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Stop Having the Same Conversation Again and Again

Stop Having the Same Conversation Again and Again
image credit: Shutterstock

In the 1993 cult movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays an ego-centric TV weather man doomed to repeat the same day over and over again—until he consciously decides to evolve into a better version of himself to win over Rita, his station director. Bill must live Groundhog Day over and over until he gets it right.

As Phil progresses by trial and error, hit and miss, his old habit patterns that had led to dead ends shift into a new pattern leading to new identity and community. In effect, by seeing what wasn’t working well for him, Phil gains immense conversational intelligence and wins over his love interest in the process. He even becomes a respected community leader, someone who can gain trust and get extraordinary results.      

What changed for Phil? His motive and means become aligned with his intended mission.

Every entrepreneur can relate to Phil’s predicament: how to evolve beyond a narrow core skill-set into a respected developer of self, business and community. And yet, all too often, we get stuck in a Groundhog Day rut and get sucked into territoriality or reactivity. These cycles lead to behavior that erodes relationships, dissipates energy, and takes away from being productive, healthy, high-performing individuals, teams, and organizations. In the worst of these scenarios, we become harvesters of politics, power, control, arrogance and egos that fill organizations with invisible signs that say, don’t go there, you can’t do this, you don’t know that, save face, blame, protect, win at another’s expense.

To change, we need to tap into the vital instincts hard-wired into each of us. These natural instincts provide us with codes for how to live healthy and connect deeply and lovingly with each other. Vital instincts give us the intuitive awareness and wisdom to know how to bring together people to form communities, to support each other, to thrive in the face of challenges, to transform cancerous cultures riddled with politics, power, and dysfunction back into healthy cultures.

Here are three conversational strategies for interrupting old habit patterns and activating new patterns for success in relationships, teams and organizations:

Pattern # 1: Being the center of attention
Symptom: You do most of the talking in the meetings you run.
Why you do it: You love to hear yourself talk and it feels great.
Why you should change: Your selfish behavior makes your team feeling ignored.
What to do: Stop talking and make your team the center of attention. Everyone has good ideas to share, but if you put your ideas first you’ll soon find people’s initiatives and voice dry up. When people are afraid of your positional power they stop raising their hands to add ideas.  

Pattern # 2: Insensitivity to others feelings, needs and aspirations
Symptom: You’re too often surprised to find a staffer angry with something you said – or didn’t say.
Why you do it: You’re not worrying enough about how you and your actions impact other people.
Why you should change: When we aren’t considering other people, we stop focusing on what they need help with to be successful. As a result, people lose their aspirations and passions for success. They can even start to trust their bosses less, since they don’t believe their bosses have the staff’s best interests in mind.
What to do: Create a feedback-rich culture where it’s not about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘we’. Find ways to check in with staffers and identify needs, give healthy candid and caring feedback, and support people achieving their aspirations. In a feedback-rich culture, a new level of honesty and awareness emerges so that people don’t feel territorial and learn to support each other.

Pattern # 3: No one ever agrees with you.
Symptom: You’re always frustrated that no one listens to your point of view. You might find yourself shut out of discussions or that decisions are made without you.
Why you do it: Neuroscience research is showing us entrenchment to your own point of view leads to the ‘addiction to being right.’ Dopamine is released each time we feel we’re right – and we want more – closing down our awareness of the negative impact it has on others.
Why you should change: You stop picking up cues and feedback and people think of us a ‘bully boss.’
What to do: Instead of debating a point, start exploring solutions. Create opportunities for other people to share what they think. Listen to them and act on their ideas. The more people engage in becoming navigators of the future together, the more courage they have for taking innovative risks.

Judith E. Glaser's latest book is best-seller "Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results." She is Chief Executive Officer of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of WE Institute. Her clients range from IBM and Bank of America to American Express and Target. 

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