Constructive Conflict: Are You an ‘I’ Statement or a ‘You’ Statement Person?

To what extent do you engage in constructive conflict?
Think about the last time you got annoyed or frustrated with someone…

What are the odds that silently or perhaps even aloud, your response was to along the lines of ‘You are unreliable’ or ‘You shouldn’t do x’ . So often when we are annoyed or frustrated with someone, our immediate response is to focus on them. We get into blame and labelling mode and use what is termed a ‘You’ statement, i.e. ‘You are..’.

A more effective way, however, of approaching this situation is to use what are termed ‘I’ statements, a concept which originated from the work of Dr Thomas Gordon, a cornerstone of his ‘Leader Effectiveness’ and ‘Parent Effectiveness’ programmes.

An ‘I’ statement simply

  • describes (rather than evaluates) the behaviour,
  • how this has impacted on you (or relevant situation) and
  • what it is you would need the from other person to sort it out.

‘You are unreliable’ might therefore be framed as ‘When you didn’t complete the work as you promised, I couldn’t finish my piece and the client was unhappy with our service.

But, I hear you say…shouldn’t we be laying it on the line for people if they have messed up and anyhow, this is just adding a bit of icing sugar, talking around the real problem and not facing hard truths.

Well, no, shifting from a ‘You’ to and ‘I’ focus in how you frame and express a concern is not just a question of semantics – swapping around the pronouns a bit. Rather it fosters a fundamental shift in how you think about and approach a situation that’s bothering you.

Here’s why it works so much better:

  • ‘You statements’ often tend to generalise and characterise a behaviour or set of behaviours so the person listening doesn’t have any real clarity on what it is exactly they have done that doesn’t work. Compare ‘you are incompetent’ to ‘I get frustrated when I have to ask you a number of times to redo the task. I need you to …’
  • ‘You’ statements tend to put the listener on a much more defensive footing than an ‘I’ statement. So rather than being open to a change that you might request from them, you have actually increased their resistance.
  • ‘You’ statements shift the listener’s focus onto negativity and anger towards you the speaker rather than helping them understand clearly what’s required.
  • For the speaker, by choosing an ‘I’ statement, you get to stay in your ‘own head’. This means you are putting energy into something you have influence over – your own needs and how best to have them met. Contrast this to the frustration of focusing outward on something you have less influence and control on – someone else’s behaviour.
  • Sometimes you cannot change the other person – you either don’t have the influence or they are not for changing, for whatever reason. So rather than getting frustrated at them, you can get clear on your own key needs and find another route to meet them.
  • And finally, a ‘You statement’ lets the speaker completely off the hook. It’s so much easier to simply label and dismiss the other person rather than considering perhaps how I might have contributed. Easier yes, but ultimately, gives no learning and probably no change for either you or them.

Cognitive Vs. Affective Conflict

‘Conflict is the stuff of life, it’s what we do with it that makes the difference’ (Crumm, 1997). These words are from a book entitled ‘The Magic of Conflict’ – for most people an oxymoron. Most of us experience conflict at work or in our home lives as anything but magical or positive. For the great majority of us, the thought of conflict and disagreements tend to be something we avoid rather than embrace.
Yet, handled properly, ‘conflict’ can frequently be a useful and positive occurence – for example, the creativeness that emerges from the synergy of differing views – which is the basic premise behind team versus individual approaches to solving problems.

If I was to ask any one of you ‘do you think that you can avoid conflicts in your workplace, family life, community etc.’ the answer would probably be a resounding ‘no’. So there is no point in thinking you can have a life free of disagreements or difficult conversations. A more useful framework is to see conflict as having the potential to go down one of two routes or avenues.

Task-focused or cognitive conflict

This is where people focus on the tasks or issues and debate and thrash these out and come to a creative solution. The parties might argue and exchange views vigorously yet there is two-way communication and an openness to hearing each other. The goal is to find the best possible solution rather than to win the argument. Alternative perspectives are seen as valuable rather than threatening.

Relationship or affective conflict

This is where the differences become ‘personal’, where people get into blaming modes and unhelpful behaviours. The mindset moves from ‘we have a problem’ to ‘you are the problem’. Opposition is seen as something to be thwarted rather than explored. Negative emotions prevail and the relationship suffers. The goal becomes winning for its own sake rather than the best possible solution.

Cognitive vs. Affective

Most situations involving ‘apparently incompatible differences’ – conflict in other words – has the potential to move in one of these two directions. The deciding factor as to which way they go lies mainly in the behaviours and approaches taken by the people involved.

The recent debacle that took place between the (former) junior and senior ministers in the Irish government for health is a perfect illustration of this. On the face of it, one would imagine that the different opinions around how the budget for primary care should be divided would fit into the realms of a task-focused conflict: lots of scope for robust debate and creative solution-building. Yet, instead of them working constructively to achieve the best possible solution in terms of patient services, it became personal, adversarial and a ‘win-lose’ paradigm. One view prevailed, the other seemed to be discarded and the working relationship destroyed. One might argue that somebody had to make the final call – absolutely – but a key contributer to good quality decision-making is the consideration of a wide variety of views.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. There is a wide body of knowledge on effective ways of behaving and responding to conflict to ensure it stays task- rather than relationship-focused. And, it’s not rocket science. Yet as the above example illustrates, even people who appear to have high levels of ability, knowledge and education still might not get it. As leaders, in my view, it is imperative that they should. So here goes: Conflict Coaching sessions for Ministers Reilly and Shortall on the house…

Download our free ebook ‘POISE NOW: 8 Steps to Navigate Difficult Conversations for Leaders and Managers 

Got a Difficult Conversation? Try the Indian Talking Stick

Tool for difficult conversations

One of the tools use to help people effectively negotiate a difficult conversation is known as the Indian Talking Stick.
Stephen Covey describes the Indian Talking stick as one of the most powerful communication tools he has used. Stemming from American Indian culture it has been used for centuries to build understanding and resolve differences respectfully and effectively.

How it works to improve conversations 

The idea is that only the person holding the stick gets to make their point and they continue to speak on this point until they feel they have been understood. The other person(s) are only permitted to speak in so far as they need to clarify or reflect back in order to demonstrate that they have understood the speaker.
Once the speaker feels that his/her point has been understood, then they have to pass the stick to the next person and equally facilitate them to make their point, until they are satisfied their point has been understood. Of course you don’t have to use an Indian Talking Stick, any object will do that the speaker can hold and then pass on.

So a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of an escalating argument during a long car journey I decided to try this with my two daughters and myself (I was party to the argument too!). Grabbing the nearest stick-like object (a bicycle pump!) I suggested we try this exercise in order to help us have a more effective conversation. One of the girls was nominated to go first and holding the ‘Stick’ make her point. It took a few minutes to get used to it because the immediate tendency was to respond and react back to the point that she was making. So for example she would say ‘It’s not fair that you got to go first because you were first the last time’ , rather than responding with ‘Oh no I wasn’t’ or ‘Well I think it’s fair’ we would have to instead say something like ‘So you feel it was unfair that we didn’t take turns in going first’.

Using this tool for difficult conversations 

Now you might think reading this, that’s all a bit simplistic, merely repeating back to the person what they’ve just said. But when you try to practice it, it’s much trickier.
Not only have you to try to understand what the speaker says but you have to also demonstrate to them that you understand it. You therefore need to move completely away from a focus on your point and concentrate on them. Instead of rebuffing what they are saying, you find yourself trying to capture its essence.

Having to switch your energy into thinking ‘what is it she is really trying to say’ and ‘how can I get across to her that I get what she’s saying’ caused a real shift in the dynamic between the girls. We moved from competing to trying to co-operate. That’s because each of those listening knew they wouldn’t get to hold the stick and have their turn speaking until the current speaker felt truly understood.

It was interesting also that I noticed once each of the girls felt she had truly been listened to, it seemed to disipate a lot of the frustration and anger that had built up. It also helped to clarify their thoughts, for example realising that it wasn’t about turn-taking, rather she had simply wanted to be the first in this particular situation.

As Covey states, “remember, to understand does not mean to agree with. It just means to be able to see with the other person’s eyes, heart, mind and spirit. One of the deepest needs of the human soul is to be understood. Once that need is met, the personal focus can shift to interdependent problem solving” (The 8th Habit, pp. 198)

So the next time you find yourself sorting out a squabble, just reach for the ‘Stick’!…

Download our free eBook ‘POISE NOW: 8 Steps to Navigate Difficult Conversations for Leaders and Managers’

Conversation gets a bit rocky? Switch to a ‘meta’-conversation

How often have you been in what starts as a fairly innocuous discussion or conversation but then find a divergence of views begins to send things down a rockier path? What you had expected to be a routine or even casual discussion moves slowly but steadily to a mini-debate and then progresses towards an argument.

Suddenly you find yourselves trying valiantly to get your viewpoint across to the other and every attempt seems to meet with resistance – on both sides. Logical, rational qualifiers are put forward only to be slapped down with an equally logical yet contradictory viewpoint. Tension is beginning to creep in, frustration slowly builds in the stomach or chest area. ‘Why don’t they seem to get it’ is the internal dialogue on both sides.

Believe it or not, you actually have a choice at this point. You can either continue the conversation-stroke-argument further or instead, you can decide to switch gears and go for what I term a ‘meta’ conversation.

‘Meta’ from Greek is a prefix which means ‘about’ or ‘beyond’. So when the going starts to get tough in a conversation or discussion it’s time to switch to talking instead about how you are talking to each other.

Here’s how you might move from a conversation that’s getting difficult to a meta-conversation:

1. Don’t wait too long. Once you start to feel emotions beginning to rise – either your own or the other persons, it might be time to consider shifting the direction the conversation is going in. The aim is to move from the actual content and nuts and bolts of the topic being discussed to how you are discussing it, the effect this is having on each of you and how this could be resolved.

2. Name and describe the contrasting viewpoints that are arising the discussion: ‘John, it sounds like we’re thinking differently about this. If I’m reading you right, you don’t want to have the meeting on site with all the managers attending whereas I think they have to be there’

3. Use a neutral, tentative and non-threatening tone and avoid labelling either your own or their behaviour. So rather than ‘Looks like your’e getting a bit edgy with all this, why not calm down’ go for ‘Looks like both of us have a strong view on this’

4. Watch your pace and slow down – in the heat of discussion and enthusiasm to get their point across, people speed up in their thinking and how fast they speak. They also start to breathe more shallowly and lose the bigger picture focus. A mindset of wanting to ‘win’ the argument can easily take over. So take a few deep breaths, slow down your speaking, try to relax any tension in your body and you will find the other person will pick up on this and slow down too.

5. Give them space to respond and get a sense of whether they are in agreement with how you have described things. If they continue to get into the content of the argument, don’t get drawn back in yourself. Instead, reflect back to them what you’ve just heard them say ‘Yes, John, I can see you take this very seriously. As far as you are concerned, it will make a big difference to the content of the meeting whether the managers attend or not and you feel that is crucial’. Continue to reflect back their views until they are agreeing with how you have captured it. At this point then, you can highlight again that you see both of you finding it hard to move forward.

6. Express a mutually positive intent: As well as naming the fact that you see things differently, it is important to let them known you have a positive intent with regards to ensuring that you both getting it sorted out without causing ill feeling on any side.

7. Pose the crucial question: Suggest that each of you consider the following: ‘Why don’t each of us take a minute to think through and then explain to the other what is most important to them and why, about how this situation gets resolved’. Your tone in posing this task is essential. It requires an attitude of openness, curiosity and genuine interest. Any kind of interrogatory, sarcastic or smug tone will completely undermine how much the other person will engage and drill down into what it is they really need.

8. Invite suggestions and brainstorm ways forward: When each of you have articulated what is most important and why, then you can pose another question: ‘How could we go about meeting your need for x and my need for y’. If the needs continue to be incompatible then try ‘How can we find a way to make a decision around this that each of us can live with’.

Simply switching from a conversation to a meta-conversation when the going gets a bit tough will immediately shift the tone and atmosphere to a more collaborative one . This in itself is often enough to get the whole thing moving in a more positive direction.

Tips to Manage High Conflict People

Last month I wrote about dealing with what is termed ‘high conflict’ behaviours and outlined some of the theory that might underpin such behaviour. So here are some concrete approaches to managing such situations.

1. Don’t take the ‘bait: The number one ‘rule’ as it were in dealing with someone who is being perhaps rude, unpleasant or telling you in an unconstructive way that you are the cause of the problem, is to resist the temptation to argue back to defend yourself against the points they are making. This is of course easier said than done. When we are being ‘attacked’, we are of course programmed to ‘defend’. That’s why Robert Bacall’s analogy which likens this behaviour to a piece of bait being dangled, and which if we ‘bite’, we are drawn into equally unconstructive arguing back, is very helpful. So think of their outburst as a red herring that you are not going to be fooled by.

2. Go for an E.A.R.: Think to yourself – when you are angry with someone, what do you need most that might help you get a bit calmer? Most people need acknowledgement, someone to listen to them, to feel understood, to feel heard. An upset and angry person cannot problem solve. So the first thing required is de-escalation. One approach to this is by using what Bill Eddy terms an ‘E.A.R. Statement’. E.A.R. stands for empathy, attention and respect, so it’s about saying something that conveys that you are attempting in some way to empathise or understand that they are upset and that you are respectful in your words or how you convey it. It’s not about agreeing with the person ‘yes I see you are right about this’ rather something like ‘I can understand that you are annoyed and you feel it has been very frustrating for you’. So you are acknowledging but not agreeing with them.

3. Get clear in your mind what your intentions are: to get the situation sorted. If you are motivated to try and ‘teach them a lesson’ or get your own back then you are less likely to get the problem they have solved and much more likely to cause an escalation. Helping people realise they are in the wrong is a difficult task even when they are calm and somewhat receptive to hearing this, so don’t your time trying to do it with someone who is highly charged. Then use active listening and questioning skills to help you get clear on what it is their key needs and interests are beneath all their blaming and positional statements.

4. Respond with a B.I.F.F.: Another of Bill Eddy’s achronisms and sounds just like what you might feel like giving someone who’s on the attack! Well it stands for a Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm response. The essential message is not to get drawn into long argumentative and explanatory responses, rather you ensure you convey clearly, concisely but in neutral language your viewpoint or the information you need to convey.

6. Move them out of the ’emotional’ part of the brain: High Conflict People reside a huge amount of the time in this part of their minds. They are on high alert monitoring the environment for anything that might threaten their needs or sense of themselves. Strategic use of ‘logic’ questions can help to move them into the thinking or rational part of the brain. Such questions can range from ‘what time did x happen’ or ‘what’s your account number’ to ‘what three things do you need from this’ or ‘what’s your suggestion on how we can sort this out’ – all depending on the context of course.

5. Convey your willingness to help and a sense that you are being supportive by offering if you can a choice between a couple of options. Not only are you demonstrating co-operativeness, you are also getting them into the rational task of thinking and having to evaluate choices.

6. Set limits: Where necessary, set limits on the behaviour but try to do this in a matter of fact way rather than being either threatening or superior about it. So the tone of this message is critical. The same words ‘I want to help you sort it but I need you to speak in a calmer tone of voice’ can be very provocative if delivered with a wagging finger compared to a neutral, friendly tone.

So let’s take an example. Peter is a colleague who has a tendency to be very argumentative and challenging about everything and seem to have limited ability to discuss something in a reasonable way. You were meant to pass on an email last week but forgot. Peter comes bursting into your office, looking very cross and speaking in a raised tone about this. ‘I can’t believe you didn’t send that email – you are always forgetting things and it makes me look terrible now in front of the customers. This is a serious error and it’s all your fault. You are completely inefficient …etc etc.’

Here’s an example of how you might implement the tips above:
You initially give eye contact, listening, remaining calm and silent for a few sentences. Then you could try “I can see this has caused a huge upset…I see you feel you have been put in a very difficult position with the customer…Can I just check to get clear on what exactly has happened…an email came that I was meant to pass on…?” Peter might now start up again saying how he is always having to deal with these situations because you never send on emails on time etc. Here you would try a little BIFF.: “Just to clarify Peter, this is the first time I haven’t passed on an email. I understand it is frustrating for you with the customer and I’m happy to look at getting it resolved as soon as possible” (Little aside: Sybil from Fawlty Towers, dealing with her beloved Basil comes to mind here but you need to drop her superior tone please!)
In terms of choices you might say “In order to sort it out, the customer needs to be contacted and the matter remedied. If you wish, I am happy to contact them and explain the mix-up or would you prefer to do this?”

That’s just one example, but of course it all depends on the person and the context. Try it and let me know how you get on or what other approaches have worked for you.

Do You Know a High Conflict Person?

One of the challenges I came up against early on in my mediation career is how best to work with and support others in dealing with, a situation where a person didn’t seem able to be reasonable or engage in collaborative behaviours. Rather there seemed to be constant defensiveness and an unwillingness to accept some level of responsiblity for their contribution to a situation. In fact, they excelled at making the other person feel they were at fault.

My own personal experience of a couple of these situations led me to the work of Bill Eddy who has coined the phrase HCP – High Conflict Personalities as a way of characterising people who display these patterns of behaviour. While I’m averse to defining people by labels and sterotypes and a firm believer that we all engage in unco-operative behaviours at times, his approach has two very useful aspects. First of all he gives a context for this behaviour – that it’s a function of the person themselves rather than the issue or the other party in the situation. Secondly, he outlines some very useful strategies for dealing with it. But simply realising that it’s them not you and understanding why is very helpful for someone on the receiving end of such behaviours to depersonalise it.

A useful model for helping to understand people’s unconstructive behaviours in conflict is is that they arise because the amydala, the part of the brain that is wired to detect and protect us from threat and harm is activated. Our drive for survival leads us to engage in ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ reactions, which in a case of real danger is appropriate. However, according to Eddy, in his book ‘It’s not your fault’, HCP’s have what he terms a Mistaken Assessment of Danger – M.A.D. – easy to remember that one! So in essence, they interpret an unwarranted threat to their identity where there might merely be a difference of opinion or someone expressing another point of view.

This idea of a compelling drive to defend and protect oneself by any means is also reflected in the theory that Laura Crawshaw (a.k.a. The Boss Whisperer!) in her book ‘Taming the Abrasive Manager’. Her take on the clients she works with is that they are motivated by an intense need to ensure they ‘survive’ in terms of their reputation and will use any means to secure this.

Eddy goes on to see parallels with traits of personality disorders in these kinds of behavioural patterns. He cites four sub-conscious fears that underpin these behaviours: fear of abandonnment, fear of being ignored, fear of being dominated, fear of being inferior.

So HCP’s are in amygdala overdrive most of the time, misreading signals and reacting to this. Think of the amydala as a smoke alarm, it’s not meant to go off and cause an immediate response unless there is a fire but if it isn’t working properly, it can start to beep at the slightest air particles. This dominance of the amydala over the thinking pre-frontal cortex part of the brain also makes for errors in how they process events leading to ‘all or nothing’ or ‘black/white’ thinking, difficulty in self-reflecting and therefore in accepting any responsiblity for the situation .

I am not trying to imply that everyone who gets angry or is unreasonable has a personality disorder. I also think that all of us have times when our amydala dominates and we have high conflict behaviours. However, I think this framework of looking at how errors in processing of events is contributing to the behaviour helps us to view it more objectively rather than getting triggered by it and either feeling we are in the wrong or reacting unconstructively ourselves.

Do You Own Your Conflict ‘Hot Buttons’ ?

Knowing your conflict ‘hot buttons’ – that is what specific behaviours and actions by other people trigger you is an essential step to good conflict management

Do you find there are people in your life that irritate or annoy you and while you have a vague idea as to why that is, you haven’t ever really thought about it?

Do you tend to spend more time ‘giving out’ about the list of things they do/have done that bug you rather than thinking about what exactly or why it is this bothers you?

Do you sometimes react outwardly to someone but wonder afterwards what it was that annoyed you so much?

If you do, then you are like most of us, we tend to focus our energy on that other person and find reasons to support the ‘grrr’ feeling we have about them rather than to reflect on ourselves. But one of the ways that can help us cope better both internally (how it affects us) and externally in how we react to them is to become aware of what it is exactly about their behaviours or attitude that bothers us and the reasons that underpin this.

In terms of research in this area, the Centre for Conflict Dynamics in Florida, U.S. has found that there are 9 behaviours/attitudes or ‘hot buttons’ that are found to be particularly triggering for people in the workplace. These are: unreliablity, overly analytical, unappreciative, aloof, micro-managing, self-centred, abrasive, untrustworthy and hostile You can take a free test to help you identify what your particular ‘hot button’ is here.

Your hot button may of course be none of these or perhaps even a few of them (none of them are particularly appealing characteristics anyhow!) although it’s worth thinking further to identify which one would lead you into reacting back as opposed to just being mildly irritating.

So the first step in what I’ve termed ‘owning your hot buttons’ is to clearly identify what the exact behaviour or attitude is that bothers you. But knowing ‘aloofness’ bugs you is not enough.
Next, it’s important to try and figure out why exactly that particular behaviour bothers you – what is it that’s important to you that this behaviour gets at or challenges. Getting underneath the hot button for yourself is a key part of having ‘ownership’ on it and being better able to manage when it gets pushed.

One way to help you figure out why it’s important to you is to ask yourself: “what comes up for me when I meet this behaviour?” and then take note of the thoughts, feelings – both physical and emotional, interpretations etc. that you make about that person doing this. So let’s take for example someone whose behaviour I would term ‘aloof’.
For me, reflecting on what this attitude brings up for me, I would say that aloofness would give me a sense that the person doesn’t want to connect with me and isn’t interested in me personally. So by considering this I now have more information about myself – that connection with others is important to me and that this person is violating a value I hold dear as opposed to just being someone I complain about. I also realise that I have made a couple of assumptions, neither of which might be correct – they don’t want to connect with me, they aren’t interested in me.

The process of doing this exercise has however taken me out of my stream of negative and blame-focused thinking about this person and brought me to a better understanding of my own values and a realisation that perhaps I should check out my assumptions rather than just believe them all.

I feel calmer and more objective about how I view them and myself, rather than being caught up in the irritation or annoyance that the behaviour provoked. I am therefore in a better place to manage any potential reaction I might have the next time I meet their aloofness. I also have a slightly softer attitude towards it, now that I’ve thought it through and see that it’s about my values being different to theirs perhaps rather than them being a ‘person who annoys me’.
The other interesting thing to reflect on from the list of unwelcome traits and behaviours above is which, if any of them, do you think that you might possess and might trigger others?

Try out the hot buttons exercise and let me know how you get on. I’d also like to hear your opinion of the ‘hot buttons’ list that the research identified…does it ring true for you, when you think about the kind of behaviours in your workplace that seem to upset people?

Improve your relationships, health and well-being

Six Compelling Reasons to Start a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness or mindful awareness is about becoming aware by intentional focussing of your attention, on what you are experiencing – your thoughts, feelings, sensations – in any particular ‘present’ moment. There are a huge variety of practices from formal meditation, yoga, tai chi or simply 10 minutes of breath awareness every morning. In this article I want to give you a short overview of some of the emerging research on mindfulness. This identifies some very compelling reasons why it can significantly improve your life – professionally as well as personally and most importantly your relationships with others.
So first a little brain science for which I am drawing on the work of Daniel Siegel, author of ‘The Mindful Brain’. Our brain consists of three main areas: the brain stem and the limbic areas which go from the top of the spinal chord up into the centre of our brains and work together to regulate basic bodily functions, the fight/flight response to danger, emotions and memories; and then the cortex, the higher part of the brain that allows us to think and reason.

At the front part of the cortex, just behind the forehead, lies the middle pre-frontal cortex which plays an important role in regulating and balancing the brain stem and limbic areas. This means that when we feel tired or triggered by something that annoys us we are able to respond in a balanced and flexible way rather than ‘losing it’.
When the circuits of the middle pre-frontal cortex aren’t working very well, then we are more likely to allow the emotions and impulses that arise from the lower and mid brain to dominate our behaviour. How well these connections work is influenced to an extent by our experience growing up where the initial ‘wiring’ of the brain circuitry takes place. One of the ways we can improve these connections or ‘rewire’ our brain is by developing a regular mindfulness practice. Research from a number of neuroscientists is demonstrating that developing a regular mindfulness practices actually changes and rewires the brain. These changes can be seen on fMRI brain scans and occur even after a short time of regular practice. Siegel refers to this process as ‘neural integration’.
So let me list out some of the benefits for you:

1. You will manage stress and negative emotions more effectively in your life. Regardless of how harmonious and supportive our workplace or family environments are, we inevitably encounter events and people that provoke the usual gamut of unwlecome emotions such as irritation, annoyance, fear, hurt etc. Mindful awareness practice helps you to regulate your body’s energy levels and emotional states more effectively. So you are less likely to ‘flip your lid’ or become overly anxious in a way that causes you to be less effective in how you make decisions and deal with situations or difficult people in your life.

2. You will have greater flexibility in how you respond to your external environment, be less impulsive and more given to pausing before you act. So when someone does something that upsets or annoys you, you will be less likely to respond reactively e.g. get angry, withdraw and foster an ability to have a more thought-through response.

3. You will get to know and understand what Daniel Siegel terms the ‘architecture’ of your own mind and be better able to relate to and understand other people’s less-connected brain circuitry. You are better equipped therefore as a coach, mediator, counsellor, teacher or even manager to support other people’s ‘neural integration’. Not only that but research in the area of ‘mirror neurons’ is demonstrating that when we interact with others, there is a constant resonation between the internal states each of us is experiencing. Bonnie Badenocktells us that connection with others is another way the brain gets rewired so your mindful state of mind in itself has a beneficial impact on the people you work with.

4. You will develop a more non-judgemental approach to other people. Our brains are actually hard-wired to make judgements all of the time. According to Bonnie Badenock, the single most important factor in therapeutic (and I would include in this term many interventions such as mediation, coaching, counselling, informal support sessions) efficacy is non-judgemental acceptance. She defines this as being able to hold someone with a non-judging mind and heart. Think of how much more effective all of your interactions would be if you could ‘hold’ people in a calm and mindful way in how you are present to them.
5. You will be more resilient in meeting new challenges that arise. The work of Jon Kabat Zinnhas demonstrated that following a number of weeks of mindfulness practice a “left-shift” in the brain activity of participants was noted, in which the left frontal activity of the brain is enhanced. This electrical change in brain function is thought to reflect the cultivation of an “approach state,” in which we move toward, rather than away from, a challenging external situation or internal mental function such as a thought, feeling, or memory.

6. ….It’s free! There is no VAT, no levies…it costs nothing but your time and committment. Why not read some of the research yourself or even better, try it out. You can find some introductory exercises right here. Let me know you you get on!