Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: January 4/5, 2014 - Year 13, Issue 1
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Gratitude Journaling
The New Year is a time to look back in gratitude for what was, and to look forward in anticipation for what can be.
In the course of my own reflections over the holiday period, I was reminded of the importance of gratitude. There is even a field of study looking at the relationship between biology and gratitude. It seems, in addition to making us feel more satisfied with our lives, more optimistic about our upcoming week, and more connected with others, cultivating gratitude is now found to have biological markers like helping with sleep, boosting immune function and helping with stress, by helping us positively reinterpret stressful or negative life experiences.
In one of the early studies on gratitude, researchers, Emmons and McCullough divided a sample group of 192 participants into three groups. One group was asked to record five hassles they experienced each week, for 10 weeks. A second group was asked to record five events they experienced each week. The third group was the gratitude group and they were assigned this task:
“There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down … up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.”
These recordings were very brief, one line allotted per item. In addition to the listing of blessings, hassles, or life events, the weekly form the people were given included ratings of mood, physical symptoms, reactions to social support received, estimated amount of time spent exercising, and two global life appraisal questions. In this way, the researchers went about attempting to measure the impact of these three distinct activities on all these areas.
There were significant effects for the gratitude-group participants including increased ratings for one’s life as a whole and experiencing fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in either of the other two groups. Interestingly, the people in the gratitude condition spent significantly more time exercising (nearly 1.5 hours more per week) than those in the hassle condition.
Here are a few more tips about how to make gratitude journaling work in your life.
For more tips, click here.
“People who regularly practice appreciation or gratitude — who, for example, “count their blessings” once a week over the course of one to twelve consecutive weeks … become reliably happier and healthier, and remain happier for as long as six months after the experiment is over.”
- Go for depth over breadth. Although the research study above did ask participants to keep a simple list, elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful apparently can carry more benefit than a simple shopping list. I’ve noticed this myself in my own gratitude journaling practice: if I spend time going into detail about something I feel grateful for, deeper feelings are generated than if I just jot down a quick one liner. One doesn’t always have the time to go into detail, however, so I imagine it’s important to simply generate the intention to be grateful.
- Reflect on what it would be like without something. Another way to connect with gratitude is to reflect on what it would be like without certain blessings. This makes me think of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” What if George hadn’t existed? What if today’s event had not happened? It also makes me think of the transitory nature of life. I am grateful for this moment, for you dear reader, for this day. And yet, it will never come again in this particular way. That too, is a type of absence. It certainly is an appreciation of the ending of things.
- Savour surprises. Capturing events that were unexpected or surprising are supposed to elicit stronger levels of gratitude. I like the idea of waking up in the morning and setting the intention of going to look for (pleasant) surprises.
- Don’t overdo it. There seems to be different research on whether it’s better to journal daily, a few times a week or weekly. According to one study done by the happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward whereas people who wrote three times per week didn’t.
… Sonja Lyubomirsky
2. ENVIRONMENT - Put "Eco" back in "Economics"
I was listening to a short video put out by David Suzuki, one of Canada’s venerable public broadcasters and environmentalists. He said something that struck me – something about how he’s seen the same kind of issues come forward as he saw 30 years ago. The meaning he’s made of this is that there has been a failure to “shift the frame or the way that we see the world, so the underlying root causes of our destructiveness haven’t been dealt with.”
He recognizes that change can happen over time and with awareness. He cites a movement where more than 110 nations around the world are recognizing their citizens right to live in a healthy environment as a fundamental human right - like the right to vote or freedom of speech.
The video suggests advocating that the right to a healthy environment be recognized by all levels of government, including the municipal level. There are three actions which would apparently fall from there:
- Stronger environmental laws
- Better enforcement of existing laws
- An end to having rights won now reversed in the future
Most interstingly, the video is suggesting that the change should happen at the smaller level first – that municipalities should lead the way with declarations for the right to a healthy environment, and that can act as an influence with provincial governments, and so on.
Here is the interview I referenced above.
For more information on the movement to entrench the right to a healthy environment into law, click here.
“My Prime Minister regards the economy as our highest priority and forgets that economics and ecology are derived from the same Greek word, oikos, meaning household or domain. Ecology is the study of home, while economics is its management. Ecologists try to define the conditions and principles that enable a species to survive and flourish. Yet in elevating the economy above those principles, we seem to think we are immune to the laws of nature. We have to put the ‘eco’ back into economics.”
… David Suzuki
3. NEGOTIATION - Tempered Radicals - Change from Within
“For me, ‘revolution’ simply means radical change.”
… Aung San Suu Kyi
I heard a lecture from someone recently who had been a leader in government for many years. He said, basically, that you need to set your own beliefs and values aside if they are different than the government you work for. There was a sense of being naive if you did anything else.
Days later, at another talk, a government employee spoke about how one can make more change than one realizes. A small example he used was creating briefing notes. He said that you can have a lot of influence by what information you choose to put into briefing notes. Soon after that, I heard someone say he’d given his boss three options to choose from. His boss chose the one this person wanted.
It strikes me that you can make about as much change as you think you can. On the one end, there is the person who believes you can’t effect any change, so you should get behind the dominant values of your group, organization or society. On the other end, are those who opt out and leave the system dissatisfied.
A third way is to affect change is from the inside - much as the second and third people above illustrated. There is a whole academic stream about how those who are effective at changing the system from within work. They’ve been labeled “tempered radicals” and studying what they do and how they do it is instructive for anyone inside a system and wanting to change it. I’ve come to believe every system needs some change and that it’s our duty to step up to the calling for change if we see a need for change. Since some studies show that the higher up you go in an organization, the less you are able to truly know what is going on, there is even more reason to pull up your socks and organize for change.
However, as Debra Meyerson says in her book Tempered Radicals – How People Use Differences to Inspire Change at Work, you do want to be invited back to the table. So, tempered radicals walk that fine line within organizations, of enacting some change, and playing by some of the rules.
Meyerson has been studying these tempered radicals within academia, government, healthcare and other organizations for 25 years. She has seen first-hand how these 'everyday leaders' stick to their values, assert their agendas, and provoke learning and change without jeopardizing their hard-won careers.
Here are 3 tips from Meyerson’s work:
- Get clear about what you want to achieve before acting. What are you really passionate about and wanting to create? What are the core values that are bedrock ones for you? That clarity can act as a compass for you, especially when you are not sure if you should act. If we come from a place of frustration agitating for change, we jeopardize our credibility – which is vital for influence. On the other hand, if we aren’t clear on what we want to achieve, it can be easy to let the opportunities to speak up go by. It’s normal to be afraid to risk so having a clear goal or value can motivate us to take that risk.
- See and act on opportunities for change within what might look like small every day threats, in things that look like problems. Meyerson is not advocating jumping on every change, and does emphasize being strategic in your choices in what you stand for. She uses the example of a female neurosurgeon in a male-dominated profession – which can look like a real problem. This particular surgeon has decided to wear lace socks with her green surgical garb. Meyerson also calls this “disruptive self-expression.” Meyerson does this herself when she starts her University classes with talking about her children to demonstrate that she is a whole person.
- Start with incremental “small wins” – projects that are doable, concrete and small enough to achieve. They can seem like isolated events, but consistently over time, they are not. That builds success and attracts allies. These allies are people you can build coalitions with in the future, coming together over particular change agendas. One example is a man who worked in a culture that expected constant commitment from its employees, including over personal time at home. Over a period of time, this employee asked not to be called at home between 6 and 8 pm. After a while, people stopped trying to reach him this way. After more time, others started adopting the same principle. It was a small win, but it also attracted others who wanted the same thing. Relatedly, Meyerson emphasizes that conversations, over a period of time, can also change the organization significantly – the DNA or culture of an organization.
Meyerson points out that wherever you are, even at an entry-level position, you are going to be in a place where you are interacting with people. She sees that people have choices to be tempered radicals “all the time”. She has come to see that people may not see them as choices, that if someone sees themselves as powerless, that they think they don’t have that choice, they won’t act. What she is trying to argue is that you always have that choice, and being an agent of change is “owning that choice.”
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training