Ever frustrated with anyone in professional or personal life, which you regrated later? Ever wondered why specific bad experiences happen to you over and over again to the extent that they feel like Déjà vu? If not, well, great! You can close this and resume the work or whatever you were doing. If not, though, read on.
We, humans, evolved over billions of years to what we are today, but our emotions aren’t much developed. They still are the same as caveman days. That is the reason we also often say that we are social animals. We like to interact and live with other human beings, including our family, friends, and even co-workers. Back in caveman days, we had feelings of suspicion, fear, and anxiety to protect us. It helped make sure we trust right caveman buddies, who will work with us and reciprocate the same trust. Not all of those emotions are irrelevant today, but some behaviors and emotions indeed are. One such behavior known in the psychological world is Flight-Freeze-Flight. Back in the days, if we saw any dangerous creature attacking us, then we had this emotional system built into our brain, which allowed us to fight (with all our might) or flee (flight). In case nothing is possible in the context, then freeze for less painful harm. Even with billions of years of evolution, our mind today can’t differentiate between a creature attacking us and someone who we know and in relation with, or someone who even we work with daily or meet often doing something silly or unpleasant. So it may trigger the same Flight-Freeze-Flight response. But today, in the modern world, good research is done around human emotions, so we know about this human behavior. What is missing is awareness.
In this blog, I will only talk about handling situations where you feel frustrated, annoyed, and powerless. What do you do for such circumstances before your Flight-Freeze-Flight response kicks in? The advice here is applicable in any context. However, I have seen a professional context where you will immediately know this technique’s immense power. I call it “Flip-Coin Thinking.” It’s simple, really. Imagine a shiny virtual coin in your hand next time you are angry, mad, frustrated, annoyed, or possessed with any of those emotions and feeling powerless. Now the coin you have in your hand is mighty, really magical. It can transform your mind into anybody’s world. As soon as you turn around (flip) the coin, it will connect your mind with the other person. So much so that you start thinking like the other person, with his point of view. Be there as long as you like. Isn’t it wonderful to know why this other person is not-so-nice to you? Dig into every thought of ‘why,’ and this is your chance. If you can, close your eyes when in another person’s mind (when the coin is flipped). Once you have enough info, flip the coin back again and be in your own mind. Now think from your side, but you also know the other side already. See the root of all this and what can be done about the situation at hand to resolve it amicably.
After you come back to your mind, you will also realize that it is no more frustrated or annoyed or angry, at least not with the intensity it was before you flipped the coin for the first time. Just try it even for the slightest irritation you feel next time, with anyone. I guarantee you this virtual shiny coin in your hand is powerful and magical, so it will not disappoint you.
Boosting the power of shiny coin...
Once you use the shiny coin once, you will be pleased with its power. But there’s excellent news – you can keep increasing the power of this coin. The technique is simple – self-awareness. Wait, you say, that sounds paradoxical. How can being self-aware about your mind and thoughts help you be powerful when you get into others’ minds? Remember, after flipping the coin, you are in another person’s mind, and you are gathering more ‘why’s when there. But to collect information quickly and meaningfully, your mind (which is collecting all these ‘why’s) need to be robust, right?
Okay, but how you become more self-aware? The most straightforward technique is meditation. No, you don’t need to be a monk; leave everything behind and go to the Himalayas to meditate. It’s far too simple than so-called modern well-being companies tell you it to be. Just sit in a chair or on a bed, be comfortable. Then take some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then close your eyes. Then count 1-to-10, with one for inhale, two for exhale, three for inhale and four for exhale, and so on. Once eyes closed, all breathing only through the nose. After reaching ten, start over. Do this for just 10-15 minutes a day and seven days in a row to experience the difference. You will find that it sharpens your mind so much that the coin will start getting powerful.
If you liked the meditation exercise above and found that it calmed you down, then do subscribe to one of the Headspace or Calm apps. Both those will give you multiple tips and tricks to build on top of the above simple technique.
Why does the coin technique work?
As mentioned earlier, we humans evolved over billions of years, but emotions didn’t develop much. The truth applies to all humans. Every human being on this planet, irrespective of gender, race, religion, and nationality, has the same set of feelings. One may experience some feelings more strongly than others, but everybody has the same feelings. Our human mind is emotional, but, at the same time, analytical. We try to find meaning in everything we do and experience. The virtual coin technique makes you think like the other person in the context. Over time, you will start realizing that our feelings are all the same, and even the other person has his reasons to do whatever they are doing. It need not be true that another person is always right, but the same applies to you. Having insights on both sides will, first of all, mean some strong emotions lose power over you.
With coin flipping and gathering other person’s thoughts, you will instantly feel much more liberated and calm, with the power to choose your actions wisely. It will also put a window between your thoughts and actions (response), and that in itself is invaluable. Try it to experience it.
How to use the coin effectively?
You can use the coin-flipping technique in every context and aspect of your life. It works equally effectively for personal and professional life. And what’s more incredible is that the more you use it, the more it gets better.
Below are few tips to make your coin work more effectively and powerfully for you, from day-1:
Keep an open mind, especially when you flip coin back and be in your own thoughts, then be open to admitting when you are wrong. Saying sorry and admitting you are wrong will lift weights off your shoulder (than you realize) and have another person lose the power of their strong emotions too.
Give equal weightage as your thoughts to thoughts (or ‘why’s) you gather from others’ minds. From the University of Michigan, Professor Christopher Peterson, the founding father of positive psychology, said neatly in one line – “Other people matter.” Every person respects himself/herself equally as you do for yourself. Keep this fact in mind.
Don’t self-beat your thoughts if you find after analyzing both sides that you are incorrect. Do necessary action to correct the wrong and move on.
If another person is indeed incorrect in doing what he’s doing, try to find the root of the behavior. Having access to both sides will always point you to the source of the problem. If you can’t, simply ask. A simple ask is much more powerful than we generally anticipate.
Show the root of the problem to another person, too, if they are incorrect in thinking or doing something, and they will also back down. We all are humans, and nobody wants to be on the wrong side. But do it cautiously or without an attack on another person’s ego. Remember, just like coin may show you that you are incorrect many times when you back down, so are they, and it is their turn. Allow the other person honorable backing down or exit from the situation.
Think win-win. With greater insights on both sides, try to find a solution that works for you and another person equally well. You will realize more than half of your problems disappear with this strategy.
So there it is, now you have this shining bright coin right in your hand. Use it consciously and consistently. My coin helped me wonderfully over the years, and I am more than sure that yours will help you too. Leave comments about your experience with your coin once you start using it.