One of the most powerful theories on how to motivate people on the work-floor is Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory. In my post ‘Effective Communication Is About Understanding Emotion’ I dealt with the idea of Observational Listening and how that way of listening focuses on emotions people are currently experiencing. These two concepts together make a powerful combination in which motivation takes current emotions into account.
Imagine a world in which you wouldn’t experience any emotion whatsoever. What would your life look like? Drab? No, it wouldn’t be drab, as that’s an emotion. Nor boring, peaceful or any other state of mind which implies an emotion is being experienced. This means, therefore, that emotions are necessary for you to be able to experience anything at all. It goes a step further: Emotions are adaptive, they increase your chances for survival. Take fear, for example. If you didn’t ever get scared, you wouldn’t be aware of danger and would do silly things, like not jumping out the way when a car comes barreling down the road towards you. Emotions tell you what is important, what needs your attention and what action is required. Only when something is important enough does it capture your attention, this all thanks to the emotion that brings it to the forefront for you. And you only learn something when it is important enough to be able to react appropriately to such a given situation. In other words, emotion not only tells you what is important, it also is the motor for your learning. Emotions are primary. Emotions motivate.
An important task you have as a leader is to give compliments and know how to deal with criticism. Compliments motivate; criticism has a negative effect on relationships. And good relationships already facilitate an environment in which the other is more willing to do things differently. In this article we therefore focus on what the effects of compliments and criticism are. In a future article, we will concentrate on a related skill: Giving feedback.
One of the powerful conversational techniques is the Socratic dialogue, a method which boils down to making your conversational partner aware of what precisely they are saying, what exactly they are thinking and what they are actually doing. The major difference between ordinary conversation is that this awareness is reached via questioning and literal reflection instead of directly telling them. As was mentioned in a previous post, the Socratic dialogue is based on reflecting meaning, in other words, it’s not about the facts nor the emotions those facts elicit, but what this all means (and what the impact is) for the other.
One of the problems when dealing with communication as a subject is that various authors sometimes use the same term to mean something different. This is especially true of the word reflection. To avoid confusion, I have decided to use the term ‘reflection’, but never on its own and always with a qualifier to indicate what is being reflected. So, when speaking of reflection as an activity to reflect on your own functioning, I use the term ‘self-reflection’. In terms of listening skills, I use three terms: Literal reflection, when actual words are repeated; reflection of emotions, when dealing with the feelings we observe in our conversational partner; and reflection of meaning, when we interpret what someone may mean by what they have just said.
Shame and guilt are two emotions people experience, and should therefore also be functional emotions. That we generally experience them as something negative may be clear. In simple terms, shame has a limiting effect: It prevents us from ‘going over the top’, and in that sense it has a protective intention. As with all emotions, shame only becomes problematic when it is overly limiting or not present at all. This could be due to all kinds of factors: Poor or misplaced emotion regulation or inappropriate appraisals or expectations, to name but two. To put it differently, shame as a normal reaction isn’t problematic and is functional, just as the normal experience of fear prevents us from doing potentially dangerous things. In a similar way, guilt is adaptive too, as it stimulates us to restore matters when we have done something inappropriate.
In this article we look at how shame and guilt influence our experience and behaviour. We start by making a distinction between them, as the two emotions are easily lumped onto the same pile. After that we will review specifically how people deal with shame.
Predicting behaviour is an interesting enterprise and is one of the kingpins of the study of psychology. In this article we will use a model proposed by Alan Watkins (2013), adapted and slightly adjusted to fit the terminology generally used in the field of psychology. In his model, behaviour is like the roof of a building, and the building represents the person’s behavioural skills. People generally think that possessing the necessary skills is enough to demonstrate appropriate behaviour. However, merely having a skill does not guarantee that it will be used.
Ordinarily, people tend to ask questions with a certain goal or purpose in mind. They then listen to the answer as if the answer is based on the question they intended to ask. Yet the other answers based on what he or she understood the question to mean. Observational listening trains the listener to let go of his or her own goals and intentions and concentrate on the reactions evoked. In other words, the listener tries to find out what the question meant to the other. In this way, the listener will “get it”, and be able to bring depth into the conversation in a natural way, without resorting to tricks.