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Balancing Magnetism and Connection

I’ve been thinking lately about John Maxwell’s Law of Magnetism from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership in relationship to working for inclusion. This law states that “who you are is who you attract.”

When it comes to creating inclusive groups and workplaces, sometimes we have to look past the obvious features of a person, features that might highlight differences, and find the features we have in common, things like values, goals, and mission.

When building a team, John Maxwell recommends finding people who are “like-valued” but with different strengths. That means being more intentional than simply looking at the people you are naturally drawn to.

I first started practicing this about 6 years ago. As an educator, I am frequently evaluated by students and administrators. For many years, my student evaluations consistently showed about 10% of my students LOVED me, 10% HATED me, and the other 80% liked me.

For years, I assumed it was an expression of the students’ personal preferences, but then I learned John Maxwell’s Law of Connection and realized it was my responsibility to connect with students who weren’t naturally drawn to my teaching style.

When I started intentionally reaching out to students who held back and seemed aloof, the change was remarkable. It created a new way of relating to my students (and my evaluation numbers improved, too!).

What amazed me was how little effort it took. All I did was greet the aloof students by name when they came into the classroom. That little action let them know I saw them and I knew them, that they were as important to me as any of the other students.

If you’re ready for a little help improving the relationships around you, let’s talk! You’ll be surprised how impactful little things can be!

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The Power of Language

Recently I decided to re-read one of my favorite novels of all time – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  There are so many things I love about this novel, but the thing I love best is how well Tolkien created different cultures with their own histories and languages.  (This shouldn’t surprise you if you know me at all!) 

This time through, however, I’ve become more aware of the cultural conflict within the story.  Tolkien paints a beautiful picture of how conflict and mistrust can be turned around for mutual benefit.

A History of Mistrust

From the beginning, the characters of Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf are set up to be antagonistic.  Almost at their first meeting, Gimli’s father makes mention of mistreatment he received at the hands of Legolas’s father – a reference to the adventures described in Tolkien’s book The Hobbit (p. 255).  There are historical grievances between the two races, and these two characters have inherited those grievances.

Shortly thereafter, these two are assigned to be companions of Frodo, the character whose quest is the main focus of the novel.  Their paths take them through a territory that long ago was the site of friendship between Elves and Dwarves, though it was a time that came to an abrupt and tragic end.  This is the first time we hear Gimli and Legolas both defend the perspective of their own people (p. 303). 

They eventually make their way to the Elf kingdom of Lothlorien, where Dwarves are not welcome due to this history.  Gimli is allowed to pass but is watched closely.  

When the adventures of the group are recounted to the Elf king, he blames Gimli for a devastating loss the group had just experienced – that was no doing of Gimli’s but occurred in the ancient Dwarf territory.  

It only takes a word

Here we come to a pivotal point in the story.  

The Elf queen Galadriel speaks words of comfort using the Dwarvish language.  It is such a small thing, yet it has such an impact on his heart.  

“And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding” (p. 356).

It’s easy to overlook the importance of this moment in the life of the Dwarf and his relationship with Legolas.  

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” 
― Mother Teresa

From that day forward, he and Legolas become fast friends and keep each other company when their paths lead through strange lands and beyond.  

  • On the edge of Fangorn Forest (p. 491):
    • Legolas: “I could have been happy here, if I had come in days of peace.”
    • Gimli: “I dare say you could. You are a Wood-elf, anyway, though Elves of any kind are strange folk.  Yet you comfort me. Where you go, I will go.”
  • At Helm’s Deep (p. 532):
    • Gimli: “There is good rock here. This country has tough bones.  … Give me a year and a hundred of my kin and I would make this a place that armies would break upon like water.”
    • Legolas: “I do not doubt it, but you are a dwarf, and dwarves are strange folk.  I do not like this place, … but you comfort me, Gimli, and I am glad to have you standing nigh with your stout legs and your hard axe.”
  • At the end of their time in Middle Earth: 
    • “But when King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea. We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Gloin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf” (p. 1081).

“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”

― Mother Teresa

Still True Today

In today’s environment, all too often we speak harshly to those we don’t agree with.  Even our leaders frequently use “us vs. them” language that alienates instead of heals.  

However, it only takes a little kindness and empathy, looking at the world from someone else’s perspective and speaking their language, to begin to turn things around.  

What words of kindness can you speak today?

References

Mother Teresa, https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/838305.Mother_Teresa

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1955, 2004) The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary one-volume edition, Houghton-Mifflin Company

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The First Step to a Great 2020

By the time I graduated from high school, I had a clear vision for my career; I knew I wanted to live and work in another country. I pursued an education in teaching English as a second language so that I could be paid to live in other countries.

At the age of 29, when I moved to South Korea, I achieved my goal!

But what was next?

In my early 30s, I wandered from one job to another, simply following the opportunities that presented themselves. In my mid-30s, I finally developed a new vision for my career that has propelled me ever since.

C. S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.”

What are you dreaming for your life today? If you are wandering, like I was, I invite you to join me for a new study to finish out 2019 and start 2020 – a new decade! – with a purpose and direction that can propel you forward for the next 10 years and beyond!

Details and register at https://troycommunications.net/product/preparing-for-a-great-2020/

Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

A Process for When Conflict Comes Along

I was recently asked how someone could deal with a person who dominated a conversation, never pausing long enough to let anyone else “get a word in edgewise.”  She had recently been at a dinner party where this had happened, and she had been quite at a loss as how to address the problem

We have all faced similar situations, where it isn’t clear what the best way to resolve the situation may be.  What I find is that many people are haven’t had the training to know how to address these situations.

Conflict is inevitable.  It is not possible that you will be in harmony with everyone around you at all times.  Whenever there are two or more people working together, there will be disagreement and conflict.

It is how we respond (or react) to conflict that defines our relationships. 

The authors of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High summed up the dilemma as “how can I be 100% honest … and 100% respectful?” (p. 22).  The question comes down to the “nature vs. nurture” debate, whether some people are born as natural conflict resolvers or whether these are skills that can be learned.

 

A Process for Resolving Conflict

I believe that conflict management is a skill that can be learned, a key element of emotional intelligence, and the sooner we learn how to address these conflicts constructively, the better:

Whenever I think about resolving a conflict, I always go back to “The 5 Core Concerns,” one of which is autonomy.  The best resolution will be one in which all parties have a say.

In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (p. 175-177), John Maxwell describes the process he uses to address problematic behavior, which meets this need for autonomy:

  • Meet privately ASAP to discuss their behavior
  • Ask for their side of the story
  • Try to come to a place of agreement
  • Set out a future course of action with a deadline
  • Validate the value of the person and express your commitment to help

 

Walking Out the Process

I have walked through this situation myself when someone I am leading is having difficulty.

  • Whenever I need to confront someone, I make sure the conversation is one-on-one.
  • I allow time for them to express their position and point of view.
  • I help them see the impact of not changing their behavior.
  • I let them express how they intend to do things differently and hold them to it.
  • Throughout the conversation, I am careful express hope that the person can change their behavior and meet expectations.

By following this process, I see change happen, even if it is slow in coming.

In the past, I didn’t always follow this process.  The result was defensiveness and stubborn refusal to change.  Today, the results are much more positive.

If I – an introvert who avoids conflict – can learn this skill, so can you!

100% honest.  100% respectful.

 

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

Four Steps to Greater Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

Recently I was asked what would help someone become more persuasive.  The answer I gave may have seemed simplistic or counter intuitive, but I’ve found it to be essential for myself in having influence without position and persuasion without pressure, particularly in the cross-cultural settings I usually find myself in.

If you are interested in influence in “disposable” relationships, there are a number of manipulative strategies out there; a simple Google search of “how to persuade” brings back over 38 million results!  However, if you are looking for more lasting results, I would like to share four steps that you can take.

Because these steps are unilateral, you have to consider them as investments rather than exchanges.  Once you’ve made enough of an investment into any one individual, it will eventually become an exchange, but if your focus is on the exchange, you will likely become discouraged and frustrated.

If it is an investment, you should expect it to take time to generate a return.  Executed with consistency, these steps will establish you as a “go-to” person, a reliable ally when things are difficult.

1. Listen to Understand

The most powerful tool I have found in building rapport with anyone is simply listening.  Not listening to fix or to respond, but listening to truly understand where another person is coming from.  This one action alone has established me as the one person in my family that is trusted to get through to the other members.

Effective listening at this level does not happen when we are focused on our own position, our own ideas, our own “rightness.”  We have to set that all aside and truly focus in on where the other person is coming from.  Responding and defending our position can come later.

How to Develop Listening Skills (according to John Maxwell):  1. Look at the speaker.  2. Don’t interrupt.  3. Focus on understanding.  4. Determine the need at the moment.  5. Check your emotions.  6. Suspend your judgment.  7. Sum up at major intervals.  8. Ask questions for clarity.  9. Always make listening your priority.  (p 46 – 51)

More on listening:

2. See the Other’s Perspective

Building on the deep listening of step 1, you can begin to “put yourself in the other’s shoes.”  When you focus on the heart of what people are saying rather than on the words used to express those ideas, and you are able to reflect back to that person their own thoughts with your own words, you create a bond that is not easily broken.  When people feel like you “get them,” they begin to open up to you – and your influence – in ways you might not expect.

If you’re not sure where to start with understanding others, I suggest you start with the “five core concerns.”  Dan Shapiro of the Harvard Negotiation Project describes five things that every person you meet is concerned about.  When you are able to understand these concerns, you have begun to understand the person’s perspective.

How to Understand Others: the 5 Core Concerns (according to Dan Shapiro):  1. Appreciation, 2. Autonomy, 3. Affiliation, 4. Status, 5. Role

More on understanding others:

3. Encourage Others to Achieve

If you can learn to understand people – how they think, what inspires them, how they’re likely to act in a given situation – then you can motivate and influence them.  While it might feel unnecessary, it has been my experience – both as a teacher and coach and as a recipient of encouragement – that people often don’t clearly see their own strengths and potential.  Very often, what I see as an obvious strength in an individual is a source of insecurity for that person.

However, when people understand what you see in them, it gives them confidence and the power to set aside the insecurity and move forward in their personal life purpose.  When they achieve some success through your encouragement, it can then establish you as a trusted source of advice, further increasing your influence with them.

How to Become a Believer in People (according to John Maxwell):  1. Believe in them before they succeed.  2. Emphasize their strengths.  3. List their past successes.  4. Instill confidence when they fail.  5. Experience some wins together.  6. Visualize their future success.  7. Expect a new level of living.  (p. 24 – 31)

More on encouraging others:

4. Build Trust

The final step to long-lasting influence is to build trust.  This is the result of consistently walking out the first three steps.

John Maxwell has compared building trust to a deposit account.  Every time we act in ways that demonstrate integrity, we increase our trust account.  Whenever we act in ways that don’t demonstrate integrity, we decrease our trust account.  Some activities create larger deposits or withdrawals, and some can bankrupt your trust reserves.  (p. 357)

As we develop integrity and trustworthiness, it becomes our character.  This is when you’ve become the influential “go-to” person in your circle, regardless of your position.

How to Become a Person of Integrity (according to John Maxwell):  1. Commit yourself to honesty, reliability, and confidentiality.  2. Decide ahead of time that you don’t have a price.  3. Each day, do what you should do before what you want to do.  (p. 65 – 66)

More on building trust:

From “Investment” to “Exchange”

Once you’ve become consistent in these four steps, you will likely find “investment” relationships evolving into “exchange” relationships.  If you find the other person reciprocating, you can consider this an exchange relationship and can feel confident taking the relationship deeper.  Often, these people will become trusted allies in your plans and projects in return.

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

References:

Maxwell, J. 2003.  REAL Leadership: The 101 Collection.

Shapiro, D. The Five Core Concerns of Negotiation. http://bigthink.com/videos/the-five-core-concerns-of-negotiation