How To Practice the Principle “Work On Me First”



“Your life only gets better when you get better.” – Brian Tracy

The only person you can directly control is yourself.

If you want to really improve your conversation skills, work on yourself first.

By starting with yourself, you can bring a great set of skills to any conversation, wherever you go, and you set the stage for better conversations, better connection, and better collaboration.

In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler write about how the most effective way to improve your effectiveness with others, is to first work on yourself.

Why Practice the Principle “Work on Me First”

Remember that the only person you can directly control is yourself.   You are the best person to continually inspire, prod, and shape.

The authors of Crucial Conversations write:

“Although it’s true that there are times when we are merely bystanders in life’s ever-ending stream of head-on collisions, rarely are we completely innocent.

More often than not, we do something to contribute to the problem’s we’re experiencing.

People who are the best at dialogue understand this simple fact and turn it into the principle “Work on me first.”

They realize that not only are they likely to benefit by improving their own approach, but also that they’re the only person they can work on anyway.

As much as others may need to change, or we may want them to change, the only person we can continually inspire, prod, and shape – with any degree of success – is the person in the mirror.

There’s a certain irony embedded in this fact.

People who believe they need to start with themselves do just that.

As they work on themselves, they also become the most skilled at dialogue.

So here’s the irony. It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills.

As is often the case, the rich get richer.”

How To Practice the Principle “Work on Me First”

Rather than wish everybody else will change or try to force them to change, start with yourself.

You control your attitude and response so you are a great place to start.

Here is how you can practice working on yourself to master your communication skills:

  1. Master the stories that you tell yourself about a conversation so that you can master your emotions.  In particular, watch out for 3 clever stories that can throw you off track:  victim stories, villain stories, and helpless stories.  See Master Your Stories.
  2. Begin your high-risk discussions with the right motives, and stay focused on matter what happens.  Know what you want to achieve and always keep dialogue as an option, not fight or flight.  See Start with Heart.
  3. Ask tougher questions that turn the EITHER / OR choice into a search for the all-important and ever elusive AND.  See Refuse the Sucker’s Choice.

Remember that the response you get is feedback.

Notice the response you get from others as feedback to help you improve what you practice and what you focus on.

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Change yourself first. I agree with the concept of change yourself first. You can spend a lot of energy trying to change others, or you can change yourself (whether your thoughts, feeling, actions, approaches … etc.) , which can often be more effective and efficient.
  • It takes two to tango, but you can take the lead. Take the lead on the changes you’d like to see.

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