I have been away from the writing for a while.  Writing keeps me grounded and so I have missed the company and the clear thinking that it provides.  I always intend to write while I am on “the road” which really means “in the air” but it is becoming increasingly difficult to write while travelling for me.

I was in Hawaii and then I was home overnight before I left again for St Croix.  A six hour time difference is not easy to adjust to quickly and routines can get lost.  The work in St Croix was familiar but the surroundings and the people were not. I think that added a couple of layers of complexity to the situation and dealing with complexity takes energy. Something had to give.  Getting up early to write morning pages fell by the wayside.

I always enjoy the work in the classroom.  I had 15 members of the VIPD with me for two days.  Brave people dealing with high conflict on a regular basis.  My hat is off to them.  Then I had the privilege of working with folks who want to become mediators in the five day training program.  It is always rewarding to watch the shift that occurs when people begin to understand the role of the mediator.

St Croix also offers beauty to be explored. A half day sail was all that I could squeeze in but it was glorious.  We went from the harbour at Christiansted to Buck Island which is a national park reserve.  The beaches were beautiful and the snorkeling was out of this world.  Big, footstool type coral and a stunning array of fish was like nothing I had seen before.  The trip back under full sail was my favourite part.  I love the power of the wind.

Today here in St Albert, the wind is howling.  Mild temperatures for the next few days in the middle of winter is unusual but welcome.  It gives me a chance to get out on the water again … on the frozen water of Lac St Anne for a nice skate.  Maybe the wind will provide the power to move me there too.

Although I may complain about the disruption in my routine that traveling causes I don’t believe I will ever give it up. I enjoy being home.  I enjoy the routine of writing daily and I know if that routine is interrupted by travel and responsibility that I can reestablish it when I return. I want to be like the wind.  Go with the flow.  Travel where life takes me.  Fly the friendly skies.  Sail the seas and always enjoy the journey AND the return to port.

Where ever you are may the wind be at your back, helping you find the direction and the power to complete your travels safely.

I do love being in Hawaii.  This morning I am on the lanai looking across the golf course to the ocean.  Birds are singing.  The sun is shining.  The world is a wonderful place to be.

The contrast between that and the morning I have had on line is amazing.  A cancelled appointment, a webinar with poor sound even though there was a sound test on the new computer, a book coach who has found a new and wonderful job, a slight scrape on the rental car in a parking lot yesterday, another breach of security on one of my twitter sites, not being able to access my word press account from this computer … the trickster at work.

Although I had planned to just relax on this trip I have had some business crop up everyday.  That could be a challenge except for the wonderful weather and perfect scenery.  Breath.  Everything will be fine.  I do tell myself that a lot and I truly believe it but there are days were persistence is a constant thing.  I keep laughing at the trickster and he comes back to test me again with another “fly in the ointment” or another piece to add to the overwhelm.

Not today.  I am in Hawaii.  Negative ions in the air.  I will be fine … as soon as I figure out how to post this…. sigh.

Tomorrow UVI-PULSE presents another Webinar in the monthly series.  This one is about listening … actively.  It is about the state of being we need to have as human beings to involve ourselves in listening to others.  It is not about just showing up and being within earshot.  Listening with HEART is much, much more. It is about deliberately setting yourself the task of truly understanding the other persons position.  It asks you to understand their physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual well being.

HEART stands for Hush, Empathise, Attend, Reflect and Trust.  It is a neural address for a set of skills that demonstrate and strengthen Compassion.  HEART is about caring about the other person, about honouring them as a following human being with their own unique perspective on the world.  There is no judgement in this kind of listening.  Its purpose is to get over to the other person’s side and have a look at the world from there,  It is about creating understanding but not necessarily agreement.

Hush. Stop doing what ever you are doing.  Stop the chatter in your brain. Stop moving.  Stop talking.  Stop judging.  Stop editing the story.  Just stop.  Listen to what is being said NOW.  Watch what is happening NOW.  Turn off your own stuff.  Suspend what ever is going on for you so that you can feel and experience the other person’s world. Hush.

Empathise.  Imagine how it is to be in that person’s world.  Step in.  It is pretty much impossible for you to really completely understand how it is for them but if you can begin to see how or why they are thinking, talking and behaving the way they are that is a good first step.  Feel what they are feeling if you can. Sense the state they are in and emulate it as much as you can. Empathise.

Attend.  Listen with both ears.  Sit up straight.  Watch with both eyes.  Attend to the facial expressions, the body language, the tone and pace, the changes in intensity, the pauses and the words.  Put all of your attention with that person. Learn how it is for them.  Attend.

Reflect.  Let the emotional state that you see and experience reflect in your own face and body without saying anything.  This allows the speaker to continue to speak.  It also encourages expression of the emotional reality they are experiencing.  If your reflection is not true for them, they will adjust their communication to explain more clearly what is true for them until they get the right reflection back. Reflect.

Trust.  Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know.  We are social beings searching for connection with each other.  We want to believe in something bigger than ourselves.  We believe what we believe because of our own experiences.  We act the way we do because of our beliefs, expectations, assumptions, concerns and hopes.  All of this is informed by what we know to be true.  AND we can change what we know.  Trust.

Listening with HEART looks like any other kind of listening.  It is the deliberateness and purposefulness of it that makes the difference.  Put your HEART into it and listening will improve, conversations will improve and relationships will improve.

Today I worked with a very brave group of people who do very important work here in the Virgin islands.  I am always impressed by who shows up to learn about conflict management.  I have met the most interesting and wonderful people in my classes and I learn so much from each of them.  Today was like that.  I haven’t really taught this large a group in about five years and I had forgotten how demanding it can be to harness all that energy into learning.

I am tired but happy tonight.  After work I had a coaching call with a client and then did the same five minute walk to the beach that I had done yesterday .  The water is so warm and inviting here and there were two or three groups of people enjoying it the way I was.  I spent about 15 minutes in the water and then dried off and walked back up the hill to sit on the deck for the sunset.  There were a few clouds in the sky with the weight of rain in them but they didn’t drop it on St Thomas.

There have already been so many adventures and stories to tell.  I have met wonderful people in class and out and I am happy to be here.  I have been thinking about renting a car for the weekend to do some errands and see some of the sights or joining a charter and doing a yacht adventure one day or … so many possibilities.  Many of you know that I didn’t think I could ever rent a car.  I was traumatized justs riding as a passanger the first time I came here.  Left hand drive cars on the left side of the road.  Who does that? 

I think I am ready to give it a go.  Wish me luck.

Another day with my brave people tomorrow.  Friday I am redoing the Webinar on POWER Listening form Tuesday.  I fogot to record the one on Tuesday.  Its a do over I am happy to have the chance to do.  Next week … St Croix and some colleagues of the people I am working with this week on St Thomas.  I love my new job…..

Paraphrase, Open Questions, WAIT, Empathize and Reframe can be used in the order they are presented here to great effect.  When you are first learning to use them it might be the best way to begin.  They can also be used in different combinations and permutations for specific situations.  If for instance you want to know more about what you have heard, you could use POW.  Paraphrase what you know so far. Ask and Open question about it and then Wait.  If you have been surprised by what you have heard you might Wait, ask an Open question and then Wait again. WOW!.  If you want to establish your own credibility and appear professional in your approach you might use PRO.  First Paraphrase what you know so far and then Reframe to the positive and ask a follow up Open question.  If you want to cut through rough waters you might add Wait to you PRO to get PROW like the prow of a ship.

If you detect an emergency of some kind in the conversation, then using the tools for Empathizing and Reframing can revitalize the conversation and stabilize its condition, like a trip to the ER.  If you are back in the fast waters and need to travel up stream you might ROW.  Reframe to generate energy, ask and Open question to get the participants on side and Wait, using silence to power the journey.  If you feel that a do over is what is called for then you could use a Reframe followed by Empathizing to Restart.  I you want to delve deeper into the past then use WERE. Wait, Empathize, Reframe and then Empathize again.  If you want to find out more about the present situation then use PRE.  Paraphrase what you have heard, Reframe to the positive AND Empathize the changing emotional state.  When things don’t smell very good you can use PEW.  Paraphrase, Empathize and then Wait for the air to clear.

I could go on but by now you can probably see what I mean.  The POWER set of tools has interchangeable parts.  They can be rearranged to meet the situation at hand.  You can even use it in reverse when necessary.  Reframing, Empathizing, Waiting, Open Questions, and Paraphrasing for clarity or as a summary at or near the end of a conversation.

The POWER of PULSE is in the listening.  The HEART of PULSE is also in listening.  It is an integral part of the skill and the process that makes PULSE conversations work.  HEART is the neural address for another set of tools: Hush, Empathise, Attend, Reflect and Trust.  More on those in another ebook.

Next door to Open Questions you will find a store called WAIT.

The store name is in capitals.  It is also a reminder. “Why am I talking?” is a question you can ask yourself to remember that when you are using the POWER set of tools the conversation is not about you. WAIT is a gift of silence.  People process information at different speeds.  Give them time to think through what they want to say next.  Let THEM fill the silence.  They may be working up the courage to really say what they are thinking.  There may be a really valuable piece of information on the tip of their tongue and if you speak you may chase that thought away and change the course of the conversation.  Give them the opportunity to gather and consider, to search, sort and select what to say next.  Especially in difficult circumstance it is important not to fill the gap created by the silence but to leave it open for them.  They will surprise you.

In our culture WAIT seems counter intuitive.  Sometimes it is the most difficult tool to learn to use. It is so simple and so effective that I am confident you will come to love it and the results it produces.  Alone it has the power to transform relationships.  Just listening and learn.  Listen deeply for what is missing for the others person, for what motivates them.  Listen beyond the words to the unspoken thoughts and a perception of the situation that you may not have yet considered.  Sit in silence and hold the space for them so that they feel safe and confident enough to share the “good stuff”, the ideas or thoughts that have yet to hit the open air, that have yet to be said out loud, that may change everything. WAITing gives you the gift of deeper understanding that will power they rest of the journey.

The next store is the Empathize store.  Here you will find phrases like “You feel strongly about this.” And “This has been difficult for you.”  The tools here serve a specific purpose.  They are meant to help you get a handle on the level of emotion that is being generated and to harness it.  Naming the level of emotion transfers the power of that emotion from them to you for storage and or disposal.  It seems like magic when it happens.  You sense the wind coming out of their sails.  You feel the air going out of their emotional balloon.  There is such a sense of relief and release you can almost watch them relax before your eyes. And all you have to do is turn this gentle tool a notch to allow for all of that energy to dissipate.  Just notice that there is energy in their language. It is that simple.

In the Empathize store you will not find a shelf called “Stories like yours that happened to me and how I felt about it.”  It is not about you.  The tools that are sold here are focused on the speaker.  Listening for how they feel and being able to express what you’re noticing in a non-judgmental way is key. “I noticed that you use the word ‘extreme’ more than once. This experience had some emotion in it for you.”  Just notice.  Don’t judge.  Providing a space for them to be noticed will allow them to say more.  You are now panning for gold, mining for further sources of energy to take with you on the journey.

Next to Empathize, at the other end of the mall is a store called Reframe.  It holds some very important tools that will allow you to shift a person’s perspective on the world.  The framing tools are fun to work with but they do take practice to master.  It would seem like putting a new frame on an old picture would be an easy DIY project but with mitered corners and the use of reflective materials like glass it can become complicated quickly.  It is not any easy tool to use effectively. The store offers courses so that you can learn how to take a negative and turn it into a positive in five easy steps.  When you watch the experts use the tool you are often amazed at their dexterity.  They do make it look easy. That comes with practice and with knowing more about the Nine BEACHs that people come from and how to name those effectively.  (More on the BEACHS to come.)

Although Reframe is a power tool that takes energy to learn and to use effectively, it also generates power to sustain itself. The energy released in the chemical switch from negative to positive can be harnessed and it is often substantial.  You are giving the gift of seeing things in a new way.  A phrase like “You are always coming in late.” Or “You never take my feelings into consideration” can stop a conversation cold. If the reply is a reframe such as “Punctuality is important to you” or “Inclusion and consideration are what you are looking for” can ease the tension and change things from a negative charge to a positive opportunity to learn more about each other in a deeper more meaningful way. There is subtle use of tone and colour here, an artistic side to reframing that cannot always be detected. It requires listening with purpose, a kind of finesse and appreciation for what is being said and what it reveals so that you honour the artist with the frame you choose. That positive frame fuels the journey.

No matter how well you know a person you simply cannot read their mind.  When you attempt to do that you are actually making assumptions about that person which may or may not be true.  Clarifying assumptions is what the POWER tool box was created to do.  It is made up of five elements, each a power tool in its own right.  Individually they can help you deal with any circumstance AND as a set they provide sustainable energy for conversations, relationships and organizations.

POWER stands for Paraphrase, Open Questions, Wait, Empathize, Reframe.  Think of it as an address in your brain where you keep the concept of deep listening.  It is just a way to remember how these ideas all fit together to provide a fuel source for our journey through life. I imagine a strip mall in a neighbourhood with five stores and a big solar panel on the roof.

The Paraphrase store offers ways to prove that you were actually listening to the person.  In there you can learn to give evidence of your listening by repeating back what you have heard.  Sometimes you use their words.  Sometimes you can use other words or provide a summary of what was said.  The idea is to let them hear what you thought you heard so that they can correct any misinterpretations or provide missing pieces of information for clarity.

What you won’t find in the Paraphrase store is any editing or opinions or self-referencing stories.  You know the kind of stories that begin with “That happened to me and I said ……”  There is no judgement or sarcasm to be found.  It is pure evidence of what was said in a non-judgmental, objective way.  There is no advice. “I would do this.” Or no “SHOULDING” that might sound like “You should just leave.”  There is only honouring the speaker with the gift of their own words back to them in a way that demonstrates an understanding of what was said, evidence that the person was actually hearing what was being conveyed.

On its own Paraphrase is a powerful tool to have with you when you are in any conversation.  It can help you avoid all the ‘mises’ eg. Misunderstanding, misinterpretation, miscommunication, misconstruing and all the rest. A Paraphrase gives the person a chance to hear what they said.  It is like a verbal reflection, a look in a sound mirror that allows them to check if what they said was really what they intended to convey.  It is a gift of opportunity to clarify and relieve that someone has finally heard and understood them.  We all have a voice.  We all want to be heard so when someone actually hears you and proves it you will definitely feel better.

Next door to Paraphrase is a shop called Open Questions.  Here you will find many gadgets to aid you in your deep listening project. Who, What, Where, Why, When, How are the most popular.  Using these question words at the beginning of any inquiry allows the speaker to frame their answer from what THEY know and not from what YOU think you know.  Closed questions relate to YOUR thinking on the subject.  Open Questions give you a glimpse into THEIR thinking on the subject. “Did you walk to the gas station to get gas after you rain out on the highway?” is closed. “What happened next?” is open.  Your version of the story is evident in your question.  You have made assumptions when you ask a closed question.  If you want to test an assumption you have made why not use an open question and here the real story from them?

Using Open Questions takes practice.  It seems we are programmed to ask questions from our own perspective and they can be used effectively but an open question produces more power to fuel the conversation.  You get deeper and broader information that allows you to change your own perspective and version of things.  It is fascinating what you can learn with a simple “What happened next?” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What thoughts were running through your mind at that time?”  You can strategically place the focus on the speaker and let them tell you THEIR story to deepen your understanding of their situation and their way of being in the world.  You can identify where they are coming from, what set of beliefs, expectations, assumptions, concerns and hopes they hold.  Knowing more about the person makes the rest of the journey easier to map and understand.

Next door to Open Questions you will find a store called WAIT.