Striving for and Thriving
Being an Effective Interacter
Given the principles we have discussed, what can we do to become more effective in our interactions with others? Quite a lot. In this section, I'll share with you some basic strategies Dr. Timmons shared with me and so many others. Again, I'll hold to Dr. Timmons' Law of Parsimony and try to keep this simple.

Before we move into some specific strategies, I want to share three thoughts with you about this thing called effectiveness, especially regarding people stuff.

First, I have to admit to you that I'm not really sure what effectiveness is. Secondly, effectiveness is something for which we must take personal responsibility. Others can't make us effective and we can't make others effective. Finally, effectiveness is not an end point. It is an ongoing process of becoming more aware of ourselves and more appreciative of the uniqueness of others.

First, effectiveness is difficult to define. It is a very subjective quality. What is effective for one person is not necessarily effective for another. By now, this should come as no surprise to you. Each of us with our unique zig zags, onions skins and perceptual filters can't help but have different definitions of this quality and different ways of going about it. Furthermore, what is effective in one situation may not be effective in another.

In considering what is effective and what is not, I also think of the Lawyer's Ploy. You'll recall that this is a questioning technique which asks questions on the inference level that demand either/or answers. I couldn't answer someone who asks, "Are you an effective person? Yes or no?" If I said, "Yes," the interrogator could find witnesses to prove me wrong or cite examples when I wasn't "effective." If I said, "No," others could be found to give testimony exposing the times I have been "very effective." This is another reason I have a difficult time defining effectiveness.

I often reach for the dictionary to begin my search for what something is. So I looked up "effective". In my opinion, dictionaries' definitions fall a bit short in telling us specifically what effective is when it comes to people stuff. One dictionary offers, "Producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect," while another says, "Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected results." I have also heard that an effective person is someone who "does the right things right at the right time." These are fine definitions. They give us a general feeling for the meaning of being effective.

But here is where these definitions fall short when it comes to people stuff. What is the effect, result, or right thing in people stuff? I doubt all 5 billion of us would come to a concise and consensual answer to this question. But in terms of the people principles we have examined and holding to the Law of Parsimony, I will venture this answer, the one I try to use as I rub up against people in my world.

"Effectiveness means protecting and enhancing one's sense of self by protecting and enhancing others' senses of self without zapping their zig zags."

To me, this is the ultimate effect, result, and right thing as we go about doing people stuff. This is a tall order, because I will never really know how I am doing in this regard. I will always have to infer how well I am doing. I will always have to check out my inferences as to how effective I perceive myself to be and others perceive me to be.

The second point regarding effectiveness is personal responsibility. No one can make me or you do anything. We cannot make others do anything. The only person over whose behavior I have total and absolute control is my own. The only person over whose behavior you have total and absolute control is your own. We may be influenced by others because they hold or withhold resources we need. We certainly may feel as if others make us do things or feel certain ways. But on closer examination, we will find we are responsible for what we do, say, think, and feel. No one else.

When it comes to effectiveness in human interactions, we must recognize our personal responsibility. Personal responsibility means I realize and understand I choose the behaviors I use to interact with others. I have the power to select my actions, words, thoughts, and feelings. I make my own decisions regarding which onion skins I whip out. I cannot abdicate this responsibility. It is impossible.

In th past, I have denied that I had any personal responsibility, but I was fooling myself. I sometimes said I had no choices, but I was not being completely truthful. I once pretended the decisions were not mine to make, but I this was my fantasy. These approaches only guaranteed that my effectiveness and ineffectiveness in interacting with others was a hit and miss proposition.

You don't have to take personal responsibility. You've got it. You can't take that which you already have. You simply have to admit to it and begin using it in your interpersonal relationships. This is a gigantic step towards effectiveness.

Finally, effectiveness is not an endpoint. It is not a goal to attain or an objective to be reached. We don't ever get there. To me, effectiveness is a process, a way of doing, thinking and feeling. Being effective all of the time in all situations with all people is an ongoing struggle.

To be effective in one interaction requires a lot from us. Just consider the people stuff we've reviewed: angst, early messages, learned needs, zig zags, onions skins, data- inference-prophecy, and words and music. These principles and processes help us understand what might be going on in our relations with others. Actually we know pitifully little, but to be effective, we need to know much more than we do. We can't know what someone's early messages were, the learned needs the messages became, the structure of his unique zig zag, what threatens or enhances his sense of self, the childish and adult-like onion skins he uses frequently, the perceptual filters his experiences created, the data he selects and pays attention to, the inferences he is likely to make, or the prophecies he will act upon. We may convince ourselves we know these things, but we do not. As a matter of fact, I suggest you and I aren't very aware of these things in ourselves. Unless we have spent a great deal of energy, talent, time, and money delving into and discovering these components that make us the somebodies we have got to feel like, we are working from a foundation of abundant ignorance.

As little as we know about ourselves and others, we charge off into the world everyday with an air of confidence which suggests we know what is going on and what we think we need to do and say to be effective. Underlying all this fictitious confidence is a gut-level feeling of anxiety about what will happen next and particularly, what will happen next to us. We may learn to put on a positive attitude, but it will always be a poor substitute for knowing what is happening, knowing how it happens, and knowing why it happens in the various ways it does. We may learn techniques and approaches to thinking and doing ourselves into effectiveness and success, but the other people on the planet don't always cooperate with us and our plans. We could buy and read and pass around books about effectiveness and become cheap imitations of the authors. When we take off all the garments of sophisticated behaviors, the jewelry of successful attitudes, and the elaborate accessories of effectiveness plans, we are naked with a moderately thick layer of onion skins protecting our unique and special zig zags.

To get right down to it, we are a bunch of onions looking out through our peepholes, gathering words and music, making inferences, predicting the actions of ourselves and others with the goal of feeling like the somebodies we've got to feel like. We stumble, fumble, bumble, and mumble with one another. We pull one another's legs and yank each other's chain. We care. We don't care. We love. We hate. We pay attention and we ignore. We do and say things. Then people do and say things back. All of this we place under the broad umbrella of interpersonal communications and human relationships. This is where we live day-to-day. Effectiveness of any sort, in my opinion, begins

With these things in mind, let me share with you some of Dr. Timmons's strategies.

General Awareness

Before you read the first sections of this book, you probably had your personal way of looking at people and what they might be up to. You may have had an elaborate theory or simple rules of thumb to get along with others. Now you have some more theories and explanations for why people do what they do. It's not the only way to look at people, but it is 'a way' that has helped many.

Simply having an awareness of the principles which drive our behaviors and the actions of others can help us interact more effectively. Here is a review of the earlier sections in the form of axioms of which we can be aware when we interact with other people. Accompanying these axioms are some effectiveness actions we can choose to take to improve our interactions with others.

Next Page: How We Can Operate More Effectively- Part 2