As I continue my journey with the book Crucial Conversations, I am starting to notice people's patterns of communication more and more. Trying to separate myself and my reactions to a conversation can be very tricky. I have known for a while that my own method of reaction when I don't feel safe is silence. I withhold information and cease communication. Others who are close to me react differently by trying to emphasize their ideas and point out the weakness in my own. The trick to being able to turn things around is by stepping out of the situation and examining what is truly going on.
I can remember the first time I consciously stepped away from a situation to problem solve this way. It was my first year of teaching. I had a very chatty group of first graders and, as a first year teacher, I still needed a lot of work on my management skills. In the middle of a math lesson, when I really needed students to pay attention, I stopped. I took a deep breath and looked around. I thought to myself, "What will really grab these kids' attention in a positive way so that I can carry on with instruction?" And that was the day "Mr. Shush" was born. I grabbed a dry-erase marker from the over-head projector (that might date me a bit). I quickly drew a smiley face on one of my fingers. With a deep breath and a smile on my face, I turned around and said, "Boys and girls, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. He will really only come out if everyone is very quiet, and he would really like to meet you!" With that, I put up my index finger and introduced those six and seven year-olds to Mr. Shush. Guess what? It worked! No joke. Now...please know that I worked from then on to preempt the need for Mr. Shush. But I realized then that in order to change a tricky situation, I needed to pause before I reacted and decide on the best way to procede.
How often does this happen when we find ourselves in tricky conversations with adults? How often do we let our own agendas and emotions take control and prevent us from contributing to the Pool of Knowledge? I think I will use Mr. Shush again. But this time I will use him for myself.