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Have You Tried Asking "So What?"

  Steve Longan     Mar 11, 2015

 
Author's note: This idea originated with "Rewire Advisory Sage At Large" Lindon Crow. For those of you that don't know Lindon, he's one of our favorite people at Rewire.  He owns a company called Productive Learning, and his company's workshops are truly transformative experiences that are well worth your time if you have a chance to attend. This idea originally came from him and has captivated my attention over the past few months. So, much thanks to you, Lindon!
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What are those little episodes in your day that tend to tank you? Things that make you angry, or frustrated, or fearful, etc. and threaten to keep you in that headspace for hours?

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • Someone spills coffee all over a set of reports you need.
  • Someone completely cuts you off in traffic. Just rude and unsafe. And they have this bumper sticker for that one political candidate. You know the one. Fake smiles all the time. Completely out of touch with reality. But it totally makes sense - ‘cause only someone that entitled and stupid would support that candidate and drive the way they drive.
  • Bob or Suzie wastes time in your staff meeting with their absolutely ridiculous communication patterns. You can’t get that time back. And everyone in the meeting is poorer for having had to listen to them.
  • In the two minutes you took your eyes off of them, your 3 year-old has gotten into the fridge and broken a jar of pickles on the kitchen floor. You discover them in the kitchen with a broom and dustpan attempting to sweep the pickles and olympic-size pool of pickle juice into the dustpan. You were supposed to be in your car headed to your appointment 5 minutes ago.

These are just a few examples. You can supply your own.

What I want to share with you today is a simple, powerful tool that I use to address the thinking and reaction patterns in these situations.  It’s called "So what?" and I’ve used it to great effect in both my own life and the work of clients.

 

It’s really easy.  Take something that threatens to tank your day.  Maybe it doesn’t threaten — maybe it actually TANKS your day.  You lose minutes, hours, who-knows-how-long to this item. Do you have it in mind? Take a moment to think of something if you haven’t already….

 

Now ask, "So what?" Seriously. Take a few moments a

nd say it out loud about whatever situation you've got in mind.  "So what?"

This is a really helpful process for reflection right now, but it also works marvelously in the moment when that something happens to you.  What it does is interrupt the normal reaction process (both thought and action) to make a different set (more profitable or helpful or healthy or…) of thoughts and actions possible. The decision tree looks like this:

 

so what decision tree Click to enlarge

 

 

Now, don’t be distracted by the amazing art skills. The beauty of "So what?" is that it creates a simple fork in the road where both paths lead to authentic growth. On one path, there is a simple release and moving on; on the other, there is a process of clarifying what is actually so troubling to you and what can be done about it. And I will be quick to point out that one of those paths is not necessarily easy (and may require some work and time put in), but it has the potential to free us from old patterns of thought and open up new possibilities for our work and lives.

 

So, the next time something threatens to tank you, ask "So what?" And let me know how that goes for you either in the comments section or drop me a line.

  Business Decision making Emotional Intelligence Release Work

Steve Longan

Written by Steve Longan

Steve Longan is Rewire's Director of Research & Program Development. He's passionate about leveraging psychology and communication to develop growing, healthy workplaces. He's at "peak zen" (his words) when he's in his music studio.

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