The Power of the Talking Stick

Following up on the last blog about the power of being real, I wanted to share an exercise that I give as an assignment to couples that I work with. You may have heard of it before. It’s called the talking stick exercise. The talking stick exercise is one of the most basic and fundamental and profound tools that we can use in relationships. And it goes like this: something comes up in our relationships, something we need to talk to about, and we tend to get into an argument or fight about. In other words, the situation usually tends to escalate in some way. Instead of allowing it to escalate, we should turn to the talking stick exercise. And this simply means that someone is going to be the speaker and someone is going to be the listener.

We give the speaker something to hold and this represents the fact that we are putting all of our attention on them and none on ourselves. In this exercise, whatever the subject is, we can fully hear someone out without formulating or generating our own response. And we can really understand what is going on in their insides; what they’re experiencing. So, we say to ourselves, “Alright, I’m ready to listen to this issue, whether it’s with money, with kids, whatever it is, I really want listen.” And then we have the speaker tell us anything they can possibly imagine about the issue and let them totally empty their tank about it. And then we pay close attention to what they are saying, without pushing back, without judging, without anything else, so that they get to fully get out whatever it is that is going on with them.

A great question the listener can ask at the end of the exercise is “Is there anything else you are feeling about this?” The listener can ask this multiple times to make sure the speaker has nothing left to say. Moreover, depending on our skill level, if we do not understand something, we can ask about it without pushing back. For example, this is like, “You mentioned this, and I don’t really understand what your concern is about it; can you help me understand what your concern is about that?” and go a little bit deeper. The idea is if we can allow somebody to be fully heard with no feedback, then solutions and answers and feelings of closeness and compassion will undoubtedly follow.

Once we are all completely done with this, once somebody feels like they have completely been heard and we feel like we completely understand them, we can either take a break and wait for an hour to let the conversation digest, or we might be ready to switch turns and hand the talking stick to the other person and essentially switch roles. Remember, this is not a solve-each-other’s-problems’ situation and it takes discipline to do this.

Finally, once both people have shared, it’s really helpful to give the issue some space. For instance, let the conversation sit until the next day and then continue with another talking stick conversation. You will be amazed at how the energy has shifted or at how differently you view the idea after hearing from your partner.

It’s very hard to listen to someone fully without completely understanding them. This is because we all have good will, we all have the best interest at heart, and want to ask questions. And it’s also very hard to not be moved after you yourself have been heard, because it can often be difficult to have to hear yourself out fully.

While it may be hard, once you have mastered the art of the using the talking stick, it is an incredibly profound, powerful, life-changing exercise.

The Power of Being Real

I have been aware lately, through listening to my clients and even just watching our culture, how we have been taught to protect and hide what is going on inside of us. There is this egoic aspect of ourselves that wants to project out a certain image, or face, to the world. We have been taught and think that doing this is going to give us the most control or power over life, but this is not entirely true. We end up relating to each other’s external shells, and because they do not match the inner situation, it ends up creating a lot of problems and miscommunications and misunderstandings.

I have watched a few TV shows lately, and I have just noticed how all of the problems, whether in a sitcom or a drama, do not come from people being bad or evil at heart; they come from miscommunication. Almost every show is about how things are miscommunicated and then go wrong. I have noticed this even in myself- I am very careful and precise about how I say things, but others may not be able to accurately hear and understand what I am trying to say due to their own personal filter’s and interpretations. And that’s why in Inquiry Method™ the focus is on paying particular attention to what somebody is saying—and even the energy behind it—and truly just listening to them. It is also even about getting curious about what is underneath the shell that we present to the outside world. This idea is about showing the inside on the outside.

I was just speaking with a client about her relationship with her daughter and with her mother, and every time we came back to my client’s desire to take care of one of her family members in some way, we realized her issue around this would be solved so much easier by her expressing her own inner struggle around it. So, this would be like instead of trying to fix her daughter’s problem, she could say “You know, as a mother, I am having a challenge right now because I would really like to support you right now and I do not know how, but do you have any ideas?” That is showing inner vulnerability, and it seems so simple and obvious, but it is not the thing that we say. Instead we give advice, and try to fix, and try to push our agenda on someone else, which usually just makes things more complicated.

It is just amazing how just the most obvious vulnerable thing that is going on inside of us can allows the situation to move forward. It is the same thing when I am working with couples; if we can just say the thing that is going on inside of ourselves—not so much the emotion, just whatever is happening—not only does that help someone else understand us better, but then we can also put our finger on our own problem too.

In a big-picture view, Inquiry Method™ seems so simple, yet at the same time ‘simple’ is so not what we do. Sometimes I feel bad about the fact that my work in and of itself seems so simple, yet the results are always extremely profound, which is how I know I am doing things right.

Essentially, to improve all of our relationships and interactions in life, the best thing we can do is to get our insides on the outside.

Fundamentals of Inquiry Method™, and Inquiry Management™

At its root, Inquiry Method™, and Inquiry Management™ by extension, are the capacity to come to any conversation, challenge, or interaction with open curiosity and inquisitiveness rather than with answers, assumptions, and directives. In our culture, we are taught to have all the answers and that our intelligence is based on knowledge. For most of our education, we are given answers and required to memorize and repeat them for tests and exams. Most of us have continued in this pattern in our professional and personal lives. The problem with having the answers is that everyone stops growing and learning.

This is particularly true in relationships both personal and professional. We make assumptions and project ourselves into other people. We judge, gossip, assert, tell, and correct, instead of asking and inquiring. The process of telling others what to do shuts down communication and leads our relationships into stuck and frustrating situations.

If you want to create dynamic, alive, and vital relationships where accountability, productivity, and creativity are authentically embraced, then you have to be wiling to not know, willing to put your ego aside and let curiosity lead the way.

Inquiry Method provides processes, practices and inquiry lenses that break through the obstacles to growth and mastery level living. It provides the bold shift in perspective and the set of tools that are needed to master our own level of participation so that we can become inspirational leaders in every aspect of our lives.

Learn more through our Inquiry Management eCourse by Kyle Mercer from Inquiry Method™.  Kyle Mercer’s interactive eCourse includes video lectures featuring Kyle Mercer, 9 interactive comprehensive units, and an individual, private workbook designed to guide you towards creating an environment of growth and accountability in your organization.

Please click HERE to learn more.

Giving Self-Away

The subject of giving self-away could, and may eventually be, a book in and of itself; it is such a profound and meaningful subject. Giving self-away is a process that we do in our culture, with families and friends, and even with material things such as cars and money, and even concepts. It is a coping mechanism, and it is also a form of an attempt to materialize the self, to extend myself beyond myself into things and concepts around me.

Giving self-away is when I take part of my source or spirit, and invest it in something outside of myself. Meaning that I tie my well-being, happiness, or self-worth to something that is outside of my control or present experience.

When I give myself away, and tie myself to something outside myself, I may identify it as love, dependence, responsibility for, or accountability. It is often done out of extreme goodwill, the desire to help somebody else, a function of neediness or a lack of self-worth; but it is not the positive thing we make it out to be.

Imagine if you could take a part of your soul or spirit, and attach it to another person. Imagine a part of your spirit connecting to them, perhaps you can imagine with a thread or a string attached from your heart to the other person. In this arrangement, everything that happens to them, everything they do, say and experience feels like you are experiencing it with them. Even if you are not there, you may imagine what they are going through, and in this case, there is a hyper awareness and dependency on their experience for your well-being. At times, when things are going well for them, this may feel great. Other times, if they are suffering or challenged, it will likely feel terrible.

Now imagine they reciprocate, where they do the same and give themselves to you. When this happens, I call it entanglement. Entanglement is when I have given myself to someone, and they have done the same for me, meaning our well beings are now tied to the well-being of the other.

In our culture, we often view this as care or love; when my loved one suffers, I suffer. In fact, I have found in my work that the more compassion, or understanding that I can be towards someone, that can be more helpful. However, if it is given in the form of empathy, and the person is going through the emotional ride with them, it tends to diminish the help or support that is given. Because both people are now feeling the struggle and both need help in processing dealing with the struggle. Studies have demonstrated the dramatic difference on the brain between compassionate understanding and empathetic distress.

When I draw this diagram of entanglement during The Mountain Experience, it is clear that these entangled nets of giving self away and interdependence creates substances. When you have this web, you can see that if anyone is in an emotional reaction, it tugs at everyone in the web and makes everyone less present. Again, you often see this in families that when one person is struggling, everyone is in the struggle. In every example, it is clear that it is better to be empathetic than to actually be entangled with someone else’s pain. It is wonderful to be empathetic to understand someone else’s experience but it is not helpful if we are immersed in someone else’s experience.

While it is still viewed as a positive and loving thing, this act can have detrimental effects on both parties. When you give yourself away to another person, you tend to want to control that person. Because your spirit is attached, you have an emotional involvement in what happens with them. When they are not behaving as I wanted, I then tend to resent them or want to manipulate them. When I have given myself away and the person is succeeding, I either feel jealous, or feel that I am succeeding and start to take some of their energy or success from them. When someone else has given themselves away to me, I can often feel fearful or dependent on them. If they leave me, I am at risk, I may lose some of my own strength or capacity, or can become dependent, weak or needy.

Next week we will continue this blog and explore the effects of giving self away on relationships.

Levels of Participation

Levels of Participation is one of the principles that I discovered in my work developing Inquiry Method. In the years I have been teaching it, it has become a mainstay of what I call Inquiry Management. The Levels of Participation are a framework for understanding how people work together; they explain how people behave in relationships, the context that they participate in, and the leadership they receive. By understanding this framework we can have an impact on our own success and growth, we can influence the success and growth of our organization and we can learn to lead and be led to greater success, and ultimately satisfaction, engagement and happiness in our work.

Inquiry Method™ is the foundation on which I have built all that I have learned and discovered. I have found that it is also something that can be learned by others to have a profound impact on their ability to lead and mentor others. At the root Inquiry Method™ is simply the capacity to come to any conversation or inner challenge with openness, curiosity, and questions rather than answers. Though this may seem simple and easy, I have found that it is much more difficult that one might think. Particularly in business, but also elsewhere, we are taught to have the answers. In fact for most of our education we were given answers and required to memorize them and repeat them for tests and exams. Most of us have continued in this pattern in our professional and personal lives.

The problem is that in having the answers we stop learning and growing.

Click here for my eCourse where you will be taught the fundamentals of Levels of Participation, Inquiry Management and Inquiry Leadership.

Reducing Drama in Your Life

I recently started watching a little TV again, and discovered sitcoms. It has been interesting to watch that there is one basic premise that makes a sitcom work. Changing one dynamic of the sitcom would make it fall apart. Every piece of humor on a sitcom comes back to lack of communication; typically, it has to do with somebody not telling somebody else the truth, hiding, lying, or being unauthentic. A lot of that laughter is recognition of the ridiculousness of life. The reason we laugh is because we can recognize the feeling or difficulty ourselves.

I suspect if you look into most of the drama and difficulty in your life that it is created by the same dynamic. Where is the drama in your life? What communication would have helped to solve it? If you do not want your life to be a sitcom, what do you want it to be like? What kind of communication would support that?

Much love,

Kyle

Vulnerability: The Willingness to be Changed

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what vulnerability is. That’s because there are many definitions; in fact, in the Inquiry Method™, we create our own definitions to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In our culture, the word “vulnerability” is often used as a synonym for “weakness”. When we have lots of emotional pain, and have not done any work to release it, and are not solid inside, vulnerability can be negative. We don’t have enough security in ourselves to be that vulnerable.

My Inquiry Method™ definition, however, has nothing to do with weakness. To me, “vulnerability” is “the willingness or ability to be changed”. It can be a huge asset in someone who is whole, healed, and grounded. For example, I am vulnerable in a conversation, because I am willing and open to being affected by what you are saying. In my groundedness, I am open to hearing feedback and being changed by it. In a grounded person, vulnerability is being able to know and share a deeper truth.

Doing the work of Inquiry allows us to approach this new level, where vulnerability is sharing instead of weakness.

It’s Not Personal

The other day, I was working on a task with a friend. When I was struggling with the task, I found it affecting my mood. As my mood was affected, I noticed that my friend’s mood was also changing. When I asked her if she was taking it personally, she replied, “No, I am not”. Because I also coach my friend, I took the opportunity to explain that, even though she may not have blamed herself for how I was feeling, I could tell that she was still taking it personally. Here’s how I knew:

If my bad mood is negatively affecting someone elses, they are subconsciously taking it personally. As soon as that person judged me, they began to turn that judgment on themselves. They began to project how I was feeling onto themselves, and were brought to Level II: entanglement.

It’s very challenging to always be completely unaffected by other people. This blog is to make people mindful of the mood shifts that are caused by others. Start to be much more mindful. When you take it personally, see it as a great opportunity to make a shift in your consciousness. When you begin to take note of these experiences, you will find huge opportunities for growth and development. Eventually, you will even have the potential to become less affected by these people.

If this is something that you find happens with you and your spouse, a Couples One-Day and Couples coaching is a perfect opportunity for you. When we start to work with our partner around what we are taking personally, we get huge benefits of love and intimacy. We find that entanglement is not the highest level of love and intimacy, but is simply a level that we need to transcend.

Love,

Kyle

Storytelling

When I begin to work with a new coaching client, our first objective is to teach them how to open up to become the most coachable. I define “coachability” as “the ability to receive from other people”. As I talked about in my dysfunctional independence  blog, our need to be independent has made us less coachable. I believe the skill of coachability has been lost. Also refer to my vulnerability  blog where I discuss that vulnerability is “a willingness to be changed by somebody else”.

One of the obstacles to coachability can be storytelling. Whether I am working with someone individually or with a group in the Mountain Experience, people can get into telling stories. A story is simply someone’s mind and ego repeating what they have already decided about the situation. Monologues, storytelling, control the situation and are simply about sharing a viewpoint with someone else. To really make change and create vulnerability, we have to drop the monologue, the story, and make it into a dialogue.

Often, when somebody is continuously talking, I tell them to hold on. I explain that we are currently in a place of storytelling, which will get us nowhere. I suggest moving to a place of dialogue, where we can have growth and evolution.

As a small caveat, there is nothing wrong with storytelling in and of itself. It is a powerful way to communicate and share your experience with people. However, in the context in creating change through Inquiry method, it is simply ineffective.

With this blog, as I do with most of my blogs, I suggest simply keeping this observation in your mind. This can lead you to greater awareness. As you go through your week, try to notice when people are in dialogue and when people are in monologue. Look out for when they were doing it, and when it was working. Look out for it with your employees, with your family, with your friends, and most especially with your self.

Love,

Kyle

Life at Altitude: A Podcast by Kyle Mercer

Hello everybody!

I’ve got some exciting news to share with you! As much as I’ve enjoyed writing blogs, I’ve always wanted to record podcasts to share my work, insights and inspirations. I am pleased to announce that we have made lots of progress in making this dream a reality in the past few weeks…

We have purchased top-notch recording equipment, hired Krishan Guzzo as our producer, and have begun to record some of our first podcasts. The podcast is called Life at Altitude, and our goal is to share Inquiry Method™ with you so that you can experience and maintain a higher level of consciousness. We plan on doing this through monologues, clips from the Mountain and Freedom Experiences, interviews and more. Personally speaking, this release is so timely, as these days it feels like I can so clearly and concisely articulate what my work and the experiences are all about.

We need your help to make this a success! I would love to hear your thoughts on what is most meaningful to you, what you like to hear about and your guidance on the format of the show. I also intend to record some sessions where I answer questions that you submit, so please let me know any questions you may have to inspire these conversations.

There is no need to worry- the blogs and my quotes will remain as well, as they have been so warmly welcomed by you all! I thank you for your continued support and feedback; you truly are the source of my inspiration! These podcasts will serve as another exciting way for me to connect with you on another dimension where you will be able to feel my intention on a deeper level.

Life at Altitude can be found on our website, http://inquirymethod.com/podcasts/. We are also on iTunes Podcasts and Google Play under ‘Life at Altitude’.

Looking forward to sharing with you and receiving your feedback!

Love,

Kyle