Happy Monday! As I write this week’s Stretch, I’m on a plane to San Diego after attending some professional meetings in Honolulu and indulging in five days of rest and relaxation on Maui. I’m returning rested and recharged with a renewed sense of wonder about the incredible beauty of our world.
On the five-hour flight home, I watched the film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which is a thoughtful documentary about the life and work of Fred Rogers. The film showcased the deep dedication he had for reaching children through television to help build their sense of self-esteem and worthiness as well as convincing them of their inherent goodness, value, and individuality. As a child in the 1960’s, I can remember feeling a connection with Mr. Rogers… like he could actually see me through the television and that he understood me. As a mother of young children in the 80’s, I remember seeing those same lessons in a new way through the eyes of my small boys who also watched his program on PBS.
One thing the documentary reminded me of was how passive Fred Rogers seemed when in fact he was quite a warrior. He fiercely championed the idea that while the world was not free from conflict, tragedy, or violence, we could find ways of embracing the truth, honoring feelings, offering non-judgment, and extending respect, forgiveness, and love. He did not believe we should hide the truth from children but rather help them to understand it, recognize their feelings, and respond with love. This is such an important lesson for who we are as a society today.
If it’s not a beautiful day in your neighborhood and your team doesn’t play very well together in the sandbox… don’t lose hope, throw up your hands, or throw in the towel. Most of us didn’t learn how to respond very well to conflict, disagreement, or even a simple misunderstanding when we were young… even if we did watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. And because we didn’t, we haven’t had very many good experiences trying to resolve it. So now, we either avoid it altogether, or we seek it out before it finds us and take it on like a street-fighter, determined to come out the winner at all cost, wearing our “victories” like badges of honor even though we left a path of destruction in our wake. Both ways generally end in a less than satisfactory result, especially long term.
There is a way to engage in conflict that yields much better results consistently- so much better, in fact, that over time we can gain a new confidence and view our engagement with conflict in a completely different and positive way. These Courageous Conversations, as we’ve coined them here at LionSpeak, are our passion because we believe they help leaders to lead their people more effectively, speakers to engage with an audience more directly, and parents to model for their children a whole new way of being.
One of the first things we teach when learning these new skills is self-management. We must master a level of being and skill even though typically the other person in the exchange will not yet have developed those same skills. We must learn to speak to the issue and neutral facts instead of the human being on the other side of the conflict who is likely to be highly charged and emotional. If we meet that emotion with the same level of energy, we often find ourselves in a standoff, if not an all-out fight.
My colleague, Joan Garbo, recently wrote about this same idea: Imagine you are at an ocean beach and you wade out just to the area where the waves break. If you stand full frontal to a wave, it will knock you down, but if you turn sideways, the water rushes past you. Let the emotional ‘wave’ rush past you and deal with the issue itself.
Managing conflict and having Courageous Conversations regularly is really pretty easy, but it’s not always simple to change the way we’ve been responding for years and years. To help you develop the muscle and the reputation for mastering those Courageous Conversations, we’ve developed a 4-Point Self-Check to implement before you engage in conflict. We’ve nicknamed it G.E.C.O. so it’s easier to remember in the heat of the battle. If you’d like a free copy to share with your team, email us at info@LionSpeak.net.
And remember this wisdom from Mr. Rogers: The only thing that ever really changes the world is when someone gets the idea that love can abound and can be shared.