Are you sure?

I came across this wonderful quote and couldn’t help but share it.

Between what I think

What I want to say,

What I believe I’m saying,

What I say,

What you want to hear,

What you hear,

What you believe you understand,

What you want to understand,

And what you understood,

There are at least nine possibilities of misunderstanding.

–          French Jurist Francois Garagnon


The great blunder

“You have spoken for hours and hours. You might have spoken for several thousand hours in this life. You must have done five or six hundred thousand hours of talk. What is the result of all that talking? Has it brought solace to any soul, any mind or any heart? Has it brought tranquility in anyone? Has it made any sense or brought any direction to a life?…..It is excusable for people who do not know what they are wasting. But for people who know, who have heard, who have known at some level and if they still go on wasting, it is unpardonable. This is prajnaapradh, great blunder.” – Sri Sri in Ashtavakhra Gita

Non Violent Communication in Action.

Last evening, my 7 year old son, started crying and it was quite unusual for him, the crying continued and he became more and more agitated…. tears and words were flowing non stop. I had no idea what triggered the outburst, but there he was blaming everything and everyone – sister, friends, teachers, mother – the whole world was at fault. I stopped and sat with him and started listening to him, except that this time, I decided to put into practice what I was learning. I started listening to something deeper than the words, I was listening to the feelings and needs behind the outburst, without blaming and judging. It took him exactly three minutes to vent out and come out with the original need – all he wanted was a toy aeroplane and once he said that, the need disappeared and so did the crying.

It was a conversation, where I put the focus back on him and all I did was listen with all my heart – and it was exhilarating for me.

I was able to put into practice the process of receiving empathically.

Today morning, there was another difficult conversation that I was part of and I was so glad to handle it the way I did.

I am delighted to have stumbled upon Non Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg – In Marshall Rosenberg’s own words.

NVC is described as a process of communication or a language of compassion, but it is more than a process or language. On a deeper level, it is an ongoing reminder to keep our attention focussed on a place where we are more likely to get what we are seeking.

The difficult part of any conversation, more so when emotions are running high, when things are at stake, when our ego is pricked and wants to get even, is to hold ourselves back and listen. As Marshall says to keep the attention focussed. Easier said than done and this is where I think that the years of Sadhana (Meditation, Sudarshan Kriya) has helped me. So, what does receiving empathically means? Marshall summarizes:

Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. We often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.

In NVC, no matter what words others may use to express themselves, we simply listen for their observations, feelings, needs and requests.

I wish I had learnt to communicate this way much earlier in my life. Why? Again to quote Marshall,
NVC helps us connect with each other and ourselves in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish. It guides us to reframe the way we express ourselves and listen to others by focussing our consciousness on four areas: what we are observing, feeling, and needing, and what we are requesting to enrich our lives. NVC fosters deep listening, respect, and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. Some people use NVC to respond compassionately to themselves, some to create greater depth in their personal relationships, and still others to build effective relationships at work or in the political arena.
And I am seeing the results in action.

You can read more about NVC at their website.

If you have been practicing meditation, Sudarshan Kriya or any other allied techniques to still your mind, I think it becomes much easier to put NVC in practice. Go give it a spin.

Why haven’t you asked “why” lately?

John Baldoni in his article The Power of Why writes:

One of the most powerful words in the English language is why. When asked as an interrogatory, why
has the power to change assumptions, preconceptions and mindsets. It
has the power to initiate change as well as the power to affirm the
right course. It is a word that should be used frequently but with
great care. When used the proper way, it can be one of the most
effective tools a leader can employ. And it’s totally free.

Why is a word favored by those not satisfied with the way things
are. These individuals tend to be inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists,
social capitalists and politicians. By nature, they are catalysts.
Inventors and entrepreneurs wonder about alternatives using why to provoke thought about what might be and try and quantify it as a product or service. Scientists use why as part of the scientific method that begins with a hypothesis and ends with proof. Engineers use why as a means of diagnosis: what happens and why. Social capitalists and politicians alike use why
to question assumptions about the way organizations and governments
serve their constituents. For all of these types of people, why
becomes the trigger word for invoking alternatives as well as beginning
the process of bringing people along to alternate points of view.

Mastering Your Stories

Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations in their Crucial Skills Reminder newsletter writes:

One of the best predictors of success in a crucial confrontation is not
your skills, but your story. Its a difficult thing to stand apart from
the story we tell and look at it dispassionately. But those who have
the most control over their emotions, their actions, and their lives
are those who can poke at, laugh at, observe, and change their own

So true. Both the books by VitalSmarts: Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations make great reading. The unfortunate part though – at least for me – is to internalize and implement them. However much I try, I revert back to my old patterns pretty soon. Maybe taking a training class might be the only way out. Unfortunately VitalSmart does not conduct any training in India. If anyone knows an equivalent program in Bangalore, drop me a line.

How to get team members to take action

This month’s management tip in SD Magazine’ newsletter in by Tim Bacon, an XP (Extreme Programming) coach and a software developer at Thoughtworks. I have been following Tim’s blog for a few weeks now. I like the tips that Tim provides in this newsletter.

Rather than simply reacting to the problems that team members bring to you, a good manager first decides what “stance” he or she wants to take and then forms an appropriate response, says Bacon. In general, the stance and response are designed to “coach” the employee toward finding a solution to the problem. Here are some examples:

Reflecting: “So if I understand correctly, what you’re saying is …”

Prompting: “Have you considered [doing] / [thinking about] …”

Positing: “What if [this were true] / [that were to happen] …”

Suggesting: “If it were up to me, I would …”

Connecting: “Have you talked to [her]? She …”

Digging: “Is that really the problem?” / “How do you know?”

Challenging: “So what are you going to do about …” / “Is doing nothing an appropriate response to …”

Aiming: “What are you really trying to achieve?” / “How will you know when you’re done?”

Steering: “How would you get there from here?” / “Can you break that down into smaller steps?”

Focusing: “If you could only do one thing …” / “What’s the first action you can take?” / “What is most important right now?”

Summarizing: “So, the problem is … the alternatives are …”

Chairing: “Shall we take a vote?” / “Give [him] a chance to speak …”

Smoothing: “Why don’t we take a quick break …”

Marshalling: “I hear what you’re saying, but we’ll have to come back to that later; right now we need to … ”

Taking an interest: “What’s new with … That sounds interesting … How does it work? How did you come up with …”

Encouraging: “Well done …” / “Thank you …” / “… which is a big step forward” / “… which really helps”

Obviously, these stances pay off only if the coach actually listens to the responses.

Learning Leadership

[Via SdMagazine] A PDF booklet titled “Notes on the Role of Leadership and Language in Regenerating Organizations”, available exclusively to the registered users of SD Magazine. This book emerged from the conversations between members of Paul Pangaro’s Developer Web Services team at Sun Microsystems and Dr. Michael Geoghegan, who devoted more than 25 years to research, development, and strategic planning at Du Pont.

Dr. Geoghegan helped the team examine their work in the context of Sun’s changing, highly competitive environment. In a market that raises many fundamental business concerns, he gave them ways of evaluating and regenerating their relationship with developers.

A sample:

The source of new language is questions –
questions that spark new conversations,
questions that create controversy.

Ask yourself:
What questions should we ask?
And more important, ask yourself:
What questions are we not supposed to ask?
(Ask those.)

Ask yourself:
Who aren’t we conversing with?
And then ask them:
What are your questions?

Ask questions that don’t come easily –
questions that are tough, awkward, even taboo.

Ask unnatural questions.