June 20

How to Have Game Changing Conversations

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This conversation with with Alex Jamieson and Bob Gower is on the fundamentals of radical alignment, reducing interpersonal friction, and interacting with those around you.

Let’s dive right in!

What did Alex and Bob’s parents do for work and how did it end up influencing the choices they made in their life and career?

Bob’s mother was a school teacher and his father a ceramic engineer, and he often went along with his father for mine inspections. Sometimes, he was a buyer for a mineral company that fed into the refractory business. He later started his own business after he turned 60 years old, which is currently run by his brother.

One of Bob’s father’s greatest regrets was not starting a business sooner, till this day that lesson is Bob’s greatest influence for his career. Paired with his mother’s consistent worry for risk and money, that Bob stays on the path still.

His father also wanted to be a historian, but he instead chose to become a ceramic engineer because of the security and stability it offered.

Bob takes after his father, choosing something that has security, but with a combination of risk-taking within his passion. This played an important role in Bob’s life. He just turned 55 and has only been self-employed for the past two or three years, before this Bob was also part of another institution.

Bob’s father had repeatedly told him that success was personally defined and not defined by society. This push is one of the many things that Bob is forever grateful to his father for because it showed him how to be successful in his own terms.

Alex comes from a family of educators and artists. Her father was a high school principal for 25 years, and her mother was a substitute teacher, as well as an artist. Both her parents encouraged Alex to follow her passions to wherever they may take her, and that the money will eventually follow.

Her grandfather was the Vice President of a huge corporation, so naturally, her father was groomed to an executive. But he chose to go his own path and follow his passion, instead of attending a business school, he became a teacher.

How did the messages they learned when they were younger change with their age? and How did the messages impact the relationship between Alex and Bob?

Alex remembers expressing irritation to her friends in college and wished that somebody could tell her what had to be done. Even though she had freedom, she was unsure of what to do, hence, she fumbled along by trying different things such as moving to different cities and trying different careers.

Currently, she is an author and a coach. For most of her career, she never got into anything close to her current path. She’s ever grateful to have the freedom to stumble onto her current life’s work.

Bob mentions that he received two kinds of life education from his parents, one that was passionate and one that was fearful.

As much as he loves his mother, Bob experienced some intergenerational trauma along the way. Like Alex, Bob wandered around trying to find his path, which didn’t sit well with his mother, especially during his years as a design specialist and a couple of years when he was unemployed.

Bob was always on the lookout for new opportunities, all while trying to define himself on his confidence and clarity to carry out his ideas.

He refers to himself as a late bloomer because only in recent years, he has been able to stick to something that means everything to him and is thankful to Alex and their relationship. With his latest book, he feels like he is going into a period of reinvention all over again.

Alex’s thoughts on hidden benefits while growing up with a privileged background.

Both Alex and Bob’s family benefited from the G.I Bill. It allowed Alex’s grandfather to become a doctor in the Army, and by extension provided his family with a range of World War II benefits, a privilege that was only given to white people.

Alex’s parents were hippies whose parents were paying for their college and claimed that it was a certain kind of privilege as well. Alex paid for her under graduation but her father helped her pay for the loans for culinary school, which was a leap towards the second part of her educational career.

Alex and Bob are extremely grateful for each other because their previous marriages did not turn out too well. Alex loves that Bob has a consistent ability and desire to reflect on continuous improvement on themselves not only as individuals but as a couple as well.

Bob mentions that both the World Wars benefited his family a great deal. His grandfather was born at a billion-dollar coalfield in Kentucky and grew up very poor in a coal camp, which he left at a very young age by enlisting in the Army during World War I. He became a dentist, and later on a landowner.

His father was in the Army during World War II. His privilege of growing up in a middle-class family was only possible because of his grandfather’s and father’s hard work.

The statement “Choosing who you marry is the most important decision you will make” is one Bob sees reflected in his relationship with Alex. He mentions that because it is one developed over years and not overnight, their relationship is one of ease. They agree that they have similar creative demons, hence, it is very easy for them to support each other.

Their views on relationships that do not work.

People often assume they know the ins and outs of their partner, what they think and feel, rather than having a difficult conversation and being clear in their communication. It’s something Alex has noticed time and time again with other people and her own past relationships.

Bob mentions that it is important to be with someone you can grow with. One of his therapists explained that to have a long-term relationship it’s important to not have one but multiple relationships. The relationship might have different agreements, different flavors, different goals, etc.

To incorporate that advice, one of the things that Bob and Alex have done, is to have an open mind to talk about ANY topic. He notices that many relationships have conversations with a standard outcome already laid out, this is where compromise comes to play.

Compromise can feel like both the partners are losing, or that one has the upper hand over the other. But in truth compromise is far from that reality, it should feel like both partners are winning, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.

Overview of the book they authored, Radical Alignment, on Poor Communication: misunderstanding and emotional misalignment.

Misunderstanding is a failure to communicate data. The idea is that one is misinterpreting what the other is trying to say.

Bob mentions that it is important to disagree because everyone is driven by cognitive bias and errors, that one does not make good decisions often without discussing it with other people and having flaws in your thinking.

This is one of the important things when it comes to company culture because it embraces disagreement, especially when you are welcoming more diverse teams with a variety of perspectives.

Another direction would be to come to an agreement and decide to go forward together which becomes an emotional experience. This usually indicates how one for the other, whether they have the best interests for each other, trust one another, etc.

Bob says that someone who he adores, who disagrees with him is when he listens with more generosity, and it changes him.

The idea of Somatic Awareness while creating a space between feeling and acting.

Did anyone teach you how to feel when your body was responding to different emotions?

On behalf of the American women, Alex mentions that women were not taught to address but to suppress their feelings and dissolve any boundaries.

She mentions that the belly is your second brain, your intuitive brain. Your body is constantly telling you information to go into thought processes that most people do not learn. This was something she did not learn until her mid to late 20s.

The idea of White Fragility – she wonders how differently people would be if they were taught at an early age to feel comfortable in their uncomfortable feelings and to get more skill to feel discomfort.

If everyone can practice this, it will be healthier and everyone would be less afraid to talk about tough experiences.

Bob mentions that he used to interpret discomfort as a danger, which made him stonewall, making him (like many others) defensive to the emotion.

This is something that Bob has gotten better at over the years, especially in his relationship where he talks about everything, including dangerous conversations.

A part of Alex’s strategy in life is to deal with anxiety, to constantly be in motion and not take any time to think. Being able to sit with the uncertainty and have an adult relationship with Bob, allows her to be comfortable with not all the answers, but just someone she can trust to help figure out her next steps.

Threefold path to Alignment: When is the best time to have a conversation with the right people?

During the development of the Threefold framework, both Bob and Alex kept the professional context in mind, due to Bob’s work with leadership teams.

The opportunity of having the right conversation with the right people often happens in a couple of different ways. For Bob, people often approach him with a project without having any authority to bring in his expertise.

It’s important to take notice of the people who approach you, it can be as simple as this – are you talking to the person that has the authority of what needs to be done?

Another aspect that many misses, especially in business organizations, is not having people who have the right perspective. Bob has frequently sat with leadership teams where they assume perspectives of the people in the front line, people whom they do not know.

The simple act of inviting somebody who has a different perspective can be a game-changer. This applies to personal conversations as well. Another aspect that is often overlooked but could help tremendously is timing. In Bob’s and Alex’s relationship they have two very important focus rules:

  1. Not to go bed angry
  2. Discussions should always take place after food

Framework for having a Conversation: Intentions, Concerns, Boundaries, and Dreams

One of the problems of communication is that you do not have a slightly bound topic to talk about.

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With the four frameworks, Alex and Bob have worked to dig out those hidden topics. These refer to the “missing information” that stay hidden in a conversation, and the ones that drive the conversation i.e. intentions, concerns, boundaries, and dreams.

Intentions Ask yourself: Why are you here? Or Why do you want to be a part of this?

Concerns

are the quickest path to one’s embodiment of worry and worst-case scenarios, therefore it is not always the easiest of tasks, nor do people make space for it in conversation.

However, speaking your problems aloud triggers your brain to calm down. Eventually, this will help you solve your problems better, with a calmer more rational mindset.

Boundaries – This is another thing that some people are not taught to have or define or stand up for. Ask yourself: What do I need to be my best in this situation? And What do I need to do to feel safe?

If you feel it is challenging, think of them as your starter boundaries, and you will get there.

Dreams You might have conflicting opinions and boundaries, but when you share your dreams, you start realizing some oxytocin.

Alex and Bob recommend you start doing your dreams for yourself. As yourself: What would be true if this were to go well for me (or for someone else, or your family)? This is when you start thinking about everyone’s success and not just yourself.

Their thoughts on being “Needy”

On behalf of Alex and the women she works with, she claims that sounding needy is a huge fear.

Her colleagues and herself have been trained to have all the necessary answers to guide them down any uncertain paths, but if they put something out there and it gets rejected, she refers to it as “death!”

Bob has been somebody who has stuck around both in jobs and romantic relationships much longer than he should, given what the other person was and what Bob was – they were just not a match!

His only life regret is the years he spent trying to make something work that fundamentally shouldn’t match for valid reasons, partly because he was afraid of having those necessary conversations.

Alex’s and Bob’s thoughts on what makes someone an Unmistakable Creative

Alex says that someone who is unmistakably creative is one who brings all their unique experiences, strengths, and quirks ie., showing the fullest range of themselves.

As for Bob, he refers to a statement he often writes in his journal, “Where can I bring out my quirks and weirdness?” People that break barriers who have a technical skill, and can bring their weirdness to the front.

Srinivas Rao has his private social network for listeners of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. You can meet other listeners, discuss episodes, and engage with the creative community just by signing up!

Connect with:

Alex and Bob, and take a look at their book – Radical Alignment!


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