If it hasn’t happened to you, you’ve read about it or it’s happened to someone you know: people stranded at a busy airport because their flight was cancelled. It happened to my friend Tom who handled it brilliantly. It’s a great example of how to influence others.
Negativity breeds more of the same
When Tom heard the announcement over the PA, his stomach sank. His flight was cancelled. It was late in the evening and, because he’s a seasoned business traveler, he knew the chance of other flights being available was pretty slim.
He watched as an all too familiar scene unfolded in front of him. Angry passengers were crowding the airline’s customer service desk being exceedingly rude to the unfortunate agents behind it. The agents, who had nothing to do with the cancellation, were losing patience. Tempers were flaring.
Tom asked himself, “Who would know how to get me to my destination?” When the answer came to him, he grabbed his coat and briefcase and headed for the first customer service desk he saw that had agents standing behind it. Happily, their flight had just left and they had no customers waiting in line.
As he approached the desk, Tom glanced at the nametag of the agent who made eye contact with him, smiled and asked, “Sarah, can I ask you something?” Smiling back she said, “Of course.” In a pleasant tone of voice and without placing blame on anyone or anything, he laid out his dilemma: the flight cancellation, the fact that he needed to be in Detroit in the morning for an important business meeting, etc.
Then Tom posed a brilliant question, “If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”
People love to share their expertise
Tom, an executive in his company who had gotten to the C-Suite because of his strong leadership skills had learned a long time ago that people love almost any opportunity to share their expertise. Sure enough Sarah and the other agent Julio couldn’t wait to give Tom all of their inside tips and techniques to solve his problem. By the time he left their counter, he had a ticket for a flight that would guarantee his arrival in Detroit long before his meeting started.
Let other people solve your problem
I’ve written before about unsolicited advice, which most of us don’t like to receive. The reason there’s so much of it being offered is because we love to solve problems, particularly other people’s problems. So imagine actually being INVITED to do so. How thrilling! I can see you rubbing your hands together in happy anticipation.
Using influence as a win/win
The next time you have a thorny problem, ask yourself, “Who would know how to fix this?” and then ask them that wonderful question posed by Tom, ““If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” A solution you might not have thought of may be offered, and the person you ask will be pleased that you recognize his/her expertise.
If someone provides a solution and you decide not to use it, or you’re not sure, let him/her know. Why? Because some people get offended if they think they’ve solved your problem and then find out you didn’t apply their advice. To avoid this you might say something like, “I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I’ll have to make the decision myself but your input helps me think it through.”
People love to help
Our society places great value on lending a hand. In the aftermath of natural disasters we see heart-warming stories about these acts of support in the news. If you think of it, many of the fairy tales that were read to us as children involve some kind of rescue scenario. Most of us cut our teeth on this concept.
When you ask people to help, you are giving them an opportunity to do something they enjoy. It is a win/win of the best kind.
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I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am in recovery from 30 years of clinical depression. Much of what I learned about keeping depression at bay is what I bring to my teaching whether the topic is Passionate Self-Care or Dancing With Change.
A few years back I learned something new that has helped me immeasurably in my quest to stay balanced. It happened one day when I was in a foul mood. If you’ve ever been in this type of mood, you know it’s very different from a regular old bad mood—it’s like a bad mood on steroids—angry and ugly. I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. Nothing was going particularly wrong in my life. In fact, things were quite good. And then it dawned on me. For entertainment I had been listening to the latest James Patterson book on tape.
James Patterson is an incredible writer. He’s so good, in fact that all of the violent ugliness that took place in this book was all too real. It felt as if I were a part of it and my brain reacted by releasing all the appropriate stress hormones that hit your system when you’re involved in or witness to violence. I was in fight or flight mode and it was awful.
This was the day I realized that a good deal of my depression was self-inflicted. The Law of Attraction says that you get more of what you focus on. Choosing where to place your focus in essential to Passionate Self-Care. We all know that, don’t we? And yet most of us don’t practice it. Take the news, for example. We think that following it keeps us well informed when in fact the news is simply someone else’s opinion about what happened. It’s not “the truth” and it’s designed to whip us into an emotional frenzy. In fact, most of the news is none of our business.
We think violent movies, TV shows or games don’t hurt us but they do. If they’re any good, they make you feel as if you are right there. That’s great if you’re part of the dance sequence in Footloose but if you’re watching a movie where someone is being subjected to a horrific act it affects you mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. And once you get those images into your brain, they are there forever. Ask anyone who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as I have and we will tell you—forever as in those images never go away. If that’s true, why not implant images that make you smile instead of grimace?
If you are truly serious about taking better care of yourself then being careful about what you feed your mind is a key component. Watch movies and read books with happy endings or ones that are at least neutral. Look for the good in others instead of the bad (including yourself). Listen to happy music. If the paper’s lying around, read the comics or the Opinion Page but throw the front page into the garbage where it belongs.
When we do this are we denying the reality of how the world really is? I say no. What we are rejecting is the idea that life is mostly awful. We are saying to those who present it as such, “I’m no longer willing to listen to you.” When I was in the midst of my worst depression my world was awful and most of it was self-created. I watched maudlin movies, I read horrific books, I engaged in constant complaints disguised as intellectual discussions. My focus was on the travails of life and that’s precisely what I attracted.
Life is no different today but I am. Do I still have challenges? You bet I do. My life partner Bill has pancreatic cancer and it is terrifying. What’s different is that I’m not making it worse by feeding my mind a load of self-pity or engaging in conversations about how unfair life is. Do I talk about my fears to Bill and to dear friends? Yes, I do. But mostly I choose to focus on the incredible love we share and the fact that he’s here with me now.
The only real control any of us have has to do with what we feed our minds. Use this gift wisely and watch how wonderful life can be.
Because the Law of Attraction says, “You get more of what you focus on,” a critically important component of Passionate Self Care is focus. If you want to train yourself to recognize where your focus is, start by listening to conversations around you. What is the focus of each? Now look at the people holding those conversations. Are they a match to what they’re focused on?
Never is this so clear as when you listen to the elderly. Those who are having lengthy conversations about their aches and pains and pills and surgeries are the ones who are in the worst shape.
The ones who are talking about their gardens, pets, hobbies or grandchildren are vibrant and healthy. They may have aches and pains but they don’t dwell on them. Because of that, their aches and pains are manageable.
Sullen teens are obsessed with how unfair life is and how ridiculous adults and their rules are. Well-adjusted teens are focused on sports, music, school, or sharing cool new trends with each other.
What are you and your friends focused on? Start listening to your words – those that come out of your mouth or those you type into email messages and texts. Will the recipient of your words be happy to hear from you or inwardly groan?
We all agree that we don’t like to be around negative people but many of us who express that sentiment ARE the negative ones people don’t like to be around. And we don’t even know it. How can that be? How is it that we can be primarily focused on the negative and unaware of it? It’s because it’s become a socially accepted habit.
The news media consistently focuses on the worst events. When we broadcast our own personal news, we seem somehow embarrassed to share what’s going well in our lives. Doctors are trained to look for what’s wrong versus ways for us to stay healthy. Managers, until recently, have been trained to focus on employees’ weaknesses instead of their strengths.
There’s a new trend in management I would like you to steal for your Passionate Self Care. It’s called Appreciative Inquiry. An example of how it’s being applied will help clarify what it is:
The traditional style of conducting an employee’s performance review consists of 10-15 minutes focus on what an employee does well (employees refer to this as “buttering us up for the kill”), with the balance of the meeting focused on everything the employee needs to improve. In other words, the manager mainly focuses on what’s NOT working versus what IS.
A manager who practices Appreciative Inquiry would flip the time. She would spend 10-15 minutes focused on what an employee needs to improve and the rest of the meeting on everything the employee does well and how to leverage those skills. This manager focuses on what IS working instead of what’s NOT.
When I talk about this in my workshops, people get very excited, “Yes, that’s what my supervisor needs to do.” They stop in their tracks when I tell them it works both ways. “What do you mean?” they ask.
If you want your supervisor to focus on what you’re doing well, you must also focus on what you are doing well. You can’t expect to attract a supervisor (or a mate, friend, or child for that matter) who focuses on your good qualities if you are continually focused on your failings. Remember, you get what you focus on. That includes getting people in your life who agree with your self-assessment.
Appreciative Inquiry is the daily practice of looking for what you like about a person, place or thing (and that includes you). As you begin to focus on what you appreciate, you’ll begin to attract more of that into your life.
Appreciation is a feeling that can only attract good things to you. As you begin this practice of appreciating your friends, your community, your house, your children, your health, your family, and on and on and on, you will begin to feel more energetic and more vibrant. The Law of Attraction says it can be no other way.
I can’t think of anything more important to Passionate Self Care than using Appreciative Inquiry in all that you do. Try it. You’ll see.
My favorite definition of the word upset is: an unfulfilled expectation. You were expecting X to happen but Y happened instead and now you are upset. Expectations play a big role in Dancing with Change. Whether you are a child, an adult or an adult behaving like a child, when you become upset it is important to ask, “What was I expecting to happen that didn’t?” You will be blown away by how quickly you can get to the bottom of what’s upsetting you.
“What were you expecting to happen that didn’t?” is also a great question to use when interacting with others. Think about how useful this question would be when you are:
– Managing a team
– Providing customer service
– Interacting with your spouse
– Trying to please your boss
Imagine being at the Customer Service counter in a store. A clerk is trying to calm an upset customer. The clerk says, “I really want to get to the bottom of this. Please tell me what you were expecting that didn’t happen.” What you are seeing is the clerk setting a context for the conversation that gives both parties power to resolve the problem.
The uses for such a brilliant question are endless. Whenever someone is upset, ask the question and then listen. Many negative situations can be diffused as a result. The act of merely asking the question implies that you care about why the other person is upset and that alone carries a lot of weight.
I am on vacation with my grandchildren. What a luxury—a week to just hang out by the beach and have fun. As I watch them interacting with their parents, I am struck by how often we ask (actually demand) that children dance with change.
Last night Abbie and Christopher wanted to go miniature golfing. We adults couldn’t get our acts together in time for that to happen. Naturally, they were upset. We used it as an opportunity to teach them about dealing with change. We wanted them to understand that life doesn’t always go as one might hope.
This morning, as I reflected on the event, I started to wonder how understanding we adults would have been if the roles were reversed. When children delay something that we want to do, are we equally understanding? I haven’t always been. Usually when children are the delay factor, I have gotten upset and what follows is a lecture on the “rules” or “respect for others’ time.”
As a child, the rule I always hated was, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Yuck. The Dancing with Change version of that same hypocrisy is that we want everyone else to fully embrace the DWC step Accept that which cannot be changed. However, when it comes to our own response to change, acceptance is nowhere in sight. We want to manage and control events in the face of overwhelming evidence that it can’t be done.
So, when children get upset over changes they cannot control, we lecture them about being more accepting and “rolling with the punches” that life inevitably delivers. But heaven forbid we should follow our own sage advice.
As you go about your day and week, and you get upset, practice asking, “What were you expecting to happen that didn’t?” Then, start noticing where it would be effective in situations you observe. This question is a powerful tool that will help you more gracefully Dance with Change.