I had some great responses from several readers to last week’s case study. So for those of you who were waiting here’s my response.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with people with this kind of mindset is to avoid getting into a power struggle of any sort. This will only end in an unresolved conflict.
I made a point of not answering or challenging his comment about learning, I just let it lie.
I then acknowledged that he had a lot of experience and asked him if he thought people could learn from him. He immediately responded with a clear “yes”.
Now this bit is important!!
I resisted the temptation of pointing out his inconsistency. Instead I asked him if he would help me by attending the course and sharing his experiences. Offering Child to his Parent. He graciously agreed.
The course I was running was called “dealing with difficult customers” and was what is known as a “sheep dip”. It was intended that all staff would attend (around 400 people). John volunteered for the first workshop.
He chose a seat very near me in the classroom and throughout the day participated well. Sometimes he agreed with me and sometimes he didn’t. Whenever he disagreed with me I allowed him to express his opinion without arguing. I made it clear that all participants had the right to make up their own minds about what they agreed and disagreed with. That only they would know what would work for them. (internal reference invite)
This of course was aimed at John but would sound okay to everyone else too. I wasn’t teaching NLP metaprograms that day however I used my knowledge of them in the way I taught the class. I also pace and lead using Transactional Analysis ego states.
My goal was for him to complete the whole workshop which he did. The bonus was that while I was teaching ego states he went very quiet and said hardly anything. Perhaps he was internalising something.
At the end of the workshop I asked everyone to complete a “traffic light” action plan based on the day. The “red” light for behaviours they would stop doing, “amber” for what they would continue to do and “green” for new behaviours they would start.
Predictably John’s action plan read:
This didn’t matter to me because at the end John thanked me for an interesting day and said he had learnt a couple of new things!
For me this interaction is a success, I felt he responded and softened. He had never completed a training course before but on that day he did. He left feeling positive, engaged and with his dignity intact. In order to influence and communicate well it is important to remember we don’t need others to lose face or to feel we have won a battle.