This article was based on episode 238 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
Growing up, many of us learned to hide what we’re really feeling and thinking in order to get ahead. Yet in the workplace as much as at home, the conversations we’re afraid to have are the ones that help us deepen and strengthen relationships.
So how do we go about having these real conversations? It’s not just about calling out the elephant in the room that everyone is aware of but not talking about. We need to learn how to name the more subtle things going on emotionally for us, or as David Wood calls it, “the mouse in the room”. After life as a consulting actuary to Fortune 100 companies, David built the world’s largest coaching business, becoming #1 on Google for “life coaching”. He believes the tough conversations we avoid are our doorways to confidence, success and even love - in both work and life. Here, David shares some of the different “mice” that show up most frequently in our office lives and how to call them out to build powerful relationships with our teammates.
THE DIFFERENT MICE IN THE ROOM
The Storytelling Mouse
We need to develop greater awareness of the stories we tell ourselves about others. If we notice someone’s behavior or mood, we are often quick to interpret it, even though we don’t have all the facts. This then impacts how we think and feel about, and behave towards that person and others.
Assumptions like these get us into trouble. How other people show up at work is not always about us. Someone acting snippy during your morning meeting? Maybe this teammate had a rough morning getting their kids out the door. If we name our concern, and check the validity of this assumption with our coworker, we might get a different perspective into their lives. Finding out the truth frees us from the misplaced resentment that destabilizes work environments. Name the Storytelling Mouse whenever you notice it, to check if your assumptions are accurate.
The Desire Mouse
We frequently ignore our desires because we think what we want isn’t important enough to be taken seriously. At the very least, acknowledging them will allow us a window into ourselves and where we want to go. Consider what you want at work, and what your ideal work relationships, clients, and tasks would be. As David says, it’s OK to want a raise or to start a business that earns a million dollars. Give yourself permission to name these desires with yourself, your boss or team members. See where naming these desires takes you.
The Toleration Mouse
We’re often afraid to admit the things that quietly drive us crazy. So we end up tolerating things that are counterproductive to our success at work. Recognizing our Toleration Mouse is about knowing ourselves; what are you putting up with that is difficult for you? How might you be more successful, productive, or engaged if you didn’t have to tolerate them? Know your limits and identify actions you will take to protect your boundaries.
The Mirror Mouse
Sometimes we have experiences in our lives that give us powerful realizations about ourselves. David shared that he realized that whenever he hears a door slam in the office, it makes him feel on edge due to experiences from his childhood. Recognize these moments as your Mirror Mouse. Name what you learned from them so that people can get a window into who you are and what you need.
HOW TO SHARE A MOUSE
Sometimes it’s important to name the mouse (or elephant) in the room, while other times it’s wiser to keep quiet. How do we know the difference? David recommends using his 3D’s system to maneuver through naming a mouse and sharing it with your team.
Discover: Start with simple awareness. Investigate what you’re feeling and noticing. What type of mouse is scurrying about?
Decide: Explore the possible negative and positive outcomes. Write down what you are afraid of happening and the potential upside. Do this for both scenarios of naming and not naming a mouse. Decide which possible negative consequences you are willing to accept before proceeding.
Disarm: If you’ve decided to speak up and are now feeling nervous, that's OK. Sharing truths can be a risky business. The other person may become defensive and heated. Make sure to start off by getting consent; say you want to share something and see if they are open to the conversation now or if another time is better. Show vulnerability by sharing what you’re worried about happening (they will get upset, they’ll think you’re being childish) and also your hopes of the outcome (your team will get closer, you’ll be more engaged with your work).
Being open and honest isn’t easy, but it paves the way towards deeper relationships with our team members, colleagues, friends and family. When we name what’s going on, whether it’s a story we’re telling ourselves or a difficult feeling we’re experiencing, we open up space for others to connect with us on a deeper level. We teach our teams the power of being honest with themselves and sharing these truths. Start noticing the different “mice in the room”. What do you desire? What are you tolerating? See how dramatically things transform when you take the time to name your mice.
KEEP UP WITH DAVID
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This article was based on episode 238 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.