Boy… are you in for a surprise. This article is probably not going where you think it is based on the title, but you’ll understand what I mean if you read the whole thing. I just read a quick snippet of something which triggered me to write on the topic I am about to. It’s something I’ve been learning to do over the last few years, but it’s becoming a little more and more ingrained in me. It’s probably one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. This is not going to be about “me” from a “what I can do” assertive perspective, but rather it will be more about “who am I in this” situation. It’s about less of me and more of you!
Many years ago, this all started for me when a very good friend of mine shared two little sayings that have served me well. The first one I’ve modified a little. It goes something like this “Conflict is like a bus. You can stand directly in front of it and let it run you down completely, or you step aside and feel the breeze as it blows by”. Wise words, especially when coupled with the other phrase he taught me, “it’s your problem, it’s my problem, there is no problem”.
The key element in both of those phrases is ME! I have the choice over my reaction, action and over my attitude. I liken this to another phrase I keep pretty well centered in my mind. It’s a quote from Chuck Swindoll and which goes like this “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. It’s amazing to me how I can completely change the course of my day just by considering my attitude. Notice that I didn’t say change my attitude… I said “considering”. I have come to learn that it’s more important to become aware of my attitude so that I can not only manage it, but also how I subsequently react as a result.
I think at about 9000 miles per hour and I’m often 2 or 3 sentences ahead (in my mind) of what I’m currently saying. You could say that I’m thinking before I speak, but that would not be the case. If I’m honest… I’m admitting to “professing” when that happens. I’m telling you “this” about “that”…. I’m being a windbag who is full of hot air and that serves no one! Of course “professing” has its purpose when instructing on a topic with which you have intimate familiarity and need to share fact, but it’s not so great if you need the person in front of you to understand what you’re sharing because learning is interactive! Thankfully, those are rare events for me now, but the thinking at 9000 miles an hour part isn’t.
I get really excited and motivated by creative thought and brainstorming. It’s an integral part of what I do for a living. One of my roles is as a facilitator. I get a group of people together in a room and lite the fuse in a discussion. My role is to give everyone a voice, but all the while I’m being an idea or process vampire. I’m listening! I have to if we as a group are going to achieve our goal (whatever that happens to be in the context). We all have something to contribute, but I can inhibit the process if I’m dominant in the brainstorming session or conversation. That’s where the power of “ME” begins. In order for me to be successful as a facilitator, I have to do my job as a facilitator. I may well have plenty to add to the conversation and I will do that, but I pick my moment to interject and then I’m careful to do that as a peer, not as a leader. I’m careful to not dominate the creative process, especially if the idea we’re working on is my brainchild. It’s important to me to get the very best out of my peers and the only way to do that is to get me out of the way! We all have something to add to a conversation, but if we’re too dominant, assertive or overpowering in our approach, all we’ll wind up with is our statements, ideas and thoughts thrown back at us.
I have a very strong personality and because of that, I’m responsible to keep it in check. I’m the only one who has the power to do that. I’m the only one who can keep my mouth closed until it’s appropriate and I’m the only one who can “listen” for the appropriate moment. I’m responsible!
In any situation, I have the opportunity to stop and ask myself the very same question I’m asking everyone else. I have the opportunity to stop and think before I speak. I have the opportunity! I am getting better at taking that opportunity, but I have to admit that it doesn’t happen all the time. I am grateful though that I’m far quicker to recognize when I’m not listening to others, or asking myself where I am in a question or context.
Stopping and not only thinking about a situation or question, but taking the time to ask ourselves how we feel about it and where we see ourselves in it can quite revealing and more importantly, humbling! I often see a very different reaction from myself now, because I consider the other person’s perspective first, or how they might react to what I was going to offer. I think the best way we can serve ourselves is to empower others. No… I’m not being altruistic and suggesting that you throw yourself under the bus (though owning your stuff and admitting when you’re wrong is critical). I’m suggesting that if you ask someone a question and then actually listen to their ideas and encourage them, you might get far more than if you tell them what YOU want them to think. Setting a context is obviously required, but after that, it’s time to shut up and “let the dogs out”. Collaboration is about energetic discussion, but it’s also very much about listening. I work with someone who is a total introvert and worse… they have almost no ego. You practically have to put dynamite under their chair to get them to flinch, but they do flinch! I’ve learned that this person has an amazing amount of knowledge and insight. They also have a ton of passion, but it’s locked up inside them. I’ve learned to watch their body language and listen to their little “tells” so that when I notice them, I can encourage them to offer what they’re thinking.
I’ve learned that while I have lots of ideas, I wind up with far more if I listen to others and encourage their thoughts rather than doing the talking myself. It’s exponential actually. It becomes something like an idea frenzy and it’s amazing to be a part of! I’m not saying for a moment that I sit back and don’t offer my thoughts too, but I become a peer in the process of idea sharing and I remember my role as the facilitator.
The power of me is not just about what you can do, what you can bring or you have to share. The power of me is helping people to become their potential! Do that once a day and I bet you’ll live a pretty happy and fulfilled life!