I just finished a great book called Life’s Wake Up Call: The Content to Process Shift by Michael Vandermark. Content to Process shifting is about evolving your communication from what you said, to how you said it. We’ve all had the argument, “It’s not what you said, it was the tone of your voice that pissed me off!” And we’ve all been the recipient of that frustration too, right? With one simple word, for example, “Yes”—we can make a person feel completely heard, loved and understood, or we can make a person feel like a total freaking idiot. Our energy is profoundly important. It’s the difference between coyly slipping someone a neatly folded note tied up with a pink ribbon, and throwing the same note through their front picture window, tied to a rock. Same words (=same content), highly different delivery (=different process).
This book is designed to make you start evaluating your own communication style in order to become “Process Aware”, rather than completely blind to how others perceive you. I think it’s a book worth reading. A teensy bit dry for this flowery transpersonalist, but I like to read the straight-up executive coaching literature every now and then, just to keep myself well-rounded. (As if the Santa Fe breakfast burritos weren’t doing a good enough job of that.)
One exercise in the book is something so relevant to any situation that I felt compelled to share it. It’s a tiny bit corny perhaps, but that’s just my twisted perception. Ultimately, I feel it’s a powerful exercise to practice surrounding any conflict. It requires self-evaluation, contemplation, and brutal honesty. Michael Vandermark calls it the Six Thinking Hats exercise, and it’s based on the practice of reframing, which is looking at a problem in a novel way. In essence, he has you consider an issue while visualizing yourself wearing six differently colored hats, one at a time, each hat symbolizing a new thought process. (When I told my Santa Fe girlfriend about this exercise, she said, “Ooo! Color therapy!” God, I love Santa Fe.)
The process is, think about a current conflict in your life. It can be anything; a simple argument you had with another person, a workplace issue… anything. Then imagine yourself trying on six different hats from six different perspectives.
1.) The white hat: What are the basic facts? The simple truths of the argument? This is purely informational. Keep it uncomplicated.
2.) The red hat: What is your intuitive and emotional response to this conflict? This is the “what am I sensing & feeling” hat. Pure right-brain.
3.) The black hat: What is the worst case scenario? What would a pessimist say about this conflict? This is to allow your most negative voice to have expression.
4.) The yellow hat: What is the upside to this conflict? What does your internal optimist have to say about this? Put on a pair of rose-colored glasses with this one.
5.) The green hat: What is a think-outside-the-box, creative solution to this conflict? Something you rarely allow yourself to consider?
6.) The blue hat: How might an outsider perceive this issue? What if you sought professional advice from a psychologist, consultant, coach, or executive? What would they say?
Allow yourself to go deep with this exercise. Take your laptop or notebook to a favorite coffee shop and sit there for an hour. Bring all these different aspects of yourself to the forefront of your consciousness; write it out, allow them to contribute.
For anyone who tries this, I’d love to hear how it went! Drop me a note or give a quick comment here. 🙂