I believe our ultimate kindness is in helping Others be all they can be, to achieve their own brand of excellence that works best for their own unique system. But inadvertently and unwittingly we bias and restrict our interactions: Regardless of our message or willingness to truly serve, our own subjectivity may limit possibility. In this article I’ll explain why and how we fall short, and introduce new skills to enable us to truly serve Others.
We Connect Through Our Own Subjectivity
Here is how and why we restrict possibility:
Biased listening: We each hear through subjective filters, created during, and restricting, our lives. To wit, with only biased, unconscious filters to work with (i.e. out of our control) our brains idiosyncratically interpret what Others mean to convey (although they may hear the words accurately). Unfortunately, we believe what our brains are hearing and sometimes have little way of knowing what we’re missing unless there’s a problem. As a result we make faulty assumptions, or are triggered to past experiences or habits. Not to mention potentially experiencing one of over 100 biases.
I wasn’t fully aware of the extent of this (although on consideration, realized nothing else could be true) until I researched my book on how to hear others without bias. With the best will in the world we end up only accurately hearing, and thereby responding to, some percentage of what our Communication Partners (CPs) mean to share, regardless of our intent. It’s all outside of our conscious awareness. It’s necessary to listen using a different part of our brain (not Active Listening) that we’ve never been taught to use intentionally.
Fact #1. We hear Others through our subjective biases and beliefs, causing us to misinterpret what’s been said.
Subjective expectations: We enter into each conversation with expectations or goals (conscious or unconscious) of what we want from a conversation, thereby limiting outcomes to those within our set of expectations making it difficult to achieve all that’s possible.
Fact #2. Entering conversations with goals or expectations (conscious or unconscious) unwittingly limits the outcome and full range of possibility, discovery, or creativity.
Restricted curiosity: Our historic subjective associations, experiences, and internal references limit our ability to query or recognize complete fact patterns during data gathering or analysis. Our questions and support are often biased, assumptive, leading, habitual etc. thereby reducing outcomes to the limits of the Facilitator.
Fact #3: We enable Others’ excellence, and our own needs for accurate data, to the extent we can overcome our own unconscious biases.
Cognitive Dissonance: When the content we share – words, questions, information, education, advice, written material – goes against someone’s (conscious or unconscious) personal beliefs and system of Self, we cause Cognitive Dissonance and resistance regardless of the efficacy of the information. This is why relevant solutions in sales, marketing, coaching, implementations, doctor’s recommendations etc. often fall on deaf ears. We are unwittingly causing the very resistance we seek to avoid as we attempt to place perfectly good data into a closed system.
Fact #4. Information doesn’t teach Others how to change behaviors.
Systems congruence: Individuals and groups think, behave, and decide from a functioning and intricate system of beliefs and rules, history and experience, that creates and maintains their status quo. We know from systems theory that, because of the connections, it’s impossible to change only one piece of a system without effecting the whole. Also, we can never understand the ramifications of what any new ideas or solution would entail in an Other’s environment especially when every group, every person, believes it’s functioning well, Thank You Very Much. Outsiders offering solutions ‘foreign’ to the system and without the tools to teach the relevant parts of the system to make the appropriate changes, face resistance as the new solutions get rejected out of hand. Systems are willing to change only when there is buy-in from the relevant elements involved and a clear route to manage the change congruently – not merely because there appears to be a need, or we want to educate, or sell, or or or.
Fact #5: Change cannot happen until there is a defined route to manage disruption, and the appropriate elements buy-in, for those elements that are disrupted.
People or groups are unable to change, regardless of their need, or desire, for change, without somehow managing the implications any change causes to the status quo – all unknowable at the start, when change is considered. We all face a challenge accepting/using information offered by others who expect us to accept it. I face this with you, my readers.
Most fields have been designed in a way that disregards this in their sales, marketing, leading, coaching, healing, etc., practices. Since conventional skills focus on placing the idea/solution/information, we haven’t been taught skills to manage the behind-the-scenes activity Others go through to handle their own internal change. All change must include this. When we merely enter at the end, we lose the opportunity to serve and facilitate, not to mention losing business, or having delayed sales cycles, or merely moderate success changing minds or behaviors. It’s possible to facilitate their journey in a systemic, unbiased way; we just need a few more skills. I’ve developed them.
The Skills of Change
To enable expanded and managed choice, we must first facilitate Others in recognizing if they can congruently change their status quo (necessary for new decisions and change to occur). They may have buy-in issues down the line, or resource issues, or some host of issues. By focusing on facilitating choice/change first rather than pushing data, we teach Others to achieve internal, systemic congruence where possible and then join them with our solutions as appropriate. Otherwise, our great content will only connect with those folks whose beliefs systems already mirror the incoming data. In other words, when we Facilitate (sell, coach, lead, etc.) using our biased skills, we only help those who are biased in the same way. Unfortunately, those who most need us are the very folks who aren’t ready as their “good-enough/functioning” system is set up to continue as is.
Simplistically, it’s a belief change problem. Beliefs form the foundation of who we are and inform our biases, our actions, what we hear, our goals, etc. Our beliefs convey who we are: they are largely unconscious, and represent our identity. Our behaviors are our beliefs in action. When we offer advice or information for new solutions, we are offering new “behaviors” without shifting the system that holds our underlying beliefs and behaviors in place and attempting to add something to the existent system that functions ‘well’ without it. There is no agreement or home for the new behaviors; our new solutions have no way to take hold, and the system resists.
To facilitate change we must divest ourselves of bias and subjectivity and facilitate Others to first examine their web of (unconscious) beliefs, and then carefully manage any disruption to their system, before sharing our solutions. To accomplish this we must listen differently, ask entirely different questions, use the sequence that systems uses to change itself, and ensure there is buy-in at all the appropriate levels (stakeholders or personal).
I’ve developed a generic model that gives Facilitators the skills to facilitate change at the belief and systems levels. Developed over 50 years, I’ve coded my own Asperger’s systemizing brain, refitted some of the constructs of NLP, coded the system and sequence of change, and applied some of the research in brain sciences to enable Left Brain evaluation and go beyond the pull of protection and bias to determine where/if/how new choices fit. In other words, I teach choice. Using it Others can consciously self-cue – normally an unconscious process – to enable and recognize the full range of choices possible and design change without resistance. I’ve trained the model globally over the past 30 years in sales, negotiation, marketing, patient relationships, leadership, coaching, etc.
Below I introduce the main skills I’ve developed to enable change and choice – for me, the real kindness we have to offer. For those interested in learning more, I’m happy to chat, train, and share.
Observer: to disconnect from bias on both ends, (Speaker and Responder), a non-associative state is necessary to help others accomplish conscious self-cueing, avoid bias, and see the full range of elements that make up the status quo. Associative state – Self (limited choice); Non-associative/witness state – Observer (full range of choice).
Listening for Systems: from birth we’re taught to carefully listen for content (exemplified by Active Listening) which misses the underlying, unspoken system. This new type of listening hears in Observer, and enables hearing what’s meant, at the metamessage level, and supersedes all bias on either end.
Facilitative Questions: conventional questions are biased by the Speaker and interpreted in a biased way by the Responder. Facilitative Questions (FQ) are not information focused. They are formulated in a specific order, with specific wording; move CPs into discovery via Observer; create a collaborative dialogue around congruent change in the area of the Facilitator’s solution (solution discussion comes much later). Conventional questions or data gathering cannot achieve this type of change facilitation. Here is a simple (out of sequence) example of the differences between conventional questions and FQs:
- Conventional Question: Why do you wear your hair like that? This question, meant to extract data for the Speaker’s use, is biased by the Speaker and limits choices within the Responder. Bias/Bias
- Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? While conventional questions ask/pull biased data, this question sequentially leads the Other through focused scans of unconscious beliefs in the status quo. Formulating them requires Listening for Systems.
Using specific words, in a specific order, to stimulate specific thought categories, in specific areas within the system, FQs uncover systems issues the Other would need to handle prior to making any changes. Others usually do this sort of weighting, and deciding, and considering, etc. on their own but takes them longer. Now we can be part of the process with them much earlier in the path toward change.
Sequenced change: Change occurs in a specific sequence. Until the Other can accurately (without bias) analyze their status quo (largely unconscious) to notice any unseen problems, get consensus from the appropriate people (not always obvious) needed if change were to occur, and understand how to recognize and manage any disruption (physical or mental/emotional) a proposed shift would incur, they can take no action or make any changes; their habitual functioning is at risk. Offering them our information is the final thing they’ll need when, or if, all of the systemic change elements are managed.
There is no way to enable change by starting with attempts to offer/gather information, successful only when the Other has already accomplished all of the above – unlikely in sales, coaching, implementation, or leadership where we fail by pushing the ‘end’ too soon and face resistance when the system goes into self-preservation. We are indeed limiting all of our interactions to helping only those who are entirely set up to change (the low hanging fruit), and failing with those who might need us but aren’t quite ready. We can help them get themselves ready.
The Skills of Kindness
Using my Buying Facilitation® model (The term ‘buying’ doesn’t relate to sales. It’s a generic model.) Facilitators can lead Others through
- an examination of their unconscious beliefs and established systems
- to discover blocks, incongruences, and endemic obstructions,
- to examine how, if, why, when they might need to change, and then
- help them set up the steps and means (tactically) to make those changes
- in a way that avoids system’s dysfunction
- with buy-in, consensus, and no resistance.
Being kind means helping Others be all they can be THEIR way, not OUR way. Whenever we attempt to push our own agenda – regardless of the need or possible outcome – we are being manipulative, self-serving, selfish, etc, and we’re missing the larger picture. We can be true servant leaders and change agents to facilitate real, lasting change.
There are a lot of ways to be kind. I believe that those of us that have something important to share that would truly serve others need the skills to enable Others to hear us. Instead of pushing our great ideas into people-systems that don’t know how to listen or adopt, let’s use these new skills to facilitate real change and then, when Others know how to change congruently, our important solutions will be heard.
About the Author
Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.