The Mantras of Navigating Challenging Dialogue

The word mantra is loosely defined as a tool of the mind that has a spiritual effect on a person's will or emotional state of being. In the context of Navigating Challenging Dialogue®, the word mantra is used to identify the key phrases. When repeated, these mantras help our audience develop connection points between the content they learn and the specific actions which increase their self awareness, shift their behavior patterns, and increase opportunity for clear, drama-free communication.

In Navigating Challenging Dialogue, mantras help anchor to, and to reinforce, the content. The mantras will be easily remembered and serve as reminders for participants when they are back in their work environment.

The mantras are:

  • “The only person you can ever really manage is yourself”

  • “Grace is in the space”

  • “That’s fascinating”

  • “Emotions are simply vibrations in the body to which we assign labels”

  • “Emotions are contagious. Just like a virus”.

  • “Be aware of the energy you bring to this room” (Adapted from Jill Bolte Taylor)

The Only Person You Can Manage is Yourself

Use the phrase often to help bring participants back to the awareness that Navigating Challenging Dialogue® is about self-awareness and self-management. It is not about trying to get someone else to do something or change.

Help participants to understand that the secret sauce of Navigating Challenging Dialogue is the very real benefits of focusing on self. And that once they can identify their go to style under stress and recognize what getting triggered feels like in their own bodies, then they can then take steps that will shift the negative reactions and behaviors that cause drama and chaos, block forward movement, create feelings of shame and guilt and damage relationships and credibility.

Ultimately by increasing self-awareness (and ultimately social and emotional intelligence), participants will shift how their behaviors impact others. But impacting others is not the goal. Increased self-care and self-awareness is the goal.

Grace is the Space

Whenever an event (communication, assumption, experience, incident, etc.) happens, there is either a reaction or a response. You get to chose which you have (reaction or response).

A reaction is what you do automatically. A communication happens, you get triggered and you, depending on your style under stress, may come back with a snarky retort, a sarcastic comment or you shut down and withdraw.

Navigating Challenging Dialogue teaches participants that they have a choice to instead respond. When you respond, you create space between the communication, comment, incident. In that space, which can be 5 seconds, 30 minutes, a day or a month, you pay attention to yourself. What do you notice in your body? Do you feel the symptoms that indicate you are being triggered? Do you feel anger? What sadness or fear is beneath the anger?

We create and hold that space, regardless how long it is, by remembering to breath, in through your nose and letting go of what you no longer need, out through you mouth. And remembering that you are an agent of change. And you are empowered to manage how you show up simply by creating space. You can shift a potential triggered reaction (flight or fight) to a response simply by flooding your body with oxygen.  Putting grace into the space between what happens and whether you react or respond.

That’s Fascinating

Instead of becoming frustrated, angry or feeling defeated when you notice a triggering reaction coming forward in you, you can simply be fascinated. “Oh. There’s that sensation again. I’m getting triggered”. And then create space by breathing.

When we allow ourselves to become anything other than accepting that everyone gets triggered (it is a physical response to a feeling of being in danger or vulnerable) and instead of getting frustrated by, “Why can’t I get over this?” or “How can I be feeling this again?” or “I’m so ashamed I get upset by things like this!” instead simply acknowledge the feeling and be fascinated.  

Being fascinated takes us out of potential feelings of shame and guilt further fuel the triggering.

Emotions are Simply Vibrations in the Body to Which We Assign Labels

Think about something you love to do that and causes you to be extremely excited. Maybe it is waiting for someone you’ve not seen for a long time to come through the door. Or maybe it is the excitement of skiing fresh powder on a sunny morning. Or a roller coaster ride. Whatever it is, notice the feelings that level of excitement creates in your body. The rush.

Now consider something that causes you anxiety or fear. Perhaps it is heights, flying, speaking in front of a group or having your annual performance evaluation. Whatever it is, notice what you feel in your body. 

In what ways are the two vibrations, excitement and anxiety similar? For most of us, the physical sensations (increased heart beat, butterflies in our stomach, rapid breathing, perspiration or feeling chilled, tingly skin, etc.) that are generated are either close to identical or at least have some strong similarities.

When your participants can see this, they can they be empowered by the knowledge that we are the ones who label those vibrations. “Oh, I’m feeling so nervous” can easily be shifted to “I’m feeling excited!”

This is what we mean when we say that emotions are simply vibrations in the body that I assign a label to.

Emotions are Contagious Just Like a Virus

Have you ever been going along in a great mood and a your co worker shows up in a dark mood and suddenly your mood tanks?

Or someone who exudes positivity enters and suddenly everything feels more possible.

Or someone who has a clean, calm emotional energy can bring a feeling of “we can figure this out”.

Reminding participants about what Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor teaches us through her experience in “My Stroke of Insight” is an important component of Navigating Challenging Dialogue.  And a core tenant of the model is the acknowledgement that we pass emotional energy from one person to another. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. A person with a high level of emotional intelligence and self awareness understands and accepts this truth. And knows that each of is responsible for the energy we bring to into meetings, conversations, the office, the workday or anywhere we show up.

Be Aware of the Energy You Bring to This Room

This is the mantra we use to remind ourselves and our participants that it is important to do a self assessment of where our energy is and then to use breath and listening to the beat of our heart to ground ourselves and let go of negative feelings or emotions that we could spread to others.

The Sticker activity that you do at the beginning of the day that asks “Select a sticker that best depicts or describes the energy you are bringing to this room today” is purposefully used to introduce this concept to the participants and give them an opportunity to begin practicing being aware of and responsible for their energy.

These are the foundational mantras of Navigating Challenging Dialogue. You will want to sprinkle them in throughout the day and use them for touch points to reinforce learning and concepts. You will also likely develop some of your own. Phrases that when used again and again reinforce learning and give people a simple, yet easily remembered phrase to help them reconnect with their learning and show up in ways that reduce drama and chaos, increase positive connections and help them live and communicate with ease.