Gentle Persuasion

As I turned out of my driveway the other morning, I went in the opposite direction than the one I normally take to work – I had agreed to pick up a passenger. A few minutes before I arrived, I reflected on my last experience picking him up. He had literally run from me and I had to drag him to my vehicle. Once on board he fidgeted and, at one point, even kicked the door. My gosh, why is he so resistant??

I took a deep breath as I pulled into the driveway of my destination. I needed a new approach. Last time I had sweated through my shirt. It had been very difficult.

Trying to make this easier for both of us, I had asked a friend in common to meet me there. My friend and I had talked in advance and agreed that he would walk through the plan in advance, hoping that would result in an easier experience for all of us.

When I got out of my car and approached my passenger, I paused as he turned his back to me – uh oh. I got back in my car and waited. A few minutes passed until he turned and looked at me. Again, I got out of my car, glancing at my watch and wondering if we would make our meeting on time. I approached him slowly, smiling and silent. He stayed put. Again, I stopped and waited for him. He took a step my way and I gently led him to my car. He hesitated and stiffened and I offered him his favorite snack, which he took and stepped in.

What a difference that was! Last time I had tried to force it. I had pulled him into my car while my friend pushed him. Are we crazy??  This time, I let him make the move and it worked much better. We pulled out of the drive and headed to… the vet.

Ok, for those of you who are wondering what wackos work with me, that story was about an 18-month-old burro who has tripled in size in the last year and become more than I can handle. My experience with him, as usual, translated quickly in to a business lesson. Gentle persuasion works a lot better than forceful pushing.

At the vet’s office, while waiting for them to finish a two hour procedure, I decided to take a run and process my experience.

I began to list examples of situations in which I have tried to force things instead of slowing down and changing pace to one that works for everyone involved, not just me. I would love to be able to run a 6-minute mile; it is simply not in my DNA. But just because I can’t run that pace doesn’t mean I am not a good runner. It simply means that I need to be aware and communicate the pace at which I will be consistent and dependable.

How can I tell if my approach is resulting in conflict or resistance? Am I asking people to run a pace that is not realistic? The repetitive thump, thump, thump of my feet on the concrete lulled me, as usual, into a meditative state and I lost track of time. I looked at my clock and saw that I had been out for 30 minutes. Time to turn around, I had a conference call to make.

I took a moment to notice the surroundings – lush fields surrounded by woods, cows lounging in a light mist and an endless, winding road on which I could run…forever. As I headed back, I focused on my Impending call and decided to be more intentional about confirming the pace of the call. After all, the goal was to incorporate everyone in the outcome, not to force one agenda.

– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO

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