Sparring as a Leadership Tool? – Neutralizing

In our previous post, I shared that my Shao-lin Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes continue to reinforce the life leadership tools I share with my clients and use in my own life. In our slow motion sparring, three life leadership lessons emerge:

  • Partnering
  • Neutralizing
  • Cultivating 2-way Growth

In sparring, when I saw my partner chambering for a kick, my immediate response was to back away. Far away! I was afraid, I admit, and definitely not confident in my abilities. Thankfully, after I did this several times, my partner (an instructor) stopped and pointed out what I was doing. He taught me that a more powerful response was to step toward him!

Yikes. I was willing to practice. Magically, I learned that when I stepped toward him, I neutralized the kick’s force. intercepting my partner before he could fully extend his leg took some of the energy out of it. This was less painful.

Going toward him also keeps me engaged, and keeps me and my energy in a more powerful place for my next move. When I back up or back off my partner, I communicate less confidence —both to myself and to the other person.  This can be deadly in the ring, as well as in the boardroom.

This Neutralizing is familiar to many of my clients when I coach them around “going toward” a personality that is intense with emotion or tends to speak loudly, argue or be aggressive in order to get heard.

Picture it–You’re in the weekly team meeting and Bitter Bob rolls his eyes, “This is ridiculous! The proposed project direction is convenient for the technology team but gives no consideration for us on the business side!” Your natural reaction may be to back off. You wonder how you will ever get his sponsorship and support, much less his cooperation in these meetings. You might begin to defend the decision and it becomes a ping-pong match with Bitter Bob getting louder and more distracting by the minute. 

How might it look differently if you were to “go toward” him and Neutralize?

  1. When Bitter Bob blasts an objection, you could reply, “Say more about your concern.” This creates the space for Bob to express his thoughts and he will be less inclined to “fight” to be heard.
  2. Another way you could neutralize is to proactively ask Bob for his perspective.   Being asked and having space to talk, he lets go of his need to fight for the space. He would probably begin to feel silly too since he is the only one talking loudly while you remain calm and confident.
  3. Third, use the phrase, “I can see how you might see it that way.”   Here, you acknowledge his viewpoint while not agreeing with it. (This works incredibly well at home with your spouse too!)
  4. Finally, remember that these personalities often have a valuable perspective; they simply don’t deliver it in a productive way. Be Curious and Stay Curious. 

When you neutralize, you will remain in a calm centered place which is attractive and engenders confidence and trust in your leadership. You also keep positive momentum in your relationships and communication.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!