I remember when the concept of soft-skills meant just that: soft. They were seen as weak and squishy. Fifteen years ago I managed an employee assistance program, working with “troubled” or “troubling” employees on how to play better in the sandbox. As a clinical psychologist I appreciated the importance of emotional intelligence, communication and relationship skills. And my corporate clients seemed to appreciate it too since they would refer employees to us for help in these areas. With one caveat. They usually referred as a last resort, after all else failed or when the employee was already half way out the door. The message was pretty clear; soft-skills might be important, but they are a set thing, and people can’t really change. You either have them, or you don’t.
Some things in life are unconditional. Some are negotiable. And some are non-negotiable. Knowing which is which and honoring each one is guaranteed to make you a lot more effective, especially when dealing with conflict.
Unconditional things – THE WHO
There’s only one. Human worthiness. People are worthy, regardless. Their behaviors may be terrible, but they are OK as human beings. You may be thinking, “What about Hitler, or that serial killer, or those really evil people. They aren’t worthy!” Even in extreme cases like these, it’s possible to respond clearly to their behavior while leaving a person’s worthiness intact. In most daily cases, however, seeing people as human beings, worthy of dignity and respect, despite their behavior, will serve you and them much better.
Negotiable things – THE HOW
How we get where we are going is negotiable. How we close the gap between what we want and what we are experiencing can take many forms. There are many different ways to solve problems, a lot of options for getting from point A to point B. People are different in how they perceive the world and what’s important to them, yet they all seem to make it through their day. Don’t fall on your sword around the HOW. It will get you alienated and you’ll feel frustrated a lot. Many negotiations and conflict-resolution efforts fall apart because people treat the HOW as if is was a non-negotiable.
Non-Negotiable things – THE WHY
Why are you here on this earth? Why do you get up every day? What is so important in your life that if you didn’t honor it, you’d lose your soul? What are the core principles and values that give you purpose?
Non-negotiables aren’t about what other people should or shouldn’t do. They are about how you will chose to live your life.
The minute you expect others to live according to your non-negotiables, you encroach on the other two categories listed above.
Are you passionate about spreading your values? Do you think the world would be a better place if more people adhered to your non-negotiables? Nothing wrong with that. Just know that unless you honor the WHO and the HOW principles along the way, it’s going to be very rough travels and could get violent.
Put it all together and the compassionate accountability mantra leading yourself and others out of drama sounds like this.
I’m OK, You’re OK. There may be multiple ways to solve this problem and I’m open to exploring them with you. Here’s what’s important to me. What’s important to you?
Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2016
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My middle daughter is a senior in high school. She’s been driving a hand-me down car that belonged first to her grandfather, then her parents, then her sister, and now her. It’s getting less and less reliable. We really need to get her a better car before she heads to college.
Let’s imagine that I have a $10,000 budget and I’m looking for just the right car for her. I’d really like to find a Toyota Corolla. I am at a dealer and they are showing me their selection of pre-owned cars. We drive a few, nothing grabs us. Then he says, “I’ve got the perfect thing. We just got this in, and I know you’ll like it.”
Human language is the most amazing thing. I am particularly fascinated by the process of how we say things, even more than the content of what is said. Take caveats, for example. They set the tone for the whole sentence, no matter what you say next. Some are so powerful that you don’t even need to finish the sentence because the real point has already been made. Here are three that can do serious harm to your credibility. I’ve offered alternatives that show authenticity instead.
Adding value is all the rage. Supposedly if you can add value you will get you noticed, get that job, get the promotion. I tried adding value the other day and it backfired. My eighth grade daughter was struggling with her math homework. I asked her about it and she shared her frustration with remembering the rules for adding, dividing, and multiplying exponents. Great thing I was there because it just so happens I was a math whiz in high school. I remembered some great strategies I had used to overcome this very same problem. So I decided to add value by sharing them with her.
Emotional intelligence requires a lot more than simply being aware of your emotions. It involves taking full responsibility for them as well. A lot of people are happy to identify and share their feelings, but not always willing to own up to them.
Leading self and others out of drama with compassionate accountability starts and ends with emotional responsibility.
Here are four truths about feelings that may challenge you, and are guaranteed to increase your integrity and authenticity if you apply them.
I got the opportunity to interview Marshall Goldsmith, world renowned business educator and coach, on the power of questions. Marshall shares his wisdom around these topics:
- What’s the difference between active and passive questions?
- What are the Six Engaging Questions to start every day?
- What are the top three questions we should ask ourselves when facing leadership challenges?
- What are the most important things to focus on each day?
You’ve recognized that your culture is headed in the wrong direction, or at least could use a course correction. You’ve decided to explore outside help, perhaps from a consultant or training firm. We are very familiar with being across the table for that first conversation, and the conversations that follow.
I used to believe that in order for me to open up to someone I had to trust them. Unless I felt safe enough that they weren’t going to misuse my vulnerability, I didn’t place my trust in them. This made sense to me.
At Next Element we focus on three core leadership skills, Openness, Resourcefulness, and Persistence. Of these three, openness is my weakest. Showing authenticity and transparency, being vulnerable, supportive, and genuine are the things I struggle with most.
Conflict has a really bad rap. At almost every speaking engagement I ask the audience what comes to mind when they hear the word “Conflict.” Almost universally, there is a negative reaction. Phrases like, “Somebody gets hurt,” “I hate it!” or “Run away!” are typical responses.
For many people conflict is synonymous with casualties. They’ve experienced so many situations where key people in their life handled conflict in a destructive way that they now think conflict is bad. Something to be avoided at all costs.