Each Voice Matters

Life is so much more pleasant when there are no internal conflicts. Decisions are easy, taking action follows smoothly, and joy accompanies the journey. However, when there are internal conflicts, voices that have disparate opinions argue, decisions are difficult, taking action is replaced with stuckness, and turmoil and angst follow.

Given this, it is easily apparent why people would do everything in their power to avoid the pain of inner conflict. Our brains do a good job at reducing our perception of inner conflict by utilizing various defenses. Rather than own and feel the inner conflict, we blame others for putting us in bad situations, we feel put upon by others, we use cognitive dissonance and just don't let ourselves be aware of what we don't want to hear, see, or know, or we use pure denial and don't let certain feelings or thoughts penetrate our consciousness. All these defenses are totally unconscious—meaning that we are not aware in any way that we are doing this in an attempt to avoid pain.

Given that these attempts to avoid internal pain often create ruptures in relationships at home and at work, it is much more advantageous to deal with them consciously. However, the ability to listen to all the internal disparate voices and negotiate a solution that works for all your internal characters is not something most of us are facile at.

Learning how to listen to each character voice their reservations and learn how to negotiate with these internal characters is not only character building, it is a way to create healthy and positive relationships with others. You might ask why. If you are settled in yourself about your decision, your delivery of the information is clear, without tension, and usually lands well, without creating ripples. When, however, you are conflicted inside, the delivery of your decision is fraught with the tension that you are experiencing and without consciously knowing why, others respond to it negatively.

I learned this when I had said “Yes” to two people for two different occasions at the same time. When I told each of them what my decision was, each gave me a hard time. I then spent some time finding out what I really wanted to do and listened deeply to each of the internal voices who had an opinion. I negotiated with each and arrived at a decision I felt good about, that seemed right and true for me. Then I called each of the people involved and delivered the verdict. Each responded with understanding and ease. It was an important lesson for me in coming to internal agreement before telling others about my decision.

The first difficult part of this is to welcome the disparate voices. However, if you know that you will be able to get to a good resolution and move forward positively, this can help you become courageous about inviting these characters to speak. Without hearing their voices consciously, they will sabotage whatever decision you make. Better to welcome them in and negotiate with them until they agree with the decision than to pretend their voices don't exist.

The second difficult aspect of this round table discussion is the negotiation. This is a tall order and will be the focus of a future month. For now, suffice it to say that as you listen to their concerns, hear that each character is attempting to keep you safe and intending to support you, even though it doesn't seem to be so. Find another character, an angel voice, who can express how you feel capable to deal with whatever repercussions emerge.

The practice this week, Listen Well, focuses on bringing out and listening to each voice. Enjoy the practice.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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