One of the reasons I call my blog The Invisible CEO is to highlight the importance of controlling emotions as they play a fundamental role in how and what we communicate to the outside world. The process of mindful meditation helps us learn to observe our thoughts and emotions, and in so doing we are reminded that they are not some external reality but rather our perception of reality. They are just one of many interpretations we might choose to have, and others will certainly hold different understandings. Once we accept that, then we can have more options as to how we respond to a set of circumstances. We can also see that the person we are talking to might also just be reacting from emotion rather than a from a calmly developed understanding of the situation.
This is where the role of mindfulness and mindful listening comes in. Often, when we react to situations, we are so blinded by our emotions to any other way of interpreting a situation, that we do not truly listen and try to understand what the other person is saying. Listening and acknowledging what someone is saying helps someone feel they are truly being heard. Few things inflame a situation more than when the other person is talking, and instead of actively listening we are busy preparing what we will say next before they have even finished! If you listen calmly, actively asking questions, you may still not agree with them, but the other person will hopefully feel you have made a genuine effort to understand what they are saying, with an open mind, then they will probably be more accepting of your response. Mindfulness helps us to manage people and situations better by helping us separate our thoughts from our emotions.
Allowing our emotions to dictate how we react is a bit like forgetting that we are wearing sunglasses while looking at the world. Our thoughts are like different colour lenses, shading our perception of reality. When we take the sunglasses off, we can see a situation more clearly and choose from a wider range of options as to how best to respond. When we forget we are wearing different emotional glasses, then we tend to react immediately to a perception of reality that is distorted by our emotional state, whether positive or negative. Maintaining awareness that we all wear different emotional sunglasses, helps us to realise that often the reaction of the other person is equally determined by their emotions and that listening to them can often help discharge the emotion, see more clearly and logically and lead to a more cooperative and flexible state of mind and possibly resolution.
The power of framing a situation is a technique I used very successfully during my early years in sales, long before I knew what mindfulness was. Sometimes an existing or potential customer would appear to be rude or patronising, and I would feel my ego wanting to rise to the challenge and confront the perceived indignity. Instead, I simply reframed the situation into one where ‘if I got the order, I won.’ Maintaining a goal and a strategy above the situation and viewing the interaction as a ‘chess game’ allowed me to manage my ego and de-escalate my emotions. I changed the potential conflict from a clash of egos into a game in which achieving my goal would placate any indignity. Of course, I didn’t always get the order, but adjusting my thoughts about the situation from ego conflict to a game meant I didn’t see ‘failure’ as personal….even if sometimes it was!