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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood

Sometimes, it is hard to stay emotionally balanced in the workplace, particularly when those around you are emotionally unbalanced. Often for reasons not entirely known to us-which lead in turn- to situations that surprise us. Unfortunately our co-workers simply occupy the space we are desperately trying to leave behind. That space where actions are ruled by fear and ego.

Sometimes we find ourselves in inescapable situations. When this happens, it is time to pause and reflect. What did we do to find ourselves here? What is our role in this situation?

We always have a role. When someone is angry with us, they have a belief. A belief about us which is built upon fear and ego. They feel threatened. It is very real to them, therefore it is true. That emotional disturbance and thus belief that they have acquired is so real to them that they are willing to engage in a confrontation over the seemingly smallest of transgressions. They are simply reflecting who they are. And as always, that has nothing to do with us, as long as we are doing what we are supposed to do.

The answer is love.

Sometimes these insignificant incidents in and of themselves are simply catalysts- and as we roll the tape back we perceive our behavior in an "out of body" type of honest scrutiny. What did I do, prior to this catalyst or triggering event, that brought about this attack? Why did a torpedo land in the water?

So we set about examining our actions and as we do, we see that our behavior prior to the triggering event, is what really turned today's minor transgression into a big deal. Sometimes we must accept that we have done a poor job. Other times, that torpedo headed our way will completely baffle us. If you are baffled- play the tape back. You will find the answer. There is ALWAYS cause and effect. It is a useless exercise trying to egoically justify your position. In fact, it matters not whether you are right or not. It does not matter whether your co-worker is right or wrong. What matters is finding a solution. Let the torpedo go harmlessly by. That is the only useful course of action.

We want to introduce ourselves as an emotionally evolved adult when these things happen.

There is only one means to a solution and it must occur quickly. Communication, real communication, in a non threatening, non diminishing fashion. We are not seeking to "one up" those around us and satisfy our fear riddled and fragile egos. We are aware of our egos and they are in check. Unchecked, our ego would create losers. We are interested in finding a win-win for our temporary adversaries and ourselves. Win win solutions occur when real communication is employed. And every time we approach a problem with that goal and a solution in mind, we will find one. We cannot control our exterior world, nor can we make our opponents scrutinize their actions, but we can take responsibility for our role in a disagreement. With mutually honest and non diminishing communication, the solution will appear.

Sometimes, that solution will be mutually agreed upon. Sometimes it won't. But it's non acceptance cannot be our doing. We must always do our best to accept that the fears of others are very real to them. We always carry the olive branch. We are not diminished by being kind and respectful of others. And sometimes we must terminate our relationship with them because we accept and love them. That too, is a solution. That is the space we find ourselves in.

When we seek to understand others first, we examine ourselves and then we listen. What others say will have some merit, there will be some assumptions, judgments, and thus conclusions, and some of that will be completely in err or poor process. Then we seek to be understood. Often we find that we have made the same mistakes. As we employ truthful and respectful communication we learn that we all have unfounded fears and that we often make assumptions and jump to conclusions based on incomplete and inaccurate information. Fear and ego, our old enemies, remain the source of all conflict. In the end, it is so un neccessary that we find it a little embarrassing.

Like love, you must possess understanding and be willing to give it away before you can receive it. That's how it is for us. Diminishing and attack behavior with assumptions, judgments, and hastily drawn conclusions are the symptoms of fear and ego. Those behaviors represent the bondage of the human ego of those who act quickly and do not seek to understand.