January 18, 2018

Archives for October 2013

Telling yourself a better story

Woman reflectingSo much comes down to belief.

After all…

What does “impossible” really mean? Only that no-one yet believes that such-and-such can be done (running a 4-minute mile, being a famous example).

What about “impossible” for you? Only that you don’t yet believe you can do something

How real are these inhibitions? Does “impossible” actually mean anything concrete at all?

Sometimes it comes down to the stories we tell ourselves; the interpretation we place on past and current events. Those stories shape our beliefs about ourselves; what we think is possible and what we think is impossible.

Perhaps all we need is to give ourselves a more favourable narrative.

Perhaps it’s just a question of telling ourselves a better, stronger, kinder story.

Then much more is possible, because we’ve taught ourselves to believe it.

And that’s all it takes.

Relationship Mastery: Learning to learn about relating to people

Group of people talkingFunny how new perspectives come up when you least expect it, like when chatting with a new contact…

I’ve often explained “relationship mastery” (the subject and title of my book) as taking an attitude of continual learning about interpersonal relationship skills. OK, so a high-ish level of skill is probably presupposed too, and that’s where most understandings of the word start.

Here’s where my new friend comes in: I give my usual explanation of mastery, and then…

“Ah yes, I get it,” he says, “it’s about learning to learn about relationships,” drawing on a phrase from the philosophy around learning organizations—Chris Argyris et al.

That is another way of putting it…

Relationship Mastery means learning to learn about relationships. Not necessarily being good at them on every occasion, but good at learning to learn about them.

That was worth a coffee.

Is your advocacy unbalanced?

Three senior managersIt’s very easy to make this mistake…

When advocating a change or something new, it’s very easy to miss out that part of the status quo that is also needed.

We’re so familiar—unconsciously familiar—with the way things are at the moment that we’re liable to forget which parts are still needed. We just don’t really see them.

Then in our advocacy we end up with an unbalanced message because it only has the radical component, not the whole solution.

And that means it doesn’t make sense. So the message is liable to be dismissed.

For example, we see the problems of structure and want to dismantle it. Yet we need the benefits the structure brings, or some of them anyway.

And it’s a lot easier to see what isn’t working than what is.

Paraphrasing the old saying…

How do you keep hold of the baby when you’re throwing out the bathwater?

You need to start by seeing the baby properly.

Democracy or knowledge: Do we have to choose?

High Street sceneWe’re brought up on the principle of democracy—one person, one vote.

We’re also brought up on the importance of knowledge: “If you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance” (to paraphrase Derek Bok).

But what about when these two meet in opposition?

What should happen when someone in the room has the knowledge and other people have the votes, or most of the votes?

Who and what should prevail?

If, to the best of your knowledge, you believe you have a deeper understanding of something, should you assert your view over others? Can you even do that in a democratic structure?


If you believe someone else has the wisdom in the case, are you ready to concede?

And if it isn’t clear, then what?

How do you balance advocacy and enquiry in your relationships?


How can knowledge and democracy best be reconciled?

The only thing missing from any situation…

Woman reflecting…is what you’re not giving.

That’s a line from a book called “A Course in Miracles,” highlighted by Marianne Williamson.

Useful secular advice it is too… When things get difficult, it’s tempting to expect other people to make the running; to attempt reconciliation with us; to start building a bridge. Actually, if moving on is important to us, we need to go first. That’s the only reliable option.

So much, so obvious perhaps.

But it helps to think of what we are withholding; what more we could give; what being generous would mean.

And then to offer that.

Even if our effort is not reciprocated, a least we change our feelings about the situation.

And move on in ourselves.