Getting to Hello: A Strategy For Facing Unfamiliar Territory

Picture this – You are in a foreign land, and feeling uneasy. You’re crowded around a table, with people that you barely know. The conversation feels awkward. The food is different. You’re confused. Not in control. You ask yourself, what’s next?

2175317581_f7234c23ec_b flickr unfamiliar territory

Yesterday, I did a workshop, on cross-cultural conflict management, for my local Inter-cultural Association. For the most part, the workshop participants are new arrivals to Canada. I’ve done a bunch of these workshops over the last few years; including one I wrote about, last month; superheros in cross-cultural conflict management.

Each time I do one I am reminded of my own experiences travelling to new places; unfamiliar territory. Unfamiliar territory surrounds us.

Unfamiliar Territory

How often do you find yourself in unfamiliar territory? Maybe that territory is a foreign land, or maybe it’s encountering a stranger who needs your help, or maybe it’s those first weeks as a new parent, and that baby!?

Emotions kick in. Thoughts jump to mind. How will you react to this unfamiliar territory?

Run with the first thought, even if its destructive? Run away?

I’ve come to appreciate another option. I call it Getting to Hello.

Getting to Hello

Getting to Hello. Yes, I’m riffing on the famous Getting to Yes book, outlining the interest-based, win/win, approach to conflict resolution.

Getting to Hello involves self-talk, leaving judgement behind, and being open, saying hello, to what’s in front of you.

Hello … to your host and the snake soup served up, just for you.

Hello… to the homeless lady who fell down on the other side of the street.

Hello… to the little baby looking up at you.

Getting to Hello is a 3 step process

Step 1 – Acknowledge your feelings and thoughts

What happens when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar place. Often we feel confused, fearful, or suspicious. Maybe you’re thinking this situation you find yourself in is stupid or a waste of time or unfair. Whatever your thoughts. They are yours. Own them before they own you!

Step 2 – Now, let go of those thoughts

That’s right. Let go of those thoughts. Give them away. After all, you took ownership of them. You can only give away what you own. Right?

Angry? Give it away.

Distrustful? Give it away.

Let go of those destructive thoughts. If you don’t they’ll still be with you, lurking, waiting for an opportunity to take over.

Step 3 – open up, say Hello,  to what’s facing you

You’ve arrived at Hello when you say to yourself,  “Wow- I’ve never seen anything like that… I wonder how it works”.

Or, when the host of the community banquet you’re attending suddenly, unexpectedly, and publicly, calls on you to toast the guest of honor… and you pause, smile to yourself, and say to yourself, Hello community and guest of honor!

Next time you find yourself entering unfamiliar territory

Have a conversation with yourself. Check your baggage, e.g., judgments, at the door, and enter, with an open mind.


Shout out

I first thought of the word ‘hello’ as a vehicle to engage a foreign place via my mediator colleague, Julia Menard. The concepts in Fisher & Ury’s Getting to Yes still permeate many of my daily thoughts. The immigrants I interact with always leave me with a new appreciation on how we are all, more or less, in unfamiliar territory. A trifecta, for Getting to Hello.

(photo credit: McBeth on Flickr)

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