How do you handle tension when you are the one who needs to lead?
Whether you are Head of Household or Head of a Corporation, how you handle tension among the group will make or break you as a leader. You see, if you cannot engage a group to put aside their differences for a common goal, you will eventually have a civil war on your hands and a decaying company, family or group.
Beware - a group decays from within. The monsters that will destroy us will not come from outside forces, but from our very core.
You cannot be led astray if your internal compass is strong. But if you try to push an agenda contrary to the whole, or are so desperate to "be liked" that you allow for your integrity to be compromised - pushed over - you will get the same result -
Failure, Bankruptcy, or for a nation, UN-Civil War.
How then does a leader handle tension? What can you do with divergent points of views, especially when you as a leader may personally have your own two cents to add?
The first thing NOT to do is Attack.
If you lead with an attacking attitude, you will never reach an understanding or unity.
DO approach with an open mind and true curiosity.
Stephen R. Covey put it supremely when he said, "Seek first to understand, Then to be understood."
I may not like what someone has to say, but if I attack instead of inviting reasoning, asking questions to increase my understanding, then we will get nowhere - hit a brick uncooperative wall. Questions like, "I am truly interested in understanding your point. What makes you feel that way?" or "What factors are you basing that idea on?" or "How did you come to that conclusion?"
You still may not agree, but at least you will begin to understand the reasoning and motivation behind the other person's belief. That opens the door to civil exchange of ideas.
The next thing to DO is get outside your own head and actually Listen.
Look at social media and news today. All you see is talking heads shouting at each other. No one really listening or trying to understand. Aggressive defense of each one's point.
Only very insecure people are terrified of intelligent debate, of having their opinions challenged. Hey, I may be wrong. Show me how. My ideas are fluid and can change. I am not attached to them if I can learn a better way.
You have asked a question. Now be there and listen. Do not get in your own head and begin attacking internally, assuming or plotting your response. People these days have an almost impossible time just listening, quieting their internal noise and honestly taking in what the other person is expressing - verbally and non-verbally.
Listening is an active skill.
We must work at it because we are so used to NOT really doing it. Listen with your ears and your eyes - body language, micro-expressions, physical tone. Perhaps someone is expressing a thought that is emotionally charged by something painful from their past. Empathize, be still and attentive.
The third thing to Do is to Acknowledge.
This is vital to the communication process. This does not mean you agree or disagree. It just tells the person you have truly taken in all that they have said and what they didn't say - that you understand - not agree - just understand.
"I can see that you feel frustrated by the state of …. And that you have had issues in the past that fuel that frustration because this reminds you of …. I understand completely."
This is not an admission of guilt, agreement or disagreement. It just lets the other person know they have been heard. It is also a great sign of respect. Showing respect is a powerful way to enable a person to let their guard down, feel comfortable enough to allow honest interchange to occur.
"What is the point?" You may ask. "Why discuss a topic we are never going to agree on?"
Are you so inflexible and stuck in one mindset that you cannot learn something new or perhaps even change your mind? Is your group that inflexible?
Only ignorant people hold desperately to an opinion, even when the opinion is being proven wrong, like the earth being flat. (No offense to those who still believe the earth is flat.) To these people, their opinion is intimately linked to their identity. Questioning their opinion, A.K.A. identity, is tantamount to questioning their very existence. It is not that serious, Folks! It is OK to be open to learning and to widening your point of view.
The purpose of inviting discussion among a group is to free up rigidity of thought, allow for ideas to flow and synergy to take place. Maybe alone our ideas are faulty, incomplete. But together we can come up with better solutions.
As a leader, that is your greatest endeavor - To find better solutions, Inspire cooperative efforts, and Remove roadblocks to achieving the group goal, so that everyone wins!
Human Beings will never agree totally on everything. But I hope someday they can at least agree that we are all better when we survive together.
-Mitch Savoie Hill, CPC
SavHill Consulting LLC
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