Navigators Are Problem Solvers!

Navigators Are Problem Solvers!

Puzzle“You Deserve To Live An Extraordinary Life!”

Navigators live more fulfilling lives than Survivors and Victims! While there are several key things Navigators do to maintain a high quality of life, the key component is that they are masters of navigating their emotional lives. Overall, they tend to have increased Self-Awareness, effective Self-Control, especially over anxiety and anger, and they maintain a sense of shared perspective or Empathy. They also have a fourth skill of emotional intelligence, Problem Solving, which involves both negotiation and conflict resolution.

In the last several posts, I have used the example about a couple I used to work with, Karen and Frank, to explore the idea of emotional intelligence. They were a Survivor/Victim couple locked into the downward spiral of a power struggle. Frank came from a family where hard work and taking care of family were key values, and feelings were secondary. Karen’s background involved immature parenting and very little emotional support. She grew up believing that if she could be perfect and do everything right, she would eventually earn the love and attention she so desperately craved.

In her own family life, Karen strived for perfection, both for herself and others. She demanded nothing less than high grades and impeccable manners from her children and expected unwavering appreciation from her husband. Frank worked hard and took good care of his family financially. However, Karen wanted more from him and he usually felt as though he was not living up to her expectations. A shadow haunted them, there was coldness, distance, and a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. They argued a lot, they felt hurt and annoyed with each other and they could not understand the other person’s personal perspective. Karen felt used and unappreciated, just as she had felt in her family of origin, while Frank just wanted to be left alone.

We spent a considerable amount of time in therapy working on improving their emotional intelligence, in particular, becoming more self-aware by identifying their own life perspectives, thoughts and feelings. They had to learn a new language of emotions, first by understanding their own, and then learning to manage their hurt, frustration and anger whenever they did not live up to each other’s expectations. They worked hard to improve empathy and social perspective, thereby appreciating that they were different people with different values. A breakthrough occurred when we worked on the fourth skill of emotional intelligence: Problem Solving. They had to shift from a dynamic characterized by a competitive and hopeless power struggle, to one involving personal responsibility, self-expression, respect, and appreciation of competing needs and opinions. The next step was to work together to agree on a specific plan of action for the future.

I had recently worked with a small family business on improving their problem solving and decision making skills. They did very well in this area and I thought it might be useful to present the model to Karen and Frank. The model came from the work of Phil Harkins and his research into Powerful Conversations. I liked the model because of its clarity, simplicity and practicality. It seemed like a perfect fit for my couple and well worth the effort to teach them. They appeared ready to attempt mutual skill-building and cooperative effort to enhance their relationship.

This model is based on the idea that powerful conversations result in mutual learning, increased trust and moving an agenda forward, and it represents qualities Karen and Frank needed to incorporate into their lives. There are four conversations that make up this model:

  1. “What’s Up?”
  2. “What’s So?”
  3. “What’s Possible?”
  4. “What’s Next?”

In “What’s Up?” you start the conversation by setting the stage, setting an agenda and stating your goal or intention. For example, Karen might start the conversation by saying “Frank, I want to run something by you. My intention is to share my feelings with you about something that happened yesterday, listen to your perspective and then put our heads together and figure out a solution we can both live with. Is this a good time to talk?”

In “What’s So?” both parties express their points of view, feelings and any underlying issues that may be present. There is a mutual commitment to understand the situation and how each person experienced it. It is essential that Karen and Frank practice Self Awareness, Self-Control and Perspective-Taking (Empathy). These skills will help them stay focused on the topic at hand and stay out of the right/wrong, Victim/Survivor, downward spiral power struggle that defined their style of communication in the past.

In “What’s Possible?” Karen and Frank explore options and solutions, keeping an open mind about finding a solution that addresses both of their needs and desires. This is like brainstorming, and ideas can be thrown back and forth without debate or argument.

In “What’s Next?” they choose a solution, put it into action, and see what happens. Later, they can reconnect to debrief about how their plan turned out. They can also take some time to acknowledge each other’s efforts and good intentions and to express appreciation.

Perhaps you can see the value of having such a problem solving model for yourself in both your personal and business relationships. By practicing the four skills of emotional intelligence that we have discussed so far, Self-Awareness, Self-Control, Perspective-Taking and Problem Solving, you can become an Emotional Navigator and live the extraordinary life you deserve!

If you would like to learn more about Emotional Intelligence and How To Live An Extraordinary Life, order my book “Navigating For Success”!