Archive for the 'Emotional Intelligence' Category

Resilience requires being our best selves more consistently

Everyone is better than you are… (at something). Which makes it imperative that you connect and ask for help. At the same time that we encounter this humbling idea, we also need to acknowledge that you are better at something than anyone you meet. Everyone you meet needs something you can do better than they can. —Seth Godin

Each of us is a bundle of strengths and “weaknesses,” which means there are two ways of thinking about personal improvement—remedy our flaws or more consistently use our strengths.

While each of us has a few “flaws” that may deserve prompt attention, we are far more likely to achieve our individual goals and collective goals when we and others hone and persistently use our strengths.

That’s what resilient people do, I think.

Rather than spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on or lamenting their deficits, or trying to correct those of others, they identify their strengths and apply them at every opportunity consistent with their values and goals.

Put another way, resilient people more consistently offer their “best selves” to the world—that is, the part of them that is most influential and creates well-being and energy among those with whom they interact.

As an example, I have learned that I am my “best self” when I use my talents for planning, writing, innovating, and advocating for things that are important to me.

Over time I have learned that I am far happier, productive, and effective when I more consistently use my strengths and the synergy generated among them to serve purposes greater than myself.

Some things to consider:

What are the attributes of relationships and/or environments that elicit your best self?

What does your best self look like at work? With family and friends? In addressing issues that concern your community and nation?

Are there common strengths among those best selves? What can you do to develop and use those strengths more consistently?

When you think you’re going crazy…

[I]t’s always possible that Trump himself is simply unable to distinguish between fact and fiction, or can’t be bothered to try. But the darker possibility is that the conflation is deliberate, not with the intention of deceiving, of substituting false for true, but of disrupting our ability to tell the two apart, or indeed, by advertising how vast is his own unconcern for the distinction, to lead us in time to be as indifferent, if only out of fatigue. —Andrew Coyne

lie: intransitive verb: to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive 

There are few greater tests to one’s resilience than to be in the presence of sustained lying.

A steady drip of lies, like water on rock, can gradually shape the contours of reality and even our sanity.

Here are three contemporary forms of lying that are shaping our political reality and sanity:

1. gas·lighting/verb, gerund, or present participle: manipulate someone by lying or other psychological means into questioning their own sanity

The repetition of a lie in the face of contrary evidence, including what we can see with our own eyes, can cause recipients of the lie to question their sense of reality.

I remember a story from decades ago, which may or may not be true, about a professional baseball player who asked his manager what he should have done when his wife caught him in bed with another woman. “Say you weren’t with the woman,” the manager said. “But she saw me,” the player repeated. “Tell her you don’t know what she’s talking about,” the manager replied. “And keep saying it.”

Big lie: noun: a false statement of outrageous magnitude employed in the belief that a lesser falsehood would not be credible, especially when used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body

A leading contemporary example is the “birther” big lie employed by our current president in an effort to discredit and undermine the presidency of his predecessor, which also served the purpose of attracting to him many of his core followers.

“Alternative facts”: a form of mind control and dominance used by demagogues in which information unsupported by objective reality is declared to be true (you can learn more about the history of this term here)

Examples: “You say 2 + 2 = 4. I say 2 + 2 = 5. Who’s to say which is right. Certainly not the lying media.”

You say “Climate change has widespread support in the scientific community. I say that it’s just a theory and that China thought it up. My theory is just as good as your theory.”

Taken together, the unrelenting landscape of falsehoods makes it understandable that Americans may be feeling a bit crazy these days and why 1984 has become a bestseller in recent weeks.

Why do leaders lie?

• because lies can be used to manipulate public policy, intimidate enemies, and exaggerate accomplishments

• because lies can be used as loyalty tests to see who repeats them, which is especially important for authoritarian leaders who value loyalty beyond all other things.

What can we do in the face of such lying and manipulation?

1. First, call lying what it is. Don’t minimize it by calling it “fake news” or “fabrication” or “falsehoods” or “alternative facts.”

2. Recognize that you are not crazy and that you are not alone.

3. If in doubt, do a reality check. Talk with others you respect to maintain your confidence in “reality.”

Stay in those conversations as long as necessary to restore your sanity and to give yourself courage to label the lying for what it is and to confront it at every opportunity.

Given that such leaders prevail when we become overwhelmed by and resigned to their lying, what are you doing to maintain your sanity and motivation for challenging it?

What do you do when your leader is a dem•a•gogue?

dem·a·gogue\ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\noun: a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason

What do you do when your leader deliberately provokes the worst instincts in his followers?

What do you do when most people don’t want that person to be the leader, but nonetheless he or she is?

What do you do when you are anxious and fearful for the future of your “organization” and what it stands for?

What do you do to preserve your emotional well-being and even physical health when it is challenged by the consequences of such leadership?

The answer to these and related questions are obviously not simple ones.

And while I don’t have “the answer,” I offer the “6 Cs of resilience” to stimulate your thinking and perhaps guide your actions:

Clarity about values, ideas, goals, and strategies to accomplish those goals;

Commitment to persist through difficult times;

Communication that seeks first to understand and that is both respectful and assertive;

Community to gain clarity, support, guidance, inspiration, and the power of collective action;

Courage to do what is uncomfortable and even frightening; and

Care, beginning with self care. (If we don’t take care of ourselves the other Cs will be difficult if not impossible to achieve.)

Taken together, the “6Cs” enable us to take well-considered stands about things that are important to us and to join with others to achieve together what we cannot accomplish alone.

Should you find yourself with a leader who is a demagogue, what will you do to promote your own well-being and the resilience of the “organization”?

I am relying on the long-term resilience of…

• the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law

• the courage of countless individuals within government and outside of it who speak truth to power in the face of bullying and other forms of intimidation

• the power of existing and yet-to-be established groups that will empower citizens to stand for America’s founding principles and place in the world community

• a free and independent press that will relentlessly seek and tell the truth to the highest journalistic standards

considered judgment over raw opinion and impulsivity

• science and rational evidence-based decision making over ignorance and superstition

• the historic capacity of Americans to resist tyranny wherever it may arise

sanity-preserving humor over arrogance and vindictiveness

generosity over greed

a sense of “we” over “me”

Most of all, I’m relying on the resilience of love to prevail over hate, inclusiveness over exclusiveness, respect over disrespect, civility over incivility, and reasoned debate over emotion and propaganda.

I don’t know if any one of these qualities will be sufficient, but I am hopeful that in combination they will provide a brighter future for all of us.

In what do you place your hope?

The essential qualities of effective leadership

In recent weeks I have been thinking more deeply about effective leadership to determine if my views should be revised given the recent presidential election.

First, my definition of “effective leaders“: Effective leaders achieve the organization’s goals while strengthening the organization and the relationships within it for future work.

Whether we are thinking about the President of the United States or the person who is one level above us in the hierarchy of our workplace, I believe that effective leaders:

• Create with others a shared, compelling vision of a desired future

• Generate and help spread positive emotions

• Make decisions based on sound evidence and reasoning

• Are open to being persuaded by the views of others

• Treat others with respect

• Are exemplars of how they want others to think and act

• Have integrity, particularly in telling the truth and keeping promises

• Adapt to changing circumstances while staying true to core values and principles

What would you add to or subtract from my list? 

Are all of these attributes essential, or are some so much more important than others that a leader and organization will fail without them?

“It begins when we are always afraid”

I wonder how many children’s lives might be saved if we educators disclosed what we know to each other. —Roland Barth

Resilient people are often called upon by circumstances to act courageously, and it’s a challenge they are likely to accept, although sometimes reluctantly.

Last week on the eve of Donald Trump’s promised announcement regarding foreign hacking I posted two back-to-back tweets:

“Couldn’t sleep last night because of excitement about Trump telling us what only he knows about hacking. Hope I don’t have to wait.”

And:

“Hope I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to find out what only Trump knows about hacking. Or forever. Can’t stand the excitement.”

Moments later a line from a a 1960s-era song ran through my head: “It begins when we are always afraid.”

I realized that in some part of my brain I was fearful of the kind of vicious attack suffered by others, even lowly sorts like myself, who dared criticize some aspect of the new political order.

Here are some of the lyrics from that song, “Stop, Hey What’s That Sound”:

“Paranoia strikes deep

into your life it will creep

it starts when you’re always afraid

step out of line the man come and take you away.”

We know who “the man” is. And we know who (and what) he has promised to take away.

And we have seen what has happened to those who dare criticize “the man” or his minions.

As the old saying goes, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

But this isn’t a story about my courage, or my paranoia. I wasn’t acting courageously because I only thought about the risks after I posted the tweets.

It’s a story about the role that courage can play in our lives.

Each of us, many times a week, decides whether we will speak or act in the face of fear about known or unknown consequences.

Sometimes the consequences are real. The thing we fear may happen when we speak or act in accordance with our conscience.

It is also true that bad things do happen to people when we withhold “our truth” from others.

As Edmund Burke said more than two centuries ago:  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

How do you decide if and when to speak and act?

Making a positive difference, alone and together

re·sil·ience\ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\ noun: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful after misfortune or disruptive change

Several terms come to mind when I think of “resilience.”

Empowered.

Optimistic.

Efficacious.

Intentional.

Proactive.

Engaged.

Influential.

All of these words apply to the human desire to affect our own destiny and to make the world a better place. In short, to make a positive difference.

Life circumstances, which we may or may not choose, contribute to our sense of resilience and also draw upon it.

Resilient people are:

optimistic and efficacious. That is, they are hopeful about the future and believe that they can make a difference.

intentional and proactive. That is, they have clear goals and realistic plans to achieve them.

engaged and influential. That is, they persist until goals are achieved, and they enlist others in concerted actions.

Taken together, these qualities explain why resilient people often find themselves in leadership roles even though they may not have actively sought them out.

Resilient leaders create resilient organizations, and the primary way they do so is by creating a sense of “collective efficacy”– a belief that the achievement of important goals requires strong teamwork.

Collective efficacy begins with a worthy, stretching goal and draws on the interpersonal support provided by a community whose members encourage, guide, and teach one another.

Collective efficacy is especially important today because it is easy to succumb to resignation in the face of complex and overwhelming world problems, like climate change, and the serious challenges to democratic institutions and civil liberties that we currently face.

Future posts will explore ways to cultivate resilience for our personal benefit and our collective good.

As always, I am interested in what you have to say today and in the future about this critically important subject.


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