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Making Friends with Your Elephants

How can you change your relationship with big “elephants,” including death, divorce, or losing a job?

In this video, Michael Grinder, the pioneer of nonverbal communication, discusses how we can make peace with our elephants. He shares the “elephant equation” and actionable ways you can reframe your relationship.

Making Friends with Your Elephants

Read the modified transcript to “Making Friends with Your Elephants” below:

Hi. My name is Michael Grinder. I want to share an idea with you.

It came to me and I went, “whoa, I wanna share this with other people!” So it has to do with elephants.

We are going to look at the elephants. One of the most common elephants we have has to do with such things as death, divorce, and when you change jobs.

When you go to that funeral, you know it’s different than it was before the funeral. But what is the same is that the relationship goes on. This is best expressed with the expression of:

Death ends a life, it doesn’t end a relationship.

My father has been passed away for many years. Five years ago my relationship then and my relationship now is very different. I think about him differently. When he was alive 10 years ago, it’s different. We morph, we change, we evolve. And so our first elephant is the idea of death.

The second one, which is pretty close to it, has to do with divorce. Come on, the fourth finger left hand, address where you go home to at night, that can change, and you go, “Okay, it’s over.” No, it’s not. It stays with you. It’s part of you. And it’s an elephant. How do you make peace with your elephant?

Third category. Employment. Switching jobs. You go, “I don’t work there anymore.” No, no, no, no. Your memories still live inside. You still have those.

So if you look at all three of these, our formula mathematically, can be stated as, “something ends a something, but it doesn’t change either the memory, or in this case, relationship”.

So what we want to do is we want to figure out how do we make peace with our elephants. How do we confront them, get comfortable with what carries on from our past going forward?

Here’s what we suggest. Number one, three-step process.

Please consider finishing this equation. We’re going to call it the Elephant Equation. And if you would, pick a small elephant, don’t pick a big one! Because, you’re learning a new process. Once you have that new process down, perfectly okay to move up the size of the elephant you wanna apply this process to. So finish the statement.

Then number two, try to figure out how do you hold it? Holding things is the same as the frame around a picture. It’s what highlights inside that picture, and that’s what we’re gonna share with you today.

Now, number three is easy to say, but it’s difficult to do, and it goes like this. Why don’t you hold the picture differently? It’ll make a nice difference in terms of making peace with your elephants.

So we’re looking at a picture here, it’s one of my favorites, where a fella is chiseling himself. I promise I have another one of a woman chiseling herself. So he’s creating his own future. That includes his past memories.

Now if you look at it, what does your eye see? We have a white frame around this.

What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna change colors and see if you see it differently. The picture’s not gonna change, but how you view it is going to be different, based on the frame.

So now we have the same painting, but do you see different colors, different hues? It didn’t change, but your view of it changes. Let’s do two more so you understand multiple descriptions of the very same experience is based on how you hold the experience, how you frame it.

Now we’ve had white and we’ve had a darker color. Going back to a lighter color, what do you see?

Remember, all of our experiences in the past are not what is accurate in terms of what actually happened. It’s how we hold them that gives us the interpretation of it. One more frame coming up.

Different color. Went to a darker color. Hard to see in this lighting. Blue. You see it differently.

Which one do you like? That’s really not the question. The question is, do you give yourself the option of changing how you hold an experience?

So it’s easy for me to say, you know, three steps, figure out what that full sentence is in terms of what ends.

Number two is make sure you know how you hold it.

Number three, change how you hold it.

Well, that’s not easy.

The elephant is not in the picture. The elephant is over here [the frame].

So at least you know where to start looking at how to change it.

Michael Grinder here. We all have elephants. How do we hold them? How do we change them? How do we make peace with an elephant?

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