Truly Powerful People (420)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I spent the day in an organizational training designed to help people in office settings have difficult conversations. It is a formula, a training from a box, good for any context. It outlines specific communications steps to prevent emotion from overwhelming the conversation. An essential step is to distinguish between “fact” and “story.” The facilitator was excellent and guided us through exercises meant to help us separate our facts from our stories, our emotion from our intention. We practiced our skills in scripted role plays and wrestled with questions like, “I wonder how this would work in an actual crisis or when facing an angry co-worker?”

Our facilitator was very personable, relational, and taught through story and I wondered how I would experience the training with a less capable trainer. Although the information was useful in the abstract I couldn’t help but wonder if it was training from another time – something that had great application in an industrial world, a world where relationships are commodities, but might not be as useful in the age of story (information). It is predicated on a false premise: the processes are rational/sequential, grounded in acronyms and in a hot moment the rational mind leaves the building. It flees. It runs for the hills. The reptile brain is left to navigate the discomfort. The training is meant to make relationship efficient through application of formula (which negates relationship in the moment; the formula pulls focus from the person). It’s built on the premise of separation.

The previous day I had a lengthy discussion that, at least partially, was a pursuit of the intersection of art and science. I wondered when we separated these two disciplines. Leonardo would not have recognized the fence that we’ve erected between them. I suspect we tore them apart at the same time we separated head from heart, mind from spirit, and cast emotion and intuition into the closet.

At lunch Mark reminded me that EO Wilson has spent his life trying to bridge the gap between biology and the social sciences and both camps are firmly in resistance. I joked that the resistance comes from an obvious admission we’d have to make: that ant colonies are as complex as human colonies; no university-educated human wants to admit that an ant is his or her equal. After lunch I wondered if ants attended trainings to learn how to better work together in a hot situation but something tells me they have that one already figured out.

One Response

  1. It’s a balance, isn’t it. Formulaic doesn’t work, for it’s all head and takes the life out of it… yet if we don’t respond mindfully we really do make muck where there might have been an opportunity for respect and growth. Perhaps the practice is more one of growing awareness of one’s intention, so pure that we can trust that and know that the packaging will mirror our heart of connection. Thank you, David, for your (always!) clear insights and food for thought.

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