“Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught,” a recent The New York Times article generated over 400 comments and thousands of additional posts and tweets (Google offers 535,000 hits). Those of us working in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) know the answer — yes. It can. The NYT comments, however, were largely about a different question: Should it? One […]
In the chaos of contemporary life, how do we maintain connection to self and others? Is it enough to “unplug” once in awhile? We are constructing a “new normal” – what are the internal and relational skills needed to thrive in these times of disconnection and connection? Daniel Goleman and Joshua Freedman continue to […]
The post Disconnecting and Connecting: Daniel Goleman & Joshua Freedman on FOCUS, part 3 appeared first on Six Seconds.
How do we fully engage attention to use the full power of our minds? What fuels and blocks performance in work and life? Daniel Goleman’s new book, FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (published today), discusses the science of attention. In this ongoing dialogue, he and Joshua Freedman link this leading-edge science to life in the office, in nature – and even in bed.
Topics in this installment of the dialogue include wonder, dealing with overload, the process of refocusing, leading people, the power of nature, and the essential ingredients for getting our important work accomplished.
You are invited to join this dialogue by commenting below.
Daniel Goleman is the international bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence and numerous other titles. His new book, FOCUS, comes out today (for more about the book, see the initial post from this series: Daniel Goleman’s New Focus). Joshua Freedman is the bestselling author of At the Heart of Leadership and the CEO of Six Seconds – The Emotional Intelligence Network.
Josh: Dan, I’m excited to continue this dialogue about FOCUS and emotions. From our introductory post, one of the members mentioned that sometimes our focus creates a sense of wonder.
Sometimes we’re engaged in the world – like children, fully immersed in the moment. What is going on there when we see with childlike wide-eyed wonder?
Dan: Children have a richer sensory experience of the world than do adults. It’s less filtered. They have fewer mental models to pre-explain or to abridge what’s being seen. I think I remember from being a kid experiencing a sensory world that is far richer than what we see as adults. And I think that allows more moments of wonder.
And it may be that – this is just speculation – as the brain learns more cognitive categories for what’s around us, we tend to habituate more, which is to say the brain closes down to the sensory input because it has an explanatory category for it. The brain tries to economize on energy. One of the ways it does that is by paying the least amount of attention possible to whatever it is that we’re doing. This is one reason that attention, why concentrated attention, actually takes effort to sustain. We exhaust our attention and need to rest, so we tune out.
Time to Wake Up?
Josh: I saw a study the other day that said that something like 50 percent of the time as adult, we’re just on autopilot. Actually I suspect it’s more like 95 percent of the time, we’re going through the motions of our days without any real attention and focus. While that’s efficient, it makes it difficult to make careful choices, to respond instead of react, to innovate, or to really solve problems.
Dan: I think you referring to that incredible study by Killingsworth and Gilbert at Harvard where they had people carry iPhones with an app that called them at random points of the day and asked them to say, “What are you doing, and where’s your mind?”
The study showed that, on average, people’s minds are wandering close to 50 percent of the time, no matter what they’re doing (except if they’re making love, it’s not wandering much at all). If they’re on their way to work or they’re at work or they’re sitting in front of the computer, it’s wandering a massive amount of the time.
Josh: Now, there’s an experimental design issue here. When is your phone ringing? And who’s bothering to answer it if you’re making love?
Dan: I know! Those subject must have been really dedicated to the study.
Getting Back into Focus
Josh: Whatever the percentage is, I think we all know that we go through huge parts of our days without actually paying attention to what’s going on. We’re just getting to the next thing. It’s actually stunning to consider – am I really living my life?
I suspect this gets worse as we increase the number of tasks on the “To Do List,” and the number of messages coming across our desks. As demand increases, unfortunately, our focus decreases. Does that seem reasonable?
Dan: I think two things are going on, Josh. One is that there are two main systems for attention. One is top-down. This is what we think of as conscious, intentional focus. The other is bottom-up. That’s life on autopilot.
The brain is actually designed to put most of what we do routinely on autopilot. It’s that energy conservation principle that I mentioned before. Autopilot, in that sense, is not necessarily a bad thing. You don’t want to have to think about every step in turning on your computer or every step in making your coffee in the morning or brushing your teeth.
Josh: It’d be really inefficient.
Dan: Exactly. There are ways to make ourselves more conscious. That’s what mindfulness meditation does. But you want to be selective in how you use mindfulness. The brain does not want to be mindful in ordinary life all the time, contrary to what a lot of mindfulness teachers will tell you. Our brains aren’t wired that way. It takes a great deal of effort and attention.
What’s powerful about being mindful, is we de-habituate life itself.
Josh: Where “De-habituation” means waking up, living on purpose?
Brain vs. Computer
Dan: Yes. De-habituation means that you get more of those moments of full sensory experience – more wonder, if you will, more fullness of the moment. In an Eckhart Tolle sense, more, “in the now.”
When you’re talking about the barrage of distractions we face at work, I think that’s something really different. There are a set of challenges we face in maintaining a full, intentional, focused awareness on our work. The tasks we’re trying to get done, the work we’re being paid for, the work we feel is meaningful, or the work that has some purpose.
That kind of attention is under more challenge than ever in human history – I mean, many of us work at a computer. A computer is a machine that is designed both to help us focus on our work and to distract us at the same time. We have pop-ups, you can always go on the web, and the big challenge is to be able to notice when your mind has wandered – the study said an average of 50 percent of the time, but most at the computer.
One key: notice when your mind has wandered and then to detach from where it’s wandered to, and bring your mind back to the point of focus.
Well, that happens to be the “basic move” in most meditation. In mindfulness of the breath, for example, you make a contract with yourself. “I’m going to focus on the breath and keep it there. And when my mind wanders, and I notice I’ve wandered, I’m going to bring it back.” That is the essence of the practice, and it’s the mental equivalent of going to the gym and going on a Cybex machine and doing repetitions to work a muscle. The more you do that, the stronger the circuitry from noticing the wandering, detaching, and moving it back gets.
This is the work done by Wendy Hasenkamp, who’s now the research director of the Mind and Life Institute. When she was at Emory, she did brain imaging studies of people trying to keep their mind on one thing and how it wanders off. She identified what circuits are aroused as you’ve noticed you mind has wandered, what fires as you detach from wandering, and how the brain works as you bring it back to point of focus.
Those are three different interacting sets of circuitry. The more you practice that move, the more richly connected those circuits become, and the larger the space they take in the brain – in other words, they get stronger.
And I think today we need that kind of mental exercise, more than ever in the past, because we’re challenged by more distractions in more insidious, elegant, seductive ways than ever before in human history.
Josh: Just to recap the three steps to practice:
- Notice your mind has wandered – “Hey, I’m on Facebook again.”
- Detach from the new focus – “Whoops, I better stop reading about my friend’s weekend.”
- Refocus – “Time to get back to writing!”
This reminds me of a shift from external to internal focus. We had a conference in June at Harvard; one of the speakers was Mary Helen Immordino-Yang — she’s a neuroscientist studying learning and emotion. Her talk was fascinating; her research shows that essentially we have a brain system that is activated when we focus externally and a different brain system that’s activated when we focus internally, and that those two are anti-correlated.
Immordino-Yang’s research shows that in order to focus externally, we suppress that internal reflection. And in order to focus internally, we suppress that external focus. I think that’s intuitively obvious once you see it, but the idea that these two brain systems are actually different areas in the brain, really only one can be active at once, I think tells us something about this whole issue of focus.
Dan: This phenomenon of anti-correlation of attention circuits is very important. It helps us understand what it takes to get work done well. The system for monitoring he mind, that is the inward awareness system, is different from the system for full external sensory awareness. You’re either in one frame of mind or the other.
Josh: And, in a way, they’re opposed.
This is Your Mind on Stress
Dan: Exactly. This ties to calming and stress. There’s an upside down U that describes the relationship between performance and cortisol levels (which is the stress hormone). When people are very bored, they’re at the lower end on the left side of that upside-down U. When people are fully absorbed, when they’re in flow, they’re at the optimal point at the top of the U. And when they’re overstressed, they’re on the right side, where performance is poor and cortisol is very high.
Josh: So when we’re bored, performance is also low. As we go from boredom up to focus, we experience Eustress, or positive stress, and performance climbs. Then if stress goes too far up, we enter distress – and then performance plummets again.
Dan: You got it. That’s the U. So each of those points describes a different neural circuitry. When you’re bored, you’re actually in that mind-wandering space, and there’s circuitry for mind wandering. For those who like details, this circuit is called “medial.” The medial zone is, in a sense, the brain’s default. When we’re not doing anything in particular, we activate that circuitry. When we’re fully absorbed, when we’re doing work we love – we’re in another set of circuits that have to do with full, concentrated focus. Then when we get stressed, the amygdala activates and other distressing emotions arise. The circuitry for that distress is taking attention from the task and focusing it elsewhere, taking us away from the work we have to get done.
So performance plummets when the mind is wandering, or when we’re overstressed, because each of those circuits takes our attention away from the job. They take us off the top of the U, that point of full focus on the work at hand. If you can be mindful, you can notice where your mind is and bring it back – whether you’re overstressed or whether you’re under-stressed.
Josh: Unfortunately, it doesn’t take very much to get off that peak performance point. I’m just thinking back to what you said about the computer. Several times this year I’ve decided it’s time to be editing my book about fatherhood. I sit down to start editing, and I notice that I’m on Facebook again. It’s not a huge amount of stress to tip me off the U!
Dan: No! And, to make matters worse, on Facebook you get all of these little hits of oxytocin or other reward chemicals when the brain says, “Oh, they liked that thing I posted.”
Josh: “They like me. I belong.”
Dan: Exactly. And when you’re all alone editing your book, you’re not getting those hits. So it’s very seductive. This is why I say it’s kind of diabolical that the same device we use to get work done is also the one that seduces us away into distraction, which is another reason we need more ability to focus when we want to.
Nature in Focus
Josh: Another member posted a question about nature. I’ve certainly experienced – even when I’m just out in the garden, but certainly when I’m in high, wild places, I have a sense of my mind being more open. I feel more tuned in to the world. I told you my son was at a camp where he spent two months totally unplugged – not even a flashlight. There’s this awakeness that he experienced. He felt connected. What’s going on with nature?
Dan: I think it’s wonderful that he had that experience. I think every kid and every adult should have it regularly. When we live in this electronic cocoon, I think it shuts us down in terms of sensory awareness. We lose some of the richness of the moment and the ability to simply be. It makes us constantly do, whether it’s our work or Facebook.
Josh: Thank you Dan, I’m excited the book is coming out today! In the next part of our conversation, I’d like to discuss more about nature and neuroscience – and I have some questions about FOCUS and relationships, at home and at work. I encourage readers to add your questions below.
In the meantime – read the book! Here are some links:
Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence on Amazon.com
Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence by Daniel Goleman – CD of guided exercises from MoreThanSound
Book description and author extras from the publisher, HarperCollins
Dan: Wonderful – this has been really fun, and I’ll look forward to questions and comments we can explore in the next segment.
Part three of this series will be posted soon! Here is the first part. Please join the discussion in the comments, below!
The post Back in Focus – Daniel Goleman and Joshua Freedman on Attention and Emotion, Part 2 appeared first on Six Seconds.
Why is it SO difficult to communicate? A starting point is a wide-spread lie we tell others — and ourselves.
A misleading exchange, a billion times a day: “Hey, how’s it going?” ”Great, thanks. You?” ”I’m fine. C ya…” — has communication occurred, or been blocked?
In this barrage of “checking in,” there’s no real exchange of information, but there’s a mutual deception. In asking the question, we pretend that we’ve actually seen and heard the other. In answering, we’ve followed convention but hidden our experience. Why?
Safety. It’s “normal” which means it’s comfortable.
Speed. It’s fast, which means we don’t need to get caught up.
Script. We all know we’re “supposed to” stay on the surface, so we do.
No Blood, No Foul?
So what? We’re following a social convention — and isn’t it better than simply ignoring the other person? The risk of this surface non-communication is the illusion of inquiry. If we walk out from this “discussion” pretending we’ve actually understood, we block the real data that’s available.
I suspect that as this surface transaction has become the cultural norm, simultaneously we’ve found it increasingly difficult to have more substantive dialogue. ”Norms,” by definition, are what’s comfortable. What’s proper. What’s prudent. So we’ve become used to a shallow exchange, and this leads us to miss invaluable data. As George Bernard Shaw famously said,
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Don’t fall in that trap. Remember this “secret:”
There is always more to the story.
How To Ask About Feelings
Nearly 20 years ago, I was teaching about the Vietnam war, and talked one of the veterans who counseled other vets. I explained that my dad was a veteran, but he’d never told me about his experience in the war. The counselor asked, “When are you asking him? On the way to the airport? In a busy restaurant? You just can’t give a real answer to that question unless you’re sitting by a lake with a case of beer and a whole weekend ahead of you.”
The more complex and challenging a topic, the more time and space will be needed for a real answer. If I’m going to be vulnerable enough to reveal something ugly, scary, painful, serious — or even just complicated — I’m not going to do it in a casual, hurried, public setting. I’m not going to talk if I can tell you don’t have time. And, if you want me to be honest about my experience, let’s go real. It’s back to those 3 Ss:
Safety: Start by building a trusting relationship; ask questions that are appropriate to the level of trust… or trust+1 (slightly more serious/challenging than yesterday’s question). Make sure there’s sufficient privacy and time for the seriousness of the question. Pull someone aside, go for a walk, sit side-by-side, make a space.
Speed: More serious conversations take longer. Find five minutes for a five-minute-level check-in. Make an hour for a much more serious one. If you’re in a rush, people feel that, and they’ll conform to the “I’m in a rush” signal you’re sending (or, if they don’t they might need to learn that norm…)
Script: While “surface” is the starting norm, the way you respond tells the other person what to expect next. If they perceive that you’re following a script, you send a message that this isn’t real. If you invalidate their ideas and feelings at the outset, they “know” not to be honest. If you push or pull, they “know” this isn’t a real dialogue. On the other hand, if you take turns, sharing, asking, listening, recognizing, reflecting… as the dialogue flows back and forth, it also flows beyond the surface.
In any moment, consider there’s the “outside story,” or what we’re comfortable sharing… and the “inside story,” what we’re really thinking and feeling. Here is one of Six Seconds’ training exercises that you can use to explore this for yourself — with a partner — or even in a group. All you need is a paper and something to write with, but it’s more fun with colored pencils or pens:
- Think of a situation, perhaps a recent conversation that was somewhat complex. Or maybe a party you attended, or a meeting, or even just walking into school or the office.
- On one half of your paper, make a sketch or symbol of what you were showing on the outside. On the other half, represent what you were feeling on the inside.
Step 3 is “where the magic happens,” of course… and the skill of your facilitator or partner makes this either interesting or amazing. Depending on the situation, questions could include:
Are the two sides different?
What are some differences?
Why do you suppose that is?
What would happen if you were to show more of the inside (if you didn’t)? What are the costs and benefits of doing that?
How would it affect you — and others — and your relationships?
This can go quite a bit further — about self-awareness, about patterns, about choices and consequences, and even about purpose. What kind of relationships do you want to build? Why does that matter? What choices will you need to make for that to happen?
What happened when you did the exercise? Please share in the comments!
The Point: Look Deeper
If you want to understand others, you need to get beneath the surface. If you fool yourself into believing the surface story, you’re missing invaluable data.
The post The Lie of “I’m Fine” and Other Emotional Deceptions appeared first on Six Seconds.
Are you responsible for influencing others — as a leader, teacher, coach, parent, friend, etc? What allows you to do so, what gets in your way?
There are many forms of power; position provides a certain authority. Expertise provides another (note the link between “author” and “authority”). One of the most important forms of power comes from relationships — and it’s driven by emotion. Here’s a brief video:
How are you using power now? Are you taking it? Giving it away? How can you be more effective by applying emotional intelligence? Share your comments below!
What’s your focus? How do you decide? Do feelings play a role?
Daniel Goleman’s new book explores the research and practice of attention — which turns out to be a powerful tool to create positive change. Here’s why he wrote the book – and why it matters to those of us committed to emotional intelligence.
I asked Dan about the origins of the book: “I’ve always been interested in attention; my earliest research at Harvard was on the retraining of attention to help people recover from stress. But it was only while writing FOCUS that I updated my understanding with the most recent scientific findings that I saw my model of emotional intelligence could be recast in terms of where we put our attention and how.”
We’ve all experienced the link between attention and emotion. If I’m frustrated with a colleague, it’s easy to focus on the ways he’s not meeting my expectations, and my frustration increases. Yet when I focus on the great work we’ve done together, my frustration diminishes. Goleman says this is at the heart of the book:
“In many approaches to EQ, including in Six Seconds’ approach, there is an ingredient of noticing how we notice, of developing new forms of focus. My book FOCUS provides a new framework for understanding why this is so critically important. This book will be valuable for people interested in emotional intelligence because it goes deeply into this essential skillset; a capability that will enhance emotional intelligence, and performance in many professional and personal domains.”
Dan and I will be holding a series of conversations about focus, emotions, leading, and living — and we’ll share these as an series of blog posts. We want you to be part of the conversation! What’s a question you’d like us to discuss? Please post in the comments below.
The author of the international bestseller Emotional Intelligence returns with a groundbreaking look at today’s scarcest resource and the secret to high performance and fulfillment: attention.
For more than two decades, psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman has been scouting the leading edge of the human sciences for what’s new, surprising, and important. In Focus, he delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long-overdue discussion of this little-noticed and underrated mental asset that matters enormously for how we navigate life. Attention works much like a muscle: use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows. In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman persuasively argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to contend with, let alone thrive in, a complex world.
Goleman analyzes attention research as a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well-lived life demands that we be nimble at each. Goleman shows why high-performers need all three kinds of focus, as demonstrated by rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business. Those who excel rely on what Goleman calls smart practice—such as mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery from setbacks, continued attention to the learning curve, and positive emotions and connections—that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain excellence. Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, Focus reveals what distinguishes experts from amateurs and stars from average performers. Ultimately,Focus calls upon readers not only to pay attention to what matters most to them personally, but also to turn their attention to the pressing problems of the wider world, to the powerless and the poor, and to the future, not just to the seductively simple demands of the here and now.
As you probably know, for over 15 years the Six Seconds team has advocated for emotional intelligence as an essential ingredient for change.
The logical side is important — but unless we’re smarter with feelings, we join the 90% of change efforts that fail.
What I’ve noticed, though, is that despite a great deal of evidence, only a small percentage of leaders “buy” that. They express modest interest in emotional intelligence, they find it interesting, but they don’t see the value.
In contrast, in the last few years we’ve been talking about the VITAL SIGNS MODEL. This is a simple, clear way to talk about the people-side of performance.
What’s fascinating to me: The vast majority of leaders who see the Vital Signs Model immediately see it as valuable — not just interesting. We can then “walk down the road to EQ” easily — rather than trying to convince them, they see the need.
A typical process: We’ll use one of the Vital Signs tools, and leaders become more committed to the people-side of performance. Then, we say, “A powerful way to work on this problem is by developing emotional intelligence” and there is no pushback.
In other words, the, “that’s interesting but not a priority” reply is gone. Why?
Emotional intelligence helps us make better choices; we can evaluate and respond rather than reacting unconsciously. In the Six Seconds Model, we teach a three step process: (1) increase awareness, (2) evaluate, and (3) move forward purposefully. The concept is simple, but how to do it? Here is a collection of practical tips from our network members around the world. Earlier we posted tips are how to increase self-awareness (for the Awareness part of the model).
Now we come to the 2nd set of tips, for the 2nd part of Six Seconds Model — we call this stage “Choose Yourself.” The point is to move out of reaction – to manage yourself – and move into a position where you can act with your best response. There are four competencies that let you do so:
Apply Consequential Thinking: Pause and evaluate both the pragmatic and emotional components of the situation
Navigate Emotions: Engage emotions intentionally to help move the situation forward
Engage Intrinsic Motivation: Strengthen the inner drive to move ahead in a useful way
Exercise Optimism: Identify new opportunities and possibilities to invent additional solutions
(click on any of the competency names for more articles on this specific topic)
15 Tips for Emotional Intelligence: Choice
Remember: Learn from the past, live in the moment, and plan for the future.
Take the six second pause to gather your thoughts before you speak.
Teresa Veenstra, Sr. Consultant & Executive Coach
Practicing EQ is a conscious choice that is available to us in every moment. Opportunities to practice can show up in not only our reactions to things but in our decisions, our questions, our words, what we focus our attention on, how we spend our time, who we decide to include or exclude, etc.
Increasing your awareness of where and when you can practice EQ can help you decide how. So: Pay attention to all of the opportunities we have each day to practice and choose one that feels right, and write down what happened. And as that gets easier, increase the number to two, and so on.
PAC before you act: Pause. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Clear your mind.
When you are emotionally charged, take a deep breath before responding. The science of breathing is very deep in Yoga, and at least one deep breath creates a Six Second Pause.
Tap into compassion everywhere. Engage in positive caring dialogue with the taxi driver, the dry cleaning man, the grocery bag packer etc. say good morning to passing people on the sidewalk. Ask meaningful questions. Really listen to the answers.
Sometimes we encounter a situation which is really challenging. I catch my thoughts in that situation with the three questions of optimism:
- Am I thinking that this permanent? (‘It will never get better’)
- Am I feeling this is pervasive? (‘It is changing everything’)
- Am I giving up my power, or taking too much power? (‘There is NOTHING I can do’ or ‘It is ALL my fault’)
Then I step back and become a ‘detective” and try to gather evidence for those views. Next I dispute those thoughts if they are inaccurate and choose realistic, accurate, positive thoughts. This helps me to cope better, with some hopefulness !!
I learnt this tip recently about using the body to increase awareness of our emotions. Ask yourself: “Do I feel expanded and open or contracted and small?” When you feel “compressed,” breathing deeply “into the belly” can release muscles – really breathe, and let your shoulder open and relax. As you fill up with air, the physiological expansion influences the mind and emotions as well, reducing stress and increasing openness. This helps us make more powerful, positive choices.
Find something impossible to do… and practice. (Here’s an explanation of going from “Impossible” to “Not Yet Possible”)
When you hit a setback, separate what parts of the situation you can control or influence and what parts you cannot. For the things you can’t control, do the LIGMO! (Let it go, move on.) Focus on what you can influence and notice how much more confident you’ll feel about overcoming the setback.
I have ten feelings, each ‘attached’ to each of my fingers: calm, provocative, energetic, optimistic, thankful, decisive, proactive, sympathetic, accepting, joyous, reflective. These are just my own 10 that I have ‘rooted’ on to each fingertip. I’ve done so by remembering a time when I had the feeling, explored it using all senses, and then imagined that state captured in my finger. Each time I want to shift a state from current unhelpful to more helpful – I can look at my fingers to remember these other states, and ‘feel through’ the new feeling on the chosen finger.
Human beings are born with a unique gift of Nature: The CHOICE to select from our available options. This applies to emotions also. We might not have unlimited choice, but we usually have many feelings.
So we can ask ourselves: “Am I really using this CHOICE?” I notice that sometimes I have forfeited this choice unconsciously. Realizing this, I can then re-assert myself.
Take Two: Set aside two minutes – relax and breathe deeply. Then write down two solutions to your problem.
Create opportunities to informally share what you feel and ask for feelings feedback especially in your teams as well as with clients. This can clear the air of any harbored darkness in the relationship.
When you are frustrated or upset, before you say something harsh, take a six second pause to quickly assess the costs and benefits of that action. When you “Apply Consequential Thinking” you make more careful choices that ultimately work to your advantage.
It’s back-to-school time for many students, which means a classic ritual will be re-enacted in thousands of classrooms… without much attention to the real goal. Teacher, “Does anyone have an idea of rules we should have for our classroom this year?”
Keen student, hand thrust eagerly in the air, “You have to raise your hand to talk.”
Teacher, “Oh, that’s a good one.” (Writes it carefully on the scroll-shaped-paper headed “Our Class Rules”)
Another student calls out, “School should be fun.” (Teacher ignores, and looks for a student who will say, “We line up before leaving class….”)
Eventually, there’s a list of rules, and it looks much like EVERY classroom’s list of rules. It was “student generated” though, so they will be committed to these rules, right?
Let’s take another example. At work, we’re forming a new partnership, and we start by discussing, “What is our shared goal?” Then we spend time considering how we can best reach the goal — and then jot a few agreements about how we’ll work together in this partnership. We pass this back and forth a few times, and decide maybe we even sign it.
Does this feel different to you?
I suspect we’re often confused about the difference between “Rules” and “Agreements,” and this confusion has a significant impact on motivation.
Rules are imposed. They’re set for the purpose of compliance. Transgressions should be punished to maintain the power of the rule. Rules are “above people.” The locus of control is external, teaching us that we don’t have the power – so we’re pushed toward obedience rather than internal motivation.
Agreements are negotiated. They’re set for the purpose of collaboration. Transgressions should be discussed to learn. Agreements are “between people.” The locus of control is internal, teaching us that we have the power – so we’re pushed toward intrinsic motivation.
Let’s return to the question of the goal. Is this list in place so we can learn, individually and together? Or is it in place so we have order? Compliance? Safety or the perception of safety? The illusion of respect or real respect?
What happens when there is a transgression? Is that an opportunity to reinforce the rule and show it’s seriousness? Or is it an opportunity for learning?
What would happen in your office, classroom, or family if you replaced many of your Rules with Agreements? Probably it would take more time at the outset – would this investment pay off? What’s the emotional affect?