How Gordon Training’s CEO and VP Got Into It or How Active Listening Saved The Day Again

Okay, so yes, I am the VP in this story and our President, Linda and I, well we had a conflict and it didn’t start out well at all. Imagine what not to do a la L.E.T. and that’s what we did. Yup.

Now, let me first start off by saying there is a concept we teach in all of the Gordon Model programs, called Emotional Flooding and we were knee deep in “water”. It’s that point when you are SO upset, you’re overwhelmed, you cannot listen, you feel almost paralyzed by emotion – think you get the idea.

CEO and VP conflict resolution leadership skillsLinda and I have offices right next to each other. Several times throughout the day, one of us will go to the other with a quick (or not so quick) question, idea, need, etc. Yesterday, Linda comes in with a thick sheaf of papers and says, “I need to ask you some questions about this GTI 50th anniversary timeline we’re working on.” I reply with a quick, “I will be with you in just a minute.” She replies back, “That’s what you always say when I come in here” and she storms off. (Sigh).

I had to finish sending a massive bulk email that if I didn’t monitor, I would then have to start over again, so after I am done, I go to her office and I sorta begin Active Listening to her textbook I-Message. But I don’t wanna after I hear what she said about me not being available; which is accurate but now I am so upset, so flooded, I am almost shaking – which really surprised me. “Why am I SO upset by this?” I am asking myself. So I say, “I cannot listen right now. I know you’re irritated and I know I need to hear you and I can’t do it right now. I am just too… I just can’t.” I walk out. (Sigh # 2).

For over two hours, we are each working in our respective offices, all the while I am irritated, distracted, but trying to move on to other projects. I wasn’t working very efficiently, suffice to say. And I was still baffled by my strong reaction – both mental and physical. “What in the world was going on here…” I asked myself.

So I email her (she’s next door, remember?) and ask can we talk before 5:00 today. Yes, she replies. Around 4:30, into her office I go, shut the door, sit down and begin. I listen, she shares more, I listen, I argue, I defend, she listens, she doesn’t listen, I don’t listen. We get better though. “Yes, I say,sometimes I consciously say no, in a minute to get back at you – but why do I do this?, I ask out loud. I am still upset…she listens more to my frustration and then this giant “ah-ha” moment.

I am being passive-aggressive big time…I realize that I am trying to pay her back for countless times she’s late for meetings, for,…well, lots of things. It’s like when she comes into my office, and needs my help, I am subconsciously saying “Oh yeah?…Really,…now? Ha!…don’t think so. You can wait for me, sister!”

She knows her struggles with time management so I don’t have to spell them out when, where but I do spell out how her behavior impacts me:”I stop what I am doing to be on time for a meeting and then you’re late, I wait for you when I could be working on other things that need to get done. I then come to your office three times to remind you, “Hey, we said 3:30, it’s now 3:45…”.

I will skip to the end for the sake of time. What I discovered is this: no way in the world would we have ever come to an understanding and agreement if we hadn’t had the Gordon Model skills.

Time and punctuality are HUGE issues for she and I and they have been for years and years. Yesterday though, there was a huge leap forward for both of us – we’re each more keenly aware of how and why we do what we do and wow – what a relief, what an experience.

So what are our solutions? We agreed that she will ask me ahead of time what and when she needs information. I will stop working when she comes into my office (after I make quick notes about what I was doing or thinking so I don’t forget what I was doing or thinking) and be available. As for her being late, well, she works on it every day. She’s pretty sure it’s genetic but I am pretty sure I am not going to buy that one.

Okay folks, there you have it. People who work with Gordon Model all day long, for 45 years, struggle, too. We’re human and flawed BUT…and this is big “but”, we’ve got skills to use in the end. And in the end, I always, always, always know we will work things out so we’re both satisfied. And I love that.


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