Archery and Conversations

archery taq speaks

Last year I tried archery for the first time in my life. It was a light bow and a totally beginner’s pitch, but was such a lot of fun! Apart from the enjoyable day in the Melbourne sunshine, it led me to reflect on how the skills/practices needed to hit the bulls-eye are so similar to what is needed to hit the target in difficult conversations.

In our work at The Arts Quotient, we use these very same techniques drawn from the performing arts to open possibilities in business conversations. In theater-speak; “centering” is a performance critical process that all actors, dancers and other artists practice along with the grammar of their form. It involves three important things which I learnt were critical to archery as well:

1)     Breath –as you prepare to shoot, it is important to breathe deep and regulate the rhythm of the body. This helps keep your hand steady, mind uncluttered and focused. In conversations too, when something crops up that spikes your fear hormones, the thing to do is breathe! And fire oxygen into your system which opens many creative possibilities.

2)     Posture – This was what our instructor kept making us practice. The actual taking a shot we did not spend so much time on. It followed as a natural consequence of getting breath and posture right. In real life too, during stressful conversations, check in to your posture. Fear hormones that spike in such conversations cause us to contract our posture. Shifting to a more open posture helps reset our body reaction to stress – and useful generative conversations are a natural consequence.

3)     Timing – In each shot, there is a window of opportunity. If you are ready and can take the shot at the right moment, it is an almost guaranteed bulls-eye. In conversations too, we need to listen closely for these opportunities where the wind actually favors us. Catch the right current and it takes you forward effortlessly.

I find that if you get these input variables right, there is a high probability of hitting your target – both in archery and in conversations. The leaders we work with have reported successfully using these techniques in negotiations with unions, government officials and even their toddler children! It was lovely to experience the same principles come alive in the context of archery. It resulted in quite a few bulls-eyes as the photos show!

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