Relationship management

Tell me

“When you hear someone – or you – talking about who is right, their primary concern is about power. When they  talk about what is right, then you’re talking about values.”

That’s the phrase that popped into my head when I was thinking about why discourse, the dialogue of ideas, has given way to the slanging match that so often ends in threats, and I include name calling in my definition of a threat.  Have the social media  caused  this ya boo sucks way of talking with our world or is it simply the ideal medium for the way we have been taught to think? After all, even in the heyday of newspapers did we ever have millions of readers clamouring to comment on the pages of the New York Times, the Guardian or Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, where some semblance of thoughtfulness was demanded by editors?  The social media are perfect for “who is right”. Not only because of the (perceived) anonymity of those commenting but because there is no need to think. There is only a need to take sides. Read most, if not all, of the threads on Twitter and you will discover someone who will insert him or herself with a variation of “I’m right and you’re wrong, arsehole.” And that sentence all by itself means nothing more than “I have no need to think about what you said because you are an arsehole and I am not. You may be Pope, prime minister, president or a chief Brexiteer but you have no power over me. I can take you down again and again simply by not thinking about what you’re saying.” And, of course when people with authority and power join in and refuse to accept any evidence apart from their own infallibility then the Rights and Rights line up against each other, identifying the enemy not just as Obama, Trump, Putin, Netanyahu or Khaled Mashal but as Liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Russians, Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Arabs and Moslems.

We mass allies around us and range them against our massed enemies. And we know as little about either our allies and our enemies. Why? Because we know nothing about their values. Because those values are not what we have been squabbling over. If they were, we would notice very quickly that the Liberals, Republicans, Israelis and Palestinians hold many differing values within their communities; some of them perhaps close to our own.  What we have been doing is jostling for power, positioning ourselves with those blocs that we think – we imagine – can provide us with the greater influence. Why else would Alabama Evangelists back a man accused of  sexually assaulting teenage girls in the 70’s? Why else was the Brexit campaign conducted with so little information and impact evaluation on either side? Because ethics,ideas, justness, what is right – were not important. Power – winning – was. And history shows it can only get worse if we do not discuss what is right. If we do not cross the battle lines to understand both the values that bind us and the foundations of the values that divide us. The “enemy” morphs from, Clinton or Trump to Democrats and Republicans, and then to gender, race, religion and nationality.

So, is there a way out of this? Back to that phrase at the top of the page.

Talking about who is right is about power. Talking about what is right is about values. By “who” I mean individuals insisting that they, their countries, political parties, religions or races -or in fact any branded entity – are right. By “what” I mean ideas, values, morality, sense of justness. The former cuts short discussion. It’s the ideal arena for ya boo sucks. After all, if I tell you that you are wrong and I am right, then you have a limited number of choices. You could walk away;  or you could tell me, and the world, that as I am a buffoon, whatever I believe is invalid; or (inversely) since you have the backing of the British people, Christianity, Islam or the Koch Brothers you have the authority of credibility on your side. All of those are about power – even walking away.

You have one more choice. You could  say, “Tell me…”

You could say, “Tell me something about what is right for us all about your stance. Tell me something about how you formed the ideas behind your belief that you (or your allies) are right. Tell me about your values, what is important to you. And why you think they could be important for me.”

There’s nothing like “Tell me..” to make people think about what they are doing and who they are. There’s nothing like “Tell me…” to make two people realise they are human. And incidentally, “Tell me about why you think your belief is good for us all” is well short of 140 characters.

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Trust the Process of the Heart

All our fear is lodged in trying to control the future. We anticipate a recurrence or absence of an event  in the future. Even when in physical pain, we don’t fear the agony we are going through now. We suffer through it  and try and manage it. But what makes us anxious is that it may go on for ever – or a week. And then our thought is “I won’t be able to cope with that. Not another week of this. Not another moment.” What we forget is that we are coping. We are managing. Even if we are doing so with massive doses of painkillers or therapy, we are managing the present pain. The last thing we need is the additional burden of anxiety or fear that comes with trying to anticipate the future.

Yet we do it all the time. We try and manage the future of our bank accounts, our children, our businesses and even our souls. And by doing so we fail to clearly see the present. And what you don’t clearly see, you cannot manage.

“Trust the Process”

Eric Parsloe – the man who was my first Coaching Mentor – used to say, “Trust the process”. I thought he meant ‘trust the coaching process’. But I now think he meant, ‘trust the process of life.’ We know that life will bring us what life brings: encounters. Those encounters may harm or help us. They may add or subtract. Depending on how they interact with our view of the world, they may bring us joy, grief, pain or comfort. The word process comes from the Latin Procedere, ‘to go on, continue.’ It’s the fact of continuing life interacting with you.  It’s no good trying to jump ahead and anticipate how you will interact with it in the future. That depends on how you interact with it now. It’s like trying to build a house by constantly skipping the block in front of you.

Does that mean we shouldn’t take care at all? We should spend all our money now? Don’t lock the front door? Of course not. I will not spend all my money now because if I do so I am making myself broke now. If I don’t lock my front door, I am putting myself in a position now whereby I am vulnerable now. Never mind tomorrow or later in the evening, my vulnerability starts now. If that’s what I want to do, that’s fine. But my action now has consequences now.

The problem with anticipating and trying to control the future is that you simply fail to fully address the present. By trying to control the future, you create a personal model of that future that will, by definition, differ from reality.

“At least give yourselves a chance”

A company I know would, each year, build its annual forecast by deciding what income it thought it needed to achieve and then set its sales targets accordingly. When I asked the leaders whether they thought they had the products, market demand, distribution capacity and delivery to achieve that income, the reply was “We have no option. That’s what we need to achieve.” And year after year, their distribution system failed them, their production was late and they failed to change their customer research. And year after year I (and others) would plead, “At least give yourselves a chance. If you’re going to set a target, at least make sure that your assets are prepared today (and every day) to hit it.”  The company went into liquidation recently.

Filtering your view of life is dangerous. It’s what made that company go bust; it’s what fuelled the global financial crisis -and every one before that.

The toughest organ we have

But there is one filter I am learning we must have. It’s the Filter of the Heart. Very recently a Reiki therapist, a young woman called Susan Haberlandt, said to me, “Whatever you’re about to do, try putting your heart filter on it first”. So I did. I tried looking at the world through my heart. Sometimes it worked; sometimes I grew impatient and used my head; sometimes I grew impatient and just did it. But sometimes, something happened: I took a tough decision that I had been dreading; I saw just how vulnerable an aggressive man really was; I stopped feeling guilty; I started feeling concerned.

The heart is not a fluffy, pink cushion. It’s the toughest organ we have. It pumps blood to and from every tissue in your body. Symbolically or actually it ‘knows’ every particle in your brain, your gut and your left toe. It has helped fuel your thinking, your instinct, your immunity and your recovery from illness. So when you filter your actions with your heart, you equip that action with everything you have: everything you have been taught consciously, everything you have experienced and absorbed; and everything with which you came into this life. That’s not just powerful; that’s herculean.

We know how to filter our actions and reactions with the head: the logic of connections. “If the client wants me to extend the coaching programme, then I must think about what my code of ethics and my supervisor say about ‘dependency’.” Then there is the filter of instinct: the drive to survival. “Another year of coaching will bring me $x. I really need the money. I’ll do it. And anyway, if he wants more coaching, that means he needs it”.

What would the heart say? What would it tell you about what all that is you  thinks is right, and not just your association’s code of ethics. What would it tell you about what would be best for the client, without your fear for your own future?

The Lens of the Heart

The filter of the heart is not a filter at all. It’s a lens that pulls together all that we are, to deal – in the sharpest focus that we can muster – with the world we inhabit. It may be worth while learning how to use it. If you do try, you may find (as I did) 5 things:

  1. There’s nothing ‘magical’ about it. What you’re doing is mustering all your appropriate resources to focus on a decision
  2. The more you consciously think about it the less it works (you’re using your filter of logical connections)
  3. The more you worry about whether it will work, the less it works (you’re trying to control the future and not managing the present)
  4. The more you try it the more effective it becomes (you access more resources)
  5. The more you try it, the less time and effort you have left to worry about ‘the future’. You’re dealing with it now.
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Identifying Self Value

It’s all very well saying that we should value ourselves. But what is self value? And how do we measure it -and therefore safeguard and increase it?

John Berger recently wrote a wonderful defence of the German Nobel Prize winning writer Gunter Grass (The Guardian: August 21,2006). Grass had been pilloried for not revealng that he had joined the Waffen SS at the age of 17. Berger’s response describes very closely what I believe to be the essence of ‘self value’.

"That he was naive when he was 17 means only that he was 17. Inside a story there are no mistakes, only the living through of mistakes. And he has lived through his, better than most of us would have done".

Grass, says Berger, ‘lived through his mistakes" by devoting himself "to grasping, narrating and explaining, with extensive fellow-feeling, the contradictions, cruelties, abysmal losses, wisdom, ignorance, cowardice and grace of people (person by person) under extreme historical stress. Very few other writers of our time have such a wide knowledge of articulate and inarticulate experience. Grass never shut his eyes. He became a writer of honour".

He lived though his mistake by ensuring that it became part of his life; by working with the grain to transform it into the pearl of his life’s work. He understood that the value of his life lay in living through his mistakes and successes – as experience – with his eyes open.

What would have happened if he had ‘confessed his sins’? Would his eyes have been opened wider? Would he have awakened himself more to the experience of his own life; to the value of his life? Or would he have been forced to devalue his life to the actions of the seventeen year old boy?

The word ‘redemption’ comes from the Latin verb ‘redemptio’. And one of the oldest meanings of ‘redemptio’ is to ‘to farm revenues’ – to cultivate one’s assets. And that is what I believe Self Value entails. The cultivating of the most precious asset we have: our Self.

Redemption does not start with the premise that we are a liability unless we do good; but that we can do good because we are an asset.

And how do we farm our revenues? How do we maximise our asset? How do we ‘make the most of our selves’?

 

By making ourselves as aware as we possibly can be of our selves: by probing how we think, feel, emote and behave in situations; by exploring the impact we have on our fellow beings and our world – and then reflecting on the chain of mutual reactions we create with one another. And by applying our selves in the world and the world in our selves.

By learning.

And how do we learn? By observng, enquiring, reflecting, feeling, applying and integrating.And observing again.

And, as you can see, we can not make the most of ourselves, or increase awareness of our selves, unless we recognise and value our fellow beings. If I think you have no value then we have no impact on one another. But I know that is not true: all beings and I do have some impact on one another. So, I must be closing down my own awareness in order to believe that you have no value.

By reducing my awareness of your value I reduce my awareness of mine.

That is why choice is such a precious gift. When we remove it from others, we remove it from ourselves. When we trespass against others we trespass against ourselves.

So, to summarise:

What is Self Value?

It is the recognition that the Self is the Asset; that it "can do good because it is an asset"; that the Self is the stone from which the scultpure is continuously shaped. Without the stone there is no sculpture.

How is Self Value maintained and maximised?

By taking responsibility for that Self and making ourselves as aware as possible of how we think, feel, emote and behave in our mutual relationship with the world.

How is Self Value diminished?

When we diminish the awareness of both our own selves and that of our fellow beings; when we impose and abuse; when we prevent ourselves or others from discovering our Self Value

So, can Self Value be developed?

Self Value is. We do thing of value because we ‘are value’. The asset is there, whatever we do. It’s our awareness and management of it that impacts our actions. The more aware we are of the asset, the better we are able to use it.

 


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Self Value: doing or being?

That’s the trouble with words: we use them in so many different ways that they lose…value.

We talk about the value of a house; of a painting; of a job – even of a relationship. Just take the ‘value of a house’ as an example. That could be what we can sell it at; what we like about it; what experiences we’ve had in it as a family or how the designers/artists/viewers/critics rate it. Different things all reduced to one word: value.
Every second coach will probably tell you how vital it is to value yourself. But what does self value mean? Are you supposed to value yourself for what you do? Or for how you look? Or, perhaps, for how kind and compassionate you are?

So what happens when you do something ‘badly’? When you deliver a shoddy piece of work?

What about when you ‘lose’ your looks?

As for ‘kind and compassionate’: what happens when you’re not kind? Do you stop valuing your self?

Or are you only supposed to value yourself when you’re doing ‘good’ things; when you’re looking good; or when you’re clever and capable and successful?

The trouble with valuing ourselves for how we present ourselves to the world (in other words, for how we perform or look)is that our presentations can not be totally consistent. The result is that our ‘value’ then goes up and down like a yo-yo. As a publicly quoted company we’d be a disaster.
And if you’re valuing yourself on your performance, you even start undervaluing your successes because you know that next time you may ‘fail’. "I did ok, today, but tomorrow I could mess up. So how much value do I really have?"

You start to value yourself by your failures rather than your successes.
And here’s the clincher, for me: if we value ourselves according to our performance to the world – then we’re not only valuing ourselves according to what we (inconsistently) do but according to how the world judges our performances. We surrender our own value – our sense of self – to others.

Our ‘value’ becomes pleasing the world/audience/lover/church/boss/ market.
But do you know what? It’s not always in the interests of ‘the world’ to give us accurate feedback on ‘how we’re doing’. The boss, for example, may worry that if she tells you how great you are, you might ask for a raise, or look for another job or want hers.
And how do you react? Somewhere in the range of: accept it or not. If you accept it, then you’ll value yourself lowly and strive to meet (what you think are )the boss’s expectations. If you don’t then you’ll try and rationalise it away: "She’s a manipulative tyrant and she has no idea what quality means". Either way, you reduce your value of yourself. In the first instance by accepting someone else’s perception. In the second, by feeling humiliated that the boss’s opinion did not match yours and your hopes.

Value based on how you present youself to the world is a disaster.

So, what value should we place on ourselves?

The Value of Being.

It is the fact that you are that enables you to do.

Not the other way round.
Your starting point, surely,has to be your sense of self in the world; how you see your self in the world.

How can you do something of value unless there is value in you, the doer? And if you only value yourself for what you do, what message are you sending to your colleagues, friends, partners and children? That you’re only as valuable as your last action?

Valuing ourselves and others according to our performance – or ‘presentation to the world’ as I put it earlier – means ignoring a fundamental reality: beings are much more than their actions. Their value is in their ability to be; to project; to conceptualise; to create; to make mistakes; to learn; to walk into a room and listen; to be another to you.

And those of us who value themselves in their doing -their performance for the world – rather than in their being, reduce themselves to the limits and distortions of the judgments of others. Limited because others (never mind how close they may be to us) can not climb inside our skins and view the world as we view it; distorted because they will always judge some part of our actions by the way it affects them.

The more we submit to the judgement of others the more we lose our sense of self; the less value we place on our being-in-the-world, the less we’re able to achieve the integrity of self-valued being and self-valued doing.

If we have a strong sense of self, if we value our sense of being in the world, then it follows that we will do things that have integrity with that value.

TO BE CONTINUED

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