When we look at how we approach Crucial Conversations and what we do in the moment, it pays to pay attention to our behaviour. How do we react? How do we respond?
What about how others respond to us. Do they turn silent or violent, or do we? To get the results we care most about, we need to make sure our motives are in sync with our behaviour.
To help us understand how to make sure our emotions and behaviour are in sync, I’m going to introduce you to what we call The Path to Action.
At VitalSmarts, we often use this saying: Our stories create our emotion, and we create our stories.
This saying is the underlying wisdom behind The Path to Action, a framework that helps us better understand what’s happening to us during a crucial conversation.
See & Hear
We take in information through our eyes and ears. Throughout our day, we see and hear everyone’s actions towards us.
Maybe we see an email that was CC’d to someone who shouldn’t have been CC’d, or we overhear a private conversation that affects us.
Tell A Story
The next thing that happens, naturally and biologically, is our brain tells a story about what we just experienced to make sense of what happened.
As biological and emotional beings, this story causes us to feel something about what happened.
Our emotions then cause us to take action. If we’re not careful, we either clam up or go violent and before we know it, we’re in the middle of a crucial conversation that could go horribly wrong.
Think about these three takeaways about The Path to Action we all experience in our daily lives.
This is part of life.
We will continue to find our own meaning from interactions, there’s no graduating from this process, but understanding it is a skill and we can work at and improve. We do this by mastering our ability to think and feel before engaging in a crucial conversation.
Take your stories lightly.
We need to recognise that our stories come from within and treat them tentatively before we take them as facts. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the other person wants to hurt us, make a fool out of us, etc.
When we treat these stories tentatively, we open ourselves up to the possibility that the other person’s intention may be different than what we expected.
We have the power to choose our attitude.
In his masterpiece, Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When we’re in the middle of an emotional, crucial conversation, this isn’t the easiest thing to remember but it can be incredibly self-empowering.
When we become aware this process happens in all our interactions, we can choose to hold on to our stories lightly. We can withhold an emotional action until we get into the crucial conversation and discover more about what’s really happening. Only then can we get the outcomes we really want.
I’d like to share a personal story with you about a manager I once had whose actions I interpreted in the wrong way. Watch the video above.