When in doubt, RoR!

It's that time of year, friends...students are returning, a new system is upon us, and fall will soon be in full swing. Feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, and tense are inevitable. The good news is we have the opportunity to take control of these feelings and make them work for us, rather than the other way around.

I've discussed emotions as a key to understanding behavior in the past, and with potentially high stress levels descending upon us, I figured it was a good time to revisit how to control emotions and navigate tough situations. You might recall the formula Em=E+M (Emotions=Energy in Motion). Our emotions exist for a purpose, so it helps to take inventory of what emotions we are experiencing in this moment, and understand why our limbic system sent that particular hormone to make us feel whatever it is we're feeling. Another way of looking at this is we can pretty easily break down our feelings into one of two categories: Fear-based emotions (survive) and Hope/Love emotions (socially thriving).

Every behavior and every interaction whether it's an entire system or a 1:1 personal interaction with someone is based in one of the two categories mentioned above. That's not to say the behavior can't be based in both at the same time, but the point is that every single action used and word spoken stems from fear and/or hope and love. It's important to understand this because we have all heard at one point in time the following (or some variation of it): "I just don't understand...I've done everything I can think of and they still don't get it!" Raise your hand if you've ever been there before...precisely. :)

So, what do we do now? Well, G.I. Joe says knowing is half the battle, so once you recognize the problem exists in the first place, your problem is already halfway solved. At this point it's simply a matter of choosing to follow through and recognize the power you have to help resolve it. First and foremost we want to be sure we use uplifting language with a positive intent. Words and phrases like "yes, and?" vs "yes, but..." Phrases such as, "Tell me more" and "Help me understand." Additionally, we can take time to recognize the efforts people have made up to this point and assume good intent--that is, taking a strength-based approach and focusing on what the people that we are interacting with have done well so far; thanking them for their efforts. 

The next step is a process I came up with awhile back that breaks down potential and currently-occurring conflict and serves to minimize tension and gain better clarity. After all, the number cause for conflict truly is miscommunication. So, what then do we do once we recognize tension and conflict are occurring? We RoR. It's a simple 4-step process that can be used immediately, takes little-to-no formal application before using it in your real world, and takes just a little bit of emotional intelligence to get started.

RoR: Root of Resistance. If you recognize there is resistance in your interaction then the other person probably does as well. So then, the best thing we can do is acknowledge it and quickly get to the root so we can move on successfully; not compounding the issue from the start.

  1. As mentioned above, simply recognize the problem/conflict/resistance exists. Once you recognize this alone, you're already 25% done. If you've ever taken my course on addressing conflict, this is step one identified as "Identify the complaint" in the workbooks.
  2. Once we identify the complaint itself, we can then recognize the emotion associated with it. Is this person afraid? Are they frustrated or angry? (Hint: If they appear angry they are probably actually afraid, which puts their emotion in the fear-based column. Anger/frustration is a secondary emotion that shows itself as a form of fear) So, bottom line: Identify the emotion associated with the complaint or behavior.
  3. Once we identify the complaint and recognize the emotion associated with said complaint, now we can lean on our emotional intelligence for the remaining two steps. In step 3, we need to reframe the initial complaint in a way that identifies what the person would tell you if their brain wasn't being hijacked by emotions. In other words, if the complaint sounds something like, "I've done this already and I keep getting bounced around from person to person!" They MIGHT say something like, "I have already spent a significant amount of time on this issue. To me, this seems like a simple fix and I can't seem to understand why it is taking so long nor why I am being passed from person to person. I am concerned my issue won't get resolved and I will be left to solve it on my own, which will put me further behind on my already overloaded task list."
    • Now ,if we take pause here we can reflect on what this hypothetical person is trying to identify: 
      • Fear of falling behind (which suggests they are motivated by deadlines and being prompt/pride comes from being reliable through timeliness).
      • Fear of being alone (not getting an answer or solution, and being passed around suggests a lack of knowledge which sparks fear of no resolution).
      • Hope in wanting gain more knowledge to be self-sufficient (If I can solve it on my own and not have to be passed from person to person I can resolve fears 1 and 2).
  4. Once we get here we have successfully identified the complaint, recognized the emotions associated with the complaint, and stated back (in our own heads) how the person might respond if their brains weren't overtaken by fear-based emotions. So now, we can state back and validate the person's feelings and follow up with a promise for delivery (Tip: we should do our best to under promise and over deliver as that builds trust and demonstrates transparent communication). 
    • In the case study provided here, we simply state back the person's fears with more positive phrasing and validation. It might sound something like this, "It sounds like you've done everything in your power to resolve this to the best of your abilities (strength-based approach), and I commend you for your efforts so far. I can see why you are frustrated (validation of feelings), so let me take a look into this. I will reach out and get back to you (give a reasonable deadline) with an update. I want to be sure you have everything you need to succeed (affirmation of motivation). 

This approach takes a little longer and requires some skills in applying emotional intelligence and a bit of motivational interviewing. The good news is, anyone who has ever taken a course involving handling difficult situations, conflict, and/or customer service already has a pretty solid foundation of how to approach resistance and potential conflict. The RoR method is simply another way to consider the "why" and "how" when faced with conflict, resistance, and tension. And remember, if the number one cause for conflict is miscommunication, what can we do on our end to prevent and fix the issue?

There is a solid chance that the conflict started awhile ago and by the time we recognize its existence, the initial contributor to the current problem isn't necessarily as obvious as it perhaps once was. So stop, take inventory of what has happened, consider your options, then move forward. If nothing else, recognize that the other person is struggling in the situation as well and we have the ability to assist through asking relevant questions before leaping to technical solutions.