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6:30 – How to break free of looping on your issue
9:48 – How to de-escalate yourself before discussing an issue
10:48 – A quick test to see how mentally healthy you are
14:28 – The number one question to get someone else “untriggered”
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This is Ep 21 – The Story of Conflict, a three-step process to avoid unnecessary conflict or get to resolution quickly. So I had a client who was very upset because he’d hired a web designer to have him put together a whole online course. We have content management and SEO and all kinds of great bells and whistles, but it ended up going way over time and way over budget as these things tend to do. And he found them difficult to work with. They kept changing his main contact person and a lot of issues weren’t getting solved. And so eventually he just said, you know what? This isn’t working for me when they were about halfway through the project, I want to stop.
And I want my money back. And the web designer said I don’t give refunds. And they had a big blow out and basically hung up on each other. And then they’re both left feeling really uncomfortable because they’re in the same industry. They see each other all the time. They have mutual friends and colleagues and they did care about the relationship. And obviously he did care about getting his website finished and the web designer didn’t want someone out there giving bad feedback about him. So these steps I’m going to talk about in the podcast can be useful for you. If you’ve ever had this kind of situation, see dealing with service providers or colleagues or partners or even customers. So the first thing I did with my client is I helped him understand his ideal outcome. He knew what he didn’t want. He didn’t want to have to pay for this website that wasn’t giving him what he wanted and wherever the process of doing it was very challenging and taking far longer than he hoped.
But I asked, well, what’d you want instead? And he had a really hard time telling me what his ideal outcome was as most people do. He said, well, I, I guess I want a website that works well, that comes within budget. And the people that are doing it are easy to work with. It was really hard to be getting that out of him because he just really didn’t think that was possible. But often things aren’t possible because you haven’t set an ideal outcome of what you really want. So once we got clear about what he really wanted, we could go on to the next step that we’ll talk about today, which was he just needed to get and triggered. So he just needed a safe, confidential place to just let go of any thoughts he was having that weren’t useful for the situation, because he was making up a lot of things in his head about what their behavior meant.
He had all these expectations that were being met. And so he created a lot of meaning that, you know, this guy didn’t like him, that was during his website, that they were unprofessional, that you just can’t find good help these days. And we had to really sort of unpackage all that so that he could have a more realistic view of bowel, what was going on. And he was triggered from his survival brain. And we’ll talk about that when this was going on. So once he got [inaudible], he was able to then really examine his thoughts and see, okay, which of them are useful, which of them are maybe not true. And then we could start preparing him to have a conversation where he just needed to get into a curious state of mind, rather than a defensive state of mind, where he would make up some open questions.
And we’re going to talk about that. What does that mean? And so that he could find out what really happened that this whole project broke down so that they could maybe fix it, or at least he could get some money back if it’s unfixable. So he prepared some open questions, like why is it that this project’s been taking so long, what’s made it go over budget, what’s happening with our liaison person. And just really asking those questions from as neutral a place as possible. And when he did that, he found out all kinds of things you didn’t know or didn’t realize such as what he originally communicated that he won. And that he put down on paper to the web designer had changed in his own head, but he hadn’t actually really communicated that and renegotiated the agreement. So he had these expectations that were being met, but he hadn’t communicated that in a really clear way.
And once he saw that, he was like, Oh, I see where I have some responsibility here in this breakdown. And the reason he had a new person to work with is because the old person actually wasn’t a good communicator. And they brought in someone who was a better communicator. And so the shift over was a little bit bumpy and the web designer did apologize for that. But in the end he felt it would be better for everyone in the long run to have someone who was much better at communicating. And so the reasons for it going over time and over budget was because the whole design had changed. So once they saw what was really going on, they could negotiate a win-win agreement to this. For example, the web designer was willing to expand the project without an extra fee. And it was fun, collaborative outcome that they could both live with.
And they rebuilt the bridge. They got on good terms with each other. He ended up getting his website the way he wanted it. And they remained friends and their mutual colleagues were not affected. And they saw each other industry events and all of his cool, and that doesn’t happen very often. You know, people have these agreement breakdowns say between client service provider and it just stays bad forever. And it’s really stressful for people and people lose money and they lose their business reputation and it affects other people’s relationships. It’s not good for anyone. So if you can learn a few little tools like this, just to get you started on the way to a win-win outcome with people, it can be really, really powerful. And a good part of this is thinking about the story. We tell ourselves about situations, the mind story, and see if you can change that to something more
So that you get the outcome that you want. By the way, this episode is sponsored by the high stakes conversation, a six step process to resolve differences quickly and easily. If you’ve ever had a breakdown in business communication with someone, you know how stressful it can be, it can throw off your game for days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years. And most people don’t have enough tools and skills to successfully resolve those differences so that you get your needs met and you maintain a good relationship with the person. So the high stakes conversation process gives you quick and easy tool to do that. You can use, use it to resolve a recent issue or learn from a past issue that still bothers you. So you can finally let it go and move on. So just check out the link in the show notes for more information on how to get this for yourself.
It doesn’t take very long, but it can make a huge difference to your peace of mind and has helped. Thousands of people do the same. Now conflict is like fire too much causes damage to people in property, but too little and no important change can happen. And what we find with good communicators are that they’re okay with conflict. They just know how to do it in a healthy way. And they also communicate in certain ways that prevents unhealthy conflict from happening. They tend to negotiate in a way that leads to win-win outcomes. The first thing is to practice not only identifying your issue, but then your ideal outcomes. So an example is staff are complaining about the new software. So something that’s a communication issue with you or someone else or amongst people that you lead. So an ideal outcome might be, we somehow find a way to get people up to speed quickly.
Now it’s important to start with the words we somehow, or I somehow, because you don’t know how yet. And a lot of times people don’t identify what they want instead of their issue, because they don’t know how to get there yet, but you actually don’t usually figure out the how until you’re already there. Mostly there you look back and in retrospect you go, Oh, that’s how I did it. Right? If you look back in the past, so use the words I somehow, or we somehow, and where you want to go, what’s at the top of the mountain, right? Or to use the metaphor of your in San Francisco. And you want to go to Seattle. You’re not sure how you’re going to get there. It could be plane, train, automobile, walk, bike, but you know, your final destination is Seattle. So I’ll tell you how it worked out with this.
Staff are complaining about the new software. We somehow find a way to get people up to speed quickly. So literally the next day staff came back with a number of ideas, many of which weren’t going to work, but one was to ask for a free upgrade to the most recent version of the software didn’t have any glitches in it. Usually it was a paid upgrade, but they asked for it and they got it. A second idea was to ask for free training with the latest upgrade because people were holding onto the past with the old version of the software where they knew everything was, and they were really annoyed. And nobody wanted to take the time to watch online tutorial. So somebody actually from software company agreed to come in and help them. And that wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t set that ideal outcome.
So do that. Now, if you haven’t already done so. So I’m a big believer in trying things for 21 days in a row, whatever is your communication or relationship issue, write it down and then write out your ideal outcome over and over again could be different ones each day or the same one. And it will force your mind to start focusing on your ideal outcome. And then it’s like, have you ever had that phenomenon where you think I’m going to buy a new car? And I’m thinking of buying a Tesla car example, and then all you see on the road after that are Teslas. It changes the way you view the world. As soon as you have a goal, you just didn’t see the Teslas before you had the goal. So that’s why you got to trick your mind into getting it to work on your behalf.
Now, 80% of communication is an inner game. In all our years of teaching conflict resolution, we noticed that the excellent communicators had small regular habits that became default. And in all our surveying and researching, we were able to really come up with the top ones that made the biggest difference, such as deescalating before I see an issue versus discussing an issue when you’re triggered. Now, here’s a big question to know whether you’re able to do this or not. Do you know when your survival brain is triggered? The survival brain is at tiny little brain, right at the center of the head that can do two things. You remember what those are, fight or flight. It’s not a very evolved part of the brain. The neocortex, however, is in the exterior of the brain. And that’s where all your wisdom resides your conflict resolution ability, your ability to be empathic with what’s going on, hold the bigger picture. And the problem is if you disconnect from your new cortex, it’s very hard to have a conversation that leads to a mutually agreeable outcome. One that you don’t later regret. Now, interestingly, there’s a spectrum of behavior in the human story where on one side of the spectrum, people believe their thoughts are real. And on the other, they believe my are just thoughts. So think about that for yourself. If you have a thought, you know,
He says something to you in a certain tone of voice, and then you start to have thoughts about it and start to create meaning
Around it. You have a part of your mind that realizes you could just be making all that stuff up. It could not be true. So
The interesting thing is that humans govern down on this spectrum. For example, I had a client who did a full day training program and she got all the evaluations back and almost everyone gave her a five out of five or a four out of five with lots of excellent comments about what they appreciated and liked. And one person gave it a one out of five and said nothing useful whatsoever. Now, what did she do? She focused in on the one person who gave it a one out of five and that she started thinking about that over and over and over again and going through her presentation in her own mind thinking, Oh, maybe it isn’t useful. And maybe I shouldn’t be doing this as a career anymore. And really thinking those thoughts were real because she started getting really anxious. She wasn’t able to sleep at night.
It lowered her confidence about the next upcoming training session she had. And then she decided to contact the organizer and they discussed the evaluations and the organizer was really happy with the whole event. And just said, the feedback was amazing much better than they normally get. And then she asked, well, what about this person who rated it as a one? And she said, Oh, that’s Bob. He always does that. So it was a real wake up call for her having all these thoughts and believing that her thoughts were true without really investigating the situation. Now, it’s always helpful to get constructive feedback, but somebody who just says nothing is useful whatsoever. And everybody else mostly is saying it was really useful. That’s when the voice of discernment needs to come in and eat to re-evaluate your thoughts. Are they true? Are they not true? Is this useful for me to be thinking in this way now?
No. Have you talk to mental health professionals? They’ll say people who believe their thoughts are real are called psychotic and people who are considered mentally healthy. Think their thoughts are just thoughts. That’s a marker for mental health. But interestingly,
Because so much in our culture
Does try to trigger the survival brain that we all can go up and down on that spectrum. So these habits are designed to keep you up in the area of mental health.
For example, I was recently racing to the airport and looking at my watch and I started to
Feel and a knot in my stomach and my jaw was tense. And I knew that my survival brain was triggered and that I was believing my thoughts were real, which were that I was going to miss my flight. And then I started catastrophizing about what that would mean to miss my flight because I had a speaking engagement to be at and people be waiting for me. And so that, it’s just a sign of going down that spectrum towards my thoughts are real. So people do it a lot. So all these habits are designed to help you break free from that. Now this is considered the number one question to get someone else on triggered. Cause sometimes you’re fine. And then somebody else acts in a triggered way. You know, it could be your spouse or a teenager or a colleague, just a service provider. They talk to you in a certain tone of voice they’re triggered, and then you get triggered.
It’s got this sort of viral domino effect. So the trick is to notice that they’re triggered, notice that you’re getting triggered, go into a neutral witness. If you can, at least part of your brain going into that mode. And then what you want to do is just force yourself to be curious, staying curious, and this involves asking an open question versus making a defensive response. And the question is about helping you stay curious. It’s an open question versus a defensive response. And this is appropriate when the stakes are high and the relationship is important. So for example, usually people get triggered when someone complains to them. So think of a complaint, someone lodged in your direction. So here are some typical ones that can get people triggered their complaint is your idea. Won’t work. You’re in a meeting. Maybe you’re part of a board. You put out an idea, somebody says your idea won’t work.
It’s easy to get triggered in that situation. Now you might not even show that you’re triggered. You just might feel it inside. Now, if you are a triggered, it’s very seductive to say something defensive, even if it’s just in your own head. So for example, you might say, you’re always shooting down my ideas. You’re defending your position. Now, sometimes that’s appropriate. Not saying it isn’t, but if you want to get to collaborative outcome really quickly and not get into both of you getting triggered and tension and things, not moving forward, you might want to instead ask an open questions such as what’s making you say that that’s very important. Use a neutral tone of voice. Don’t lace it with emotion, even if you’re feeling triggered. If you want to get out of it quickly, if you want to get into a good old fashioned, knock him down, fight, go for it.
But if you’re trying to pick your battles and just move on quickly and keep a good relationship, not burn bridges, it might be helpful to just in the most neutral tone of voice possible. What’s making you say that you might have to fake it till you make it. And then they might say, well, we tried that idea three years ago and it didn’t work. Oh, what made it not work? And then they might list the reasons and then you can start to troubleshoot the reasons and see whether your idea is viable or not. If it’s just a blanket statement, like your idea won’t work. And then a defensive you’re always shooting down my ideas. You’re not really solving a problem. Are you? You’re just having two egos going at each other. Right? Okay. Here’s another popular complaint is I don’t have time to do that right now.
Let’s say, it’s your teenager who says, I don’t have time to do those dishes right now. And they had agreed to do the dishes and you’re feeling triggered. So you might be tempted to say something like make the time. And in some cases that just might be the appropriate response, but maybe you’ve tried that in past. It doesn’t really work. So an open question in this case might be what’s happened. That makes you say that. Having tried this on my teenager, I got the response. I have exams I really have to study. Now. Of course, part of me was a little suspicious that this was a made up excuse. So I said, Oh, what’s your exams. And then he described completely to me what was going on? And I realized it was indeed true. And then I said, let’s do the dishes together. And we’ll discuss the best way to study quickly and efficiently.
And he agreed to that strangely enough. So we had a compromise and stayed in a good mood with each other. So here’s another one that a manager had heard. I don’t like having to work with Bob. Now. Of course he was thinking to himself, well, nobody likes to work with Bob, but nobody likes to work with this guy who was complaining about Bob either. So his inner defensive response was, I don’t like having to work with you, but of course he didn’t say that instead. He asked an open question, what’s happened. That makes you say that. Now he’d heard the complaints about Bob, but it was important for him to hear from this particular guy. And he said, well, Bob didn’t show up on time when he was supposed to. And he didn’t complete his part of the project, which he had agreed to. And so now you have something specific to work with and then he can go back to Bob and start sorting it out. Right? If it’s just a big blanket statement, I don’t like this person they’re unprofessional. It’s very hard to solve. Do you know what I mean? So the what’s happened. That makes you say that or do that is a good one to remember just memorize it. And anytime I’m triggered, I just have that one. So memorized with the neutral tone of voice and I really get to resolution a lot more quickly people.
So give that one a try. It does help to actually rehearse it a little bit ahead of time. Because when you’re triggered, you do tend to dis engage from your neocortex. So you have to kind of keep enough of that part of your brain on to do the open question, but once you do it enough, it just becomes default. So thank you for listening.