Positive Self-Empowerment. Unit 2.
The formula of success that we can state at that point of our training sounds like: Be proactive + Win-Win + Synergize = New Creative Cooperation
It is essential to recall three steps in our personal evolution:
- How to grow from dependence into interdependence;
- How to leverage positive attitude (win-win approach);
- How to relate emotionally to others.
I will now deepen each of these points.
Become Interdependent and Responsible
To relate in a sane way to others, I must have built a sufficient amount of independence. Why? If I am fusioned with others, I lack the distance to have space and to give space for individuality. Therefore, our first step in personal evolution is to grow from dependency to independence to interdependence, thereby equally growing your response-ability (responsibility).
The topic of dependence, independence and interdependence is often overlooked in power training, and it’s a tricky matter.
My approach to the subject which grew during many years of personal and scientific work was first a maverick one, but now is shared by many professionals.
Initially it was something like an avant-garde position in the years during which I found the solutions to my personal problems through the methods I developed and that now are the core of my human skill training.
These days, human skill trainers tend to have some basic knowledge about these questions, whereas formerly these topics were the exclusive domain of psychiatrists and psychologists.
Stephen R. Covey, in his 7 Habits is very outspoken and clear about it. He states that success in relationships is impossible if we cannot make it from dependence to interdependence. The interesting point to note is that Dr. Covey, unlike many others, does not say we just have to develop independence, but well interdependence.
Indeed independence is the transition phase between dependence and interdependence. Let’s make the point what we are talking about here:
- Dependence: Fusioned with others
- Independence: Disconnected from others
- Interdependence: In flexible exchange with others
Fusion is extreme dependence. There are forms of living which require it. The human baby is indeed so dependent on the parents, especially the mother, that we talk about postnatal symbiosis. However, if things develop normally, this fusion or symbiosis should gradually take an end and develop into independence and autonomy. When this happens, later the adult will usually develop into natural synergy with others, and build the most creative form of relationship: interdependence.
However, many of us are stuck somewhere in this process of maturing, most often because the primary fusion with the parents was inhibited in some way or was emotionally charged with negative feelings; as a result, we carry into adulthood sequels of our primary fusion.
This means that there is in us a secret need for fusion with others. We try to get very close to others to a point that the borders between the You and the Me dissolve, or, if this is not possible, we tend to reject the other and feel abandoned or rejected ourselves.
Harmonious relationships are impossible when one or both partners of the relationship are stuck in dependency. This is valid for the private sphere, and especially marriage, but also for business relationships and our relationships with employers, employees and colleagues.
I can’t point out the complex details of this matter here. What we can do is to retrace the way that our development should take. Please be assured that most of what has not been done during our younger years can be done later. There is no limit to learning. We can push our evolution at every point on our life’s timeline. It does not mean that we have to get back into the past in order to do it. In evolutionary terms, all is always present!
The work that I propose you to do in order to solve pseudosymbiotic bonds is to start with observing your self-talk, giving others freedom in positive prayers and visualizing yourself having nurturant relationships that are mutually respectful. Gradually the old fixations will vanish. This can be done without formal therapy. The only thing that is important to maintain is a serious and honest attitude toward yourself and others.
The second point is to analyze the moments when you get into power-struggles. Power-struggles are futile discussions, one-to-one or group interactions where you or the other person more or less consciously try to overpower each other, while each of you attempt to increase self-power to the detriment of the other’s self-power.
This is something so common in our times that most of us are totally unaware of it. We often feel exhausted or insecure after such kind of interactions. We may also feel anxious and uneasy. Either we feel hurt or uneasy because we hurt another and want to apologize. What is the missing piece in these relationships? Peace.
And power struggles inhibit personal growth.
They often cause relationships to stagnate or break off. They destroy trust. They affect negatively our emotions. They trigger psychosomatic disease such as ulcer, cancer or deep depressions. And this both in our personal or our professional relationships. Awareness of the problem leads, if we are responsible at all, to immediate and total action. This action consists in the following:
- avoid power struggles at any price;
- play the superior part in offering support for understanding;
- act proactively to build trust and security all around you;
- help the other who is stuck to overcome negative emotions.
Before I will deepen each of these points, I would like to recall how strongly Dr. Covey emphasizes in his 7 Habits the necessity to work on responsibility which he called, very creatively, response-ability.
Our ability to respond to others is dependent on our degree of personal evolution, our freedom from getting stuck in power struggles. The more we are dependent, the more easily we react. The more we are free and interdependent, the more we proact. Proacting means that we have some kind of inner space for reaction. This space gets larger and larger the more we have developed creative acting in relationships.
Human beings display various responses to events or circumstances and tend to behave in unpredictable ways under emotional stress. However, we possess the inner freedom to respond consciously instead of being driven by our emotions. We do not need to follow instinct like an animal. We are not conditioned to this point. Although we are conditioned in some ways we’ve got the conscious power to change this conditioning so that it’s more in harmony with the universal laws which are also the laws of success.
The necessity to avoid power struggles is vital.
Relationships in which there is power struggle can’t develop into a level of high synergy where the energies of all partners merge into an x-times higher form of power which will produce new and astonishing results. It is absolutely essential if we want to develop effective teams that we previously deal with the issue of power struggles.
In my work with groups I have seen that inherent power struggles are the one and major point why teams fail, why groups cannot develop creative team activity, which I call Createamity.
If there is only one person in the team who is out to control the others, the whole group will suffer from it, except of course a group that has consciously developed the delicate control issues and solved it. It will react proactively toward the disturber and give him or her the chance for positive evolution helping to identify that person’s control problem.
If the person does not want to change over a set period of time, the team will dismiss the person because of the destructive impulses that risk to endanger the synergy of the group as a whole.
Being proactive means to play a superior role on the stage of personal interaction. It means to offer support through empathic communication, understanding and clarity on words. This does not mean to always play the ambassador. At times it is more appropriate to put things straight and take the masks away. However, it should be done in an empathic way so as to respect the other’s vulnerability and self-esteem.
Having someone losing face is by no means appropriate to help that person develop their communication or relationship skills. So all depends on the way we handle the problem. In relationships we have to observe the rules of tact and the usual conventions. To be honest and clear does not mean to act counter to those conventions or to be tactless.
When we empathically relate to others, from our heart level and not only from our intellect, we establish a level of emotional security in the relationship that creates the pathway to treat even the most delicate issues.
If this security, this trust has not been built up, it’s not possible to deal with such issues without endangering the relationship as a whole.
Helping others to overcome dependency is not easy.
It namely requires that we previously have dealt with these problems ourselves, that we have identified our hang-ups and found creative solutions to them. It means we must have done our homework.
Build Personal Vision
This is now the place to practice your personal version of what I use to call your personal vision. It can be exciting to formulate a personal vision together with your colleagues, so that the personal vision becomes a collective vision, a group vision, or the vision of a creatively interacting team.
Out of this vision company or corporate visions are born, which are the guidelines for the successful running of even the largest companies and organizations. This is valid for private business and governmental organizations alike.
The secret of success always is to let participate everyone in the formulation of the company’s or the organization’s future. Solutions that have been worked out synergistically are carried on the shoulders of everyone who comes to work in the morning. This means that everyone will feel greatly involved and really contribute to the common good of the whole organism, instead of only thinking of his or her personal profit.
Now we will work here exclusively on your personal vision, because this practice is the foundation of any work on vision in the group.
When you do not know what your personal vision is, it will be hard for you to really integrate in an organism without feeling dissolved in it. In every process of integration into a collective body such as a group or organization there is a functional dialectic to observe. There are forces in group dynamics that drive us out of our center, or de-personalize us. Integration in a group is something like creative adaptation. This is not total adaptation where the personal characteristics disappear. If this happens, the group or organization would be qualified as totalitarian.
In a democratic organization the individual is given a creative space in which to operate. More this space is used by the members of the organization, more the organization will benefit and become successful, be it financially, be it in terms of power and social influence and standing.
Now it may become clear that individuals who have a firm inner value system in place, a strong character and yet flexibility and friendliness towards others and, first of all, integrity and loyalty towards the common good, will advance very quickly to the top of the organization. Why? Simply because the top precisely needs persons with such qualities, for to lead groups of people it’s these qualities that are required. They are the true leadership characteristics, much more important than outside skills such as time management or keeping a daily or weekly agenda.
The challenge of this part of our training is to learn how to not only have a positive attitude and practice the principle of win-win, but also to leverage these skills down in the hierarchy of your company so that many people can benefit from them.
Let me first recall what I mean when I talk about a positive attitude and a win-win approach in relationships.
Much has been written about positive thought and a positive approach to life. Let me simply state it that way: A positive attitude is a creative attitude in the sense that the status quo is not perceived as un-changing or stagnant, but as a forum of evolution.
A positive attitude is to see the glass which is half filled with water as a half glass of water. A negative attitude sees the same glass as a glass that is half empty. That’s the basic difference.
It’s the way we look at life, the way we evaluate life. Behind our evaluation there is an inner scale on which we measure. This inner measure is our attitude that per se is either positive or negative or else is something in between the two extremes. You may have observed that human beings are very different in this respect. In general, in this world and in our times, there are many more negative than positive people.
We already have dealt with how to change our inner script. Therefore I will concentrate now on the question of how to leverage a positive attitude, a win-win approach toward others. This namely depends on how we are communicating our inner values to others. We do this all the time, but few of us do it consciously.
The first step is the firm intention to irradiate positive values at the outside level. We must have built up a sufficiently high amount of self-esteem and inner conviction in the validity of our inner orientation. In recognizing our difference and building a profound respect for life and other beings, we can get there.
There are three practical steps as to how to communicate inner strength and values to others:
- Read your vision statement once or twice every day;
- Practice active and uncompromising forgiveness;
- Search always for synergy with others, despite differences.
With regard to formulating your personal vision statement, I usually work this out together with the top team of an organization, and also on the department head level. It’s something very practical and difficult to convey by writing. If you need guidance with that, choose any of the thousands of manuals written on the subject, and try to not lose your sight of the forest because there are so many trees. In other words, I would suggest you to use your intuition to do this vision statement, without instruction, all by yourself. Then, when you got the first draft, work on it every day, for one week, until you are satisfied. That’s the best way to do it, if you ask me.
Practicing forgiveness is essential, not only for those among us who read the scriptures and apply them in our lives. You are free to believe or not, but you can’t alter universal laws. There is a law that says when you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. However, if you forgive you’ll be forgiven.
How to search for synergy? First by recognizing differences. I am different from you because I live in the world of my own mind’s creation. You too. We all do. Recognizing that fact opens the door to truthful communication which is based on that difference between us and, essentially, on respect.
The second step after recognizing differences is to practice humility which means to be tolerant and to respect all-that-is. In you and in me. If I can accept your difference, I can accept mine. And vice versa.
Now the third step after respecting another is even more proactive. It’s to search a fusion of our energies in carrying out a desired common goal, be it personal or in business or a humanitarian goal or whatever goal that we would like to achieve together. It’s to have that basic willingness to look beyond the wall of our differences and to see where the points are that deeply link us and where we can walk on in order to achieve that goal. This is synergy, to walk together on one path, toward that goal.
Now I don’t say we must achieve synergy. Because it’s the action of more than one, at least two people. So if the other really and deeply refuses it, it’s their freedom to do so. Therefore I say search for synergy, try to achieve it by communicating your openness and desire for synergy to the other. It’s an option, a proposal.
But you will be astonished in how many cases such a sincere proposal will be accepted and take fruits! And in how many cases it will remove mistrust, in how many cases it will dissolve resentment, in how many cases it will open the door to a true win-win agreement.
Empathy and Commitment
Empathy and commitment are essential characteristics of successful and highly effective people. Why? It may not be obvious on first sight why we should experience the feelings of another, to paraphrase the description of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or why we should feel committed not only to our own cause but also to the cause of another.
em•pa•thy n : the experiencing as one’s own of the feelings of another;also : the capacity for this — em•path•ic adj
© 1995 Zane Publishing, Inc. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Please be aware that I am not talking about a mere tactics to impress others. I am not talking about faking those qualities. If we do that, we can be sure that it won’t work.
Dr. Covey, in The 7 Habits speaks about the differences between the Character Ethics and the Personality Ethics. The latter was the predominant management teaching method in the 1960s and ‘70s. It can be called the era of quick-fixes. There were (and still are) thousands of books and booklets on the market that basically say: If you only follow this method, you will achieve this, you will have success with that, and so on.
As a general rule, these books don’t say that you have to be honest and really mean what you practice, that you have to live by the values you practice, that you should walk your talk. They just pretend that if you do A, you will get B.
However, it’s not that simple. We are taken for what we stand for, and what we communicate on an underlying level, namely through our body language, through our daily attitude, through many little details in our behavior, our character setup, our way to relate and to organize. We constantly project inner values outside and they are reflected in others who respond to them, often without really identifying consciously what they are responding to. Our environment and other people do respond to our projections.
This is what Dr. Covey calls the Character Ethics. If our ethics and the way we live by it reflects our character and inner values, it’s not a superficial thing, but a deep and rich inner experience that we project and that others perceive. Therefore, if we want it or not, we always also enter into an emotional relationship with other people, and as a result, there is always a basics for empathy.
Being empathic and committed means that we speak with our heart, that our heart is open and receptive, that we are human and want to be and remain human. It is namely not the attitude of the righteous perfectionist who says I know what I do is always right, now what do you want?
It’s more like Let’s see if there is some basis of human understanding between us. We may feel in many ways the same or there may be common values that we share. Let’s communicate about that and see if we can find some basic agreement on that before we continue.
This is basically the way to achieve synergy. It is by —
- Taking the first step and opening up (being pro-active);
- Putting ourselves and others on an equal level (win-win);
- Communicating through our basic inner values and our heart.
Furthermore, commitment means to be careful with promises in order to cherish the emotional bond and the trust level that has been built up in the relationship. It means to either carry out what was promised, or better not to promise anything.
With this step, we are at the end of Unit 2 and ready to engage in the details of communication training.
Find out more in my new book ‘Servant Leadership: A Guide for Aspiring Young Leaders (2015).’