Archive for the ‘State Management’ Category
I received an e-mail today from Tom O’Connor. In it, he mentions research by Shawn Achor, a researcher of happiness. Mr. Achor says that, to be happy, we need only do the following five things every day:
- Write down three things you’re grateful for
- Write about one positive experience you had over the last twenty-four hours
- Do some form of exercise
- Do one “random act of kindness” for someone else
I wonder if it’s really so simple. Let’s find out.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about an article I read on President Bill Clinton’s charisma and someone’s attempt to model a bit of it. I also mentioned that I’d be playing with it. I thought I’d update here.
According to the original article, there are three things Bill Clinton does that make people feel as if a “reality distortion field” has wrapped around them:
- Eye contact;
- Judicious manipulation of interpersonal space; and
- Focused attention.
I’m pretty good at the second one, though there are a couple of aspects of it that I could improve. It isn’t so much the actual space, but the way the other person perceives it. There are things one can do to make interpersonal space seem smaller or larger without actually moving toward or away from the other person. I think that’s an interesting idea. I’ll play with that last.
The third one? I’m horrible at it. Nearly 25 years of security and Emergency Medical Services work have required me to habitually cast my attentiveness as wide as I can. It looks like I’m easily distracted, especially in unfamiliar places. I’m really not, but there’s no way someone talking to me can tell that. I’ll play with that next.
What I’m playing with now is eye contact. I’ve always been really bad with it. When I lock eyes with someone, I get the same feeling I get when I look into someone’s living room window. Sure, if the curtains are open, you can’t help but notice it in passing, But to really look? It feels invasive to me. Like I’m violating someone’s privacy.
Irrational, I know. I’m hoping to find someone who can offer me a better way to think about what I’m doing. In the meantime, I’ve been doing it anyway. Looking into people’s eyes and keeping it.
Two things have surprised me.
The way other people respond to it is a surprise. Most of them genuinely don’t mind, and some of the rest really seem to appreciate it. Those who (apparently) feel like I do simply look away quickly, but they don’t seem offended.
Many of the first group suddenly find me a better conversationalist. Not that I say anything. They do a lot more talking to me. I guess if I appear fascinated, they must assume they’re fascinating… which does make sense. A number of people have found it difficult to go on about their business. One deliciously beautiful woman actually accused me of preventing her from leaving.
The other surprise was my own internal responses. Absolutely nothing bad has happened, and sometimes I feel surprised at that. On occasion, when I lock eyes with someone and they look away quickly, I feel a small, but primal, sense of power that I’m not at all happy about in retrospect. With many, I really am a better listener; I want to listen, I actually crave it. And the most unusual response of all: one particularly blue pair of eyes actually fascinated me… and I mean that in the original sense of the word: “to cast a spell which renders one unable to move.” I have studied hypnosis long enough to be able to break that “spell,” but for the few seconds that I was there, I went meta to it and wondered how something like that could happen to a grown man.
I learned, as well, that there are times when I need to not make or hold eye contact.
In a restaurant, for example, no matter which staff member I looked at, they stopped what they were doing and asked what they could do for me. I was actually interrupting them without meaning to. Not polite.
I spoke with the CEO of the hospital for which I work a couple of days ago, and I intentionally did not lock eyes with him. I won’t tell you the circumstances (no, I wasn’t in trouble; far from it) but somehow I felt it wasn’t appropriate at the time. He’s the type of guy that I could connect with that way if the context were different, though.
Tonight, I made eye contact with a co-worker, and I quickly broke it. I believed that if I held it, he’d ask me what the heck I was doing. I didn’t feel like explaining because I was ready to go home. You know how it is.
It’s been interesting and pleasant so far, and I think it’ll continue to be.
If you have a good, strong belief that allows you to make and hold eye contact comfortably, would you mind sharing it with me in the comments? I’d appreciate it.
Bill’s, not Hillary’s. Um… obviously.
I wasn’t a fan of Bill. But there’s something to the fact that I feel comfortable calling him “Bill” in my own mind. I don’t think of any other President by their first name. His personal power is undeniable. And Michael Ellsberg has been studying it:
“I have a friend who has always despised Bill Clinton,” a person at a cocktail party told me during the time I was writing my book […]. “Yet, somehow my friend found himself at a function that Bill Clinton was attending. And, within the swirl of the crowd, he was introduced to Clinton.”
“In that moment, face-to-face, all of my friend’s personal animosity towards Clinton disappeared, in one instant,” my new acquaintance at the party continued. “As they were shaking hands, Clinton…”
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a charismatic guy; I’ve actually taught myself to not be, though I didn’t realize I have been doing so. Ellsberg’s three-step model looks like it’d be very powerful to me. I’m going to play with it.
Note: I searched for a while for a candid image of Bill Clinton looking at the camera. I found only one, and it was unflattering. Isn’t that weird?
Eyes for Lies points to a sweet video by Dr. David Matsumoto, “Characteristics of Basic Emotions”. In it, Dr. Matsumoto explains the differences between the seven “basic” or “universal” emotions and the rest.
I recently got ahold of Jonathan Altfeld’s “Automatic ‘Yes'” CD set, the subject of which is the powerful skill called “state chaining”. (I won’t define or describe it here. Hit the link for a full description of the course, and buy your copy before the special sale ends.) I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to the basics of Jonathan’s approach in the Master Practitioner training he co-trained with Doug O’Brien a little while back, and it was something I wanted to play with and get better at doing. Before the end of the training, I realized I’d been doing it in certain contexts all along, in shorter chains, and I hadn’t realized it.
Listening to the CDs reminded me that I’d never really spelled out how I think about how I do it, so I resolved to put it here. I’ll start with one particular aspect: how to shift someone from a high-energy unresourceful state, such as anger, to something a little more flexible.
Many years ago, I was an Emergency Medical Technician working for a private ambulance company, and I was stationed at a state psychiatric hospital. I happened to walk in on a training they were having for their nurses and technicians: Bruce Chapman’s Handle With Care Behavior Management System. I was immediately captivated by Master Bruce’s teaching style and his philosophy. I arranged to take the training for myself. What I’m about to share here is roughly based on something I learned in that class and in much subsequent reading of Chinese philosophical work such as the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Here we have the Tai Chi Tu, commonly known as the “Yin/Yang symbol”. This is the Taoist in-a-nutshell representation of the way the universe works. You’ve seen it many times, no doubt, but I imagine nobody’s really explained it. I’ll give it a shot.
First, you’ll notice that it’s a circle. No beginning, no end. Now, pick a spot, either at the top or the bottom, where either the black or the white is almost non-existent. Moving clockwise, you’ll see that the color you chose increases while its opposite color decreases… and that as soon as it gets to the point where it can’t hold any more, you’ll see that the opposite color starts to kick in, PLUS, there’s a little “seed” of the opposite color contained in the fullest part of the swell.
Now, I can’t find the citation at the moment, but there’s an old saying that hard winds don’t blow all morning and heavy rains don’t last all day. Physics tells us that energy constantly changes form. Biology tells us that we change or we go extinct. It isn’t just that change always happens; it’s that it must happen. So when I’m in front of an angry person, I know I don’t have to do anything at all to get them to stop being angry. All I have to do is get rapport, pay close attention to when their angry state changes to another state, catch the transition point, and steer it to where I want it to go. The best part is, if I can figure out what the “seed” of the next state is, knowing that it’s already there, I can speak to it… drawing attention, and therefore the other person’s energy, toward it… making sure that it really is what’s next.
Anger, and most other high-energy emotional states, cannot last long. It’s physically impossible to maintain it. It costs too much. Anyone who claims they’ve been angry about something for years and years… they aren’t angry. They may be bitter, but they aren’t angry. Anger is a flash, not a smoulder. (This is one of the ways the psych nurses know when someone is faking a condition, and why we keep people for observation for up to 72 hours.)
Jonathan suggests in the Automatic “Yes” CDs that, to move someone out of a high-energy unresourceful state, we should turn it up rather than try to turn it down. I agree. Several times I’ve been called to the psychiatric unit where I work because a patient is scaring the staff and the other patients despite the fact that he isn’t actually doing anything. He’s got a clenched jaw, closed fists, and knitted brow, and he’s pacing, and he’s been doing it all day. When I respond, all I do is engage the guy in some sort of conversation and then do something that I think will annoy him. Not anger him; just irritate him. It adds energy to his stuck state, and then he has to choose which side of the fence he’s going to crawl off on. Is he going to start throwing things and kicking walls and cursing, or is he going to start talking? As soon as he gets to the decision point, I lead him to the state I want him to have. Usually I just tell him what it is: “It’s gotta be frustrating,” I say, or “I’d be scared too if I were in your place.” Sometimes I offer a path to follow instead: “You just have to wonder what’s going on, but the more questions you ask the more answers you get.”
(Of course, I’m ready if he decides to go the other way, too. It’s never actually happened, but if it does, at least he’ll have resolved his stuck state and can work from there.)
I can take these more energetic states and ride/drive them to something a little more useful for the other person and a lot safer for those around them. Which is, essentially, what state chaining is about.
I strongly recommend Jonathan’s “Automatic ‘Yes'” CD set to you and to anyone else who wants to take their social skills to the next level. And I want to thank him publicly for helping me to think more clearly about one of the things I’ve been doing without realizing it.
The US Federal Trade Commission requires that I add: While Jonathan did ask me for a product review, it should also be noted that I bought my copy of this audio program directly from his Web site, and that my recommendation is not a form of payment for the product.
We’re often asked to help someone who has a painful memory. Whether it’s a phobic response, grief, post-traumatic stress, or what-have-you, NLP gives us the tools we need to help.
Sometimes, though, I question whether or not we should. I see value in grief, myself, and believe it should be left alone unless it’s crippling. According to my CISM trainer, post-traumatic stress should be left alone too, at least for the first 24 hours, to give the client’s own coping abilities time to work. And as I mentioned in this thread on NLP Connections, I believe altering or eliminating the memory of a painful event could have negative effect in and of itself, by preventing the client from learning from the event.
I actually learned this from a client, a good friend of mine. She had been sexually abused as a child, and had a phobic response whenever someone patted their thigh in a “come sit on my lap” sense. She’d talk about it, and every time I’d offer to help her with it, she’d refuse. She was wise enough to know she wasn’t done with it, and knowing she could have my help with it gave her the strength to face it on her own, as much as she could, drawing knowledge and wisdom from the event. This went on for many months. When she finally gave me permission to help, it took all of fifteen minutes. (I can’t tell you how gratifying it was when, a couple of days later, she came over to me and sat on my lap.)
Anyway, today on the Freakonomics Blog, author Steven Levitt wrote:
My son Andrew died exactly ten years ago today, October 23, 1999, nine days after his first birthday. No one would describe me as emotional. And yet the wound still remains remarkably raw.
I say there’s nothing wrong with that.
Please read the rest of the article: Naming the Child
The title of his article is taken from the book of the same name, which he recommends. It looks quite compelling. (If you choose to buy the book, please go ahead and follow the amazon referral link from his article, rather than the one here.)
All I’m suggesting is that we, perhaps, consider ecology before we do anything like this. We humans evolved with the ability to feel fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, and the like, and there’s an evolutionary advantage to them. Let’s not just toss them away.
From The Quotations Page comes one of the most powerful ideas I’ve found for anyone interested in self-improvement:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung, Swiss psychologist (1875 – 1961)
This is something I’ve used for years to explore my own psyche.
Go take a look at this picture on Cute Overload. Make sure you read the caption underneath it. Go on. I’ll wait.
Welcome back. How are you feeling?
I thought it was hilarious. Keep in mind that I love cats, especially calicos, and especially kittens. Humor is thought to be a tension release, and that pic really inspires tension in a guy like me. So when I read the caption, I laughed.
Now go back and read the comments. Well over a hundred people who didn’t get it had to announce their didn’t-get-it-ness to the world. The comments on CO almost always suck (though at least it has comments, which most of my articles don’t) but the ones on that page suck differently. Self-righteously. As if their state is the blog’s fault.
I’ve long loved Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War. It’s a book on conflict resolution, not specific to war, and I’ve learned and used a great deal of its wisdom in my work.
Today I read an article by blogger Anil Polat at the foXnoMad blog, a blog about travel. Apparently, dealing with difficult airline ticket agents is an art form, and Mr. Polat has used Sun Tzu’s work to increse his own success:
Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, written more than 2,000 years ago is one of the world’s most famous books on strategy. While Tzu was writing for generals in the army, the fundamentals of his wisdom can help you overcome even the most stubborn airline representative.
I enjoyed the article tremendously, recognizing my approach with angry customers in it.
Read the full article, Use Sun Tzu’s The Art of War To Win Battles At The Ticket Counter, at the foXnoMad blog.
Here’s Lionel Giles’ translation of The Art of War at the Internet Classics Archive. (Free, but not prettily formatted.)
Here’s Thomas Cleary’s translation at amazon.com. (If you want to buy it, though, I encourage you to get it by way of the link in Mr. Polat’s article, so as to thank him for writing it.)
“You know what they call me?” he asked, a little too loudly.
I’d been keeping an eye on him for a little while, off and on, because he was Italian. Some of the staff, for all of their intelligence, don’t know how to handle it when a guy whose parents came over from Italy starts acting normal. “Normal” for an Italian guy is to talk loudly and rapidly, wave his hands about, and get “uncomfortably” close, and on rare occasion I’ll get a call about a guy “getting in my face and yelling and making threatening gestures”. It’s kind of funny, I think.
I had no trouble connecting with him, and he was free with his verbal affection for me. To top it off, he was intoxicated and getting “up there in years”. A little earlier, he’d mentioned that his father died at age 90; not too long after, he mentioned, in a little too offhanded way, that he himself was 89. So I’m thinking that he’s thinking about how he’s probably going to die soon.
Anyway, so he asked me if I knew what they call him, and I said, “No, what do they call you?”
“They call me Wagon Wheel.”
I thought that an odd nickname. “Wagon wheel?”
“Yeah, Wagon Wheel.”
That’s odd,” I said.
“Yeah”, he added. “Wanna know why they call me Wagon Wheel?”
“It’s cuz I been through a lotta shit!”
I tore myself away and went to take care of other business, but I stopped in and checked on him a couple of times. When it came time to let him go home, he said, “Hey… are you going to remember anything? Have I given you anything?” It really mattered to him.
“Yeah, you bet. I’m gonna remember “Wagon Wheel”.
“You a wagon wheel? You been through a lotta shit?”
“Sure,” I said, “I been through a lotta shit. They could call me Wagon Wheel too.”
“Well, then, remember this,” he said. “There’s four wheels on a wagon. Three other wheels been through the same shit as you.”
If he was worried about leaving a legacy, he can stop after that.