February 24, 2018

Archives for October 2011

When you go into “dialogue,” are you ready for change?

Three people in discussionOne inevitably leads to the other, or should…

Mark is fighting his corner well. Back and forth goes the debate. Mark concedes little. He comes away with most of what he wants. All are tired out and the other side have doubts about engaging with him again. Even now, no-one really understands the whole problem.

John seeks joint learning about an issue. All contribute from their knowledge and experience without taking positions. John insists that all make their assumptions explicit. He leads by example. A mutual understanding of the problem develops. New solutions emerge. John comes away with a little less than Mark in the short run, but the long term result is much greater.

In the jargon of organizational learning, mediation and other fields, Mark is engaged in “discussion” and John is in “dialogue.” With complex problems, dialogue stands the best chance of finding a good solution. The clarity that results is also vital to organizational learning.

So far, so familiar maybe. You probably advocate dialogue yourself.

But here’s the thing…

When we say we want a dialogue about an issue, have we realized that means opening the door to our own change and growth? After all, if the point of dialogue is learning (which it is), then chances are, we’re going to be doing some of the learning, including about our own selves maybe.

If not, are the others going to do all the learning and all the changing? That implies we’re already complete. That’s not likely, surely. In truth, it implies we’re still wedded to our position.

We could make progress by looking to our own learning.

Does dialogue lead to change and growth in your experience? How open to that are you, when you say you want a dialogue?

What’s the social function of competitive sport?

Rugby playerHow do we benefit from playing or watching competitive sport? Clearly there are health and fitness benefits from active participation, but what about the social benefits of a game?

The behavior of some of the followers of some sports might seem to preclude any social benefits, but even in those cases, the individuals involved are gaining a social benefit by belonging to a “tribe” of some sort, even if the rest of us would rather they didn’t.

Watching a game of some kind is obviously, at its best, fun, exciting and even invigorating. We bond with our fellow supporters of the same side, but what about the opposition? Does a hard-played, seriously-supported match strengthen relationships with the other side? And if so, how does that work? Presupposing that’s a desirable outcome, what does it depend on?

Is it about shared experience? Or an opportunity to work off a certain kind of energy?

Perhaps if we have the maturity to see ourselves as not just part of the tribe supporting our favorite team, but also part of that bigger tribe of fans of the sport, for example, or even just fans of high achievement in anything, then we deepen relationships with the other side.

What’s different in those sports where antagonism with the other side prevails? Is it down to a greater need to define ourselves as against another side, as NOT something? Does it indicate a lack of any other sense of identity?

Here’s my take on what’s worth thinking about…

1. Our ability to be aware of our own tribal behavior.

2. Our flexibility and willingness to align with a broader tribe when that’s what matters.

3. A sense of identity that isn’t defined as being NOT something else.

These points might apply to other situations perhaps, including ones where the stakes are higher (if that’s possible!)

What do you think?

What do you see in others, what’s it telling you about yourself?

Mirror“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” as Robert Burns implored.

Well that Power did give us the gift. The question is whether we choose to use it. The gift can be expressed in various ways: Carl Jung talked about “projection” meaning we project onto other people things we are not acknowledging about ourselves. Typically, we have a reaction to a behavior we see in others that we like or dislike and comment upon it, as if it’s completely external to ourselves.

It isn’t.

“If you can spot it, you’ve got it,” as they say. How come? Well, it stems from our brains being above all pattern recognizers. Our brains notice things outside that we have coded inside. If we haven’t got the structure inside, we can’t see it on the outside. The technical name for the neural process is “Reticular Activation System.”

Don’t worry: You’ll see it when you believe it. Suspend disbelief and look for a while. You’ll see other people commenting on behavior in others you know they exhibit themselves. Guess what: You do that too.

This feature of how we function is great for learning about ourselves and making changes accordingly – reinforcing what we like and altering what we don’t like.

Here’s the takeaway…

When you notice yourself responding to someone else’s behavior, realize you are seeing yourself in them. What’s that telling you? How does the pattern fit you also?

What’s your experience of this gift we have?

What a shocker: Trader acts in accordance with what he values

City traderAs do we all.

Did you hear the surprise?

If the world wide web could gasp, you would have heard it from mid-ocean. A city trader said candidly that he hoped for another recession because he could make a lot of money from one.

Various commentators then rather missed the point and started discussing whether the “man in the street” could make money from a recession, which of course they mostly can’t.

This episode brought into sharp focus a vital principle: Individuals always, always, always act in accordance with what matters to them – not what matters to us, and not what matters to that averaged expectation we call the “public interest.” Expect anything else and we will be disappointed. And what’s worse: Pretend that this isn’t so and we make our thinking and our dialogue worse than useless.

And yet…

It’s extraordinary how often we hear policy makers, commentators and others talking as if we can expect individuals to behave in the common interest – traders to always want economic prosperity. Now they might, but only in so far as they personally value the “public interest,” and they may well be under-delivering for their employer in doing so.

Please forgive me if all this is obvious to you.

(Whether international policy makers and regulators should allow large markets in financial instruments that contribute nothing to public good is another subject.)

Here are some everyday takeaways…

If people behave in ways that surprise us, it means we don’t properly understand what’s driving them. So what are we missing?

If we want people to behave in a different way, we need to change what they see as important somehow.

The most deep-seated drivers of behavior are usually unconscious ones, long since programmed in, probably around age 10. As Milton Erickson said “most of your life is unconsciously determined.”

You probably see lots of examples of people not understanding the drivers in a situation, or even not realizing that they need to. What tales have you to tell?