5. Match Your Dilemmas to Principles

DSC_0715 - Version 2
To recap, you started by selecting someone with whom you want to build trust, confirmed a core question and then created Targets and Expectations to help unfold a vision of the possibilities. These things form a goal. You next took a look at conversation dilemmas, your barriers -- that represent current reality. To get from the current reality to the goal, you then began learning about trust principles as potentially empowering tools.

Step 5 now helps you refine your core question into a particularly powerful personal inquiry based on all the work you've done so far -- forming a personalized definition of reaching out that applies to one circumstance and person, but may also have bigger implications. The remaining four steps help you respond to this inquiry, move into action, and learn from what you've done. There are two parts to Step 5. First, connecting one principle to one barrier, and second, plugging in your vision.

It may seem like you've already made a significant investment of energy to simply come up with another question, but I encourage you to be patient. The difference between your core question and the more strategic one you develop at this step should be dramatic. If your core question at Step 1 made you curious, the more strategic one you create here should feel compelling. The more crisp, pointed, and personal the inquiry, the more likely learning will occur. Moreover, your work thus far gives you a very concrete way of measuring your actual results.

Part A. Connect One Principle to One Dilemma

Why just one of each? This creates focus and priority and an easier sense of personal alignment. As you learn more about forming strategic questions, feel free to experiment and move outside this box, but to begin with you may find it useful to stick closely to this one-to-one connection guideline.

For example, one dilemma listed at Step 3 is "My fear of later repercussions," listed under the section, "Dealing with potential results." One principle listed at Step 4 is "Focus on both the good and the true (Principle 3). When you put these together you break down the core question into a more strategic personal inquiry: "How can I use a focus on both the good and the true to overcome my fear of repercussions?" When you answer this question you'll begin to see how you might engage with ___________ in a new way, and you can begin to design how you would like to handle your encounter with him or her. This more specific question is strategic because it directly applies a resource for strength and clarity to a key point of hesitation.

Here are some other examples of dilemmas and principles paired to create strategic questions such as:
How can I use connecting through appreciation and ownership to neutralize blame and defensiveness?

How can I apply letting go of personal gains and losses to overcoming my sense of regret?

How can I draw on my inner strength in order to be open to feedback?
The goal is to match a principle that deeply taps who you are and want to be with the most visceral fight/flight barrier that is getting in your way.

So how do you know which principle to apply to your key barrier? There are four criteria:
  1. The principle helps you deal constructively with your feelings, whatever they are. For example, just reading or thinking about the Principle 5, "engaging to stay engaged," helps you calm down when you consider your conversation with ________________. You feel more positive and relaxed.

  2. The principle is an important part of your sense of personal integrity. It reflects a real value for you that you believe in and want to be part of your relationships generally. It doesn't feel fake or put on. It's very easy for you, for instance, to feel aligned with "the good and the true," Principle 3, because you've seen it in action before in your life and work.

  3. The principle feels logically linked to the particular barrier you've identified. For instance, you naturally draw a connection between "drawing on inner strength," Principle 1, and needing to "be more assertive" (a barrier).

  4. You are innately curious about how you can apply principle to the barrier. For example, you are intrigued to know how you might open your conversation by "connecting through appreciation and ownership," Principle 4.
Keep in mind that this matching process does not have to perfectly meet all of these criteria, but it does help if you feel a sort of internal "click" overall. That means the key (principle) has at least initially fit in the lock (dilemma). If you don't feel the click, you might go back to Step 4 and think about the kind of trust principle that would help you. When you articulate it, it will likely meet the criteria -- and it might just be a breakthrough moment, providing unexpected clarity.

Part B. Plug in Your Vision

But in reaching out you want to do more than just get past a barrier. You also want to connect to _____________in a way that moves toward a more important destination. At Step 1, you were asked to positively frame a possibility. You can now add that language, or any particularly meaningful part of your Targets, Expectations, or Vision statements, to form an especially useful question. Here are how some earlier strategic questions, altered to include that possibility, might look:
How can I connect through appreciation and ownership in a way that goes beyond neutralizing blame and defensiveness and lifts our relationship into a true partnership?

How can I let go of personal gains and losses not only to overcome my regrets but also actively inspire a sense of mutual commitment?

How can use my inner strength to build being open to feedback into a full recovery of our relationship?
These questions now have the form: How do I use Principle X to transcend my obstacle and achieve my vision? And they operationally define exactly what you mean by "reaching out."

Here's a continuation of the example of Raul and Marcy begun at Step 2. Raul found that his main dilemma was not listed at Step 3 (Identify Your Key Conversation Dilemmas), so he created one, "Addressing our 'cold war'. He then selected the principle "Engage to Stay Engaged" as the one best suited to dealing with this dilemma. As he looked back over his Targets, Expectations, and Vision statements, the single more important aspect came to him as "joint, collaborative action and renewal." He put these three pieces together as:
How do I "engage to stay engaged" with Marcy so that we transform our cold war into joint, collaborative action and renewal?
Forming this strategic question can be almost magical in impact because you are asking for a meaningful breakthrough in terms you understand. You know the principle, the obstacle and the vision. If you choose to do so, feel free to play with the language a little in order to get to words that are succinct and have a strong personal impact. The examples shown above, with minor tweaking quickly become:
How can I appreciate in a way that takes us from defending to partnering?

How do I let go of loss completely, so that past regrets are washed away by inspiration and commitment?

How can my inner strength and courage transform my 'openness to feedback' into the full recovery of our relationship?
You'll know the right words when you see them. They describe the need for a particular kind of personal roadmap -- from Point A to Point B, from obstacle to vision.

What's special about questions formed in this way is that they are not meant to be answered as a simple formula. Instead, if you allow them to take you there, they can draw you down into the well of your own intrapersonal intelligence. They are about you, your emotions, and discovering something new -- and good -- inside you that is already present: your wisdom, your judgment, your unique approach to a situation and a relationship.
Such questions probably represent fairly common, and often fairly old human questions. Too often we face these questions unconsciously -- and negatively -- instead of looking forward to the deeper learning they have to offer us.

Yet, when these questions are made conscious as compelling self-inquiries they then can also become larger teachers, ones we have somehow invited into our lives at a certain point in time as a way to mature and grow. Though a strategic question first aims to address a specific situation, it can also quickly become about who you are as a person and as a leader, and about how you deal with the bigger issues, such as ambiguity, conflict, power -- all the "humps" we must get over, and how you fulfill the visions that release your full capacities as human being.
To understand more about what "interpersonal intelligence" is, we can turn to the 13th century Persian/Afghani poet, Jalal al-Din Rumi who describes the difference between traditional analytic forms of intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence especially well:

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Jalal al-Din Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks

Although modern brain theory would say there are at least eight forms of intelligence, only one of which is intrapersonal, Rumi's definition of this realm still holds true. Tapping this "spring" or "fountain" of intrapersonal intelligence is exactly the work you can do with your strategic question, augmented by the other seven intelligence forms. And that takes us now to Step 6.