8/9/2010 12:12:00 PM
There is a gift we give ourselves and can offer to those around us when faced with stress or a presenting problem or a disagreement. That gift is called "the gap." It is a place we create - a moment in time carved out immediately following the arrival of a problem or event or interaction that has the potential of turning ugly and disruptive. Using "the gap" allows you to find the opportunity for growth and positive change.
These challenging "events" or "incidents" happen to us personally, to our families, to congregations and organizations. They happen in small ways every day but also on the macro level when churches enter into transition or times of turmoil and change. Learning to "mine the gap" is all about digging for gold in what may appear to be a pile of unwelcomed dirt and debris that has fallen on you from some where higher up.
Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany, modeled for us the gold that can mined in that place we create between what Steven Covey calls "the stimulus and response" (he speaks about this in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Frankl discovered it one day when he sat naked and along in a small room. In that room he became aware of his freedom to decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. He realized that between the stimulus (what happened to him) and the response to it was the power to choose.
As we work with people and model the expectations we have for them, it is so critical what we do during those very brief seconds between something happening and our response to that incident.
As I coach churches and leaders, I've seen this go both ways. I've seen people stop and think before speaking while at others times, people never stop speaking and reacting. In my own life, I'd like to say I always "mine the gap" but that just isn't true.
In their book Crucial Conversations the authors (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler) suggest "when you find yourself just dying to convince others that your way is best, back off your current attack and think about what you really want for yourself, others, and the relationship." In their language, "mining the gap" is about telling yourself a different story during those split seconds right after you see or hear something presented to you that could go either way.
It is crucial during that split second (or longer) to choose a different perspective and go mining for deeper meaning and consider even what God may be up to that you can't see at first glance.
How are your gold digging skills? When met with an opposing view, an interruption to your agenda, an interaction that pushed one of your buttons, do you need to strengthen your "gap" muscle?
This isn't just for leaders like you. This also applies to congregations that are very impatient during times of change and transition. I don't know how many times I see congregations "react" during a time of transition instead of "mining the gap" to gain a new perspective which leads to choosing a different response.
Some advice I remember hearing from an older wiser prayer partner - "God orders the stops of our lives as well as the steps". Let me add that in those stops there is gold buried those hills which we will find when we take the time and trouble to go looking for it.
Your Mining the Gap Workout
1. Next time you find yourself reacting instead of responding while under pressure or faced with a challenging encounter - mine the gap by pushing the pause button and choosing a response that will lead to clearer thinking, greater listening and a solution that serves the kingdom.
2. Read Crucial Conversations [Tools for talking when the stakes are high] to strengthen your ability to mine the gap during times when the right response is essential.
3. Teach this "gap" idea to one of the churches or leaders you are working with. Draw it on the board and discuss what it means and how those involved can use the idea to better their conversations and respond appropriately when tempted to react in hurtful ways.