Prove Your Point or Improve Your Position?

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crop psychologist consulting patient in office

You find yourself in a heated discussion with a close colleague, a direct report, or maybe even your spouse or partner. You’ve been going back and forth about who is right and who is wrong. And it appears things are not going to get better any time soon.

We’ve all been there, and it stinks.

We want to settle things amicably. We want to keep the relationship trusting and healthy. And yet, we can’t quite let it go. We must prove our point. We must prove we are right!

It’s a pretty sad condition we have put ourselves into. Battling with people who are supposed to be friends, our coworkers, our loved ones.

Even though we know it’s stupid, we just can’t seem to let the other side win. We might be seen as weak, or incompetent, or scariest of all, that we might not know everything about certain topic.

What is going on here?

Well, it’s an age-old battle. The internal struggle between our Sage and our Saboteurs. You see, we have years of knowledge and experience behind us. And we have just as many years of protection and survival instincts within us.

Our Saboteurs keep us safe and sound with those protection measures and survival instincts. If you remember from previous posts, these saboteurs come in the form of Judge, Controller, Stickler, and a few other villains.

And while these Saboteurs do keep us safe, they make us look bad.

They like to engage in confrontation. They equip us with the mental weapons of, “I’m right and you’re wrong”, “I’m smart and you’re dumb”, “I’m good and you’re bad.”

They do this by hijacking our thought process when we encounter even the slightest amount of stress.

Someone interrupts us? Hijack.

Someone contradicts our opinion? Hijack.

Someone takes a shot at our character, personality, or self-esteem? You guessed it. Hijack.

But these Saboteurs don’t stop there. They love to prove their point.

The Judge will come up with all sorts of personal attacks. The Controller will mercilessly criticize when things aren’t done on time or on budget.  And the Stickler will point out every tiny mistake that was ever made.

These are not the ways to build healthy relationships whether personal or professional.

These Saboteurs are strong. And the first thing they do is cut the link from our prefrontal cortex, which handles all our executive functioning. So now, we are stuck with only our caveman-era hypothalmus to do the thinking for us.

Problem is the hypothalmus doesn’t really think. While it’s great at regulating body temperature, heart rate, and sex drive, it is terrible at helping us solve problems. It just kind of throws out emotional reactions like wet spaghetti on a wall to see what sticks.

And what sticks is pretty limited. We’re left with fight, flight, or freeze, because that is all the hypothalmus can offer. Greaaaat.

Those options are not going to help us in our heated discussion. They are only going to make things worse.

So what can we do?

The first thing we can do is take a break and take a breath. I know it sounds simple but hear me out.

When we pause for just a moment and take a few breaths, we regain the ability to divert the flood of hormones and emotions the hypothalmus is gushing out right now.

Once we sidestep that emotional onslaught, we can take steps to re-engage our prefrontal cortex and regain proper executive functioning.

With a calm, clear-headed perspective, we can now look at things more thoughtfully, more creatively, more compassionately.

This is the work of our Sage. Our Sage works, not to prove our point, but to improve our position.

When we think and act from our Sage perspective, we start with empathy to create opportunities for ourselves and others. We don’t seek to win at all costs. We seek to find a win for both parties.

And when we do that, we improve our position. That’s because we aren’t concerned so much about proving our point. We are more concerned about seeing the facts before us, understanding the other’s perspective, and pursuing an agreeable, trusting relationship.

Vanquishing our Saboteurs is not easy, but allowing them to hijack our thinking and pit us against our friends and ourselves is unwise and unhealthy.

It’s up to you to decide whether to slide down with your Saboteurs or saddle up alongside your Sage. It won’t always be easy to rise to the occasion, but when you do, you’ll find better relationships and better outcomes.

So how will handle your next crucial conversation? How will you find a way to intercept your Saboteurs from hijacking your relationship? And how will you engage your Sage to establish a calm, creative, compassionate conversation?

Taking time to pause and breathe when you find yourself struggling with a surge of stress or a flood of emotion can be the difference between a callous desire to prove your point and a gracious opportunity to improve your position.

Your Mindful Moment:

Your Saboteurs work to prove your point. Your Sage works to improve your position.

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