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Red Zone vs Green Zone

Posted by Lindy Amos on
8 July 2020

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Where have you spent your time this week, in the Red Zone or the Green Zone? 

It’s a choice that will fundamentally affect everything else you do and how you approach collaboration. Your attitude will determine how you perceive the world, whether situations are safe or threatening, and influence how you respond to those situations. The terms Red Zone and Green Zone were coined by James Tamm and Ronald Luyet in their insightful book on Radical Collaboration summarise two alternative mindsets and intentions that are really helpful reminders for me. 

The Green Zone reflects an authentic, nondefensive presence. 

  • We focus on making clear our deeply held values, rather than tactics or getting the upper hand

  • When conflict arises, we seek to understand and grow, desiring mutual gains rather than victory. They seek to get their interests met rather than simply trying to defeat the other side

  • From the Green Zone, people do not perceive potential conflict as threatening, as they have tools and coping methods that allow them to deal with difficult situations in a less reactive way. Green Zone attitudes foster collaborative actions and are more receptive to overtures for collaboration from others 

In contrast to the authentic confidence of the Green Zone, when in the Red Zone we exhibit defensiveness and fear. 

  • We become aggressive, our attitudes and behaviour are driven by our underlying fears

  • We become combative: defeat to defending is our mantra

  • We invest in making others feel wrong so that we can feel right

  • Our fear forces us into short term thinking rather than long term planning

  • Forgiveness is foreign to us, and apologies are begrudging rather than heartfelt

  • We enter into a win-lose approach and persist with arguing the validity of our own position and the fallacies of the other side’s position, taking disagreement personally

So when we find ourselves in the Red Zone, (which we all will be at some stage), how can we transition to the Green, so our relationships are more productive ? How can we move from reactivity to responsiveness?

Here are my tips for self management:

  • Take time Out - Slow Down to Interrupt Your Speed

  • Catch yourself - Acknowledge, accept and then own your reactivity

  • Breathe - tune in to your body and your underlying emotions

  • Get curious - ask yourself,  what is my reactivity a symptom of? What do I really care about here and why? What is my end goal and how can I get there with grace, and compassion for myself and the other? 

  • Take Responsibility and reset your communication

  • Repeat as necessary