An internal warning system
In my Monday Masterclass post on Respect, I wrote: “Every human being is worthy of respect by the mere fact that they’re human.” It’s easy to say (or write) but hard to put into practice. One of the main reasons I write about it is because I think about it and struggle with it myself. In case you were wondering, I do NOT have this all figured out!
I don’t think I’m alone in that I often make snap judgments about people. It’s especially true when they do or say things I’ve encountered before and where I’ve already passed judgment on those things. I know that I do this, so I’ve tried to set up what I call my “internal douche bag alert.”
No, it’s not an alarm that goes off in my head whenever I encounter a d-bag. (If that were the case, the ringing would be worse then my tinnitus!) This is a tactic I use whenever my initial reaction to someone is negative. Basically, I try to stop... take a deep breath... and remember my own advice about basic levels of respect.
It ain’t easy.
Why it matters:
Making changes – especially to the way we think and react – is extremely difficult. Heck, simple changes to daily routines are difficult! How long did that “I’m gonna exercise 5 days a week” new year’s resolution last? Yeah, I haven’t started yet either. It’s not because I don’t know what to do. I’ve got a hundred workouts and I know how to do all the exercises. It’s not because I don’t know it’s important. I’m gettin’ old and if I wanna live to see 100, I need to up my health and fitness game significantly! It’s just hard to change routines. And as I said, it’s even harder to change thought patterns and beliefs.
But to be a truly Relaxed Leader, we can’t just focus on improving our jobs or our organizations. We have to focus on improving ourselves too, which means embracing change – especially when it comes to our negative thoughts and reactions.
In this instance, I’m recommending you try my “Internal D-Bag Alert!”
How to practice:
I’ll write more about this later but start by understanding that a good change management plan can be extremely helpful. One approach I use a lot is the ADKAR model: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement.
For our purposes, I’m going to assume you’re “aware” that you sometimes jump to conclusions that make it difficult to show certain people a basic level of respect. I’ll also assume you have a “desire” to actually change your knee-jerk reactions. That brings us to the knowledge phase, which is what’s happening right now as you’re reading this. I’m teaching you a tactic to try, so you need to take this “knowledge” and practice it... thus turning it into an “ability!” (We’ll talk about “reinforcement” some other time.)
The tactic is simple (but not easy):
Step 1: Someone says or does something and your first thought is, “What a f*!#g douche bag!” Or whatever your equivalent thought is. I know not everyone thinks in the same crude terminology as me. Whatever the case, it’s your internal “trigger thought” – what I think of as my D-Bag Alert!
Step 2: Stop! Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that you don’t know the person’s intent or motivations, nor do you know what they’ve experienced to bring them to whatever conclusions they’re spewing.
Step 3: Envision the long game and then take the high road. Give them the benefit of the doubt and be confident in the fact that starting from a place of respect is always more constructive than destructive.
Step 4: Now determine how to proceed.
What to watch out for:
I use this tactic a lot but, occasionally, when I reach Step 3, I decide there is no “long game” with this particular d-bag. I mean, how can anyone this vile and hateful and willfully ignorant ever be made to see the error of their ways? They can’t! It’s not worth my time at all!
It’s just so damn hard to understand how some people can think and believe the things they do. But we have to remember that labeling and dismissing people is not the way to achieve true progress for everyone. We have to resist the temptation to “label and dismiss.” We have to let go of our revulsion and find a way to respectfully engage with this other human being.
The bottom line:
Everything we do has consequences, and they often reach much further than we imagine. Striving to always start from a place of respect can help ensure that the impact we make is positive – whether we see the results or not.
For me, I also try to remember that a lot of the “debates” I have are held on social media – basically out in public – so although the approach I take and the arguments I make may have little or no impact on the person I’m engaging, there are still plenty of observers who may be persuadable. I think of the ripple effect, where what I do with thoughtful intention can ripple out far beyond what I can see.
My “Internal D-Bag Alert” tactic certainly isn’t the only thing you can try but it’s helped me in the past and is something I continue to use. (In fact, I just used it yesterday!) So give it a try and let me know what you think. And if there’s a tactic you use to help you start from a place of respect, let me know in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for new things to try!