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 the light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: March 27, 2013 - Year 11, Issue 3
Table of Contents:
HEALTH - The Positivity Ratio
My colleague, Judy Zehr, is always finding interesting neuroscience-oriented books, tools, and practices to encourage more mindfulness, compassion, and health (see Judy’s website for her excellent newsletter).
Most recently, she’s been talking about Barbara Fredrickson – a researcher, psychologist and author who has studied positive emotions for the last two decades.
Positive emotions, Fredrickson tells us, include awe, love, joy, and gratitude. Her studies have uncovered a “Positivity Ratio” – the number of positive emotions to negative emotions that act as a “tipping point” towards health. That number is 3 positive emotions to 1 negative one.
Most people she says, come in at around 2 to 1 – and those that are depressed are at 1 to 1 or lower. John Gottman, a marriage researcher, has found couples need 5 positive comments to every 1 negative one to have a relationship flourish.
Fredrickson suggests we increase our positivity ratio – with two caveats:
1) Using the 3 to 1 Positivity Ratio does not mean eliminating negative emotions. She uses a sailboat metaphor to say that negative emotions are like the keel or bottom of a sailboat. It’s vitally necessary to ground us – and keep us afloat. At the same time, without the sail (and wind) – the boat wouldn’t go anywhere. So it’s not about denying the existence of the negative – it’s about the ratio.
2) Fredrickson emphasizes it’s also not about being indiscriminately positive. This is often insincere and can be disease provoking even (especially if we are being falsely “nice”). The positive emotions need to be heart-felt and genuine. The quality of the positive emotion can serve to open us and our hearts up.
So how do we increase positive emotions?
This is what I like the most about Fredrickson’s findings. The best way to ensure you are able to increase your Positivity Ratio is to be open, appreciative, curious, kind and real.
These practices lead to more positive emotions.
Fredrickson suggests the first practice of being open could be a motto because we are “surrounded by the small, subtle sources of goodness in the present moment.”
My daughter is traveling around Ireland at the moment, and I am newly reminded about this mindset – and how much joy we can see when we are open. Travel seems to open us easily as it brings us into the present moment.
Fredrickson also suggests we make it a nightly practice to reflect on where our sources of goodness and positive emotions came from that day. We could ask at the end of a day: When did I feel happy today? Or joyful, grateful, proud, serene, connected, in tune?
“We should be focusing on how we feel from day to day, not on how we can become happy with life in general. If you focus on day-to-day feelings, you end up building your resources and becoming your best version of yourself. Down the road, you’ll be happier with life. Rather than staring down happiness as our goal and asking ourselves, 'How do I get there?' we should be thinking about how to create positive emotions in the moment.”
… Barbara Fredrickson
ENVIRONMENT - Let's Buy a Farm!
A friend of mine recently sent around an email about a group of individuals who are coming together to buy a 153 acre farm in Sooke, BC, on Vancouver Island. They are wanting to buy the farm for local food production, to give opportunities to young farmers, and to preserve the farmland - diverting it from development.
I hope this story serves as inspiration for more such initiatives in the future.
Here’s how it works: This group found a farm in Sooke – an outlying area to the more urban (and expensive) centre of Victoria. They have formed a “land trust” – the Sooke Region Farmland Trust and put in an offer to purchase the farm for $1.6 million.
The offer was accepted!
But, they don’t have the money. So, they have created a social media campaign to raise the $35,000 down payment! I love this story! So I donated right on the spot!
If you love it too, think about donating today. It’s a vote for such a future. Here’s the link with their little video and to donate.
And if you hear of more farmland going up for sale – let me know!
“In union there is strength.”
NEGOTIATION - Making Someone the Bad Guy
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make someone else the “bad guy”?
My friend and colleague, Gary Harper, explores this at length in his workshops and in his book The Joy of Conflict. He talks about the tendency to create a victim, villain, and hero in every conflict situation. And – we are never the villain in in our own story!
I believe we all have a built-in tendency to make someone the bad guy - to unite "against" something – like an enemy. We have the tendency to unite “for” something as well – yet that one seems more easy for people to accept about themselves!
According to David Rock, a neuroscience researcher, whenever our brains perceive a threat to any of our five social needs (for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness), it triggers our amygdala to make us disengage through ‘fight-or-flight’ responses. That’s a built-in tendency that’s good to know about.
So - anyone who perceives a threat in their social environment – whether at work or at home – will experience this extreme physiological reaction – akin to facing a physical threat such as a predator or robber.
How do we engage that potential bias in all of us to unite against the other?
According to Ken Cloake, a seasoned mediator with a neuroscience interest, building empathy and chances to identify with the “bad guy” is the way to do that.
As he so eloquently explains:
“It is common for each side to label the other evil. Yet what is evil to one is often good to another, revealing that evil is present in miniature in every conflict. Evil sometimes originates in the attribution of blame to someone other than ourselves for harm that has befallen us, or the assumption that our pain was caused by our opponent's pernicious intentions. Blaming others for our suffering allows us to externalize our fears, vent our outrage, and punish our enemies, or coerce them into doing what we want against their wishes. It allows us to take what belongs to them, place our interests over, against, and above theirs, and ignore their allegations of our wrongdoing.
Evil is not initially a grand thing, but begins innocuously with a constriction of empathy and compassion, leading ultimately to an inability to find the other within the self. It proceeds by replacing empathy with antipathy, love with hate, trust with suspicion, and confidence with fear. Finally, it exalts these negative attitudes as virtues, allows them to emerge from hiding, punishes those who oppose them, and causes others to respond in ways that justify their use.
A potential for evil is thus created every time we draw a line that separates self from other within ourselves.”
Are there people you are judging, blaming, or turning into a “bad guy.” We all do it! If you can acknowledge that you are having that reaction, you create the opportunity to choose a different interpretation. Can you see how the other person is suffering too? Can you see the other within yourself? Let me know what you discover!
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training