“Look what I have found,” was the WhatsApp message from my eldest daughter on the family group chat. There then followed a series of photos of our previous houses that she had found on google map street view. There lies one of life’s modern-day wonders. The ability to revisit places of interest and take a virtual walk down streets to most places in the world and see what it is like. Most places apart from my childhood house which was on a farm on a private road where the google van did not go!
If you are not sure where you are going, seeing the route on google street view helps to allay fears. In the bottom right corner of google maps is a little yellow man. Pick him up, drag and drop him anywhere on the map and it turns it to street view and you can walk the route. You can travel the unknown so that it doesn’t feel unknown anymore. You have travelled there in your mind.
“When I coach people and we are exploring situations that feel a little uncertain, I remind them of the ‘Google Yellow man’ and the ability to look ahead at possible routes before you travel them. ‘Look ahead’ is the second of our ‘Look’ series this month that can help us to review and plan effectively as we lead others when we face something new or tricky that we need to action.
Look ahead – what might happen
About 5 years ago, I went to buy a second-hand car from a dealer in Leicester. The dealer wanted payment in cash and so I travelled by train with seven grand in cash in an envelope tucked down my trousers. I didn’t know Leicester or where the garage was and so I felt somewhat concerned, especially knowing I had a large amount of cash on me. So, I google street viewed the address and then using the google yellow man I walked the route online. I saw the junctions and which path I needed to take. All of which helped me when I arrived and walked from the station to the garage. Having the ability to look ahead at what might happen allows us to prepare and it does not seem so uncertain. It is the same when considering a tricky issue. Considering what might happen and how we might respond can develop our confidence and self-efficacy in a situation. It was James Maddux in 1995 who originally suggested 'imaginal experiences' as the art of visualising yourself behaving effectively in a given situation. When we do this, it takes away the element of surprise.
Take the example situation like speaking to someone with a difficult message. Your mind will worry about the response you might get from the person you are going to speak to. So, google yellow man what might happen and how you will respond.
They might cry – I will respond by offering them a tissue and give them time to settle themselves and ask if they would like to carry on tomorrow when they have calmed.
They might shout – I will respond calmly, acknowledge their upset and explain how I would like us to find a calm way forward.
They might go passive aggressive on me – I will respond with asking how they are feeling and acknowledge that the information might be upsetting. I will remind them that I am here to help them find a way forward.
They might run out in a sulk – I will respond calmly and give them time. Later on, I acknowledge their emotion and explain I am here to help find a way forward and will plan with them a new time to discuss it.
If they respond in any of those ways, it is not a surprise to us and we know the route to take.
Look ahead – Box the chimp
When we are facing an unknown situation, our emotional centre of our brain, the Amygdala, may sense this as a threat. Steve Peters, in his book Chimp Paradox, explains this as our inner Chimp worrying and needing reassurance. We do this by a) acknowledging our worry, b) reminding ourselves of a time it has been ok and c) addressing each of the chimp’s concerns. Addressing these concerns is called ‘Boxing him in’. So, when we ‘Google Yellow Man’ the possible things that could happen and consider what route we will take with each one, it allows us to consider the answers that will reassure us.
Taking the example above of having a difficult conversation with someone. When we address each worry, we can reassure ourselves.
What if they hate me for it? Answer – I can’t control their reaction but I can control how I am calm and make this as pleasant as possible. They know me and they know I try to help people and so this will
What if they sulk with me? Answer – I can control how I respond to that with maturity and care. I can ask them how they feel and address their issues and explain that I am still for them.
What if they tell others that I am nasty? Answer – I can continue to show people the character that I am. In doing that it will create dissonance with any misinformation that they are being given. People know me and how I deal with people calmly and supportively.
Look ahead – create a plan for the unplannable
In reality, we don’t know what is going to happen next. We can’t plan for everything but we can look ahead, consider what might possibly happen and have some ready-made responses on the mental shelf. Sometimes these can be for things that we know we find hard to manage. Take ‘responding to change’ as an example. If you find change hard, then have some standard things that you know work for you in a simple plan if change happens. For example,
Press pause and take some breathing exercises
Ask the person to explain the key things that are remaining and the key things that are changing
Remind myself of a time I managed change before
Meet with someone who I see as a helper in these moments. Ask them to work through a plan with me.
Plan for the steps I need to take.
There are all sorts of things we can look ahead and plan for and create simple emergency packs for. Dealing with someone who is angry; dealing with some upsetting news; what to do if I break down in the car. All of them then have a simple plan when the unplannable happens.
You can even create a simple mantra of ‘Pause, Plot, Partner, Plan’ for any situation in the future
Pause – take a moment for breathing exercises to calm and to allow the frontal lobe to catch up with the news.
Plot – confirm the 2,3 or 4 key things that are happening
Partner – find a confidante who you know is good at helping you to keep balance and focus to work through it with you
Plan – Work out what you are going to do about this.
The brain naturally looks ahead as it is looking for danger to protect itself from. So, tap into that natural response and look ahead and plan how you can respond. Most of it won’t happen, but ‘being forewarned is being forearmed’ and makes you more comfortable and confident.
Can we help you?
We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore how you to look more fully at a situation to gain better insight then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. If you have a challenge and you would like our support, then do get in contact with us. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email email@example.com if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.