Fierce Bridge Building

By Mandeep Singh, PCC

What’s unfolding in the world today is phenomenally interesting.  There are so many countervailing forces at play, and so many potential futures, that it would be impossible to be ‘right.’  We may just be living through the next in the series of Revolutions – Agricultural, Industrial, Post-Industrial, Whatever-This-Age-Gets-To-Be-Named-In-Retrospect.

Since we get to be wrong anyway, why not provisionally make sense of it in our own ways, and choose our own responses to these times – practices that express who we are, and help create worlds that we can enjoy inhabiting?  And, as circumstances shift, we create new provisional choices, and do it again.

What’s Happening?!!

Brexit and random terror in Europe, and Right vs. Left in the US, apparently.  At least, that’s what our TVs and media – social and otherwise – would have us believe.  All of which is true, and is also hugely magnified, because no one writes about gorgeous days with glorious sunshine, and birds flying happily about, and butterflies doing their thing.

Climate Change!!!  True – and gorgeous days with glorious sunshine, with birds flying happily about, and butterflies doing their thing.  And people playing baseball and soccer, and having a beer afterwards and relaxing with their friends.

Health Care imploding; any number of wars, potentially – nuclear ones not out of the question; not to mention the incredible speeding up of all things business, competition on all sides, no guarantees of survival of a company, an industry, even, and jobs more up in the air than ever.  True – and we’re all going to die maybe twenty years from now, maybe one hundred and twenty, maybe much earlier – and on a daily basis we have gorgeous days with glorious sunshine, with birds flying happily about, and butterflies doing their thing.

What are we going to do?

Clearly we are going to continue to do what we do.  Create and follow our plans.  Live full lives.  Speak to what we hold important – Right or Left.  Try and influence the future that unfolds as we speak.  And give in to varying degrees of terror and frustration.

In addition, I would advocate doing three more things – things which would both reduce our terror and frustration, AND increase the chances of better outcomes:

  1. Holding lightly the fact that the Glorious Human Adventure may well be nearing its end, but thankfully, the Earth will do just fine once we humans have obliterated ourselves, and surely, with a quadrillion galaxies, equivalent intelligent beings are having adventures of their own on billions of other planets. And, Practicing Radical Acceptance.
  2. Living deep, full, peaceful lives ourselves – deeply grounded lives that inspire the people whose lives we touch to do the same. It may turn out that this solid groundedness in a sufficient number of people ends up serving as the firewall that contains both the violence, and the violence against the violence that tends to spread as passions inflame.
  3. Listening to the Other – from their point of view. Clearly they hurt.  The least we can do is deeply listen, acknowledge their pain, and try and understand it.  This does not mean we give up on what’s important to us, or appease … just understand, empathize, and honor.  I highly recommend checking out this TED talk by an erstwhile member of the Westboro Baptist Church.


Honoring the Other & Self – Building Bridges

I’ve just got back from a wonderful course on Conscious Leadership by Bob Anderson, creator of The Leadership Circle Profile 360 instrument, and an awesome human being.  A segment of the workshop is particularly relevant to this topic.  Some conflicts in the workplace can be as heart-pounding as encounters with the fringe element of the Other political party.  So the two step “How To” below is a two-fer!  And, it’s really an extension of the lessons from the TED talk above.

Step 1: Inquiring with Compassion

Compassion is …

  • Inquiring into the Other’s position
  • Supporting the Other’s position as valid
  • Understanding the Other’s Harsh Reality
  • Owning my contribution to the problem
  • Giving Others credit for Greatness.

Often enough, when the Other is reluctant to engage in the Inquiry, we can even intuit their Reality ourselves.  Here’s an example from my earlier career in IT:

I was working with a Business Client on creating the requirements for a Proof of Solution for a packaged software application procurement my Client’s Client was undertaking.  I had the worst time for the first three weeks on the project – I knew what needed to be done, and my client just wasn’t listening to me.  I tried every trick in the book to have him realize that I knew.  (And, by extension, that he didn’t!)  Didn’t work.  There was zero listening for me.  You can imagine the stories I made up in my mind about him.

I finally realized that if the impasse had to be broken, I would have to be the one to do so.  With no other recourse left to me – bar subjecting myself to extreme frustration, and suffering in silence – I decided to try on his shoes.  Clearly, he’d never worked with me before, timelines were tight, he didn’t trust me, and was terrified that if the experiment did not work out, his neck would be on the line.  I would like to believe I’d work differently, but that was not the point.  If this WAS indeed his position, it made complete sense.  Within his imagined point of view, his position was perfectly valid.  His “Harsh Reality” was that he’d fail HIS client, and for better or worse, he was going to pull out all the stops, put in tons and tones of extra work doing stuff he hadn’t done before, just so he could get at least a workable product in front of his client.  And I was clearly contributing to the problem by being a smart ass, and eating up his valuable time suggesting alternate ways to handle the issue, which, in his terrified state, he had no way of verifying as workable.  Hats off to the guy – from within his point of view – you had to be touched by his heroic undertaking.

Step 2: Speaking with Courage

Courage is …

  • Telling My Truth
    • What I want / value
    • My position
    • Value in a Relationship
  • Describing the Current Reality
    • The Harsh Reality
    • Caution in a Relationship
    • My contribution to what is happening
    • Costs, Risk, Downside
  • Declaring My Commitment
    • What I intend to do

Having arrived at the conclusion above, I spoke to my client.  I told him that I really prided myself on my abilities in getting this kind of work done.  That even though I did not know the exact specifics of what all he wanted, I’d done enough such projects that I was confident that I could get him the artifacts he needed with targeted conversations which would take him far less time, on balance, and we’d get him a great product ahead of time.  I also told him that I could see that even though I felt as I did, I could see that it was too much of a risk for him to take with an unproven quantity such as me, even though I had come with strong recommendations.  Unfortunate, but true – that WAS our Harsh Reality.

Given the above, I could see how much grief I was causing him by trying to push my way on to him, when he was clearly under significant stress, and could not take the risk of trying it out.  The downside of the risk of no product by the end of the timeline was far too great.

So, I declared my intention to help him by following through and implementing whatever ideas he came up with – this way at least he’d implement his vision faster, and the risk to timeline would also go down.

The product we came up with was not a patch on what we could have created had I been working with another client, or with a different level of perceived risk.  But the upside was that we created trust, and if we had ever worked together on a next project together, it would have gone much more smoothly, with better product and more mutual engagement.

Sometimes Courage is taking on your own desires in service of Purpose.



To explore more of your own compassion and courage, schedule a conversation with Mandeep.