Movie or meeting? What would you rather do? Go to a movie or attend your weekly team meeting?
Most people would prefer their weekly team meeting. (Only joking). You won’t be surprised to learn that when I ask that question in training workshops, the consistent reply is that most people would rather watch a movie. Why? Because meetings are boring and movies aren’t.
And yet, the decisions you make at team meetings have a direct relevance on how you spend your time and energy once you’ve left the room. Watching a movie, on the other hand, is a passive activity, with no option for your input or influence on the outcome.
So, what makes movies so interesting? What engages us and inspires us to go to the movies and watch them again and again?
Think about the best, most memorable movie you’ve seen. It’s likely to be one where you were on the edge of your seat, eager to find out what’s next, and how the dilemma would ultimately be resolved.
The key difference then between watching a movie and real life is not the conflict, but knowing how to resolve it. So often with meetings, you get to the edge of a conflict and then bail out.
Afraid of the consequences, afraid of personal attack, afraid of anger, afraid of uncertainty. The result: BOREDOM. It makes sense then, that building confidence in ways to resolve conflict helps to break the deadlock.
At BDC, we use Herrmann Whole Brain Thinking as a framework for self-awareness. We understand that people have different perspectives and therefore different ways of considering a problem. The question I often hear is how to apply that in communication when you’re in the heat of the moment.
My least preferred style is ‘yellow’, or the ability to think ‘big picture’. Take the situation in a team meeting recently, where there was agreement on the direction for a piece of work. Post meeting, my ‘green girlie swot’ got stuck into the work to get the job done and proudly produced my accomplishments at the next team meeting, only to be told that the work was no longer needed because ‘we’ve had a new idea’.
What to do then, in the heat of the situation?
Number one is to breathe. Deeply. Then:
- Stop, think and label it: Use Herrmann Whole Brain Thinking ‘colours’ to understand the conflict. For example, a red/blue conflict may sound like this “you would like to know the facts that led to the product recall, while what’s important to me is how our customers will feel about this. I’m responding red to your blue.” Address the issue or the problem at hand, rather than generalise or personalise the problem e.g. “we need to talk about the quality and standards of our products” vs “you’re such a drama queen”.
- Here’s our big tip: Repeat the last sentence the person just said.
- That’s right, repeat the last sentence the person just said. Do this, before you move on.
Used in improv theatre practice, this technique has two important functions:
- It buys you time so that you can listen with the intent to understand rather than listen with the intent to reply. It shows that you have the intent to collaborate, rather than trying to compete or win the argument. This builds a platform for collaboration.
- Using the language of the other person builds understanding and shows them you are listening, because, guess what: you do have to really listen to use this technique. Try it and find out. Using their language builds understanding for both partners in the conflict and helps you to move into their ‘colour’ or thinking preference. This is different to the technique of paraphrasing where you’re trying to capture the essence of what the other person is saying and putting it into your own words.
Practice this communication technique with a friend and have some fun with it. Once you’ve gained some confidence in using it, try taking it to the next level. Next time that you’re sitting on the edge of a conflict, instead of bailing, click on the karabiner, tie the rope and descend with grace into the abyss. Most of all, enjoy the ride. Real life action is better than a movie any day.
Want more? Register for Managing Conflict. Thursday 30 November and Thursday 7 December 2017, 9am – 12pm at BDC.