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Dealing with a difficult employee

Widening Your Perspective: The three chairs exercise

If you are in some kind of difficulty with a certain person or situation, then this exercise can help you have some insight into the perspective or point of view of that other person.

You can widen your perspective by using this practice to see what insight you can have on the other person’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Set up three chairs. Two of the chairs would face each other, and the other chair is the observer’s chair (position as desirable for the “observer”, at a little distance from the other two chairs so that you are “outside”).

When you sit in the first chair, begin to imagine that other person is facing you, sitting in the chair directly opposite. You are facing and gazing at each other. Talk to them as if they were actually there and tell them exactly what you are thinking, how you feel, what is going through your head, what you want from them – in fact everything you have wanted to say. There is no censorship in this exercise (though be mindful of the sensitivities of other observers. If using strong language, there should be some kind of agreement before the exercise begins).

Next, stand up, give yourself a shake to clear your mind of that role.

Move to the chair directly opposite your first chair. So now, imagine that you are the other person, talking to “you” in the first chair. So practise your empathy – imagine and pretend to be the other person. Try to see from his or her perspective (or point of view). As the other person, talk to “you” and say everything about how you feel, how you see the situation, how “you” make them feel etc. Again, try to talk in an uncensored way, imagining what they are really thinking and saying inside.

Finally, move to the last chair. You may prefer to stand and look down on the other two chairs. You are someone who is outside the situation, an observer – and a wise observer at that. From this perspective, ask yourself: “what is it that I see? What do I want for both persons sitting in the other chairs? What important things do they need to remember? What do I understand now about both sides? Do any solutions or strategies suggest themselves?”

Keeping the business benefit in the centre
Imagine that the business benefit is physically between all three chairs. What is the benefit you are all aiming for? How do the current behaviours on both sides impact on the business benefit?

Contributed by Carol Taylor this extract is taken from our Managing Difficult People course

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