I am sure you’ve heard the old saying “If you talk to yourself it is a sure sign you are going mad” or “It is OK to talk to yourself just don’t answer back”. I have a confession to make; I do both all the time. I can hear my wife, Jessi, now “that would explain a lot about you”. But hear me out as I do this for a very good reason and I think it would benefit more people to do it.
As many of you know I am DI in DISC speak or a Lion/Monkey in Make a Difference speak which boils down to me responding quickly to things and doing so from an emotional position. I feel I have a high empathy level which makes me someone that takes on others stress as my own and want to fix things quickly. This isn’t a bad thing in many cases but at times where there needs to be a clear contemplative head to respond instead of react I might not provide that. I have been called a tornado by my service team in the past and even asked not to come onto the service floor for a time by my VP of Service. He was right to ask. 🙂 This can extend to things I love to do like give presentations where the excitement of being in front of a group can leave me rambling or not hitting all of my points.
So what do I do to leverage the value from the emotional side of my personality but respond instead of react to events, in conversations and to be in control when I present? I practice and I mean a lot. I do this all the time. Whether it be when I’m driving in my car, brushing my teeth or right before I go into a meeting. I try and “talk through” how I want things to go and how I think they might go wrong. I will literally hear both sides of the conversation in my head and pay attention to what different paths the conversation might take and how it makes me feel so I can use that as a gauge when I feel it in the real thing.
Now I am not trying to memorize what I am going to say but trying to ensure I get the important points across; what do I what the person(s) involved to know, think, feel and do. If I can ensure that I know those points and the rough outline of how I will get them across it gives me room to adapt and stay on point. Knowing how others might want to direct a conversation also allows me to know how to address the points in a way that they would most like to understand them. The power in understanding personalities isn’t about control but about giving control away so that the other(s) are able and willing to take part. Also doing this allows me to reduce the stress when I am going into something big where that added stress might distract or derail me.
Also, if I have already had a conversation in my head my reactions will be more likely to happen as I would have liked to respond if I do lose some control. I keep using the words respond and react because responding is a reaction that is controlled and intentional. It means I took the time to really do it on purpose which is always a goal of mine. I will say that for many years and still in some cases today I let the lion do things out of fear or lack of preparation and it is seldom the best way. I will normally leave a conversation and replay what I said and how I said it only to realize I failed to move things forward and the time it will take to fix or repair things is far more than the time it would have taken to prepare so I get it right the first time.
But no matter how much I try and prepare there are other people on the other side of the conversation and they will likely throw me for a loop at least once. Having worked through some of the possibilities gives me room to process what is going on in those unplanned points because I am not having to “keep myself on track” as much. It allows me to be OK with moments of silence which provide time to contemplate things and how to respond. For someone like me silence is terrible and silence when I should be filling it with direction and/or thought is the worst of all. So being prepared allows me to know there will be those moments and how I will feel when they happen so that I can recognize them, be OK with how I am feeling and then process through it.
To wrap up I don’t do this for casual conversations or conversations in social settings but I do try and do it for any conversation/meeting I have scheduled and want to actually ensure is successful. It can be 2 minutes of preparation or it might be days in the case of very important and planned events. I have been having a conversation in my head for 10 years with my wife about the sports car that I want. I still haven’t had it end where my irrational desire can be made logical enough to have both of us feel OK about it. So I will keep practicing. Maybe someday I will hit on the right way. If you wonder where I have gotten this process it is something of a combination work I have done with my CEO coach and reading books like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability and just plain hating to fail at doing something. So how do you go about making sure your crucial conversations are successful? I would love to hear your thoughts.