You can take leadership in fostering productive interactions—in both the business and family domains—with these simple yet powerful communication techniques.
In a previous article, “Do You Make These Meeting Mistakes?”, I introduced SAVI, the System for Analyzing Verbal Interaction, developed by Anita Simon and Yvonne Agazarian. There the focus was on Red Light and Yellow Light communication. This time we focus on Green Light communication, or the responses that help create resolutions and build group bonds.
The SAVI Grid separates communication into Person or Topic Centered and then separates topic centered into Factual and Orienting. In the Green Light section Personal responses are Resonating. Topic Responses are Responding, and Orienting Responses are Integrating.
- Feeling question
- Answering a feeling question
- Mirroring Inner Experience
- Making an affectionate joke
- Answering a factual question
- Clarifying your own answer with data
- Giving corrective feedback
- Building on another’s ideas or experiences
- Making a work joke
SAVI’s contagious like a healthy virus. I’ve noticed in meetings that I’m in, where I feel like somebody is being outrageous or things are just not going in a way that I like or that feels fair, I start to feel stirred up. I begin to catch more and more that I’m more stirred up. What I need to do is to stay more in my executive functioning (prefrontal cortex) and to be able to actually think about slowing myself down. Do I just need to listen right now for a while, or if I do make an intervention, is it going to be a question? Is it going to be a statement about what is going on for me? How am I going to help the group orient to a healthy goal versus people getting reactive and more stirred up about what is going on with them?
Being a leader means managing yourself first
This is sharing the burden of leadership by taking up your leadership of managing yourself to make a contribution to the goal of the interaction. If the context of the interaction is business, that is one thing. If the context is just family, that is another. In family business, it is usually mixed and you can’t quite separate them out.
How are you contributing through your leadership of yourself in your role in the family, whether you are working in the business, are just a family member, or are a shareholder or a spouse? How do you help the whole system move? SAVI is very effective in being able to help the whole system move.
Exercise: Get into the zone
A training process I’ve seen used, and have been a part of, allows people to get a feeling for zone interactions. You have three people sit together. You give a card to one person to stay in the red zone, another person to stay in the yellow zone, and another person to stay in the green zone. Then you say, “Now you decide what movie you are going to see tonight” and watch what happens. Then the facilitator might change it by giving two of them a red zone card, and then take a red zone card out without letting the others know that one person still has a red zone card. Then the facilitator might give them either a yellow or a green and ask them to notice what’s happening with conversation. Notice how the process evolves as the communications change from red to yellow to green?
Once even one person is working with green communications, within ten minutes, they have decided where they are going to go and everybody feels okay. It transforms the systems because it transforms the transfer of information. You can see that the energy and information is not about the person. It is about how to handle interpersonal relationships in a way that is functional whatever the context, or the goal.
Shift your language, shift your result
To get started you can give people an image of the SAVI Grid and say, “If you stay in this kind of Green language things will go better.” Just keep the card in front of you and look at it. You can even get a pocket card and every time you get stirred up, take the card out and decide to make a choice about whether you want to be part of the problem and make it worse, or whether you want to actually be helpful. People get interested and they actually start to shift their language.