You know how there seems to be a lot of complaining in meetings? Like when someone proposes an idea, someone else discounts it, pointing out everything that is wrong with it? Or, when trying to resolve a situation that’s really stuck, the finger-pointing can get quite intense? The recriminations can even begin to sound a little crazy: “You never do any work.” “You’ve never bothered to show up on time,” and so on. Perhaps my least favorite interpersonal situation involves gossip: talking about a group or person who isn’t present. “Ain’t it awful how…”
The typical strategies involve taking the high road: inviting the complainer to make a proposal of their own, enforcing ground rules about how to talk about the situation (focus on the problem not the person), pick up the phone and get the gossipee on the line. These are excellent strategies and I use them all the time.
But when a person, dyad or group is really, really stuck in their story of victimhood, injury and powerlessness, I invite them to lean into it and hold nothing back. I want to hear how awful it is. Except they have to do it while keeping their tongue pressed against the back of their bottom teeth.
It’s called talking funny, and it’s impossible to do this for very long without laughing. It’s impossible to stay stuck when you’re laughing. The cramp in your brain eases, and the thoughts start to flow. Your IQ rises like a balloon full of helium.
(You can test this right now. Go get your journal. Find a page full of self-pity. Now read it out loud, keeping your tongue glued to the inside of your bottom teeth. See?)
Possible uses: 1) Your company is about to fail and you’re out of ideas. Have a meeting to discuss the situation and have everyone talk funny. 2) Your co-worker has just conrnered you to complain about someone else. You say, “Tell me all about it, sweetie – but first put your tongue against your bottom teeth and keep it there.” 3) You’ve grown to hate your co-manager. You find yourself in a meeting and it all comes out. Let it rip – but plant that tongue first. 4) That other department just isn’t respecting you – they keep giving you impossible deadlines. Plant your tongue and let it rip.
After the laughter abates, you can get on with the real business at hand – you can resolve the conflict, plan the come-back or whatever else needs doing. You’ll have more oxygen in your brain and more brain cells to work with. It will be much easier and refreshing. Try it and let me know how it works for you.