Here is the full transcript of behavioral coach Louise Evans’ TEDx Talk: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success at TEDxGenova conference. This event took place on November 19, 2016 at Genova, Italy. Louise Evans is the author of the book ‘5 Chairs 5 Choices’.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success by Louise Evans at TEDxGenova
I’d like to introduce you to these 5 chairs. Because they’re actually the real protagonists of my talk. And they have a special message to give to all of us. And the message is about what behaviors and attitudes we bring into the world in every moment.
Now to show you what I mean, I have a story to tell you from my personal life. And I was trying to build a stronger relationship with a very important person, the daughter of my partner, 20-year old daughter. And to do that, I thought let’s have a great evening out, just the two girls together and I chose a special venue, the Blue Note Jazz Club in Milan. And that note — that night the Manhattan Transfer which is my favorite jazz group were playing.
So we meet, atmosphere is fantastic, we’re getting on very well and I’m happy and being a big baby boomer loving the music. And I thought, well, is she liking as much as I am. And so in that moment I just turned to look at her to check. And what did I see? I saw this. She was on her iPhone.
Now how to react? I had some choices. First choice: “Excuse me, I mean what is she doing? She’s on her iPhone. I mean, I spent all this time and money thinking of a fantastic evening. I bring her here and what after two minutes I take my eyes off her and she’s on her phone. I mean what is wrong with this generation? I mean they got an attention span of a fruit fly. I am sick, God!”
Choice number 2: “This was a mistake. Why did I bring her here? I mean she’s bored. She’s not interested; she doesn’t like the music. What was I thinking? I mean, why should she like the music? I mean, this is stuff for baby boomers. She probably thinks she’s spending the evening with a dinosaur. Oh, God!”
Choice number 3: “Hold your horses. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Don’t jump to conclusions. You don’t know what she’s doing on her iPhone. So just relax, take it easy. Have another drink.”
Choice number 4: “Now, you know what’s really important for me is that that evening, this evening together with it is special that she feels that after this evening she can really open up to me, she can feel safe with me, and that she’s — I’m always an open door for her. That’s what’s really important for me. And I just hope it’s going to happen. I just hope.”
Choice number 5: “What’s important for her? What’s going on in her world right now? What’s important for her? I really would love to connect to her and what do I need to do that?”
You know, I was having real problems trying to answer that question, and in that moment, she turned to me and she said, “Louise, did you know that this is the only Blue Note in the whole of Europe. And there’s one in New York and then there’s two in Japan. But this is the only one here in Milan and that’s incredible. The Italians have got it”. And she said, “Um oh, and I’ve looked up the Manhattan Transfer. Do you know that they’ve been playing and singing together for 40 years? That’s incredible.” Um oh — and she said, “also look”. She handed me her iPhone. She sent a message out on Facebook. It said, “In the Blue Note in Milan with the Manhattan Transfer and Louise, the best.”
Now that was a close shave. I mean I could have really spoiled that, because I could have sent her a disapproving look from this chair, and she could have started telling herself about me, things about me, like mmm, Louise, she’s controlling, she’s difficult. It’s not easy to be around her. And that was not my intention at all. And in fact, she was completely engaged. She was there multitasking in her digital way but she was enhancing our reality. So in milliseconds I could have destroyed that beautiful moment that we were creating together.
And this is what we’re doing all the time is we’re making choices about the behaviors that we bring into the world. And the choices that we make have a direct impact on the conversations that we have, the relationships that we form, and the quality of our lives in general.
So what can we do at a practical level to help us be more conscious about this, because we don’t get trained in this school, it’s not on the school curriculum how to behave well, really? So what can we do?
Now the idea of the 5 Chairs came to me when I went and attended a nine day course in nonviolent communication with its late founder Marshall Rosenberg, an extraordinary man who did so much for world peace. And after that it sort of changed my life. After that I decided that it was a message that I needed to get into our workplaces — workplaces where I spend most of my time being a coach, a facilitator and the training – trainer. And also where we produce some of our most questionable behaviors, sometimes toxic behaviors.
So the idea of the 5 Chairs is to help us slow down how we are behaving in every moment of our lives and to analyze what’s going on.
So what I would like to do is look at the chairs more closely and explain them. The Red Chair. So this is the jackal chair. I mean, jackals — incredibly clever, incredibly opportunistic animals. They’re always on the lookout to attack. And in fact, this chair here is the chair where we misbehave the most. In this chair, we love to blame, to complain, to punish, to gossip but our supreme game in this chair is to judge. And if you don’t believe me, I invite you to go on a mental diet. I invite you to spend one hour with some human beings and see if you can do it without one single judgment going through your mind.
I mean, watch ourselves. Somebody walks in the door. We go, I like, don’t like, not really interested. And we don’t know anything about them at all. So this chair here is a judging chair. There’s actually another game that I love in this chair is it’s the “I’m right game” and I used to do that all time — all the time until my brother gave me some feedback. I used to do it with my mother because my mother likes to exaggerate. So she would say something like, “Oh yes, there were 30 people at the family gathering”. And my job was to correct her and I’d say, “No ma, they weren’t 30, they were 13.” So I was the policewoman of the situation.
My brother touched me on the arm and he said, “It doesn’t matter”, to which I reacted, “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? Of course, it matters. She’s wrong and she needs to be corrected for her own good”.
He touched me on the arm again and he said, “Do you want to be in a relationship with your mother or do you want to be right?” Big lesson.
From then on I always looked upon my mother’s exaggeration as a form of abundance. So here in this chair what we tend to do is we tend to see what is wrong with other people rather than what is right. Mother Teresa reminds us the more we judge people the less time we have to love them.
The next chair is the Hedgehog chair, the Yellow chair. Now the Hedgehog — when we behave like hedgehogs, we feel very vulnerable and we curl up and we protect ourselves against what we feel is an evil world. And what we do is we mercilessly judge ourselves in this chair. So we turn this chair — the Red Chair — on ourselves and we say things like “I’m not intelligent enough”, “I can’t do this”, “Nobody believes in me”, and we have certain fears. We have fears of being rejected, fears of disappointing, fears of failing. And we also play the victim. So it’s nobody cares for me, nobody loves me but –
And in fact, when I use this in companies and I ask managers and I say, “Where do you spend the most of your time?” Hardly anybody comes and sits here, because it’s quite difficult to admit to our weaknesses sometimes. We need a lot of courage and yet we all suffer from self-doubt. But it’s really what do we do with our self-doubt? Do we give up and give in or do we say no? I want to find the resources and grow.
And Krishnamurti says something wonderful; he says “The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe ourselves without judging”.
So next chair. This is the Meerkat chair. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a meerkat. There are not many in Italy but they are incredible. When they are on Sentinel duty, they can stay for one hour just like this, one hour moving their head and only their head. Incredibly vigilant. And when we are in this chair, this is what we do. We’re mindful, we’re very aware, we are observant, we stop, we pause, we take a deep breath and we’re conscious. This is the WAIT chair – W-A-I-T. What am I thinking? What am I telling myself?
So here we become very curious. So if somebody is angry instead of saying “for God’s sake grow up, will you?”, we think hmm, I wonder why that person is angry and we feel interested. So this chair here is, when I think of Nietzsche this is such an important quote for this chair, he says, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way and the only way it does not exist.”
So here we have a choice, the red pill or the blue pill. It’s the Sliding Door Chair and in this moment when we make the right choice we move into successful living.
Next chair. Here we go into the world of detect. Now why detect? Detect because we become detective of ourselves, like Sherlock Holmes of ourselves. We take a magnifying glass and we look at our behaviors. It’s a beautiful chair this because we become self-aware, we know who we are, we know what we want, we know where we’re going, we’re not afraid to speak our truth. But we also create our boundaries, we look after ourselves in this chair. But we’re very very powerful. We don’t give our power away. Here we give our power away.
So here we grow, we become free, we come into our full power and we become assertive but not aggressive. So Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” and we can be here for our whole lives.
Why the dolphin? The dolphin, because it’s such a wonderful animal, it’s playful, it’s intelligent, it communicates beautifully. And when I think of the dolphin I think of us at our very best as human beings.
So next chair. This is the Giraffe Chair — very beautiful chair, very difficult. I don’t know if you know but the giraffe has the biggest heart of all land animals, it’s that size. And not only does it have the biggest heart, it also has the longest neck. So it has incredible vision. And so when we are in this chair, we are displaying empathy and compassion and understanding. And in this chair, we put our egos on the backburner and we listen to people, we hold people in our presence and we care for them.
And stepping into somebody else’s shoes and understanding them is a great act of generosity. Abraham Lincoln once said “I don’t like that man, I must get to know him”. And so in this chair, it’s an invitation to look at other perspectives, to embrace other realities, to embrace diversity and to become tolerant. And the most important question in this chair is what is important for him or her in front of me? And the intention in this chair is just they’re connected whatever happens.
So these are the chairs.
How do we translate this into daily life? Well, you can imagine if you go to work, maybe you can go and you give a presentation and it goes really well. So you’re here, fantastic.
Then maybe you have a meeting and things go badly, and we sink into these chairs. Now our challenge every day is to understand how to find the balance between sitting here and sitting here, because if we’re sitting here life is not that happy. But if we’re sitting here in these chairs we’re more rational, we’re more open, we’re more intelligent and more thoughtful.
So something that really moved me very very deeply when I first read it was this: Viktor Frankl in his book in Man’s Search for Meaning said, “Everything can be taken from man but one thing. The last of human freedoms: to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances.” This is so powerful.
So when you next want to snap at your children or argue with your partner or punish someone at work, try and come into this chair here and think. And if by chance you end up in this chair which very often happens, can we find the courage to say I’m sorry and make everything right again.
So my invitation to you is to take these chairs home with you, play with them, make them your own, teach them to your kids, they get this immediately. Put five of them in the boardroom at work and watch how your meetings will improve.
And the next time somebody presses one of your red buttons, just think 5 chairs, 5 choices. Can we all commit to making our homes, our workplaces, and this world a better place? One behavior at a time.