Twenty five years ago I was asked to speak to 100 Southern California service reps who didn’t enjoy their jobs as evidenced by their high absenteeism rate and their poor service quality scores. I could not imagine what I could possibly say to an audience of people who worked long, tedius hours, and were routinely abused on the phone by their angry clients.
Yesterday I was contacted by someone from that audience who regularly reads SUCCESSTROGEN.COM. She asked me to do two things: (1) to write Successtrogen blogs more often as she noted I have “slacked off”, and (2) to blog about The Arrow Theory, something she remembered from that talk so long ago. She said it had a profound impact on her then and continues to help as her life has gotten more complicated now that she and her new husband have combined their two families under one roof.
I first posted this blog in 2011 as I was just starting SUCCESSTROGEN.com and today I offer it again, for Anita and anyone who struggles from time to time trying to improve their communication skill set.
The essence of the Arrow Theory is simple: Focus on the Feathers.
Visualize an arrow. You can see the sharp point of the arrow on one end, the part that hits its target. The other end has feathers. When an arrow is flying toward its target, the sharp point is directed at the target while the feathers point directly back at the arrow sender.
Generally when someone says or does something that hurts us, it is as though they hit us with an arrow, the sharp point causing pain. When that happens, many of us “shoot an arrow” back, sadly, almost without a thought. We were hurt and our reaction is to hurt back. The arrow theory says, when you get hit by an “arrow” it generally has little to do with you, and far more to do with the sender–so don’t shoot back, instead Focus on the Feathers.
An example: Someone might call me and say “Last week’s event you organized for our building was a flop.” Trust me, that would be an arrow for me! That feedback may have been intended to be helpful, but at this point, the feedback is of no value. The natural response is to shoot an arrow back, “That’s funny, I didn’t hear you offer any great ideas for an event!” I could do that, but trust me, then arrows would be flying back and forth, with one insult after another, and neither of us would feel good nor learn anything valuable.
I could, however; Focus on the Feathers (the person who shot the arrow) and say “What kinds of events d yu enjoy most?” Or, “What didn’t you like about the event?” By keeping a calm voice, and asking a question that tests my understanding of what was said, much of the pain of the arrow is defused. The person might then reply, “Well by the time I got home from work, the party was almost over. Further, I hardly knew anyoe there and felt out of place. Ah, now that is valuable feedback for me and worth my consideration for organizing future events,
I have noticed that sometimes someone sends us an arrow, and we do not shoot one right back. Instead, we hold on to the bad feelings…for a while at least. Sooner or later, an innocent person comes along, and wham, we shoot an arrow at her. Arrows are like that. We sometimes store arrows, not dealing with them or confronting the sender as the arrows occur and then, when we have had it up to our necks with criticism, we explode, often on someone who least expects it, or deserves it!
Focus on the Feathers.
The arrow theory is a reminder to communicate effectively. Arrows are flying all
around us and we need to be better at dealing with them. People are stressed out with the economy, medical issues, providing for their children, and perhaps for their elderly parents. The woman with a high SUCCESSTROGEN level generally dodges some arrows and effectively responds to others. She focuses on the feathers quickly disassociating the arrow message from herself. She remains cool and attempts to understand the message behind the arrow.
More important, the high SUCCESSTROGEN level woman also does not send many arrows because she is grounded and feels good about herself– she does not have the need to shoot at someone else. If she has an issue with another, she confronts the person effectively to resolve the issue.
The Arrow Theory is a simple one. We have all experienced it as both the arrow receiver and the sender. I happen to believe that there is a direct correlation between the amount of arrows we send and those we receive and I will continue to work at sending fewer because I do not like receiving them!!! And you?