Archive for April, 2011

A useful talk tool: redirecting in a conversation

April 23rd, 2011 Kevin No comments

Interruptions are natural, happen daily, and no one recommends them or teaches how to use them well.

What’s this post about?

It’s about redirecting, a nicer and more effective talk tool than interrupting. Redirecting helps us stay on point, or to move along, modify, amplify, or clarify things being said. Redirects are very valuable.

Why are you talking about redirecting?

A client requested I do so for a recent communication training. We called it interrupting at first. That word and sentiment is not very useful. With the client’s help we stumbled onto redirecting. Better sentiment!

What’s the sentiment behind redirecting?

The sentiment: work together towards a mutual end goal. A redirect can happen when we sense that another way to speak or think of something will be helpful. A generous intent behind the redirect is key.

And you think redirecting is better than interrupting?



There are two main forms, verbal and non-verbal. Verbal: “Oh…,” “Excuse me,” or “Hold a moment.” Non-verbal: hand raise, head pulled back, a quick look away, or quickly opening eyes wider.

Say some more, redirects seem to be a whole lot like interrupts to me?

You make a good point. However, think of interruptions with a much better intent, that’s a redirect.

Aren’t you just playing with words then, what’s the idea behind a redirect?

The idea is to kindly offer an abrupt change from the rhythm of the conversation. This is why redirects are hard. You may benefit from thinking of a tactic that can help you redirect things well.

Okay, what’s the tactic?

The tactic is a formula. Note that listening well is very important! Here’s the formula:

Step one: listen intently to what is being said and what is meant by it

Step two: redirect with a verbal or non-verbal cue (see above examples, there are many more)

Step three: repeat what the other person expresses (could be a concept, emotion, fact, etc.)

Step four: redirect to an end goal (clarifying, modifying, amplifying, moving on, to a mutual goal)

It seems like this is conversation bullying?

You may say that, which is what interrupting feels like to me. The difference: state of mind. If the goal is fair, the other person will expressly or by quiet consent realize the redirect makes good sense.

Does anyone do this well?

Yes. Good teachers do this, smart, heart-focused politicians do it, and friends we trust are good at it.

Your point is that we should consider redirecting more, instead of interrupting?


Give it a go, let me know how it goes:

Thank you!

Kevin Leahy

Categories: Consulting, People Tags:

The Back 98™: The Brain and Change

April 12th, 2011 Kevin No comments

This is the third post in the Back 98 series. “Back 98″ refers to our nonconscious brains. It’s the part that works with or without “us.” My hunch: “we” can control more of the Back 98 if it makes sense to do so.

Why do that! Don’t I have enough to do without taking on random brain responsibilities?

I passionately believe we will all be better off when we learn how to manage the nonconscious areas of our brains better. Brain area management™ (BAM) improves control, increases flexibility and gets great results.

What’s this post about?

This post is about how our brains deal with change. For practical minded readers, go to the middle of the post where I discuss “a fever pitch for action,” which is a concept that helps guide brains through change.

What’s my take-away?

The brain alters its structure depending on our conscious and nonconscious efforts. This ability is called “brain plasticity” and it happens automatically. You can consciously guide and control those changes too.

…and the take away?

Brain changes go better for us when we know what our brains need to do it right. Resources (glucose, proteins, cholesterol), along with focus and resolve all help our brains change to meet our expectations.

So if I read this post I will know what my brain needs during change?

This post is a start. I’ll share a metaphor at first and then offer a tactic that helps brains deal with change. Learn how to change the brain on its terms and the changes will be longer lasting and more effective.

You’ll share a metaphor for how our brain deals with change?

Yes. It’s about ancient Roman engineers who designed their roads for “ox power.” They carved ruts in the stone roads to help move the oxen along in safer and faster ways. Many of those ruts are still visible today.

Roman engineers purposefully designed ruts in their stone cobbled roads?

Yes. Road ruts were smart. They kept wheels on course, caused less friction, and reduced the swaying of potentially out of control wagons. In fact, the ruts let the oxen pretty much drive themselves.

What does a Roman road rut have to do with changing our brains?

The brain’s neuronal pathways power us to do things, just like ruts in Roman roads. Personality traits are like road ruts. We are born with them and, mostly by default, the ruts stick around for a long time.

Are you saying my head is filled with “personality ruts?”

Well… yes. And that’s good news because well-worn pathways help you often. Your brain conserves resources with them so you can do things in fast, repeatable ways. “Ruts” are habits, traits, and behaviors.

Are the oxen kind of like my ego or something?

Something like that. Let’s not go there for the moment.

What’s this post about again?

This post updates current thoughts about the design of our brains and focuses in on how you can change your brain to help change you. Research suggests brain changes are easier than we might have imagined.

We can teach old dogs new tricks?


But “the old dogs, new tricks” saying, it’s generally true, right?

Old dogs that don’t want to learn new tricks won’t. For brains to believe we truly want change (which takes time, glucose, cholesterol, protein and repetition) we need gumption. Luck and hope help too!

Why do we have traits, behaviors, and habits anyway?

They help us predict things, provide stability, and help us cope with our reality. As I mentioned, they demonstrate our tendency to do some things well (strengths) while avoiding other things (weaknesses).

So my personality helps me predict what will happen next?

Ego and personality help you perceive things; perception helps predict the future. Yet, you sense what you want to sense so you may miss what’s really there. Change patterns, change perceptions, change your life.

Is that what you mean when you say we are pattern making machines?

Yes. Patterns help us predict what may happen next. We favor doing what worked in the past and we avoid doing what did not. We remember punishment more than reward and both are very strong motivators.

So how can we change our brains?

To make change happen — particularly if it goes against an existing habit — we must convince our brains it makes sense to do that. Convincing our brains to move on from a well worn “rut” can be really hard work.

Wait a second! Who’s in charge, me or my brain?

I sense you know the answer to that. Let me just share a formula that will help your brain believe you mean it when you resolve to start doing things, stop doing things, or to do things differently than before.

This is a formula that helps explain how the brain deals with change?


What do you call it again, “fever” something?

I call ita fever pitch for action.” The phrase is a mnemonic device to remember the letters A-F-V-R-P-A.

You mean the phrase helps us to remember words that start with A-F-V-R-P and A?


Okay, what are the words?

A = Attention. Attention involves primal brain parts and is critical for adding important sensory data.

F = Focus. Focus, which involves multiple brain parts, is core to getting things done.

V = Value. Value, a (mostly) left front brain activity, offers analytical reasons for making a change.

R = Resolve. Resolve uses the front right brain (with right and mid-brain help); change demands resolve.

P = Planning. Planning is a frontal lobe activity and invokes our pre-motor cortex among other things.

A = Action. Action is simply letting the front brain guide our full brain to act on what we resolve to do.

And the phrase, and words it reminds us of, relate to how our brains work?

Yes. We must get the fever to act, trying to resolve before the other steps are made can be futile.

You mean, like new year’s eve resolutions?


Help me understand this better, how does Attention relate to brain change?

Attention is key. We disregard sensory information without it. The RAS (reticular activating system) and thalamus are responsible for attention. Controlled attention helps our brains know we mean business.

And if we lack the proper attention we cannot affect change in that area?

Exactly. Its a deal breaker. Without proper attention only chance or dumb luck will help us achieve a good end result. Still, many people neglect this stage. We must gain the right attention for what we want.

Are there tactics to help know if you have the right attention?

Sure. Ask yourself or the person you are working with: where is your attention? Are you attending to those things that need your attention? Questions like those pinpoint where your attention is.

Okay, what about Focus?

The brain struggles with focus. Billions of neurons and they all want to fire more. Also, focus depends on many brain parts. Conscious focus requires mid-brain and front lobe collaboration.

It’s hard work to keep our focus where our brain needs it, right?

Absolutely! And, lots of different brain areas get involved. Remember, it is key to have focus in the fore brain where we calculate things and assess emotions. We can lose focus quick when not mindful.

Is that what happens when people zone out, day dream, things like that?

Exactly. Conscious focus is resource intensive. The brain is designed to detour energy to other areas (sex thoughts… common detour!). Maintaining focus on longer term goals takes discipline and gumption.

Are there tactics for ensuring focus?

Yes, questions like: are you focusing on this? Where is your focus? Or, if you are going to focus, what will you focus on? This centers you and reminds you where focus is necessary.

Your next word is Value, what does the brain do to value things?

For most folks, the front left brain is the place that compares and contrasts, considers past lessons, and plans future opportunities. Value is mostly a left front brain activity, with assistance from other areas.

We can consciously help our brain value the things we wish to change?

Of course. Much of our self talk is lead by the left side of our brain (the language side) and the front left brain does calculations, prepares the lists, assesses pluses and minuses. It values what we direct it to value.

Tactics for performing a value determination?

Question yourself or those people you are helping to get the fever: are you valuing this? How important is this to you? On a scale of 1 through 10, what value do you place on this action?

So the left front of our brain acts as the number cruncher, the value finder?

You might say that. Yes, it provides a rational basis for doing what we do.

Isn’t everything we do rational?

Boy don’t we wish that were so! Our left brain’s great at rationalizing and not necessarily being objective about it! In other words, rationalizing isn’t all its cracked up to be. That’s why we need resolve.

Resolve, that’s a word I need to remember to catch the fever?

Yes. Resolve. We need to resolve that we will do something about what we value. And this means, we must back our rational left brain’s value assessment with our emotionally focused right brain.

So we have to coordinate both sides of the brain to change it?

Exactly. Taking action is a full brain sport; perhaps that’s why getting someone to take action can take a while. We need to have the right attention, focus, value, and resolve before planning and acting.

And that means resolve happens on the right side?

Yes. And in particular, the front right side where our brain takes in all our emotional awareness and considers it, balances against good and bad values, and draws emotionally sound conclusions.

Tactics to show we have the right resolve?

Again, follow with questions. Are you backing this value assessment? How is your resolve about this? Do you think you have the necessary resolve to act? These questions will help define your resolve.

So if our right front brain doesn’t back something with resolve, we are out of luck?

Seems that way.

What if we have the proper attention, focus, value and resolve?

Then we celebrate because then its time to plan (pitch) so we can take action.

Is Planning a brain thing too?

Yes… planning happens up front. Specifically, in the frontal lobes of the brain, with minor roles performed elsewhere.

And I bet you will say that until we have planning squared away, we should not act?

Right. Or, act at your peril. The brain wants things to happen in order, as laid out above. If you try and short cut things, you might not get what you want.

Many business books show tactics on how to plan and execute decisions, right?


So we all benefit from the decision process a fever pitch for action brings?


And that’s because that is how the brain is wired?

Yes. It likes to build up to an action in sequence.

So if we need to change we can follow the above steps?

Yes. First attention, then focus, after that, value and resolve, and finally, planning and action.

Can we walk others through these steps to change their own brains?


Do these steps describe how changes in the brain happen?

Sort of. It gets more complex than this, but after all, this is a blog and I’ve offered as much as most people want to read.

Are you suggesting you are almost done?


You didn’t explain plasticity, or how to get resources, and that kind of thing!

Sleep well, eat right, and exercise a lot. The rest follows. Guiding your brain through the areas responsible for change will confirm for it you mean business. Catching the fever helps make change stick.

What if I have more questions?

Address them here:

Are we done?

Yes. Thank you for your attention and focus. I hope you value and resolve to plan out your actions based on what you have learned. Good luck.

Here’s to catching the fever. Cheers!

Kevin Leahy, Founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Brain power, People Tags: