Welcome back to OnGoingGrowing! I’ve recently listened to an audiobook called: Crucial Conversations and today I want to share a part of that book which can be of immense benefit to all of us.
Take a cup of your favourite tea, sit comfortably and enjoy your read.
Emotions can be Mastered
The first idea in that Chapter of the book is simple and if you are a regular reader, I’ve covered it in various blogs posts. The idea is: We control how we react to situations and we control how we respond to our emotions. In other words, emotions aren’t just happening to us, we can either be the Slaves of our emotions if we let them take us as a hostage. We can be Masters of our emotions, or at least, Masters of the reaction to our emotions.
It is not always easy to be responsible for how we feel and to own our reaction to these emotions. I get that and I’ve been there myself many times. The point is that not recognising that we can choose our reaction is making us victims (slaves) of our emotions.
“Between STIMULUS and RESPONSE, there is a SPACE That space is where we tell a story and feel.”
To explore that a bit deeper, you can read my article about the Part 1 about the book The Habits of Highly Effective People.
Our Stories are Creating our Emotions
“If we feel scared or hurt, then we’ve told ourselves a story in which we have been injured or threatened.”
To make sense of what is happening to us, we explain it to ourselves with stories. In many cases, these stories aren’t complete. We omit important sides of them, so we can feel better. That is how we make others the villains and decide to blame them.
We need to acknowledge that we have a bias and that we often lie to ourselves. And that’s okay, we need to accept it kindly. But we have another choice and we can take it if we dare too. We can tell a different story. A story where others aren’t always the bad guys, sometimes we are too. We can tell ourselves a fair and complete story.
Owning our Stories
If you want to make the choice to tell yourself different stories, this is for you my friend!
This is how we usually experience life (our “path”):
- We see or hear something (See/Hear)
- We explain it with a story we tell ourselves (Tell story)
- We generate emotions based on that story (Feel)
- We respond (Act)
That 4 step process is simple. It is a truth to be recognised and acknowledged for our own shake. Owning our stories is linked closely to these 4 steps and it is in the reverse order. The authors call it “Retrace your path”. The 4 steps described above are the path, the control of your stories is when you reserve it and it looks like this:
- (Act) Notice how you behave. Are you silent? Are you aggressive?
- (Feel) Notice how you feel, get in touch with these feelings. Which emotions are driving you right now?
- (Tell Story) Analyse your stories. Which one is creating these emotions?
- (See/Hear) Look at the facts in front of you. What are the pieces of evidence who supported the story?
Isn’t that interesting? By retracing our path, we can get out of being the slaves of our stories. That simple 4 reverse step process allows us to become masters.
The 3 Traps of the Stories YOU Tell Yourself
Now that we just learned how to be masters of our stories, but also how to own our emotions, let’s look at the common traps of our stories. There are three types of stories, called “clever” stories or traps. I touched a bit on them at the start of the article, let’s explore them a bit more in depth right now:
- Victim Stories: They are all about blaming others people or things. It is the classic “It isn’t my fault story”.
- Villain Stories: They are stories are about blaming someone, in particular, the villain. Let it be your boss, your spouse or a random stranger, there is a bad guy and he or she is 100% responsible for what is happening to you.
- Helpless Stories: We all said it: “There is nothing else I can do” or “I have tried a million things, nothing work”.
These 3 types of stories are making us powerless. We are giving our power away to someone or something else. These stories are common because they get us “off the hook” as the authors say. They are protective stories. When we use them we feel safe, we are making ourselves “innocent” and we generate positive feeling towards the self.
If we do so, it is time to realise that our problems don’t go away. We are just making it okay by telling ourselves lies. If you want to learn more about the lies we tell ourselves, I suggest you read my article: 7 ways we lie to ourselves every day
The transformation: How to Create USEFUL Stories
We are at our final step! So far, we learned how we make ourselves powerless (slaves) of our emotions through the stories we tell ourselves and we learned how to work on that by retracing our path. Now let’s look at a small but powerful idea.
I mentioned initially that we tell ourselves incomplete stories. What if we tell ourselves, complete stories instead? Telling ourselves complete stories make them useful stories and to do so, 3 actions need to take place:
- Turn Victims into Actors
- Turn Villains into Humans
- Turn the Helpless into the Able
These actions are meant to make the 3 (trap) stories described earlier (Victim, Villain and Helpless), be complete and become useful. By making complete stories while retracing our path, we are re-constructing to a highway to dialogue and openness. This gives us a chance at a positive or even wonderful outcome instead of a dead-end.
The book is full of powerful questions and tools to help you with that. Here are some of the questions that are coming back often in the book and that will support you in your quest for creating dialogue:
“Why would a reasonable, rational and decent person be doing what she/he is doing?”
“What do I really want, for myself, the other person and the relationship?”
“What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?”
These questions can also be looked at as a 3 step process. So the first one will help us in turning Victims into Actors by realising that the other person is struggling and having their own reasons for that.
The second question will help us define and map our intention. Ideally, we want to seek a mutual intention, involving the other party in the process. So aren’t creating Villains but instead working in synergy with another Human being.
The last question helps us to take actions on that intention. To say and do the right things; to move from the Helpless to the Able; o do the actions that will bring the results we want.
To Go Further
The book: Crucial conversations, is obviously about conversations. We have crucial conversations possibly every single day. Whether it is with your spouse, a teenage child or your boss at work. This book is very rich in real life examples and how to work through these conversations, how to get it right.
There are no techniques or shortcuts, it teaches tools that are based on respectful values.
I would suggest that book to anyone, as we all have crucial conversations and very little of us have been taught how to handle them well or how to preserve our relationships while doing so.
You can find the book on Amazon (non-affiliate link) and likely anywhere else! The authors are Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.