Here’s a way to bring your creativity and compassion to a workplace dilemma.

7 steps to clearer choice

1. Call to mind something that you heard the person say or do and you didn’t like. (eg: while Sam was presenting the finance data, I saw Jo curl her lip and raise her eyebrows at a colleague across the table.)

2. Notice how your body is responding. Be as gently curious as you can – like watching your inner experience flow through the lens of a microscope. (eg: buzzing, tightening, cold, hot)

3. Name a few emotions if you like – keep it simple. Sad? Mad? Hurt? Frustrated? Worried? Confused? Which parts of your body are you feeling that in? (eg: tight throat or jaw).

4. At this point, you’ll probably find yourself breathing out a little more easily – simply by noticing your own experience. Now, dare to picture what you would have liked that person to do or say instead. Note, you’re not going to attempt to change the other person. You’re getting clear about what’s really important. (eg: I would have liked Jo to keep her eyes on the presenter, and speak up about any concerns she had).

5. When you imagine what you would love the other person to do or say instead, what qualities of life do you see are really important here? Qualities of life are human needs that help us all thrive – experiences you can’t buy and that you can have met in a thousand different ways. Qualities like consideration, respect, accuracy, integrity, fairness, kindness, dignity, psychological safety, protection from bacteria etc. (eg: I’m wanting care and respect for everyone in the team).

6. Write out or silently repeat three times the qualities that matter to you here. (eg: I love it when I have respect and trust).

7. Notice how your body is feeling now.

What happens next?

Your own integrity comes to the fore. After doing these steps, whatever you say or do next is far more likely to be effective.

Why? Because you’ve taken back power over what’s important to you. And you’ve validated within yourself why this behaviour is troubling and not easy to respond to. Finally, you’ve connected your physical reaction to making a conscious choice to align what you do or say next with your best intentions.

Acknowledgements & gratitude

The 7 steps above are my take on a combination of strategies I’ve learned over the years, primarily through Marshall Rosenberg’s self-empathy practice, Mary McKenzie’s “I love it when” activity, and Dian Killian of Work Collaboratively who brings these techniques to workplaces.  

More info

Is this something you’d like to know more about applying in the workplace? I’m publishing a series, full article available here.

Artwork: Paul Gaugin, ‘self portrait’, Courtesy National Gallery of Art Washington

Prompt: opaque