We have all bumped up against human nature. Despite our sincere desire to have a positive impact on the world around us, we have all experienced disagreements, differences of opinions and disappointments, which in turn lead to frustrations, doubt, mistrust and stuck-ness in our situations or relationships.
Since 2004, in my role as a leadership strategist, I have been honoured to work with thousands of different people. I have found that most, like me, strive for three goals:
- To leave a place better than they found it
- To leave people feeling better for having worked together
- To engage in collaboration with an emphasis on trust, honour and integrity
More and more, I am meeting people who aspire to this intention. To me, that means a ‘hope for better’ is spreading. We can continue to have a meaningful impact by simply interacting with the above-mentioned intended goals. We need to speak, listen and act meaningfully.
Some variation of the 3 value goals above can be achieved even in the most confrontational of situations, but it does require an attitude shift. Instead of dwelling on the confrontational aspects of a situation, we need to stay focused on a conscious way of leading.
A conscious way of leading isn’t always easy. It is when tensions run high and the pace of life is hectic that we are most likely to encounter the 3 Ds:
- Differences of opinion
Sadly, when confronted with the 3 Ds, we often spend more time and effort defending our position than trying to communicate from a place of trust, empathy, understanding and collaboration. When we lead from a position of defence, we create a command and control style of leadership where blame, shame, guilt, fear, doubt and worry thicken the air and suffocate any possibility of working together. Giving in to defensiveness actually makes our problems worse.
While there are times when I can easily stop myself from reacting, judging, comparing or blaming, there are many times when it is more challenging. The same is true for everybody. In challenging situations and conversations, we often disconnect from our deeper desire to act better. The reason for this is that we feel threatened. Logically, we know that we cannot inspire and influence while being defensive. However, when we feel threatened or frustrated our attention is intuitively drawn to a defensive posture and our energy is directed to protecting or counter-attacking.
The solution is to be conscious about where we place our attention and efforts. When there are disagreements, differences of opinions and disappointments, try to turn your attention to a positive influence by inspiring people to see different points of view and navigating confrontational personalities in non-threatening ways.
I often get pushback when I share how we all have a tendency to defend and attack in difficult situations. Often, it is hard to recognize. I invite people to look at the thoughts they have about the people and the situation and to take a closer look at their inner dialogue. In every conversation, internal or external we are creating conversations that are either harmful or healthy. When we are stressed about keeping up or getting things done, we leave little time for attention to conscious, healthy interaction.
Conscious communication can help us reduce our reactive patterns of defending, withdrawing or attacking in the face of conflict. It can help create the personal mastery and discipline needed to move away from:
- Harmful, judgmental self-talk (labeling, blaming, shaming, guilting)
- Harmful conversations (conversations that cause people to react)
- (Mis)interpretations and actions that cause unhealthy power dynamics and disconnection