Focus on the Prize

Once you’ve done the challenging inner work of preparing and planning your important conversation, and after you have completed AEIOU or your variation of it, you enter the body of the conversation. Sweaty palms and a racing heart often accompany these moments. As you well know, you never know what might happen. Most of us have reasons to fear the interaction since we’ve had prior experiences where important conversations went sideways or south—particularly when the other person pressed too hard on our hot buttons.

To maximize your chances of having a great, potentially even transformational conversation, it’s best to keep front of mind all of your work that preceded this moment. Most importantly, to focus on the positive outcome/desire you have for this conversation and how beneficial this would be in your relationship with this person. Clarity and commitment to keep your eyes and ears doggedly on the prize you imagined originally will help you stay centered and present during the conversation. It acts as a trail marker to keep you on a positive thrive path.

One way to keep your focus on a positive outcome is to have a few words to silently remind yourself. “I’m committed to a win-win result here” or “I want things to feel good.” You may keep an image or symbol in mind like a tranquil valley where you feel totally at peace. Having anchors to keep reminding you of your destination will help you stay on a positive path—even if the other person is not. Anchors are a powerful way to calm yourself during the talk.

Aside from the potential of defensiveness derailing an important conversation, a lack of clarity about your hopes or expectations can also lead to unfulfilled, undesirable results. Make sure you don’t wander onto less important topics, even if they’re interesting. The more you focus on the core issue(s), the more likely that you’ll be successful. You can be kind when the other person goes off topic and simply suggest that while they may be bringing up an important point, it would be best to gain deeper resolution about the topic at hand.

Keeping your eyes and ears on a positive prize will spare you much of the angst I experienced earlier in my four decades long journey of having challenging conversations. Years ago I would just blurt out my upset with anyone who had angered me. I realized, in retrospect, that much of my intention was to hurt the other person since I had felt hurt by them. Not surprisingly, this intention and the actions that followed did not lead to happy outcomes. Pain led me to examine my motivations for speaking up more deeply; I still have to resist a tendency to blurt and instead rely on reflecting and planning first. Being clear about my positive intentions and desired outcomes has helped me stay (relatively) calm in some intense conversations. May the light side of the Force be with you.

Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D., LHEP™

Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D., LHEP™

Daniel helps CEOs, VPs, managers, engineers, scientists, artists and others realize and develop their greatest assets—curiosity, purpose, authenticity, and resilience. As a change agent, he occupies different roles: executive and leadership coach, organizational trainer, group facilitator, consultant, and researcher. He focuses on helping people build inspiring, successful professional careers and personal lives. He has coached leaders in companies such as Yahoo, Netscape, Oracle, ESPN, Power Vision, Adobe, Restoration Hardware, Autodesk, and Genentech, as well as many smaller companies—including start-ups.

Daniel’s background in various approaches in psychology, contemplative practices, neuroscience, and philosophy makes him uniquely qualified to help leaders gain a deeper, more effective understanding both of themselves and those they serve. With his guidance, leaders learn to strategically strengthen relationships and build powerful bonds—creating an environment of trust and honesty. He achieves this by helping people resolve common misunderstandings and power struggles to create cohesive, well-functioning teams and organizations. People experience greater self-esteem, which positively influences all aspects of organizations—including the bottom line.

An expert in the field of awareness and relationship skills, Daniel has presented at major conferences, businesses, and universities. A published author, he contributed to the book The Communication Path and with his wife, Judith Bell, he co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success Volume 8 as well as the book Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership. He’s delivered his successful communications messages on radio and television. His deepest interests are in researching and teaching skills that allow people to thrive both professionally and personally—rather than simply survive.

Daniel is also president of Relationships That Work® and directs Strength with Heart® men’s groups and seminars. He researched how the traditional male role influences relationships, both professionally and personally. He applies this understanding in guiding leaders to be more conscious and impeccable.

Supporting leaders in acquiring new skills of resilience—stability, flexibility and the capacity to bounce back—informs Daniel’s entire body of work. With Judith, he co-created and delivered a specially designed resilience training program for NASA to help its workforce survive and thrive during a crisis in organizational confidence in the manned space program.

Daniel brings warmth, caring, and humor to his work. At the same time, he challenges people to think outside the box. He believes that people often learn best when they laugh the most.

Daniel holds a BA in psychology from Boston University and a PhD in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. He has been a participant in the RL Angels & Traitors and Authentic Leadership 1 courses. He has acted as co-facilitator of The Human Element® course and is the co-creator/co-facilitator of the Resilience Dynamics® course. He has used Judith as a consultant and unpaid coach for since 1987.

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