A few weeks ago I had a radical encounter. With a horse.
You read that right.
I’d been hearing about coaching and leadership work with horses for some time, so I grabbed the chance when I got a personal invitation to try it.
The basic setup is that you get in a ring with a horse and you try to make it do stuff. The premise of the insight work is that the horse is going to give you unbiased and pure feedback about the signals you’re sending out. Bottom line: you can’t make a horse do stuff, but you can do stuff with a horse. That’s analogous to working with people, isn’t it?
OK, sure. I’ll share. So I get in the ring with the horse. And I love the horse. He was black and massive, and seemed to think I was an all right person. After a short communal moment, I started with the tricks. I told him to go away (without words). He did. ‘Hey! It worked! I did it!’
Next, I wanted the horse to come to me. So I “invited” the horse. Again without words. And the horse stood still. So here I am thinking I’m open-minded, open-hearted, vulnerable, and just inviting the horse to come to me. I’m thinking all I want is for this horse to take four steps toward me. And he’s standing there just looking at me. I had his attention, but that wasn’t enough.
I started to feel anxiety. I felt pressure to get this horse to come to me. I needed to succeed. When I let go of that, when I just had the intention of “Hey Horse, let’s get together” then it worked.
Only a small percentage of communication is verbal. Some percentage is body language, tone, etc., but some would say a decent percentage is also energetic. It has to do with your intention – and there may be LAYERS of intention (e.g. underneath, “hey let’s get together,” there’s, “I want the horse to come over here”, “I want to prove I can do this”, etc.).
Try this exercise with a partner (but don’t tell them exactly what’s up):
- Stand facing your partner
- Tell your partner to put their hands up, arms at 90 degrees, palms facing each other
- Tell your partner that you are going to try to push their hands together
- Put your hands on the outside of your partner’s hands
- Tell your partner to resist you with all their strength
- Think to yourself: Push Partner’s Hands together
- Setup exactly as PART A
- Take a deep breath and bring yourself into the moment
- This time, think to yourself: I am going to bring MY hands together — notice yourself feeling different going into the task
See what happens. Universally I have found that in PART B, despite the fact that your partner knows no different, the result is profoundly different. They almost can’t HELP but cooperate, and they may say something to that effect.
You can’t make people do things. Amazingly, our nature is to want to synch up with one another. When we get clear signals, we can help each other. When we let go of what we want another to do, and focus solely on our purpose and goals, we can send a better signal of what we intend. With clear intention, we just might get results.