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Defense Mechanism

July 13, 2011 3 comments

As I’ve written before, I love the Vital Smarts guys. In “Confronting Workplace Sarcasm“, Kerry Patterson writes:

I—like most of my close friends—developed keen skills in the use of sarcasm and irony. It was a huge part of my identity. Then, one day, after my wife stumbled awkwardly and I retorted, “Smooth move, did you enjoy the trip?” she responded: “You know what? If you never again use sarcasm—until the day I die—that would be just fine with me. I don’t like it, the kids don’t like it, and there’s no place for it in our home.”

That incident caused Mr. Patterson to pause and reflect on his recurring, habitual behavior. It led to an epiphany and change in behavior:

I learned that it’s actually quite difficult to defend your right to take cheap shots, dole out insults, and cut people down—all in the name of humor. Trust me. You never want to be the defense attorney when sarcasm goes to court. So, maybe I needed to reconsider my stance. Perhaps, getting a laugh at the expense of a coworker, colleague, friend, or loved one isn’t nearly as endearing as I had once thought it was. And so, I said goodbye to that part of me and my wife has been ever grateful.

Hmmm. Without going into details, the above paragraph makes me feel guilty. Thus, as an ego defense mechanism to ease the pain, I’m feelin’ the need to be skeptical that Kerry has actually kicked the habit .

How about you? Do you sense a feeling of guilt and the associated ego-need to rationalize it away? Nah. No way, right?

Crucial Skills: Choking Up

I’ve talked about the Vital Smarts dudes before, and they continue to impress. In this post, Crucial Skills: Choking Up, Vital Smarts principal Al Switzler gives some sound advice to a client regarding the phenomenon of unexpected and unwanted emotional seizure during a Crucial Conversation (CC).

When a conversation flips from”normal” to crucial, either or both participants will experience one or more of these symptoms:

1 Some people’s faces turn red.
2 Some people can feel their pulse—often in their temples.
3 Some people’s breathing changes—it speeds up, or lengthens.
4 People’s voices can increase or decrease in volume.
5 There may be churning in the gut or butterflies in the stomach.

In my case, numbers 3 and 4 rear their ugly heads when I find myself in the midst of an unexpected CC (how about you?). When the 3-4 duo instantaneously appears, I’ve learned to detect the change immediately. However, since I think “control” is overrated, over sought, and often an excuse to obscure truth, I often choose to let the truth, as I see it, fly via an unacceptable emotional rant 🙂 .

“Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.” – Benjamin Disraeli

On the flip side, Al makes a lot of sense when he recommends switching over to proven CC skills upon detection of your changed physical state. When one succeeds at this, it defuses the situation and facilitates an exchange of understanding ‘tween the CC participants. First, he advises you to “step out of the content and rebuild safety” by calling a time out. Then, when the symptoms dissipate, re-enter the content and have a frank exchange of views. You do this by “starting with heart”, of course, to establish a collaborative and nurturing environment for progressing forward.

Man, These Guys Are Good

October 6, 2009 4 comments

In general, I think that management consultants are way overpaid and full of themselves. These bozos with fat heads come waltzing in to a company in trouble and:

  • analyze the “situation” from afar without getting their hands dirty,
  • dispense all kinds of “proprietary” voodoo advice,
  • collect their fee,
  • and then bolt – leaving the ineffective corpocrats (who caused the mess in the first place) to clean up their own dung.

Notwithstanding the vitriolic diatribe in the previous paragraph, I think the following consulting dudes are the real deal:  Vital Smarts. They’re people-oriented instead of mechanistically process-oriented. Collectively, they’ve talked with tens of thousands of workers; from the dweebs in the cellar to the exalted royalty in the corner of the building. They’ve also analyzed a ton of academic research to derive some down to earth, pragmatic, and potentially actionable direction for everyone – not just the patriarchs who direct the horror show. I’ve read all of their terrific bestselling books:

I’ve actually tried to employ their teachings in an attempt to be more effective in the workplace, but Ive failed miserably. Of course, it’s not their fault. It’s me and my “Unshakeable Cognitive Burden” of negativity toward all man-made command and control hierarchies.


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