Are you a ‘trash can’ for others toxic behaviors?

“My boss sent my wife a friend request on Facebook with a personal message and she didn’t take kindly to that behavior.  She blocked him promptly and wants me to confront him on this” said Sam (name changed) an employee in a client organization.  She’s been asking me everyday whether I did what she asked me to do i.e, confront my boss.  When I say that I will do it at an appropriate time, she gets angry and starts alleging that I am not showing enough concern and not able to protect her.  This is draining me emotionally and I am dreading the thought of facing her back home everyday.

toxic people

“Why don’t you just tell your boss about his unacceptable behavior?” I asked.  Don’t you think it is important to confront him immediately before your relationships starts to stink from accumulated trash from both ends?

I really want to confront him about it, but am afraid he will be upset and that will effect my work and relationship with him.  He is a nice guy and has been extending lot of support to me and helping me grow, said Sam.

Are you feeling good about this whole situation? I asked Sam. Isn’t it draining you emotionally when you have been accumulating this trash on a daily basis?  Don’t you think you must clear your emotional trash can before the stench of it starts to spread to all your relationships?

I really want to but do not know how? Said Sam.

Sam’s is not an isolated case.  We find that people are living, walking, talking “emotional trash cans” without even realizing that its filling up fast and would then start to affect the mental health as well as relationships.

I remember one such incident which taught me why it is important to shed your “emotional trash” before it becomes toxic for you.  It was at the airport and here was a guy who jumped the queue and went straight ahead to the front acting as if he has not seen people waiting their turn.  I was angry and instead of telling that guy to get back in line, I started to discuss with my partner who was with me about how even the educated do not have the civility to behave in public spaces.  I continued my internal dialogue “how do this people even get this far?”  “what’s happening to the world?”  “Why do people behave this way?” and many more.  It just spoilt my mood and the trash of this transaction carried forward for the entire flight as well.  I was getting irritated by the slightest of noise from a child who was 4 rows away and in a playful mood.  I was angry at the flight attendant not coming soon enough to serve me my pre-booked meal which I blamed on poor service attitude.  I was not happy with fact that a fellow passenger was snoring and some were talking loudly disturbing my peace.

I must say, by the time I landed, I was filled with a lot of emotional trash and it had started to emanate stench outside of me – in my transactions.  It was just a matter of telling the guy who cut the queue to get back in line.  It was my right and as much as the right of all others who were in queue.  I am sure if I had pointed that out to him, he would have complied, even if reluctantly or sheepishly so.  But I chose to keep the trash of that man’s toxic behavior inside me.

So many of us go about our day accumulating ‘trash’ from the toxic or negative behaviors of others and fail to clear and carry them to bed instead.  Garbage accumulated over many days starts to impact our transactions with the outside world.  That’s the reason why when relationships go bad we say “my relationship stinks”.

Sam was waiting for the opportune time and in the meanwhile building up his own stories about how his boss wouldn’t have had a bad intent, how his wife was over reacting, how it might effect his relationship with boss, how he could even lose his job for leveling allegations against his boss and so on….  It was already starting to effect his relationship both in office and at home.  In office, he started to see his boss’s overly friendly nature towards him with suspicion and with a hidden agenda.  At home he was fighting with his wife over not confronting his boss.

I told Sam “If you are really honest with yourself, you will find it’s worth it – that you are better off than being a trash can for others negative behaviors”.  It’s important that you clear ‘trash’ regularly as you would do to the physical garbage at home.

So many of us would have faced such behaviors.  Lewd comments, suggestive texts, crass jokes, sexist jibes, adding us to groups without prior approval and so on….

Many choose to let it pass without realizing that it is that little bit of garbage which will eventually pile up to become a toxic dump of negative emotions.

How do you think Sam should approach this?  How would you deal with this?  How should Sam articulate his ‘critical feedback’ to his boss?

©thecriticaldialogue.com

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

When you are ‘furious’ – be ‘curious’ – How to listen during a critical dialogue?

You never accept Pa.  You pick up an argument and stick to your guns without trying to understand what I am trying to tell you.  Just go and leave me alone”

I remember when I heard this for the first time from my son, my emotions were running wild.  I was hurt and he said he wanted to be left alone and didn’t want me to interfere.  I was angry as well.  How can he be so curt and not understand the concerns of a parent?  How can he take me so lightly?  I think this was spiraling out of control.

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Almost all parents go through these emotions at some point in their life and I was no different.  In spite of your best intent, there are times when ‘the critical dialogue’ with a family member turns into an argument where your purpose changes from understanding to winning.  You hate to lose and begin to lose control of the conversation.  Simple matters escalate to include various other baggage which we might be carrying over the years of which the other doesn’t have a role to play.  It confuses, frustrates, angers and becomes emotionally draining.

So what do you do in such a situation?  “When you are ‘furious’ the best strategy is to become ‘curious’.

In an argument the most impacted is our ‘listening’.  We tend to turn every discussion into a battle and want to outwit each other without trying to understand each other’s point of view.  Many times I have observed as a facilitator when others argue almost furiously, they are actually saying the same thing or meaning the same, only that they seem to use different tone and statements.  In fact I am able to find a lot of points where both the parties seem to be in agreement.  Maybe even 90% with only 10% disagreement.  Have you found this happening?

I call this ‘furiously agreeing’ to each other.

The problem with this type of listening is that we are ‘listening as an adversary’ than a ‘buddy’.  When that happens the purpose of the discussion or argument turns to defend, contend with, resist or oppose’ and the attitude turns to ‘me Vs. you’.  The strategy then turns to ‘I have to make them feel wrong or point holes in their story or dominate the debate’ . We then start to judge, argue, interrupt, debate just to score a point.  The impact of such listening is ‘resentment’.  As my son, felt at that time.  He started to resent the idea of speaking to me as I somehow was not willing to or not showing any interest in listening to his point of view.

 I was worried.  I was the only one to whom he used to open out and talk and if this continued, he would lose an ally and start looking elsewhere for comfort.  I thought deep about what I could do?  Is there something which I can change in the way I  ‘listened’?

Listening you will agree suffers the most when you are engaged in a critical conversation with someone with whom you have a deep emotional connection.  These are the relationships we take for granted.  We do not much care to choose our words and actions wisely, thereby negatively impacting our communication.  We realize only when there is a breakdown and by that time it could be too late.

The best way to listen is by starting with the following questions in your mind.  What do I really want?  What is the best behavior I need to demonstrate to get the outcome I really want? How can I make it ‘safe’ for the other person to speak more?

Turn yourself into the ‘buddy’ mode of listening.  You would have experienced yourself that you are so comfortable talking to your best buddy.  Have you ever thought of the underlying reasons for that?  It’s because our best buds don’t judge us, they allow us to be who we are, they care for you, they are not in it to win-it.  More importantly they are ‘curious’ about you and your feelings.

So learn to ‘listen as a buddy’.  Let’s look at the steps (The 5 R’s ©)

Step 1. Recognize – the need for people to express themselves and their need to be heard.  “I understand that you really want to share some things with me”

Step 2. Request – ask questions as if you are curious to know more “I really would like to hear what makes you think I never care to listen?  What do I do which makes you feel that way”

Step 3. Reflect – confirm your understanding by repeating the speakers exact words.  It’s also like ‘mirroring’.  “So you say that I interrupt you before you complete your sentence?”

Step 4. Rephrase – using your own words to confirm the meaning.  “So you are saying that it’s best that I allow you to complete your sentence before I respond?”  Is that correct?

Step 5. Respond – with ‘open ended questions’ to deepen your understanding.  “ tell me more”; “what are your expectations from me which will make you more comfortable as you speak?”  You can even add value to the conversation by putting forth your own thoughts in a safe manner like “I agree and…..” instead of the typical confrontational “I agree but”

When you start to ‘Listen as a buddy’ your purpose is to “understand, support, assist”.  And the key attitude is “it’s me and you” ; the strategy changes from ‘me against you’ to ‘me and you’.

As I realized, my son really didn’t have much disagreement with what I was trying to say but his concern was that the way I was communicating with him.  When I changed to being his ‘buddy’, we started to have more and more of ‘the critical dialogue’ which otherwise would have been lost in furious arguments or silent resentment.

We must remember that most arguments consist only of 5 to 10 percent of the facts which people disagree with.  Our focus must always be on the ‘points of agreement’ on which we can have a meaningful dialogue and work through our differences.

So how do you Listen; as an “Adversary” or  a “Buddy”?

© thecriticaldialogue.com

Just how important is an apology?  Turning a critical dialogue to a more meaningful one!

The following two incidents , one at work and the other at home would put things in perspective.

I remember one incident in office where there was an impending senior management visit along with one of our client representative.  This account was crucial so much so that they contributed a significant amount to our bottom line.

Our boss gave us a whole lot of tasks to complete before the D-day.  Our team had burnt the midnight oil in getting things ready and waited with excitement to showcase our capabilities both to the client and to the senior management team.

The day arrived, the client and our management team arrived and were first involved in a long closed door meeting with our Boss.  Our excitement turned to dejection when post that meeting, the team just left and our Boss after sending them off got back to his seat and started to work as if we didn’t exist.

All of us were fuming and wanted to know what happened and why we were not met by the client and the management team.  We confronted our boss and what irritated us was his response “Hey, they didn’t find the need and so did I at that moment, so what’s the big deal?”

This is where it started to get ugly and we shot back in unison “next time we are not going to do an overnight’er and this is the last time.  You know we worked our ass off for you and you didn’t even bother to come by and let us know what happened”

This was going nowhere as he shot back “You guys don’t have to tell me how to run the business.  I am the one who decides and I am clear that it was the most appropriate thing to do at that time, that of not making them stay longer”

This response clearly indicated that the Boss here has taken the confrontation as a show of disrespect by his team on his judgment of the situation.  The dialogue had turned critical and heading towards conflict.

A similar dialogue at home, when I returned home late from work as we had a huge crisis to be dealt with in office.  It was both mentally and physically exhausting.  The moment I entered home, my Wife shouted “I’ve been waiting here like an idiot, thinking that you will come early today and take me out on a promised date and here you are who didn’t care to even inform me.  You never keep your promises and this is the last time I am believing you”

This dialogue was also turning critical.  I shot back “Oh! please give me a break.  I am already exhausted dealing with all that is happening in office and now I have you to content with at home”

Both these instance will tell you when the dialogue gets critical.  It’s the type of response we give or get during such conversation.

In both instances you will find that the parties involved i.e, Boss and Team, Spouse and Yourself, the outbursts were an indication that all felt violated and were fighting for respect.  People felt ‘hurt’.

The best option is for you to step out of the ‘content’ of the dialogue and see what caused this aggressive response.

An apology would have done a world of good and moved the dialogue into a more meaningful understanding of each other.

saying sorry quoteAn apology which sincerely expresses your regret in your role to have caused that hurt in others.  The boss could have simply responded by saying “I am so sorry, I couldn’t give you guys an opportunity to showcase your work, after all the hard work you put in”  This would have led the team to then calm down and start asking more meaningful questions like “what transpired in the meeting?” etc.

Similarly, I could have just responded with something like “I am so sorry, I know I screwed up and couldn’t make it early and I didn’t call you”  I couldn’t extricate myself from the mess in office”  Would have brought my wife to at least calm down and ask “what happened” instead of blaming me.

In both instances I felt an apology would have moved the dialogue from critical to meaningful.  My wife keeps reminding me all the time that a “sorry” would help than attacking back.  It irritates her that instead of showing some respect, I start to attack as a defense mechanism.  It then escalates into a full scale show down with no meaningful conclusion and a lot of ‘hurt’ as residue.

We seem to always get caught in the fight to win and our ego adds fuel to the fire.  The best way is to sacrifice a bit of your ego by admitting your mistakes.

Now I know, we place high value to our ‘ego’.  But whenever you give up something you value, you are rewarded with something even more valuable, i.e., a healthy dialogue and better outcome.

All it takes is an apology!

Idiots Can’t Lie! – Tips To Identify If Someone Is….

Lying takes more cognitive effort than being honest. You have to work hard to keep your facts straight. Once you start down the path of lying, you not only have to remember facts, but also the facts you kept changing and how.

Imagine that you told one of your friends that you bought an item for far less than the actual price, you not only have to reveal where you got the offer, till when does the offer exist and so on. Now consider this, if someone else, let’s say a common acquaintance asks you about the same item you will have to come up with a story which is consistent with the lie you told earlier, lest you get caught. Needless to say, it takes great amount of effort to remember all the lies you end up telling which at times leads to immense cognitive overload. To cover one lie you end up telling another one and so on.

Idiots

To build on the lies you tell you need high levels of creative thinking, after all the story you build need to sell and must be believable. Most of us are also endowed with a sense of identifying deception however we rarely trust our instincts and start to rationalize such thoughts as mere imagination. Here are some of the tips for you to identify if someone is lying. These tips can be useful for you even in interviewing prospective candidates for a job as well.

Tip #1: Less on specifics – Someone telling the truth will be providing you with a lot of details of the story. If its about a trip they will be able to recall all the details of the journey, like what they saw, heard, landmarks, colors et al. A liar will try to be as vague as possible on the details, including time because these are difficult to construct and then keep consistent for future repetition. A great example is of the cops who frequently ask questions related to detailing of an incident to the witnesses or the possible convict. They ask you to reconstruct the events repeatedly over a few days to see if you are consistent with your story.

Tip #2: Excuse of a poor memory – People who tell the truth don’t have a problem remembering as they have lived it or experienced the event or occurrence. It comes pretty easy to them to repeat as it is a true event. However, liars frequently excuse themselves of a poor memory. They will use terms like “don’t exactly remember”, “Not sure”, “mostly”, “broadly” which are indicative of an effort to keep it safe and vague. In reality it is not their poor memory that is the problem but their distress in constructing a story of an event which did not occur.

Tip #3: Keeps the story short or vague – Keeping it short helps to overcome the effort of building a string of lies. When the story is vivid and longer, it is coming mostly out of true events. Lies have to be created in the head and doing it on the fly would mean you can’t get to be elaborate. While people prefer brevity in conversations, it pays to remain patient and allow the person to narrate as much details as possible and without interruption. For an interviewer, it is important that he remains absolutely silent after asking a question and allow the person to exhaust himself of the narration he gives. A story of true occurrence will take a longer time than a lie.

Tip #4: Will be full of contradictions – A true story will bind together well than a series of lies. When you allow the person to keep on talking you will find that slowly but surely the person who lies will start making contradicting statements about the event. True events will not have such contradictions. Therefore, when you have a series of interviews scheduled in your organization, it is important to keep the questions same and exchange notes to check for consistency. I find that rarely do we ask the very same questions. Each interviewer wants to showcase his ability in asking the most difficult questions than the previous one.

Tip #5: Thinks hard before answering questions – A liar would most obviously have to think through and construct a string of lies before he sets out to answer your questions. You must keenly observe the person immediately after you ask a question and if you find that there is a long pause, it could well be an indication that what is being told is not true or are missing facts.

Tip #6: Is fidgety or in a hurry to end the conversation – An honest person is willing to spend a lot of time having a conversation with you and is enthusiastic about narrating the whole story. He has to be interrupted to be stopped. A liar on the other hand will be always in a hurry to end the conversation and move on to another subject or appear to be fidgety all the time. Watch the end of your conversation and if you find a sense of relief it is an indication that the person was not wholly truthful. However, if the person is happy to continue the conversation, most likely that what he is talking about is from true events.

Tip #7: Talks slowly and deliberately – A liar constructs sentences with lot of care in order to make sure that he doesn’t get caught. He would also pause a lot before every sentence is uttered. While we have been led to believe that when someone speaks slowly and deliberately, the person is thoughtful and intelligent, the fact is that the intelligence is being used to construct stories which may not be wholly true. An honest person will be in the flow and is not deliberate in his speech.

Who do you like ‘An honest idiot’ or ‘a brilliant liar?

3 keys to build bonds and satisfying relationships

According to me the 3 keys to build true bonds and truly productive relationships is summed up by the following:

  1. Don’t ‘be’ what you think others want you to ‘be’relationships
  1. Don’t expect others to ‘be’ what you expect them to ‘be’
  1. Just ‘be’ what you want to ‘be’

This is what I call as ‘Be’ing the relationship.  You will find yourself a fantastic relationship built on freedom, openness and trust.

Agree?

 

Relationships – Get some clarity!

Once you experience ‘clarity’, you will see differences as a great opportunity in your relationships than as conflicts.  Somehow, I find that we tend to consciously try and surround ourselves with people who hold the same views or piece of everything we hold.  We get around us people who support our point of view, thinking that if we can collect enough of the same pieces of everything, we can have all of everything.

clarity in relationships

We fail to realize that the more you collect the same of everything, the more you will miss the other pieces required to complete the jigsaw puzzle.

It’s like collecting a lot of ‘tyres’ without having the supporting frame, handle, spokes, brakes, chains etc.  You just cannot build a Bicycle only with ‘tyres’ can you?  When you become conscious of this reality and start seeking out people who are ‘different’ and can support our process of growth is when the ‘wheels of our life’ start to run.

As with all the component parts of the ‘Bicycle’ we need to consciously surround ourselves with people who have learnt something which we are yet to learn.

Go get some clarity…..

‘Perception’ influences Human Relations?

That many aspects impact our human relations and ‘perception’ is important.

Perception is the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based upon our memory.  In other words, it is the way you interpret data around you. The data may come from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.

How we perceive is also based on our personality, attitude, knowledge, experiences, values which we have acquired over the years.  They somehow put things in a ‘box’.  Therefore, it becomes at times difficult to relate to others if ‘perceptual sets’ do not match.

Perception

It’s like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

The challenge with perception in human relations is that we may not always understand someone else’s perception and/or assume their perception is our own. This is where disagreements and other communication issues can occur.

For example, if you perceive that your spouse is too focused on spending time with friends, your interactions with him/her will be based upon this perception. You may perceive him/her to be distant/disinterested in you. It could make you frustrated and short tempered.

At work as well; perceptions can also cause miscommunications. For example, you may perceive your coworker to be lazy because he always arrives to work at 9:15 a.m. and the start time is 9 a.m.

Suppose he has a differently abled child with a special need, and the school where he drops him/her doesn’t open until 9 a.m.? Perhaps he has already informed your human resources team of which you are unaware. This perception can be a dangerous one, since we don’t have all of the facts.

Remember, your perceptions are completely dependent on the facts you possess at that time.  It may not be complete and can be detrimental to your human relations.

Next time when you find it difficult to relate to others, just ask yourselves the question – Is it my perception or do I have complete facts?

Am I trying to fit a ’Square Peg’ in a ‘Round hole’?

Why are people ‘stingy’ in their praise?

Why are people ‘stingy’ in their praise?

It’s often very easy for people to be ‘critical’ of others.  At the same time I find that people are very ‘stingy’ in their praise’.

PraiseWhat makes them this way?  Is it that they do not find themselves worthy of such praise?; or Is it that they feel that it will make the other complacent? or is it that they feel it will give the others a feeling of superiority? or simply we have been told from childhood that the only way to help and improve people is by ‘critical’ evaluation.

Whatever be the reason, I feel that a ‘praise’ or little ‘compliment’ goes a long way in making the day for others.  Instead of making them complacent, it surely will make them more ‘responsible’ in living up to the expectation of the person giving them that praise.  In fact every human looks for a daily does of praise which will keep him motivated and feeling worthy of his life.

Do not lie? Don’t you look for some yourself?  Don’t you feel delighted within when you receive praise?

Then why is it that you find it hard to dish out some ‘praise’ to others?

Don’t be stingy – give some praise!

I am looking for some from you as well 🙂

Is your life on ‘Auto Pilot’?

Most people don’t usually take control of that moment: too often we react instantly, automatically, impulsively. This is a huge reason wrong thinking occurs.

AutopilotI’m not talking about identifying objects, I’m talking about assigning meaning to experiences or observations—often incorrectly.

For instance: someone makes a comment about you, and you interpret the comment as an attack. You begin defending yourself, and in the ensuing interaction, harsh words are spoken, maybe even worse. I’ve experienced this phenomenon many times, on both the giving and receiving end of the error.

Or maybe you see someone at work, or on the street, and you automatically form an impression about that person in your mind, which may bear no relation to who they really are;

Or you read a post in a forum, and you create this story in your mind about another person, without having any idea what’s actually going on in their life;

Or you’re thinking about something someone said yesterday, and you decide “that must mean she doesn’t like me,” and then all your ensuing thoughts proceed along that assumption, though it may not be true;

Or you hear a rumor about some guy cheating on his wife, and you instantly form a judgment about the guy, though there’s no proof he actually did it yet;

Such examples pop up all day, every day, everywhere. Snap-judgments, knee-jerk reactions. Mental habits, thought-patterns. “Automatic pilot” thinking.

Like the man on the bus with the kids jumping around and screaming, and you’re thinking how inconsiderate it is, and you ask him to please rein his kids in; and he apologizes and explains that their mother died that day, and they don’t know how to handle their loss; and you feel awful.

In the moment after the phenomenon occurs, we have an opportunity, before our automatic judgment or evaluation kicks in: we can pause a moment, deliberately choose to exercise right thinking, and ask ourselves: is this really true, or is it just some story I instantly created? Is my idea of this person reality, or is it just a fabrication of my mind?

Why not practice ‘Observing without Evaluating?  Going through experiences without labelling them.

While being on ‘Auto Pilot’ is a necessary condition for most of our day-to-day actions, when it gets in the way of our personal growth it is time to take control.

This is particularly required to improve the quality of your relationships.

Are you ready?

How ‘labelling’ destroys your life and Self-awareness’?

Labelling comes with a huge cost; the cost of pre-defined boundaries, prejudices, stereotypes and more importantly your inability to become more self-aware.

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Right from the time you are born to death ‘labels’ follow you all along and these somehow start to guide or misguide your life.  Precisely the reason most are not completely satisfied with the way they lead their life or it currently is.

Let me explain this with a few examples.  As a child when you are labeled as a ‘brat’ most people around you tend to expect a certain brashness in your behavior and in every action of yours they see a little bit of it.  Repeatedly then name-calling you or terming you that way you start to believe that indeed you are one and continue to rebel against this.  The more you rebel to get to your core identity the more you are labeled and this cyclic process is what you get caught in.

There are innumerable examples like this.  The moment you see a bird which has already been labeled a ‘parrot’, ‘peacock’, ‘woodpecker’ a ‘crow’ an ‘owl’ a ‘vulture, you stop seeing the real beauty of its flight, its color, its character.  So much so that you stop observing.  It ends up just as a tick mark that you spotted a ‘labeled’ bird.

The list of such labelling can go on and on including sensitive ideas like ‘god’, ‘satan’, ‘secular’, ‘communal’, ‘democrat’ and ‘republic’.

The reason I raise this topic for discussion is to ask you this “Did you become self-aware of the several labels you came across in your life?”  “Was it a pre-defined one?”  “How has it impacted you?”

Is it true about yourself?  What have been the labels given to you/on you?

Did you ‘label’ this article in your mind even before you started reading?  What impact/influence did it have?  Did you try to be more aware of the questions I am trying to raise?

Only when you take off the ‘labels’ will you truly enjoy in complete awareness.