We see the signs everywhere: gift ideas, charities asking for help, the Salvation Army Bell Ringers, the Hanukkah candles and the Christmas trees. Our whole mindset is about giving gifts, showing love, and gathering together at work and home. At times it seems tedious, so many in need and so many parties/invitations.
What is the point of it all?
At our core, our humanity demands connection. In every culture throughout the world, human beings gather in groups using formal celebration, movement and words to express their desire for connection. Even our brains are hardwired for connection as Marco Iacoboni found when he discovered Mirror Neurons. According to Wikipedia, “A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.” The fact that we respond in our brains to what someone else is doing as though we were doing it, is remarkable. It demonstrates how connected we humans are with others at the brain level.
So, what does this say about how we celebrate and give at this time of year? It implies that apart from corny sentimentality or tradition or because we should, we come together and give to others because it is who we are as human beings. How shall we express this spirit of connection and giving throughout the year in our homes, marriages, offices and teams? More importantly, how can we get more skillful at connecting in ways that help us be better people and more successful in our relationships. The late Judith Glaser, an Organizational Anthropologist and executive coach, with whom I had the honor to study, was a pioneer in communication and connection in business. She shares the practical applications of the connection between neuroscience and communication strategies in her book Conversational Intelligence. Two of her strategies that work to create trusting connection and to overcome conflict are:
The Ladder of Conclusions and Moving From “I to We”
Often, we have whole conversations in our heads that predict how someone will think, feel or respond and, based on our “self- talk”, we decide whether to talk to that person and what to say. The “Ladder of Conclusions” graphically shows the brain science behind how we come to “know” something and how important it is to distinguish between our assumptions and theories and fact.
When we realize that what we are thinking in our head is not fact, but is merely our theory, we can check out that assumption by talking to the other person involved. We can ask open questions that build a shared understanding of reality which can pave the way to communication, and mutual solution seeking. This moves us from “I to We.” When we talk in ways that invite others to openly express their thoughts especially if they are different from ours, and if we listen with the desire to understand and connect, we open up new possibilities, solutions and connections. As Judith often said: “Words create worlds.” The words we use either create positive feelings and brain chemicals of connection(oxytocin) or make us fearful or defensive (cortisol) which drive us apart. “Culture depends on the quality of our relationships which depend on the quality of our conversations.” * Judith Glasser Conversational Intelligence for Coaches Training, 2016
So, this Holiday Season, lets practice the skills of self- awareness, checking our assumptions and opening up dialogue so as to increase understanding in our homes neighborhoods, businesses and on social media. Let’s remember that there are myriad possibilities for solutions, innovation and healing in all our relationships. Let’s make this the gift that keeps on giving all through the year.
Marjorie is a clinical social worker and certified professional coach. She applies the concepts of Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and “conversational intelligence” in her counseling, coaching, corporate training and keynotes. Contact Marjorie at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net (610-696-4443) for information on these topics and keynotes and check out her websites:
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