Talent Management

The Three Ingredients to Asking Open Questions: Ingredient #2- Manage Your Interference

In my last blog, I reviewed the first ingredient of asking open questions– showing up with the intention to learn and understand.

The second ingredient is becoming aware of, and managing, your interference. What is interference? It is actually two things.

  1.  First, it’s that incessant voice we all have in our heads. It’s always talking, and its gets in the way of our listening to others.
  2. Second, it is our strong and reflexive emotional reactions (triggers) to certain situations. In attempting to override these strong emotions, we can end up distroying an open dialogue.

Taming the Voice in Your Head

Here is a great exercise from Julia Cameron that demonstrates how active your inner voice really is.

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow. 

They act like a little dust buster and clear your mind.

Take 15 minutes now to try this exercise.  How do you feel after dumping all those thoughts that your brain is trying to hold on to?

That voice in your head is using too much of your valuable brainpower.  As long as it is active, it is hard for any new ideas to get through.  Develop your own practice of “brain dumping”. Morning Pages are a great way to do this on a daily basis, and David Allen’s system of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” uses the same concept to track all your action items, regardless of how large or small.

Controlling Triggers and Strong Emotional Reactions

Your employees are always watching you, and they know your body language well.  They are looking for signs of anger, disapproval, irritation, etc.  When they sense a negative emotion, they will reflexively shut down.  If you expect them to open up to you, you need to make them feel safe, and the only way that you can do that is to learn to manage your strong emotions.

Raphael Cushnir, author of The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection states that:

Scientists have demonstrated that the same basic emotions of fear, anger, sadness and joy produce facial expressions recognizable across divisions of race, class, religion and culture.  In all of our feverish activity, we’re either running toward an emotion or away from it…..

We simply don’t know how to deal with our emotions, either when they’re actually arising or in their aftermaths. Nor do we grasp the immense harm done, both to ourselves and to everyone around us, by this lack of understanding.

The secret to managing your strong emotions is counter-instinctual. Cushnir, describes how:

 Emotions are physical. Our bodies are the only place they can ever be found. 

Step 1: To experience an emotion, place your attention directly on the sensation it produces in your body.

Step 2: Keep your attention on that sensation until it either dissipates or changes.

Step 3: Slow Down: Emotions are prone to reveal themselves slowly, like an unraveling ball of yarn.  Don’t rush the process.  Give it time.

 Step 4: Get microscopic: Keep observing, up close, but with a scientist’s even demeanor.  What is happening? What patterns do you notice?

Category: Talent Management

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About the Author: Cheryl McMillan

Cheryl is a Vistage Master Chair and Executive Coach. She has a passion for raising awareness in leaders about how their choices and unconscious actions impact their results. She leads two C-Suite peer advisory boards, comprised of CEO's or …

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