Active Listening: Internal Dialogue Edition

leadership training effective conversation at workOne of the most interesting things I got from leadership training was the ability to have much more effective conversations with…myself.

Here’s but one example of an uninformed dialogue with myself, ripped from real life, before I took L.E.T.:

Me1: Ugh. This place is a sty. I really should clean it.

Me2: I don’t wanna clean it. I hate cleaning.

Me1: Mom was right. You’re a lazy, messy bum. You probably have rats living in the closet.

Me2: Nuh-uh. I just don’t wanna waste today cleaning.

Me1: Shut up, suck it up, and do it. Ew. How can you stand living here? The closet’s got dust bunnies the size of actual bunnies.

Me2: So? Don’t breathe in there.

Me1: The place is a sty. Clean.

Me2: I don’t care if the place is a sty. It’s been messy this long. One more day won’t hurt anything.

Me1: OK, you have a point there.

Me2: Wanna go shopping?

Me1: I’ll get my purse!
Here’s the thing I didn’t consciously know about myself before leadership training: I don’t respond well to authoritarian leadership styles. Just like 98% o the people on the planet, I grew up in a household full of communication roadblocks (judging, blaming, ordering, directing, warning, threatening, name-calling, and labelling…we all know the drill, don’t we?) And when I got out of the house and into the classroom?

Let’s just say that Catholic School in the mid- to late-70s wasn’t exactly a bastion of No-Lose communication styles.

Twenty-odd years later, as a more-than grown woman, here I am. Still rebelling against authority, albeit mostly – even when the authority is…me. You could tell me to eat a quart of double-chocolate-chip ice cream, but if you do it in an imperious, demanding way, I’ll probably refuse.

And so, here I was, refusing clean my room for the 400th time (even though it’s now an entire condominium).

After leadership training, I had acquired a set of tools I could use to motivate myself in a style more likely to end well.

Me1: The house is pretty messy. I should clean it.

Me2: I don’t wanna clean it. I hate cleaning.

Me1: You never have liked cleaning.

Me2: No. It’s a stupid waste of time. It’s beautiful outside, and if I spend all day today cleaning, it’ll still get messy again, and I’ll have to do it all over again and waste another beautiful day.

Me1: You feel that cleaning today would deprive you of something more fun.

Me2: Absolutely. It’s not like cleaning can only take place in broad daylight, you know. I could clean in the evening.

Me1: There are other alternatives that would get the house clean and still let you enjoy a gorgeous, sunny day in San Diego.

Me2: Yes. I could go out and enjoy today and then when I get back, I’ll be refreshed and energized and I can turn one of my really energetic Pandora stations, like Super Sillylicious, and I could take care of the dishes and the closet re-organization with a nice glass of wine. It could actually be fun.

Me1: You see a way to have your good day and a clean condo, too.

Me2: Yeah. But I’d probably end up procrastinating again.

Me1: You fear you’d end up going out and having fun today, but when you got home, you’d talk yourself out of cleaning.

Me2: Well. Er. Yeah. You know me.

Me1: I am you.

Me2: Point taken. OK, then. No cheating. It’s a plan. I’ll go out during the daylight and take care of the house with good music and a nice oak-y chardonnay. I promise.

Me1: Excellent. I’ll get my purse.

Me2: OK. Just give me a minute to figure out where I left it…

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