Flying can be fun when you reflect…


Ok busy people, here’s the background

I, like many people, have several mobile devices, which I check regularly.  I am not entirely sure when this habit started but this now seems almost unbreakable, except in the sanctuary of a plane.  In fact on my last flight I was shocked and a little bit tempted when I was told that I could use my mobile phone and send text messages.  I resisted the temptation.

I like flying (no, not like Superman although this would certainly save me lots of time).  Not just because it means that I am going to or from sometimes exotic far flung places (more often for work than pleasure) but it means that I can put the Blackberry down and have time to reflect, think, focus and reassess.  I can do this even when planes have so many other distractions competing for my attention such as movies, games and even once food that had a vague resemblance to something edible!

Thousands of miles in the air does not just provide the occasional perk of air miles, but gives me the opportunity to truly focus.  Time seems to stop; this, to me, is invaluable.  But it happens far too rarely but not because I don’t try:  Life moves at such a fast pace.  We are no longer fixed to a time and place to conduct business – it is now anywhere and everywhere.

Anyway, what is reflection?  I get asked this a lot.  To some the only reflecting they do is in the mirror and they find that troubling, asking them to think about often uncomfortable encounters and to try and learn from these experiences is not only foreign but impossible.  I believe finding the opportunity (and fulfilling the need) to reflect it is vital.  It provides space (and gives me permission) to review and to take stock.  I think of what went well, what some of the challenges were, what it is that I need to do and what I need to learn.  In fact reading this you might think that this is a therapeutic shopping list…no, not quite…because for me reflection happens in waves which starts with the easy stuff and then works its way down to…well, you know…the baggage that sometimes needs to get unpacked.  In fact on a really long flight you can almost get drowned in the reflective unpacking!

Now the link to negotiation

Why is this relevant to negotiation, you ask?  Well, I came across the work of Donald Schon and we here at CEDR refer to this on many of the courses we conduct, challenging participants to take time to reflect.  We give them some guidance and encourage them to complete an entry in a type of reflective journal.  We give them time, provide a safe environment and provide assistance, we ask questions and this results in dialogue with participants, which helps them consider some potential areas for reflection.  The learning point that we try and reinforce is that it’s OK to take time for yourself and reflect:  You don’t always have to be active.  For without reflection there is no way of knowing whether what you are doing is worthwhile and productive (a form of personal quality control).

…and the conclusion

So the next time you find yourself on a train, boat, plane (or tube that is stuck between platforms) close your eyes (no don’t go to sleep) take a few deep breaths…and let your mind drift…reflect…think of this as wonderfully inexpensive treat and guess what, you may even enjoy it!

See you in the air…


Get Noticed

Ranse Howell
Ranse Howell is the Mediator and Consultant for The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).

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