding of what we think, feel and want. We might have a one-sided view of things, and know it. Sometimes fumbling authentically through a conversation is what it takes to get to clarity.
Sometimes we serve the situation best by risking putting our feet in our mouths. This attendee who thanked me yesterday does that already and appreciated understanding how that is part of the path to communication excellence.
I used many of my same old examples in my presentation yesterday. But they were fresh, new and alive with insight about the steps from conflict and confusion to greater understanding. I also found myself emphasizing the transformative role a compelling guiding vision played in my examples. Knowing why you're sifting through stuckness, issues and differences - knowing why it's worth it - changes everything.
The exciting thing is, more often than not, we rock boats because we care about the person in it, and because we strive to acheive something of value.
Otherwise, why would we risk rocking our own boat by speaking up when we'd rather not?
It took us 16 years to learn to live with each other fairly successfully, and now we're both learning to live with ourselves. We're listening to ourselves, getting to know our own hearts, quirks and natures.
We're redesigning our lives based on what we're learning about who we are—who we really are—not who we think we should be. It's a bottom up approach—led by observation, experiment and alignment. We're learning to:
It's humbling at times, but empowering overall.
Perhaps this quest will be fulfilled more quickly than the last one.
I spent many hours trying to adapt the new touchscreen computer with Windows 8 to work for my low-vision Dad. When his computer tech expert came by to help the process, and she kept getting lost on it, I knew it was too complicated for my 93-year-old visually impaired dad.
I returned the computer and did something different. I sat with my father as he navigated the computer he has. I noticed where he got tripped up. I showed him some things, and watched how easy and how hard it is for him to apply what I show him. I learned what his unique challenges are.
Then I asked questions. I asked him what features his dream computer would have. I took notes.
And I learned a lot.
Now I'm in the research stage. I'm learning a lot about how to use computers optimally. And I use them every day. I didn't know all they could do.
I'm finding some surprises. The things my father wants—he can have. I had assumed that one of the people he had talked with who knows more about computers than I do would have known what was available—or found out. But apparently they didn't. And I didn't either—until now. All those months of struggle with outdated equipment weren't necessary.
The next step will be to select a new computer that will suit his actual needs—not the ones I thought he had. Then I'll set it up to simplify his navigation. Then I'll teach him ways to use the features.
I'll be watching him through every step of this process. And I'll be asking questions. And I'll be listening very carefully.
You can learn a lot when you pay attention to what people do, and what they say. Why didn't I think of that sooner? I kind of did. But it didn't quite reach the conscious, actionable level.
I'm listening now.
"That's not fear that's plaguing you. It's anxiety. Fear is an E-motion. It energizes. Anxiety is a thief. It zaps your resources."
The lights went on and while this was just a beginning, the man felt a life-changing liberation. He still had a mess to clean up in his metaphorical basement, but he had the clarity now to move toward life and away from being frozen by anxiety.
I haven't posted about the Sandy Hook shooting yet, even though it impacted me deeply. I have a few opinions and a lot of feeling. Yet anything I might say seems too small. I'm still listening to learn what it all means to me.
Fast answers aren't always the best answers, (Malcom Gladwell not-withstanding.) Some questions take time and stillness to answer.
But some people already knew how the experience has changed them, and what it is catalyzing in their lives. I'd love to hear what it is invoking in you.
What kind of communication habits and practices bug you?
I've got a list, but it's distilled down to:
Those are my communication pet peeves. What are yours?
The next step is to take those pet peeves and flip them to identify what communication habits and practices you value.
Can you guess where this is going? For me, it's saying what you mean and meaning what you say - without being mean when you say it. What is it for you? Having a clear direction to aspire to in your communication draws out the best in you.
Do you ever think that the marketplace is so crowded that there's no way to stand out against your competition? Seth Godin posted today about an area of potential excellence that has few competitors. He wrote...
Instead of outthinking the competition... it's worth trying to outlove them.
"Everyone is working hard on the thinking part, but few of your competitors worry about the art and generosity and caring part."
I've always suspected as much - that caring isn't just right, it's part of the path to success. It's nice to hear it from Seth.
Page 1 of 6
Speak STRONG, Inc. 4265 Outpost Road, Cascade, CO, 80809 Tel: (719) 684-2633
Collaborative communication skills for today's busy workplace