So I’m sitting in my favourite café/bookshop and I observe this. There’s a lady on her phone, very earnest, sitting down and making her point. Really making her point. And then she finishes. Must be the other person’s turn then. You’d think.
Picture this. The Doctor is about to open the door to the terminally ill patient. She has had a frantic day. Her daughter has been taken ill at school. Her husband is away. Finances are stretched at home so she is working long hours. And this is not the first such patient she has visited today. So she puts her hand on the door handle and prepares to go in.
Long ago and far away I worked with this French guy. We’ll call him Pierre. And it wasn’t working. I found Pierre aggressive, unhelpful and devious. Is it possible that he found me difficult as well? What, me?! Well, yes, probably. What to do?
Leonard Cohen, the singer songwriter who died last year, has a great line in his song “Anthem”: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s where the light gets in”. In the fourteen years that I’ve been doing executive coaching, one thing I have learned is to look for the crack.
Albert Einstein is frequently quoted as saying that “reality is an illusion”. So what’s the reality? Is one of us right and one of us wrong? Is the answer a bit of both? Or is there no such thing as reality?
So the scene is rural Ethiopia, and I’m chatting with a small girl. She’s dressed in probably her only clothes. No shoes. Remarkably smart watch, and I’m looking at it.
Four questions was all it took to learn the story of a stranger on the bus. And my world expanded a bit.
I hate having my photo taken. I know I am not alone in this. But wait. There is hope.
I made a mistake with a client contract last year. Well nearly. Actually I listened to others who told me I’d got it wrong. The key word here is “listened”.
I ran a business once that I wanted to be pizza, but it was fish and chips. I wanted it to do things it couldn’t do. But it could do other things really well. So that’s what we did, and we did it sustainably well for a long time. We were in fish and chips. Not pizza
My initial impression was now completely replaced by something quite different. I had jumped to a conclusion. Put somebody in a box. And I had been wrong.
We spend all our lives talking with people who don’t speak our language, in a communications style sense. So we need to be able to understand our style, and learn to read that of others and make the adjustment.
My wife Liz was away last week. I coped. Men do you know. But her first question on returning caught me out. “Did you water my plants?” You have plants?!
The elapsed time between me banging my head and swearing is probably less than a second. Swearing is for me therefore what psychologists would call an “automatic response”. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about swearing. I just get on with it.
Wow! Good question. It came to me recently from a young, successful and definitely ambitious Business Director. We’ll call him David.
Our niece Sarah was 21 recently. With typical flair, her Mum suggested we all gave her one piece of advice on being an adult. Adding to the pressure these were to be written on post-it notes and stuck on the family fridge for all to see.
There was an advertising campaign a couple of years back which used this line. It makes the point, of course, that when I am stuck in a traffic jam and looking at all the car drivers around me, they are doing the same to me. We have all helped to create the problem. But there is a wider point about human behaviour.
We were sitting in the local park recently watching the bird life. Not an obvious theatre for learning about human behaviour you may think, but stay with me for a moment. Our attention was caught by a coot who was acting aggressively towards every other bird on the lake.
“When it comes to influencing others, I only have one strategy. I make my point, and if they don’t get it, I make my point again. And if that fails I have no Plan B”. I came across this, pretty much verbatim, in a conversation with a Senior Manager recently. Truth to tell, I come across it all the time.
"80% of the time if you have a behavioural problem in your organisation it's because you have either poor structure or poor processes". Or so it says on page 56 of "This Stuff Really Works". Surely it can't be that simple? It's all about personalities, right? Or cultural differences. Or gender. Or folks just being plain difficult.