August 3, 2006

Barometric Pressure

If you've ever heard a weather report, you know that a barometer is a device used to measure atmospheric pressure, which determines if it's going to be a "nice" day or not. The word "barometer" is also used for anything that indicates fluctuations of all sorts. A poll is a barometer of public opinion, for example, while test scores are a barometer of knowledge.

Our friends, families, partners, clients, supervisors, employees, colleagues and every other sentient being in the galaxy are our "belief barometers." They show us exactly how we treat people and how we, ourselves expect to be treated. In the course of a day, we interact with others (if only in our minds) and the interaction results in a feeling. In the case of an uncomfortable feeling, the feeling is a signal (and sometimes a warning siren) that something is off-kilter in our thinking.

When the belief-barometric pressure is high, it's time to examine our thoughts. For example, you may experience a certain business associate as intractable. Good! This means your belief-barometer is in working order.

What is the erroneous belief you are attaching to? It may be, "She should not bat away every suggestion I make."

There are at least three ways to apply inquiry to this belief statement.

1. She should not bat away suggestions.
2. She bats away every suggestion I make.
3. People should listen to me.

If we're looking at "She should not bat away suggestions," the first question to ask "Is it true that she should not bat away suggestions?" What is the reality of it? She is batting them away, according to you, whether or not you believe she ought to be doing it. What can you do now? If you think she should accept your suggestions gratefully and with grace, you are at war with her and with the truth of what is happening now. Consider what this war affects the way you conduct business. How do you treat her, your clients, your vendors, your direct reports or your boss when you think they should not have opinions of their own? How do you approach them in meetings or on conference calls? Do you expect that they will resist? And what is your protective response when you have that expectation? What armor do you wear?

Another way in: "She bats away every suggestion I make." Is that really true? Every single suggestion? Can you find an instance where she listened to you? Conversely, can you remember a time that you did not follow her suggestion? How about the suggestion that she would like a different suggestion than the one you provided? We think it's easy for others to follow our suggestions, and yet, when this standard is reversed...not so easy!

"People should listen to me." As Byron Katie might ask, "On what planet!?" Dogs bark, cats meow and sometimes people appear not to listen. How do you treat your clients, your assistant, your spouse, your kids when you hold this belief? Does it feel a little arrogant...a bit uncomfortable, even when you are the victor?

People who don't listen are a most excellent barometer. If we're annoyed, they let us know that it's time to check the pressure gauge inside of us. When it's foul weather inside, we can do The Work of looking at the relationship honestly. And once the inner elements are in tune, we can continue to communicate and interact with other people from a clear perspective. At least one of us will be listening...the one who truly needs to.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Watching Your Belief Barometer

1. We've seen how other people are barometers of our own beliefs. This week, take note when you feel reactive towards others. What is the "underlying belief" beneath the feeling of discomfort, annoyance, or anger? "I want..." "I need..." "they should..." "they shouldn't..." "they are..." "they aren't..." "I refuse to..."

2. "If I think they need to change, I need to change." Think of someone you work with or live with who could use your advice. Write an "if...then my life would be much better" statement about this person. Example:

"If so-and-so did thus and such, then..." what would you have? Make a list and question each statement thoroughly. For example, "If Sheila took my advice, she would triple her business this year, and then I would have a satisfied client, more contracts, etc." Can you absolutely know that Sheila would triple her business? Is it true that, even if her business tripled, she'd be happier with you, and you with her? Can you absolutely know that increasing her revenues would bring you more clients?

3. "It only takes one for closure." Examine your toughest work or life relationship with an open mind. Ask yourself what your part is in any misfires or misunderstandings (It might be a whole lot, or less than 1%; can you find it?) You may even want to tell them what you found out about you and ask how you can make it right between you. Does it feel more expansive inside of you to let them -- and you -- off the hook?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

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