One of the most fundamental problems in schools, organizations and various groups, is problems and misunderstandings that arise in simple daily communication. This process is intended to help the individual gain insights into themselves that will result in better communication and increase productivity in group and community settings with the additional benefit of the impact it will have on the families of the participants. It is designed to be replicated so that those who have completed the program can teach the concepts and practices within their communities. When people work together great things can be accomplished. When people are better parents they raise more successful children. The approach utilizes ideas and practices from Non Violent Communication, Emotional Intelligence, and Cognitive Behavioral Theory as well as from my personal/spiritual practice and my experiences as a Transformational Coach.
Discord and blocks occur when we are not aware of the interpretive lens that affects the way we see the world; conflict arises from our own biases, judgments, and prejudices that we remain hidden to us as we are often are not aware of them. Among the underlying reasons for poor communication are low self esteem, defensiveness, and a lack of emotional independence. When we enter a room we filter what we hear through our own biases borne from our personal set of experiences.
There are studies that show how a leader’s emotional style affects the emotional climate of the people who work for him or her. If the emotional climate is positive, profits go up because people give their best effort. If people don’t like the boss, if they feel bad when they’re working, then it harms the company because people just do a good enough job – not their best. The leaders whose styles are most positive and inspiring. They can articulate shared values for what they’re doing that employees find meaningful or compelling, then keep reminding them of their mission. These leaders create a positive climate and see a very positive outcome.1
Coaching can be used to generate conversation and understanding among individuals and within groups that will nurture better relations and a more productive working environment. The reduction of stress experienced by the participants will not only have a positive affect on the participants, but its reverberation can have a positive reverberations in other areas of their lives.
Session One: What’s in the bag?
In order for a group to function well the individuals need to have the desire and motivation to do so. When a group of people come together to solve a problem they bring their underlying behaviors and beliefs and their outmoded coping mechanisms with them. When the individuals in the group become more self aware, the possibility of a positive and productive working experience increases significantly.
We are shaped by our environment and people we grow up with. In Anna Karenina2, first published in 1878, Tolstoy began the story of a woman shaped by and indebted to her family and society with this timeless opening line,
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Our challenges are unique but a standard universal approach to address the deficits can be effective.
When growing up in a household that leans more towards judgment than compassion or outbursts than conversation, or criticism than support, that behavior can easily become part of our “personality” or how we move about in the world. The habit becomes comfortable and can act a shield from emotional vulnerability and separates us from our true essence. Once the realization is made that the shield of judgment/outbursts/criticism, etc. is not part of our essence it is possible to shed that behavior and open up to the beauty, connection, peace, and happiness that awaits when we get a different perspective.
Many conversations begin with layers of filters on both sides but without a clear idea of what they want from an interaction. In most situations, and particularly in the work or community context, if both people cannot get exactly what they want either they have to find a compromise or someone is angry. Clearly compromise is ideal so that when the issue is resolved both parties feel like a solid and fair agreement was made. This doesn’t happen accidentally and coaching in a group context can make a difference by helping the individuals to gain insights into themselves so that they work more fluidly with the group.
When two people want the same thing at the same time there are several ways that situation can play out.
- There could with one person feeing victorious and the other walking away as though they have lost something.
- They could argue with resulting in both feel like they “lost”.
- They could discuss the situation, their wants and needs and the reasons for them ending up in a compromise in which both sides gain.
The best way to to support everyone in the group to open up to a different way of approaching potential conflicts, is to facilitate the experience of what it looks and feels like; for each of us to get a better understanding of our own needs and motivations when interacting with others.
Before the talking begins have a few meditative moments and ask people to identify their intention for this time together.
Group Conversation. Focus the coaching on these questions/topics:
- Ask the people in the group to consider the way they think about themselves; do they sound kind and supportive or critical and judgmental? Now ask them to imagine talking to someone else the way they talk to themselves. Does if work? Is it uncomfortable? In thinking about that voice, ask if there is someone in their lives who talks to them that way.
- Is it something that is really who they are or did you learn that over the years?
- We all have beliefs about ourselves. What words do we use to describe ourselves?
- Now ask them to imagine how they would treat their child. Then to imagine how they would treat themselves differently if they were their own child. What changes would you make if you treated yourself as though you were your child?
- Take 10 minutes for each of the participants to write about the talk that goes on in their minds and whose voice that sounds like. After the 10 minutes discuss the insights they discovered.
- Strengths and Weaknesses, Name your top 5 strengths. What are the untapped resources in your strengths?
- Who do you most revere? What qualities do they have that you are drawn to? Which of those qualities is close to who you are?
- Begin writing a personal power statement about yourself. I am… I am perfect just as I am, I am loved/unloved. I am alone, I am not able to be who I really am, I am misunderstood, I am behind all of my peers (in work, family life, finances, spiritual practice, etc.), I am not able to connect with people, I am supported, loved, and joyful.
- Recap the themes and highlights of the session.
Ideas to incorporate the practices discussed in Session One:
- Practice observing your thoughts. What are you telling yourself? How do you feel about the way you speak to yourself? How would you like that to change?
- Work on your personal power statement. Look at the beautiful and powerful parts of yourself and change it in any way that works for you.