Next time I’m going to clock you!

Like a lot of what I currently call MY knowledge I have no idea where I learned this great little exercise to deal with conflict, but I thought it was worth sharing. It is something I used with a client of mine today and they found it really useful. I know someone who reads this post will enlighten me as to who was the first person to write about this technique. I am sure I learned it on an NLP course or read it in a psychology book somewhere along my travels. 

When it comes to conflict, we often hear the old adage, there are 2 sides to every story, and some might say there are three with third side being the truth. I was always told that when you find yourself in conflict with someone, you should put yourself in their shoes. To understand any situation, it is worth remembering that you have your view and they have theirs but in my experience it can be helpful to have three points of view.

Where does the third point of view come from? Let me explain it in this way. Imagine that you are in an exam situation. As a student you might look at the clock on the wall and think “Oh NO, I have only 60 minutes to finish this exam, I will never get it all done in time”. The examiner is sitting at the front of the room and they take a look at the clock and their thoughts might go something like this “Oh NO, I have a whole hour to go! I’m already bored”. It’s the same situation with two different viewpoints. 

Now imagine that there is a third viewpoint. The CLOCK!

The clocks job is just to show the time, to tick tock away without caring what either person in the room feels. It, in a sense is the observer. No real emotion. It just sees the situation from a different place. 

With that in mind let’s look at how we can take the “step in the other persons shoes” exercise to a higher level. If you are currently in a situation where you have to deal with an individual do these steps.

  1. Stand up. Imagine that the other person is standing directly across from you (We will call this person Y given that you are person X). To your right imagine that there is an observer (We will call this person Z). Z is someone who really doesn’t care about this situation. They are just there to observe. 
  2. Start to ask yourself some questions. What do you want to get from the situation you find yourself in with person Y? What does person Y have to do to make this situation work for both of you? 
  3. When you are clear about what outcome you want from this situation, move across the room and step into person Y’s shoes. Take a moment to feel what it’s like to be them. See through their eyes, hear what they hear and feel what they feel about this situation given the experience they have in life. They are bringing their fears, their doubts and their beliefs and values into this situation. Just notice it. 
  4. Look across at person X. Ask this question (From the perspective of person Y), what do you want to get from this situation that you find yourself in with person X? What can person X do to make this a better situation for both of you? You may hear answers like “listen to me, break it down for me or show me”. Just notice the answers. 
  5. When you have those answers move to the third point of view (Person Z). This is where you get a chance to observe. Look at the situation as a clock would see it. Just look at the facts. As an observer, with no emotional attachment, what advice, if any would you give to person X. When you gather the information from person Z’s viewpoint move back to your original position. You are person X again. 
  6. Ask yourself these questions.
  7. What actions can you do to improve the situation? What can you say that may help both parties? If what you say and do won’t affect the situation then what can you do to help yourself cope with the situation? 

What have you learned from this exercise?

You might be surprised by some of the revelations you will have or it may give you some new actions to do that will help you better deal with the situation. Sometimes I get asked “why do I have to change?” “Why can’t Y change?”. 

The answer is simple. You have NO control over the other persons actions and words. You have however control over your actions and words. If you feel out of control in the situation or you don’t feel you have the resources to deal with it then maybe one of the answers that came up in the exercise was get help or speak to someone who can help.

Anyway, I hope you find the exercise useful. Please feel free to add comments below or share with others. 

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