Mastering the stories in your head and staying with your motives in a dialogue when you're angry, scared or hurt, can be hard. I recently had the opportunity to attend a course on Crucial Conversations, run by Vital Smarts, which offers tools for talking when the stakes are high.
I learned that some of us naturally move to 'silence' or 'violence' modes when things are going down with which we are not comfortable. In my case, its silence. Neither are helpful.
Here are the five steps we learned as supports to help us share tough messages:
1. Share our feelings.
2. Tell your story.
3. Ask for others' paths.
4. Talk tentatively.
5. Encourage testing.
Visit this link to find out more about crucial conversations training: https://www.vitalsmarts.com/crucial-conversations-training/.
But what if you're dealing with someone who doesn't want to 'play', isn't rational or reasonable, doesn't want to think about the way they behave and how it affects others? Well, the method doesn't work.
And what if someone uses the technique on you to hide behind: to require you to change your behaviours when its their issues or inadequacies that are the problem? Then, its a challenge.
And how can you tell which one of these, if any, the situation might be?
I was thinking about this as I climbed Mt Holdsworth on the weekend. It was one of those glorious days that start chilly and end up sunny and hot with no breeze. In the early morning, a haze hung over the mountains, making them look fifty shades of blue and painted in oils.
Both of those scenarios were acted out in the last two roles I've had as policy manager of small teams where the team members had never actually done any policy and where the general managers were focused almost solely on their positions. It was these experiences that kicked off the development of my Public Policy 101 training course - part of the course deals with how to deal with people.
In the policy world, people and their machinations, prejudices and blind spots can come out of left field at any time and bowl you over. The past thirty years have given me great experiences, insights, and understanding of where I went wrong, on which to draw for my novels and my Public Policy 101 course.
I knew there had to be a reason why I've stayed with policy all these years.
Today I'm sharing some of the links to interesting things that pop into my in-box.
The first is the NZ Society of Author's Podcast series with writers such as Kevin Ireland, Elsie Locke, C.K. Stead and Fiona Kidman. Lots to get your teeth into here: https://authors.org.nz/podcasts/.
The next is the Wairarapa's Bookworms series which is broadcast on Arrow FM and Wairarapa TV. My good friend Steve Lillyston hosts a regular show full of play readings, novels and poetry. Something for everyone. The latest show can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoZPu8wO-VA. I need to re-read some Pinter after watching this.
Next time, I plan to share some of my experiences in using "Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High".
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
I came across this quote from e. e. cummings
"To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everyone else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
And so I rediscovered some of his poems. Here's: Somewhere I Have Never Traveled, Gladly Beyond.
somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their
in your most frail gesture are things
which enclose me
or which I cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
through I have closed myself as fingers
you open always petal by petal myself
as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first
or if your wish be to close me, I and
my life will shut very
as when the heart of this flower
the snow carefully everywhere
nothing which we are to perceive in this
the power of your intense
fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its
rendering death and forever with each
(i do not know what it is about you that
and opens: only something in me
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all
nobody, not even the rain, has such small
A work colleague and I have been talking poetry. She quoted to me this poem (Neutral Tones by Thomas Hardy) which wrings out the last vestiges of love in a relationship gone wrong: beautiful and heartbreaking. My favourite line is: "the smile on your mouth was the deadest thing/ Alive enough to have strength to die".
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
– They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.