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: December 17, 2013 - Year 11, Issue 12
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Hardwiring Happiness
Rick Hanson is one of my favourite neuropsychologist writers and he’s come out with a new book called Hardwired for Happiness.
He talks about many ways mental activities can change our brain. One of his main messages is that stress changes our brain and savouring our positive feelings and experiences can strengthen our brain.
If you want to feel more confident, for example, notice more (savour more) experiences of accomplishment.
If you want to have a more loving heart, practice more moments of compassion or kindness for others.
He explains that the brain is good at learning from bad experiences but not so good at learning from good experiences. He calls this the “Negativity Bias” – how our ancestors needed to pay a lot of attention to danger to survive. This translates in modern day to us noticing much more the negative than the positive. It’s why we need to give more positive affirmations to negative ones in relationships (as we tend to remember the negative ones, not the positive ones).
He goes on to say as “helpers” (whether that’s as a coach, mediator, therapist), we tend to be good at “activating” good feelings in the brain but not so good at “installing” them so they sink in.
One of Hanson’s favourite practices to help change the structure of the brain is what he calls “taking in the good.” This is the same idea as “savouring.”
An exercise he suggests is something we can do right now together:
I want to share with you a distinct experience of savouring I had last weekend at a Reiki retreat I attended. During a Reiki session, one of the two people working with me, held my hand. She actually took her two hands and covered my one hand – then asked her partner (the other person working with her during the treatment) to take my other hand.
- Bring to mind someone who you know cares about you – could be a pet, a person in your life now, a group of people, someone from your past. Doesn’t matter who – but just think of someone who makes you feel cared for. The idea is to help a memory become a feeling. Got it?
- Once you get it going – moving out of thought to feeling – stay with the feeling. Hanson says it needs to last long enough to move from short-term memory to long-term storage. You can sense absorbing it. Hold this for at least 10 to 20 seconds.
I’d like you to picture (and feel) what this must have been like for a moment. You are lying down in a comfortable position – a blanket over you. Two people you feel comfortable with are close by on either side of you. They are there simply to support you. To be present with you. The people, the place – the whole situation – feels safe.
Then feel one of those two people take your hand. The person takes his or her two hands and cups your hand. He or she is holding your whole hand with his/her two hands. Those two hands feel warm and comforting over your one hand.
Can you feel it? No one is around you right now to judge you! Just feel it!
Next, as you hold on to that feeling of one person holding your one hand, feel the other person pick up your other hand and do the same. Now you have these two lovely people – who are only there to want the best for you – holding each of your hands. You’ve got 4 hands holding your two!
Can you feel it?
That’s taking in the good!
"The cultivation of happiness is one of the most important skills anyone can ever learn.”
… Thich Nhat Hanh
2. ENVIRONMENT - The Degrowth Movement
I was listening to our national CBC radio recently, and heard about the Degrowth movement. Sounded interesting!
The Degrowth movement originated in southern Europe (in France and popular in Italy and Spain). It sees itself as challenging the commonly held socioeconomic model held in the West that perpetual economic growth is what we want and is good. Their aim is to spark public debate on whether infinite economic growth is possible or not.
This is very reminiscent to the Club of Rome report, published 40 years ago, on the Limits to Growth.
As Herman Daly (a professor for ecological economics at the University of Maryland and former World Bank manager) says:
“Growth is wrongfully seen as a panacea for all economic diseases.”
Daly is one of the masterminds of the Degrowth movement.
Mainstream economic theory is about growing. Growing our "Gross Domestic Product" - a measurement used by the World Bank to evaluate the health of countries. The fact that we have a mainstream economist as the political leader of our country in Canada should cause pause. Mainstream economists consider stopping growth as equal to stepping backwards. The thinking is that without economic growth unemployment would inevitably rise. And yet, there are others, such as "anti-economist" Hazel Henderson, who see growth as "market fundamentalism" (for an in-depth interview with this economic icon, click here).
There seems to be a conflict! it would appear we are still stuck in either/or thinking: Growth or Degrowth. As quoted on one website:
“Dualistically opposing degrowth and growth, movement and politics, social change and institutional change, technology and nature, the common market and the State, serves to do absolutely nothing…”
Is it possible to hold two ideas in our minds at the same time?
Can we look at our present economy – the one most of us exist in which requires continual growth in the use of resources and energy and at the same time consider whether this type of economy is sustainable?
Being able to hold these sometimes contradictory ideas in our minds at the same time is what we need to do to continue to dialogue.
“There is a new science of complexity which says that the link between cause and effect is increasingly difficult to trace; that change (planned or otherwise) unfolds in non-linear ways; that paradoxes and contradictions abound; and that creative solutions arise out of diversity, uncertainty and chaos.”
… Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan
3. NEGOTIATION - Punishment in the Workplace
When I am called in to help build more respectful workplaces – whether for coaching, mediating or training – one recuring theme is the desire for punishment.
In the workplace, a desire for punishment would probably not be said out loud. It’s unseemly somehow. Professionals don’t call for public floggings.
Yet, this paradigm of punishment is there just the same. Here’s one typical example:
A common challenge for managers is performance management. Whether it’s an employee who comes in chronically late, gossips, works slower than expectations, or sees the role differently than his or her boss. There are a myriad of ways a manager must give “feedback” to employees.
Most times, the supervisors and managers I speak with can only see two options. Either reprimand the employee (tell them what they did wrong - with consequences) or let it go (permit).
This is the dilemma that seems to play out for many at work – go for punishment or avoidance.
In a classroom, this dilemma looks more obvious. It’s the teacher who either wants to “call out” the student (shame them) or ignore the misbehaviour (and risk having an unruly classroom).
A useful concept to broaden the thinking of this either/or dilemma has been supplied by Ted Wachtel. His “Social Discipline Window” puts punishment into a larger context. Wachtel is the President and founder of the International Restorative Practices Institute – dedicated to studying restorative practices around the world.
His social discipline window adds the encouragement dimension which then shows four potential ways to approach a situation – instead of just two. Here is what they are:
- Neglectful – This approach is low on support and low on limit-setting. Not generally a great approach at work – but also the type of approach many managers are afraid of falling into. This is characterized as the “NOT” approach – not doing anything at all for the other. Plain old avoiding.
- Permissive – This approach is actually high on support, but low on limit-setting. This is the boss who gives a lot of good feelings out – but shies away from limit-setting. This is a doing “FOR” people approach, a type of enabling. People who do not punish others are also often labeled as permissive, though they may not be using that approach.
- Punitive – Without encouragement, setting limits is what we do “TO” people. It provokes shame and often retaliation of some sort. It uses language like “zero tolerance” and simplifies situations into black and white, either/or scenarios.
- Restorative – With a restorative practice, you set limits (give feedback) but in an encouraging frame. Wachtel characterizes this approach as the “WITH” approach – you do with the other.
This restorative "WITH" place is often somewhere managers can arrive at with some encouragement and accountability They may start off thinking they only have two options – to punish or to permit. But soon they see that if they can get themselves in a compassionate frame of mind towards the employee – even if it’s only the tiniest bit – they will get more impactful results.
Who doesn’t want to listen when we sense the other cares. Taking a supportive approach to limit setting makes for more engaged and motivated employees. Limit setting plus encouragement is a restorative approach.
For a poignant illustration of the power of Restorative Practice, check out this video.
“The ability to self–nurture and set effective limits is the root of human maturity, and the foundation for emotional, behavioural, and spiritual balance.”
… Laurel Mellin
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training