When I was writing my story, I remembered that during my pre-school and early school years I had an imaginary friend called Collingwood (strange name I know). My dad around that time spent some time based at HMS Collingwood in Gosport, and I imagine the name must have grabbed my imagination.
Collingwood was my ideal friend. Well that is how I see him now, obviously I was only 6 at the time so to me he was someone to play with when no one else was around. He was considerate to my feelings, he always listened to what I was saying, he always let me have a go, and he never took over games. He was perfect, apart from when I wanted to play catch or hide and seek of course.
More about Collingwood and his wonderful attributes later.
I often have conversations with people about how they feel about parenting or their leadership roles and how often they feel guilty or upset by their responses to their children or staff. These responses are triggered by confrontation, inaction or poor performance. They often say how I responded or wanted to respond was not how a leader or a parent should act. I know I can definitely relate to that feeling. If you react it often ends in an escalation of hostilities or at best an awkward atmosphere. If you manage to suppress your thoughts you often cannot think of anything else to say as you are too upset or angry and a solution is still not found. Either way both parties end up feeling upset or angry with themselves as well as the other person.
This is completely normal. For those of you familiar with Professor Martin Peter’s book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ will know that when you are or feel under attack the limbic system in your brain (your chimp) leaps into action and goes on the attack, not giving your more considered frontal lobe (your human) chance to think of a more constructive response. Even if you manage to stop the verbal attack your human will look into the memory store of your brain for previous precedents to help with the response, unfortunately due to the speed of response required it comes up empty handed. Therefore leaving you feeling foolish as well as angry.
Spend about 10 minutes imagining your ideal friend or leader. Write down all his or her attributes, how they react to people, how they behave under pressure, what their world views are. If you can spend as long as you can on this. Write their attributes down, if it helps drawer them. Bear with me, it does work. Carry them with you, use them as your role model. This is you exercising your frontal lobe and laying down some constructive memories about how to respond to difficult situations that can be used at short notice.
So when confronted by your stroppy teenager with unrealistic and downright ridiculous requests, you can take a breath and say to yourself….. “what would Collingwood say?”
Now don’t get me wrong it will not always work, especially when you first start trying it. It will work though and will help you avoid those trivial rows or creating a difficult atmosphere at work, and make you feel happier.
Give it a go. If you want to discuss this further email me: firstname.lastname@example.org