by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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When my kids were little they were having a rough morning filled with not listening, arguing, and having trouble getting along – you know all of the things kids do with their siblings. I pulled them aside for a talk and started with, “You both need to turn it around.” The next thing I know, both kids literally turned around in their place, a full 360° spin before facing me again. I didn’t know what to do – I mean I wanted to burst into laughter, but this was a serious conversation. Not knowing what to do next since the rest of my speech on behaving well and getting along seemed to have had the air let out of it by their turnarounds, I just said, “Good job, now let’s go back to having fun.” The two of them ran off and the rest of the day went great.
Now I know what you are thinking, “Yeah sure, if only things were that easy” or “Yeah well it works with his kids, but he doesn’t know my kids.” After the success of this with my own children, I began to use this as a strategy in my classroom as well. When kids were having a tough time in class, such as not getting along with others, I would talk to the kid on the side and have them do this literal turnaround. It worked particularly well with students who I was having a tough time getting through to, or who were caught up in arguing with me. There was something about going through this simple spin that brings new perspective on the situation, as I believe the kids take their attention off of the conversation with the adult or the problem they are having with the other kid because they have to think about the movement of spinning their body. I admit that I am still amazed at how well this literal turnaround works, and yes, it is not foolproof, as there have been many times where we had to keep working on behavior and attitudes after the turnaround spin.
As I saw the successful use of this with my students, I thought about how this literal turnaround could help us as adults when faced with difficult problems or conversations. It happens to all of us throughout our day, we get frustrated or upset at a situation or a person. I have now tried to take this approach in my dealings with colleagues and friends. I strongly advise against doing what I did the first time I tried this new method when I did a literal spin in front of the person I was dealing with. Let’s just say this didn’t help out immediately because I think the person thought I was literally crazy! To avoid being seen as crazy, but still getting the positive vibe of the turnaround, try doing one or both of two things.
First while in the difficult conversation – maybe it is with a colleague who is heavily criticizing you or with a student’s parent who is hassling you over your teaching – try consciously thinking in your head about literally moving your body around in a complete circle. This conscious thought will often help you get a new framework or perspective on the situation and will often tone down the frustration you might be feeling. It is like the old school “count to ten,” but with a more conscious effort at changing your perspective. The second method comes after the situation is over when you return to your cubicle, office, or classroom. At that point, stop and think about what you were just dealing with and how it was troubling you and then do a literal turnaround. You will be amazed at the impact it will have on your perspective, feelings, and frustration.
As I mentioned previously, this is not a foolproof plan for dealing with every problem, but as you put it into greater practice you will feel the impact. I use this tactic when working with school leaders and teachers. In the middle of my workshops, especially when we are stuck in a conversation that is not going anywhere, I have everyone in the room stand up and literally turnaround. We repeat this as many times as needed to get the conversation moving forward again (obviously don’t do it consecutively where everyone ends up dizzy)! So the next time you are having a tough time, or are frustrated, or notice a conversation with a group is not going anywhere, stop and literally turnaround! In no time, you will feel the change that my little ones feel when they do their spin!