Communication skills

Five Ways To Have Compassionate Covid Conversations

Have you struggled to have compassionate conversations about Covid? Are you torn between what you think/feel/believe is the right thing to do, and the nuances of a particular situation? Have you tried to have a conversation and it only made things worse? Or, did you stay silent when you really should have spoken up? Have these conversations strained relationships? (more…)

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Safe Honesty vs. Real Honesty: And When It Matters Most

Have you ever been in a situation where a simple conflict escalated into finger pointing and blaming? Have you ever given someone feedback and they got defensive? Have you ever left a conversation realizing that good intentions resulted in unintended consequences?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may gotten tangled up in safe honesty when real honesty could have changed the outcome for the better.

When Honesty Matters Most

You might get by with safe honesty in some situations, but the difference between safe and real honesty matters most during conflict. I define conflict as a gap between what I want and what I am experiencing at any given point in time. Maybe I want to be at work at 8 AM and I am experiencing a really long line at the Starbucks drive through. Maybe I want to properly complete all my documentation paperwork for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan, and I am experiencing changing rules every time I call my accountant. That’s conflict.

Conflict is emotional. Everyone has emotional responses to conflict. I call it gap energy. Conflict is neither good nor bad, but how we spend gap energy can certainly make a big difference in how things turn out.

Safe Honesty

Safe honesty during conflict may sound something like this:

How I feel: I’m really disappointed.

What I’m experiencing: You’re late.

What I want: You need to be on time.

Let’s imagine I try safe honesty with my accountant about the PPP.

How I feel: I’m frustrated.

What I’m experiencing: They can’t get their act together.

What I want: I’ve got a business to run.

Safe honesty comes in four flavors: Facts, Opinions, Accusations, and Demands. Facts are descriptions of what you see, e.g. “You told an off-color joke.” Opinions are your evaluation of what you see, e.g. “That’s disrespectful.” Accusations are your assumptions or conclusions about someone or something, e.g. “You’re a racist.” Demands are about the behaviors or conditions you think will close the gap, e.g. “You need to apologize.”

What makes it safe?

Four things about safe honesty make it safe. First, it focuses on what’s happening, not how people are doing. Second, it comes from the head, not the heart, so it’s disconnected from the authentic emotional aspects of the situation. Third, it conceals our own vulnerability. Safe honesty avoids anything that would expose us. Fourth, the result of safe honesty is that the other person is more exposed afterwards. Even something as basic as telling your friend his zipper is down fits all four of these criteria of safe honesty.

Excuses we make

How do people justify their safe honesty? Here are some of the excuses we hear from leaders;

“I’m telling it like it is.”

“Someone needs to say it.”

“It’s my job.”

“Hey, I’m just being honest.”

“We need more radical candor around here.”

“At least you know where I stand.”

The Consequences of Safe Honesty

Safe honesty hurts relationships and workplaces in a variety of ways: interaction safety disappears, trust drops, people get defensive or shut down, false assumptions get amplified, and morale suffers. Above all, people begin to question each others’ motives and start to play it safe by withholding what’s most important.

Real Honesty During Conflict

Consider this type of response to a person arriving late to a meeting: “I’m feeling discouraged. I didn’t see you until 30 minutes into our meeting. I really want to feel confident we are on the same page.”

Or that call with my accountant: “I’m anxious. I want to feel secure I’m doing the paperwork right and I haven’t been able to get response to my first question.”

Real honesty takes things one step deeper by focusing on our emotions and emotional motives during conflict. When we are being really honest:

  • We identify and own our emotions about the gap without blaming anyone or implying that someone else caused our feelings. e.g. I’m feeling discouraged.”
  • We describe our own experience of what happened without pointing fingers, e.g. I didn’t see you until 30 minutes into our meeting.”
  • We disclose our emotional motives, e.g. “I really want to feel confident we are on the same page.”

Real honesty is different because it focuses on how you are doing instead of what happened or needs to happen; it comes from the heart, it reveals your own emotions and emotional motives, and it leaves you as exposed or more exposed compared to the other person.

Why Practice Real Honesty?

Real honesty builds trust and connection. It demonstrates personal responsibility for your emotions and reactions to a situation, it shows real courage to be fully authentic, it bypasses assumptions, reduces defensiveness, improves interaction safety, builds connection, levels the playing field, shows respect, and can open up connections between people they never knew they had.

Next time you recognize the gap of conflict, try practicing real honesty and make the first move to a build more safe, trusting, and collaborative workplace.


Seeing People Through by Nate Regier, Ph.D.This post was inspired by Chapter 3 of my book, Seeing People Through and originally published here. Get your copy today!

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Compassion Is More Than A Feeling

Some people think that empathy and compassion are synonymous. They aren’t, because compassion is more than a feeling.

You have to actually do something to be compassionate. So others have suggested that compassion is “empathy in action.”

“Empathy in action” definition limits compassion

  • It makes compassion dependent on empathy.
  • It relies on a shared emotional experience.
  • It precludes other motivators of compassion.

What motivates you to show compassion?

While empathy is a great motivator for compassionate behavior, it’s not the only one.

Feelings?

The practice of compassion can be motivated by emotions, e.g. “I feel for her. I’ve been through something similar so I can relate.” This is what most people view as empathy, an emotional experience that connects people. In this case, compassion indeed is empathy in action.

Logic?

It can be motivated by logical analysis, e.g. “I have skills that could help. By serving on the Habitat for Humanity board, I could use those skills to help a family have a home.” This would redefine compassion as thoughts in action.

Values?

It can be motivated by principles and values, e.g. “I believe that every child deserves a stable adult role-model, so I will volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters.” Now compassion is equated with values in action.

Guilt?

It can be motivated by guilt, e.g. “I feel so badly that I have more than enough to eat while others are starving.” Here, compassion is simply a form of making things right.

Compassion without emotions?

“But how can you really be compassionate without an emotional component?” you might ask.

You can’t. Compassion isn’t possible without Openness, which means emotional transparency; valuing the emotional experience of our selves and others. Empathy is only one of three ways to do this.

Two more ways to be open

Validation, which is the act of affirming and valuing another person’s emotional motives and experiences. e.g. “Your feelings matter. It’s OK to be upset. I’m listening.”

Validation is not empathy. It does not rely on shared emotional experiences, although it needs to be sincere.

The third way to practice openness is disclosure, which is the act of sharing your own emotional motives and experiences, e.g. “I’m angry about what happened last night,” or “I want to feel safe in this relationship.” Disclosure is a self-ful act that also connects people. The vulnerability of disclosure sends the message that you care enough about yourself to let others know and ask for what you want, and it sends the message to others that it’s safe to share emotions. Disclosure in not empathy because it’s not about the other person.

Compassion can be motivated by more than empathy, so don’t limit it with the definition of “empathy in action”. Once motivated, compassion can be activated by Empathy, Validation, and Disclosure. Any of these can get the ball rolling for practicing real compassion.

Compassion is the practice of demonstrating that people are valuable, capable, and responsible in every interaction.

We are on a mission to bring more compassion to every workplace in the world. It starts with recognizing that compassion is accessible to anyone and it can be learned and practiced in every interaction.


Learn more about The Compassion Mindset, our enterprise program for bringing more compassion to your workplace.

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Empathy Blockers

Empathy is in high demand right now. Leaders who cultivate their empathy skills have more cohesive teams and engaged employees. Whether you fancy yourself an empathy expert, or need to develop your empathy skills, here are some fantastic tips on what NOT to do from the International Listening Association.

What Empathy is NOT

Quizzing   

“Did you do what I told you to do?”

“Did you take the medicine when you were supposed to?

Judging or Guilting

“Why did you do that?”

“That doesn’t seem worth worrying about.”

Well, that was a dumb thing to do.

“I can’t believe you did that!”

“I told you this is what would happen.”

Advising or Fixing

“You shouldn’t have said that.”

“You should have taken the medicine like you were supposed to.

“Maybe you should . . .”

Placating 

“Oh, well, tomorrow is a new day.”

“That’s not so bad.”

Denying or Discounting 

“I can’t believe you’re upset about that.”

“That’s nothing!”

“Shouldn’t you just be glad that you have a job?”

One-upping or Kidnapping the Empathy

“If you think that’s bad . . .”

“You should hear what happened to me!”

Educating

“There’s a good book you should read about that.”

“I’ve got some resources that will help.”

Analyzing

“This seems to happen to you a lot.”

“That probably means you….”

Consoling

“That’s too bad.  I’m sure tomorrow things will go better.”

“It could be worse. Imagine if…”


Compassion (I added this one)

It’s true, empathy is not the same as compassion. Here’s the scoop.

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Two Reasons People Overreact, And How To De-Escalate

Have you ever been accused of overreacting? Have you ever accused someone else of overreacting? You might think differently when you pay attention to emotional triggers and threats to energy supply.

Most often what we label as overreacting is, in fact, a normal reaction to something of which we aren’t aware or don’t understand. On the surface it may seem like someone is making a mountain out of a molehill, but what if there’s more going on than you know? (more…)

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Falling Up The Stairs: Mistaking Your Way to Excellence

When I was young I loved stairs! Going up I would try to leap over as many as I could in one giant lunge. Going down I’d hold on to the railings and see how many I could skip. One time I made it all the way down my grandmother’s staircase in two steps!

I’m grateful I’ve never had a bad accident on stairs. But I have fallen. Falling down the stairs is scary and dangerous. Falling backwards down the stairs is even worse – I’ve done that too. But what about falling up the stairs? Here’s what falling up the stairs has taught me about making mistakes.

The future meets you faster than expected. When you fall up the stairs your landing spot is closer than if you are walking on flat ground, so you hit sooner and learn quicker.

You are still making progress. When you fall up the stairs you are still ahead of where you started.

It doesn’t hurt as bad. Falling up the stairs isn’t as dangerous, and you rarely sustain long-lasting injuries.

Railings help. Having something (or someone) to hold on to boosts courage and makes it easier to get up.

What if we approached mistakes like we approach stairs. Climbing is how we make progress. Keeping it safe will get you there eventually, but that’s boring, predictable, and slow. When we get resourceful about how we climb, though, we increase our chance of making a mistake.

What if we took risks in ways that helped us fall up the stairs instead? Here are three tips for mistaking your way to excellence.

  1. Lean forward, lean in.
  2. Have your hands out, ready to respond.
  3. Pick yourself up quickly and adjust.
  4. Use your support system.

As a leader, parent, teacher, coach, mentor, or facilitator, how do you help your people fall up the stairs? You can help them get to the future faster while still making progress and minimizing the damage.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020
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Three Surprisingly Simple Solutions to Common Miscommunication Challenges

Do you ever say something and the response isn’t what you expected or intended. You may think you are being clear, open, and straightforward, but what comes back suggests otherwise. The root of most miscommunication is good intentions, unintended consequences. Next time, before you escalate, get defensive or second-guess yourself, try these surprisingly simple adjustments to become a better communicator and more trusted partner.

Challenge: When you ask your partner where he or she wants to go out for dinner and you get this tentative response, “I don’t care, wherever you want to go is fine.”

Solution: Respond like this, “As long as we are together, that’s what matters most to me.”

Lesson: Some people won’t share their opinions or ideas until they feel safe enough with you and know you won’t judge them. Above all, they need to know you care about them as a person, no strings attached.

Challenge: When you ask someone a simple question and they respond with another question or, even worse, they question your motives.

Solution: Disclose your motives first, then ask your question. Example: “I am anxious about feeling prepared for the upcoming board meeting. Will you please run the current financials for me?”

Lesson: When you don’t share your motives, you invite people not to trust you. Most motives are emotional, like wanting to feel secure or confident or prepared.

Challenge: When you get honest with someone and say, “I feel like you don’t respect my boundaries…” and they get defensive.

Solution: Get rid of the word, “like” in your sentence, and own your own feelings without reference to the other person’s behavior. Example: “I feel angry and defensive right now. I interpreted your remarks to mean……”

Lesson: You are 100% responsible for your feelings. Never use “like” after a feeling because it turns it into an assumption or accusation. Never imply that someone else is to blame for your feelings.

Caution: These are behavioral solutions and they don’t address the underlying mindsets. When trying these new behaviors, you may may experience some internal struggle. That’s OK, because it means you are facing attitudes and beliefs that interfere with your ability to communicate effectively.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020

Next Element specializes in behavioral training for more effective communication and leadership. We will help you change the behaviors and the mindsets that get in your way so that you can engage differently for breakthrough results.

Call today about training and coaching for you or your team.

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Why Drama Is Your Greatest Threat During Crisis And How To Respond With Compassion

With the Coronavirus outbreak, the world is on high alert. People are anxious and afraid. It’s difficult to separate fact from fear and plain talk from politics. Drama is at an all-time high.

The real impact of this crisis on you your business depends on many factors that we can’t control. But the big question is whether our response will make us part of the problem or part of the solution.

Your response to crisis either makes you part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Here are three drama-based responses to uncertainty and crisis that only make things worse, and compassionate alternatives that help you be part of the solution.

Giving In

Do you shut down, believing you are helpless and avoid reality because you don’t want to face your feelings of anxiety or fear? This type of drama only magnifies irrational paranoia.

Compassionate Alternative

  • Get vulnerable with your own feelings. Let others know you are human too.
  • Empathize with others. People want to know they aren’t alone.
  • Validate other people’s feelings. People want to know it’s safe to talk about it.

Giving Unsolicited Advice

Do you swoop in trying to help everyone and masquerade as the expert? Do you feel more in control when you have advice and answers? This type of drama only creates resentment because it invites others to feel even less in control of their own destiny.

Compassionate Alternative

  • Get curious and ask permission before you offer help or information. People want to be included.
  • Ask people for ideas on creative solutions. People want to feel involved.
  • Leverage current opportunities and assets to adapt with purpose. People want to feel empowered.

Giving Ultimatums

Do broad generalizations, threats, and black or white statements help you feel powerful? When you blame and attack everyone else, do you feel more confident? Sadly, this type of drama only pushes people away, the very people whom you need most to find a way through the crisis.

Compassionate Alternative

  • Clarity the most important priorities, such as relationships, commitments, and safety. People want to know what to expect.
  • Focus on what you can control, especially your integrity and trustworthiness. People want to know they can count on you.
  • Apologize and make it right when you make a mistake or realize you need to adjust course. People want to know you will take responsibility.

By using compassion, humanity can overcome the negative pull of drama and rise to our best selves, especially in times of uncertainty and crisis.

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com 


Next Element offers Virtual Training for Leading Out of Drama and implementing The Compassion Mindset. In just a couple of hours and without leaving their offices, your leaders can get training on new communication, compassion and constructive conflict tools.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020
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How To Help Different Personality Types Navigate Crisis and Uncertainty

Different personality types navigate crisis differently. Personality exerts tremendous impact on how people take in and process information, how they are motivated to take appropriate action, and how they experience it emotionally. Recognizing this can help leaders craft the most effective response plans to minimize panic and maximize problem-solving.

Here are tips to help different personalities navigate crisis.

Thinkers are natural planners.

They want to know the facts, ratios, risk estimates, and data-maps. They crave control, so they struggle with the uncertainty associated with a rapidly changing landscape. Their value in times of crisis is organizational and planning.

Help Thinkers by:

  • Providing up to date, accurate information.
  • Giving them as much advance notice as possible for any changes.
  • Letting them work on plans and solutions.
  • Support them in dealing with the natural feelings associated with loss of control.

Persisters are natural protectors.

They want to know the meaning, purpose and impact of what’s going on. They crave consistency and security, so they struggle with the danger that crisis poses to the people and organizations under their watch. Their value in times of crisis is keeping an eye on the big picture.

Help Persisters by:

  • Supporting their need to clarify priorities and big-picture impact.
  • Validating their convictions and commitments.
  • Telling the truth.
  • Supporting them in authentically experiencing the fear associated with uncertainty.

Harmonizers are natural caregivers.

They want to nurture relationships and connections and make sure everyone is okay. They crave emotional connection, so they struggle with the strain that crisis and uncertainty put on relationships, not to mention the pain it causes. Their value in times of crisis is their ability to nurture others.

Help Harmonizers by:

  • Telling them you care about them.
  • Sharing emotions and offering emotional support.
  • Enlisting their support to provide nurture and comfort to those who are suffering.
  • Supporting them when they express anger about how crisis and uncertainty affects the people they love.

Rebels are natural funsters.

They want to express themselves freely and engage creatively with the world. They crave unstructured time to be creative, so they struggle with the limitations that crisis can place on their environment. Their value in times of crisis is their ability to keep things from getting too serious and gloomy.

Help Rebels by:

  • Supporting their playful and humorous style of dealing with stress.
  • Enlisting their creative problem-solving to find novel solutions.
  • Avoiding overly-regimented environments when possible

Imaginers are natural dreamers.

They want to reflect and exercise their imaginative capabilities. They crave time and space without interruptions to recharge, so they struggle with the increased social interactions that often accompany rapid change during crisis. Their value in times of crisis is to keep calm and imagine the possibilities.

Help Imaginers by:

  • Giving them time and space to reflect.
  • Enlisting their imagination to find innovative solutions.
  • Giving them explicit directions on what to do.     

Promoters are natural doers.

They want to take action and seize opportunity. They crave the excitement of challenge and risk, so they often embrace crisis and uncertainty, but they often lose sight of the emotional connections and impact. Their value in times of crisis is their ability to see opportunity and take decisive action.

Help Promoters by:

  • Directing them to take appropriate action.
  • Enlisting their help to find and seize opportunity.
  • Reminding them of the human side of crisis and uncertainty.

According to research by Dr. Taibi Kahler embodied in the Process Communication Model®, all humans have all six types in them, arranged in a preferred, set order. One of these types primarily influences how we take in and process the world and how we prefer to interact. One of the types in us determines our primary motivational needs and how we go into distress when those needs aren’t met in healthy ways every day. Knowing this and taking care of our unique personality helps us be more resilient during stress and helps us support others in the best way possible.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020

Find out your PCM personality structure and get a VIRTUAL one-hour debrief with a Next Element PCM coach. Learn about your primary motivational needs, how you go into distress when those needs aren’t met, and how to take care of yourself so you become more resilient during stress.

Bring the intelligence of PCM to your leaders with our VIRTUAL training course. Call for details.

Join the launch team for my new PCM book, Seeing People Through, coming out in July 2020.

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How To Communicate with Compassion During Crisis

I travel quite a bit, so I’ve been paying attention to how the airlines are responding to the coronavirus crisis. I’ve gotten emails from the three airlines I use most, Delta, American, and United. Crisis communication requires compassion, which was notably absent in these messages.

All of the notifications conveyed two basic messages;

  1. We know safety is important so here’s what we are doing about it. (Information)
  2. Here’s why you can still trust us. (Commitments)

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs for each email I received. I’ve left out the parts listing the specific actions each airline is taking since they are essentially identical. Information parts are coded Blue, and Commitments are in Purple.

Delta (Ed Bastain, CEO)

As a valued member of the Delta family, I appreciate the trust you place in us and our people worldwide when you travel.

In the current environment, it’s important for all of us to travel smarter and more consciously. That’s why I want to personally update you on the situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and the steps we are taking to ensure your health and safety in your travels.

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

I believe Delta’s mission of connecting the world and creating opportunities is never more important than at times like this.

Thank you for your continued trust in Delta, and I look forward to seeing you in my own travels throughout the year.

American (Kurt Stache, SVP, Customer Experience)

Your safety and well-being is always our top priority at American Airlines, but particularly in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Providing you with up-to-date information on what we are doing to respond to the issue is a critical step in giving you peace of mind when you travel. Here are a few highlights of our efforts:

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

We are confident that our incredible team of more than 130,000 will care for you in the best possible way during your journey with us.

United (Oscar Munoz)

I consider you part of our United family and your safety remains our highest priority.

We are in the business of serving people and in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak it’s important that we give you as much flexibility as possible when planning your next trip. But it’s also important that we give you as much information as possible about the procedures we follow to clean our aircraft and maintain a sanitary environment once we’re in the air.

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

I want you to know that you can continue to rely on us. So, the next time we have the privilege of welcoming you aboard our aircraft, you can know our commitment to you remains as steadfast as ever.

Lack of Compassion in Crisis Communication

What’s consistently missing in these crisis communication emails is openness, the foundation for compassion. None of these top leaders make an emotional connection with their constituents. There is no empathy for the feelings of anxiety and fear and no acknowledgment of the vulnerability we all feel. United and Delta make a broad statement about “family” but show no effort to connect at a personal level.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Compassionate communication requires transparent information exchange, and solid commitments to behavior, but first and foremost is an emotional connection that acknowledges the human connection we all have. Why? Because it is this connection that get us through the crisis together instead of falling apart.

The Compassion Cycle provides a framework for communicating during crisis while including all aspects of compassion.

Openness: Make an emotional connection. Most importantly during crisis is to name the anxiety and fear and connect personally with it so that people get the message, “You aren’t alone and you feelings matter.”

Resourcefulness: Active, informed problem-solving. All three airlines did a great job of this. Even better, give us travelers things we can do to lower our risk and partner with you in the solution. This helps us feel more in control during times of uncertainty.

Persistence: Be trustworthy. Be trustworthy. Be trustworthy. Be honest, be dependable, and be consistent. We all need to know what to expect from you.

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com 

Ideal compassionate communication from any airline would have read like this;

I can imagine that you are anxious and afraid about travel safety in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This is perfectly normal and we are in this together. Our loved ones are also traveling. We are here for you because you are part of our family.

Here is the most up-to-date information we know, and these are the steps we are taking to ensure your continued safety and comfort.

Our mission is ___________. Our commitment to you is__________. You can count on us to uphold these values during this crisis.

I appreciate how difficult it is to communicate effectively in times of crisis and uncertainty. If you are struggling to find the right approach, use ORP (Open-Resourceful-Persistent) to do it with compassion. We are committed to teaching you effective communicating strategies so you can feel more confident during turbulent times.

If you need help, give us a call.

Mr. Munoz, Mr. Bastain, and Mr. Stache, the first consultation is on me!

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020

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  • No travel needed: Virtual instructor led via webinar
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