R is for Resistance
I’m experiencing resistance to writing this blog. I feel angry, frustrated and distracted by, well … It’s more that I’m allowing myself to get distracted; that way I can avoid being with what I don’t want to be with.
You might be asking – as I would, if I were you, why I’m resisting writing if I’m in the business of writing?
Even though I enjoy writing, it’s challenging at times to put words and sentences together in a way that articulates what I’m wanting to say. Sometimes it comes easy and every so often it’s more challenging to get down on paper exactly what’s wanting to be said. In this moment I’m trying to make sense of the idea that resistance is an important concept to bring into this series on spirituality in business. I’m an intuitive writer and sometimes I’m not the thinker here. I’m just transcribing what’s coming through me. I know that sounds a little whacked, however I find that this way of writing is far more enjoyable, revealing and insightful. The point is that sometimes I have to deal with confusion, uncertainty, doubt, and on occasion feelings of being an inadequate loser. I resist having to confront these beliefs about myself; I’d rather go do something easy and fun, where I don’t feel vulnerable to humiliation.
I guess this is the point, isn’t it. That quite often there are aspects of our work that we resist because we don’t like being engaged in those activities that challenge us. We get bugged by people, places or things and put the brakes on, dig in our heels, avoid, distract or ignore what’s in front of us in service to resistance, which is in service to avoiding the discomfort of vulnerability.
Resistance at Work
My work in corporations brings me face to face with people resisting the very work they are paid to do. I’m stymied by the degree of resistance to do what individuals are hired to do; the lack of collaboration that they agreed to, the lack of leadership and management they were trained to do. People are resisting doing what they’ve come here to do. I find that fascinating!
For many, the rules of the game in any organization are unknown, so you have to play your best poker face, your best everything, always – if you want to get ahead, get that raise or praise. You have to resist direct confrontation or insults; you might resist sexual innuendos. You have to resist getting fired and some people resist getting promoted, but they can’t say that – it’s not politically correct.
One specific manager I’ve worked with in the Silicon Valley was threatened by anyone who showed any inkling of being smarter than he was. He had many opportunities to empower his team members in ways that would enhance their performance, however because of his belief that no one could think better than him, he resisted acknowledging and encouraging his direct reports. Many of his direct reports shared with me that they were frustrated and felt limited in their capacity to do their work. The morale of the whole team was diminished because this manager was afraid that someone might outdo him.
This isn’t uncommon – we all know that. Resistance runs rampant in every institution, enough so that we are resistant to calling this game to a halt. There is something at stake! That something is precious enough that we don’t want to give it up. That something has a big price tag on it. Actually it has two price tags on it. One is the sale price – this is the price tag is what you are selling your soul for (Gag me with a spoon!). This price tag reflects the selling of our integrity, our truth, fulfillment, for the sake of power, position, control – and as always the illusion of invulnerability.
Resistance, as a Muscle
Resistance is an interesting set of muscles that we exercise in service to developing strength, control and power. It’s also a survival mechanism we’ve developed over time, and quite often, like many of our survival mechanisms it becomes automatic and unconscious. We’ve become unaware of why we are engaging those specific muscles in the first place. But a point that I want to make here is that we have no idea how much energy it takes to resist. It’s something you might want to think about.
Resistance looks different for everyone, but what’s important is for you to discover, recognize and acknowledge your own particular style of resistance. Like I said, we are all doing it; it’s just a matter of how and to what end.
As the Paradigm Shifts…
As the paradigm shifts we awaken slowly but surely to our own unique contributions to the way life is, as opposed to the way we desire it to be. We see where we resist shifting and changing as an attempt to hold on to what we’ve got, though what we’ve got isn’t necessarily what we want.
Sometimes the practice is to resist resisting; go with the flow, ride with the tide! But first you/we have to become aware that we are resisting and what that resistance is serving.
You may have heard me suggest this practice before, however here it is again. It’s the simplest practice: Be Kind! Kindness costs nothing, takes no time and contributes greatly to peace on Earth. By practicing kindness you will come up against resistance to being kind. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for where you can begin to question the value of resisting. In this moment you are at a choice-point where you can choose to choose differently. In this moment the opportunity to self-realize is upon you, and with that comes the opportunity to be the change you wish to see.
Enjoy the adventure!
Ask Dr. Rosie: Can I Get a Witness?
“I don’t want you to fix anything! I just want you to listen”
How many times have you said this, or had this line said to you? Or, have you ever said this to someone, or had it said to you?
“This isn’t about you! This is about me – stop making it about YOU!”
And, one more. . .
“You are talking but you aren’t talking to me! I feel like I could walk away and you wouldn’t even notice.”
Ah! Listening and speaking, communicating, connecting. . . . What the heck are we up to? From these few examples above, it really gives you something to wonder about.
For me, listening is a gift. It is not given for personal gain. It is given from the heart. As a gift, listening brings full intention to the present moment allowing all parties to be fully engaged and connected.
The sharing of thoughts and feeling through speaking is also a gift. Every time we speak we share the essence of our being, our experiences, and, at the same time we make ourselves vulnerability to potential judgment and rejection. Too often, though we aren’t conscious of our intention of our sharing, and most of the time we are wanting some personal gain. Think about it. What is it like to be in conversation with people who are talking or listening to you in order to get something for themselves, something they aren’t asking for directly? For me, it kind of feels yucky, as though I’m being used.
Ask yourself – What’s my intention for listening to this person? What am I listening for? Does my listening elicit trust? Am I listening for opportunities to talk about myself? Many of us listen in order to connect and to witness; and we listen in order to give feedback, advice or counsel. We also listen to gain information. Being intentional about your listening can make a huge shift in how people speak to you.
Rarely do we truly give ourselves through listening. That’s probably why so many people hire therapists, counselors, coaches, consultants and ministers. We want to have the experience of being witness in a way that makes us feel like we matter; even for just an hour a week! Sometime we want feedback or advice but most often, I believe, what all of us are wanting through our listening and speaking is a way to engage with another in order to feel like we matter.
How We Learn Our Unique Style of Speaking and Listening?
If you look at what it was like to be you in your family, at school, maybe in social gatherings, you’ll begin to see how you came to choose your specific style of speaking and listening. Maybe you had to keep talking and talking and talking, otherwise you’d be ignored. Maybe because someone else did all the talking you learned to tune out and stopped listening altogether. We learn to speak and listen based on our interpretations of the environment we live and work in. We check out the situation and make choices based on what’s going to best serve us.
Along time ago, when I was a little kid, the sixth child of nine, I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise. When I did speak I would tell stories I thought were funny, but people only laughed at me, not with me. I wasn’t taken seriously, and well, no one really cared what I had to say.
Early on I experienced the loneliness of not being seen or heard. In high school, though I was somewhat popular I still felt invisible on the inside. I came to decide that I had nothing to say that was of any interest to anyone, and so to a large degree I stopped talking. I stopped having thoughts and opinions or stories to share.
I also came to decide that there are a lot of people like me who don’t have any one who’s interested in listening to them either. I decided that I wanted to provide what wasn’t provided for me. I learned to be a good listener. I learned to be curious and fascinated with each person’s unique story and the wisdom they’ve gained through their experience. I loved being told that I was a good listener and I felt fulfilled that I was filling a void in other people’s lives.
All of that obviously led me to be doing the work I do and have been doing for the past thirty years as a therapist, spiritual guide and life and business coach. And, even through my profession I rarely speak more than what’s required to engage others in the dialog or discussion.
I believe my level of mastery as a coach, facilitator and trainer came from my background, learning to say little and to focus on engaging others in speaking their wisdom and experience. I find that most people know what I have to tell them anyway, so rather than boring them I’ll engage them in a dialog that empowers them to access their own wisdom, their expertise and also the essence of their being. They feel seen, witnessed and acknowledged. To some degree my personal gain is that I get to live vicariously through their experience, and at the same time, enjoy the fruits of my labor. I feel fulfilled doing the work I love to do.
The bottom line is that when I’m curious and interested enough to let people talk they’ll provide the majority of what I would have said and they’ve most likely empowered themselves far more than if I’d lectured and ended up empowering only myself.
So, you can see that like all of us, I’ve got a specific intention in the way that I listen and speak as a coach and facilitator. My intention is not to be boring – in order to avoid rejection, loneliness and invisibility, and to engage people in what they like to do best – talk about what they know – themselves, which empowers them to generate from their own wisdom.
And, yes. . . . I love when people are genuinely interested in who I am and what I’m up to. Like everyone else, I love to talk about myself when given a trustful ear to listen.
I encourage you to notice what you are listening for and what you are speaking to. Obviously this will shift and change depending on the circumstances. The process of noticing also allows you to be a witness to yourself. The very act of intentionally listening to yourself will cultivate amazing feelings of fulfillment within you. Give it a try, if you dare!
Ask Dr. Rosie: Leadership and Loving Kindness
From: Karen, Montgomery, Alabama
Dear Dr. Rosie
I work as an HR person in a medium sized company here in Montgomery. I love my work because I get to use coaching skills to not only empower employees’ productivity but also create an environment that is fun and highly effective.
Lately, though, the employees have been bringing me more challenging issues. I’m having to intervene in a way that feels forceful and imposing rather than my more usual style of empowering them through inquiry to take actions on their own behalf. Because there’s potential for harming themselves or being harmed by someone else I have to step in, in a way that I don’t like. I’m having to tell them what to do and make sure they follow through. I don’t like this way of working but it seems to be what I’m having to do right now. What do you make of this?
Thanks for your blogs. I always find them insightful.
From Dr. Rosie
What you are describing is an interesting phenomenon for people who work with people. Quite often the people we serve and their circumstances provide a growing edge for us as service providers. Sometimes the growing pains of our work may be more uncomfortable than we want, but it’s important work none the less.
I’m a big fan of Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence and of David Hawkins’ work on power vs. force. Both of these men are talking about the foundational emotional capacity to relate to ourselves, to others and to the world in a way that enhances our ability to act with integrity, authenticity and in service to the highest good of all involved. They are shedding light on the importance of cultivating better relationships with our emotional selves in order to empower others to do the same. I suspect that there may be an important learning opportunity here for you, that if not for your employees, you may try to side-step and avoid.
I guess the question I have for you, Karen, is what is it that makes you want to work the way you do? Generally speaking we move towards what we desire and avoid what we condiser to be undesirable. What would you say is undesirable that you are wanting to avoid that is showing up for you now? This question always provides great grist for the mill.
The majority of my supervision sessions with coaches generally have to do with these learning edges where the coach is getting confronted with their own resistance to being different as a coach. Here is one particular issues that arises for all of us:
The Golden Rule says: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To really live into this rule requires the cultivation of compassion and kindness. Well, for many of us who grew up in families where there wasn’t compassion and kindness, in fact there may have been abuse and neglect to some degree; we created a different Golden Rule: Don’t do unto others what has been done unto you.
In Self-Empowerment 101, I speak about our relationship to power and how to allow ourselves to use our personal power in the highest good of ourselves and everyone. If, as a child, I witnessed people using their power for personal or professional gain and they harmed others, especially or me, I may have decided to never use my power to perpetrate harm or pain on others. I will never do unto others what has been done to me.
Many of us in the helping profession come from backgrounds that led us to decide to use our power in what we consider to be loving and kind ways, however, we may be missing an important interpretation of loving and kind that could actually not be helping at all. We may be enabling others to be less then accountable and responsible for their behaviors. We may be supporting and even encouraging behavior that may be harmful to themselves and others.
I hate pulling rank on people. I hate using force of any kind, however sometimes I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. It’s that choice-point, which may require tough love.
When sitting with a client in session, I ask myself if my actions are for personal or professional gain, or are they in the best interest of my client? This is the question to ask yourself. And likewise, if you are not using your power to empower accountability and responsibility in your clients for their actions – what is that serving in you? In a sense, when you are not requiring accountability and integrity of your employees; that’s serving something in you and is not in the best interest of anyone. Do you get what I’m saying?
This is tough love, for ourselves, our client’s and our employees. And if we don’t discipline ourselves to be tough when tough is required we aren’t doing our jobs. This goes for every role we play – as friends, parents and community members.
When faced with a similar issue, Karen, I was angry that I had to be forceful, yet I knew I had to be, otherwise harm would come to my client, through their own actions or someone else’s. I had to tell myself that my use of assertiveness and forcefulness was required of me in service to my client’s well-being. I checked in with myself numerous times to ensure I wasn’t perpetrating harm for my own personal or professional gain.
If we are always using our power to avoid perpetrating harm we may be avoiding an important reality – one we can’t avoid; and that is that people won’t always like us, they won’t like our perspectives or our actions. We have to shift our interpretation about the perpetration of harm so that we have the capacity to act in our own highest good and the highest good of others, even if they don’t like it. This isn’t always easy to discern but again, if we are clear about our role and what’s required of us in service to that which we are in service to we can act more in alignment with our own accountability and integrity.
Join me for a Webinar: What is Transformational Coaching, Thursday Nov. 4, 7:30pm, pst:
Ask Dr. Rosie: Power, Leadership and Humility
From: Sarah, Atlanta, Georgia
Dear Dr. Rosie
Thank you so much for your blogs. You provide an important perspective and provide inspiration at the same time.
I’m beginning to develop my business as a Life and Business Coach. My intention is to work with people who are business directors and leaders. I’ve got to develop a sense of power in order to feel grounded in my coaching. I’ve read your book Self-Empowerment 101 and understand the importance of personal power, however I’m afraid the way that I choose to be powerful will come across as aggressive and pushy. I’m afraid people will see me as arrogant and unapproachable. There’s no humility in this way of being powerful and that scares me. I don’t know where I’ll be crossing the line from powerful to forceful. Would you be willing to shed some light on this process for me?
From: Dr. Rosie
Thank you for your words and for reaching out with your question. Many people are challenged with the same dilemma as you. Our perception of power is loaded with interpretations that have many of us resist our own personal power. Many leaders could be so much more effective if they’d be willing to own their personal power instead of hiding from it.
Abuse of Power
It’s easy to recognize and point fingers at abuse of power. We experience it in all sorts of governmental and corporation settings and issues. We’ve come to not trust people in power because of the prevalence of abuse of their power. And, it’s not uncommon for us to see abuse even though it may not be there, because we are looking for it, and generally speaking we see that which we are looking for.
Too often our experience with power begins when we are small children. We watch our parents use power in positive and not so positive ways. It doesn’t feel good when they are using power for gain or to compensate for some lack that they are feeling in their own lives. Siblings also have a tendency to use power for the same purpose. Heck, all of us do it in one form or another until we get clear that this particular use of power really isn’t working.
David Hawkins MD, Ph.D. has written a number of books that speak to this very issue. His first book Power vs. Force is an excellent source of information on the subject. What you’ll find, Sarah, as you understand the distinctions between power and force is that with power there is an automatic sense of humility that accompanies true power. That may seem impossible that someone could experience their personal power and humility at the same time but when you get it, it makes perfect sense. And the question that arises perhaps for some is why marry humility with power?
In a six week course on Transformational Leadership I worked with nine officers of a financial institution in Silicon Valley. Through a couple of processes that helped them distinguish their particular leadership style they realized that rarely were they leading from their own authentic essence of power. Each individual in that room articulated how they were being control freaks (their words, not mine), how they were manipulating and being subversive in getting people to do what they wanted. They each realized that the way they were being powerful created a work environment that was not trusting, resistant to collaboration, back biting and competitive. Through their use of power they did not allow open communication, innovation and team building to take place.
Each realized that what contributed greatly to their choice of leadership style was fear: fear of not being respected; fear of not being able to control, fear of not being liked; fear of not getting the job done and fear of being mambie-pambie. I asked the questions “what would shift if your leadership style wasn’t generated from fear – what would show up?”
Each of these nine leaders took it upon themselves to openly explore what was possible, and they were amazed with the consensus of answers. Being powerful from fear is not providing their team, their company or themselves with a quality of leadership that they actually want to stand for.
The energy in the room shifted as each officer shared a way of being that wasn’t generated from fear. In that particular session something really important occurred. Each acknowledged that if they weren’t coming from fear they would be willing to share more of themselves with the other directors in the room. That in itself shifted the dynamic of the whole corporation. This identified one specific use of power (withholding personally and professionally) that could allow them to feel safe enough to express to each other what wasn’t allowed to be spoken before. This sharing allowed humility to be present in the room; not a meekness or submissiveness, but more of a wholeness of their being from which they could draw wisdom, compassion and collaboration. This is key to healthy leadership and effective use of power.
Humility is an interesting human quality. There’s false humility, which is fear-based and there is true humility, which is essence-based. How does a leader emanate power and humility at the same time? By noticing if their decisions and choices are originating from fear or from their authentic wisdom and maturity.
“There go my people. I must follow for I am their leader.” Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874)
For me this is a statement conveys humility married to power. A leader worth her or his salt is open to hearing what their people are saying, their point of view and their creative ideas; otherwise it would seem to me that leadership is based on the sole premise that “only I know what’s best for my people.” Too many leaders use their power to serve their own egoic-self. None of us like or even respect leaders who don’t have the capacity to really listen and perhaps act on the information from voters, direct reports, anyone in the role of follower.
Engaging oneself not from the egoic-self but from the self that is engaged to serve the highest good of governments, corporations, educational and religious institutions and families, allows for their power to serve more than just their egoic-self.
Of all the definitions I found for humility, the word reverence resonated most. If we can hold reverence for the position of power we stand in and stand for, and we can hold reverence for those we serve with our power, we can’t help but allow and cultivate a more wholesome environment for everyone to thrive and create.
Two questions, Sarah will help you distinguish which form of power you are about to choose: Is what I’m about to do or say more about me or about those I am here to serve? And, Is what I’m about to do or say fulfilling my egoic-self or my highest Self?
Enjoy the journey,
As a Leader, Leave them with their Dignity
In my capacity as a leadership coach I’ve been working with Hank, an executive in a Fortune 500 company who has been embroiled in a dispute with a particular associate for the past few weeks. The associate, we’ll call him Tom, is somewhat passive and resistant. When he feels like working he’s on top of his game and works harder and longer than any one of his team members. However, when he doesn’t feel like working, he rationalizes and justifies for not fulfilling his agreements. The more he is pushed to fulfill the less he does.
Yesterday, Hank confronted Tom about the lack of progress he was making on a particular report that was long overdue. Such conversations are always frustrating and disappointing to Hank. He has an expectation, as we all do, that people say what they mean and mean what they say. When they don’t, and when Hank has to bring people to task, well, it makes him want to yell criticisms be sarcastic and darn right cruel! He doesn’t want to shame and guilt people with his comments; it just happens!
I spoke with Hank after the confrontation with Tom. “I expect grownups to act like grownups, especially when they have been hired to be responsible in highly significant ways. How am I supposed to talk to adults that act like adolescents? What am I suppose to expect?
Though Hank was angry, he and I had to figure out a way to move forward from here with bad feelings and distance still between Tom and himself. Hank explained: “I’ve been in partnerships with passive and resistant individuals before, and generally I’ve found myself in a stalemate. Ignoring the behavior doesn’t work, nor does attempting to control or manipulate – all of those ways of being that are disrespectful and degrading but seem to be the only way to get some action. I hate this part of my job!”
Then, there was a long pause. Hank was chewing on something in his mind. Then he said “I just heard these words inside my head: Always leave them with their dignity. What’s that suppose to mean?”
Hank began to share that he wasn’t raised with this philosophy; in fact his dad took liberty with his autocratic and dictatorial leadership style. He shamed and humiliated his children and rarely acknowledged them for a job well done. By the time Hank left home to go to college it was hard for him to imagine that he had anything to offer the world. The best he could hope for was to make it through college, get a job and not expect much more. “Fortunately, once I was out of reach of my dad I began to excel and here I am today. I still don’t feel great about myself but I do my work and people respect me. Maybe that’s as good as it gets.”
Choosing how to be a Leader
Regardless of education and training, my experience is that we choose our leadership styles primarily from the experience of being around those who were our leaders; most often our parents, teachers, ministers and coaches. The interpretations we choose based on our experiences have us decide how to be a leader and how to be with a leader.
As Hank considered meeting with Tom this morning, he and I rehearsed the conversation that was about to take place. Even though he and Tom came to an understanding in the confrontation the day before, Hank was resistant to let things be, let the waters be calm and return to his normal, friendly style of leading. There was a part of him that wanted to assert a position of, superiority, of righteousness, perhaps finding opportunities to make a comment or two that would shame Tom and make him feel bad – nothing too obvious, of course; just a little remark to let him know Hank wasn’t going to let him off the hook.
I was curious and questioned Hank’s motives for being less then compassionate. He shared that he sensed that there would be something he’d lose by not making a jab or two. As we talked, he imagined letting go of making these jabs and immediately felt the hurt and agony of being a child shamed and stripped of dignity by his father and his football coach. He was surprised that these emotions were underneath his more aggressive style with Tom. He also felt that the salve for this agony was to shame others, like Tom, just a little bit. “For some reason, this makes me feel more powerful and takes away the sadness. Why is that?”
Dignity is an essential and core quality of our humanity. It gives each of us a sense of being valuable to the world and to oneself, and without it we come to feel disheartened, demoralized and depressed. In Management, it’s not uncommon to unconsciously strip away other people’s dignity through comments that shame, ridicule or embarrass. Like Hank, by stripping away the dignity of others it perhaps salves the wounds of our own loss of dignity, if only for the moment.
As Hank was finding out for himself, if he truly wanted to be an empowering leader he needed to be willing to reveal to himself his own wounds. He would also come to see the choice-making process that occurred because of the woundings that suffered as a child. Hank remarked “I need to do this so as to choose differently. I want to practice being a leader in a way that empowers people and perhaps even add to their dignity. That feels really hard to do right now – eliminating the desire to pinch away people’s dignity. Man! I didn’t realize how things like this get passed on so unconsciously.”
Fifty Ways to Shame the Other
In a transformational course of training I facilitate, leaders are given opportunities to cultivate awareness of who they be and how they be in the role of leader. Through this process each leader comes to realize that too often their leadership style is based on some form of engagement that is disempowering as opposed to empowering. They realize that by letting go of a shame-based model of leadership their employees’ morale begins to rise; communication begins to open, which results in a more collaborative and effective environment.
Every day, there are hundreds of opportunities to empower and disempower others. Whether with our employees, partners, friends or children, every gesture or word is delivered with the intention to give or take away dignity. Think about it!
We are all capable of being disempowering and we are all capable of being empowering. I encourage you to notice how you choose to choose to be empowering or disempowering. Explore for yourself what it is like for you to be the recipient of leadership styles that feel disempowering to you; Explore with a coach or thinking partner what would support you in shifting so as to always leave your employees with their dignity.
Author of Self-Empowerment 101