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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psyumorist (tm)

 

JAN 2012, No. I, Sec. I

Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!

Table of Contents:
Sec. I
Notes from the Stress Doc ™
Shrink Rap I:  Inspiring Power and Partnership:  An Interactive and Interdependent Perspective
Shrink Rap II:  Two Communicational Tools Providing Perspective, Patience and Presence 
Main Essay:
  Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM:  Designing a Matrix for “Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness
Testimonials:  Children's Hospital – Wisconsin and OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY:  MIAMI BEACH
Readers Submissions:  Perks of Aging, When Insults Had Class
Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™ and Offerings:  Books, CDs, Training/Marketing Kit:  Email stressdoc@aol.com or go to www.stressdoc.com for more info.

Notes from the Stress Doc™:   For my first newsletter of the New Year, I have bundled three thought-provoking articles, “Inspiring Power and Partnership:  An Interactive and Interdependent Perspective,” Two Communicational Tools Providing Perspective, Patience and Presence:  Message and Mantra for Transforming Reaction into Response,” and “Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM:  Designing a Matrix for ‘Cognitive-Communication’ Consciousness.”  My formal and informal coaching and consulting work continues to spotlight the power of purposeful and empathic communication for building bridges to those struggling with crisis, change and conflict.  In particular, the first article provides a seven definition “power” ladder and contrasts two types of power –  partner-oriented and pawn-oriented power.

FYI, I provide phone coaching-consulting services that have been quite effective and very well received.  Email stressdoc@aol.com for more info.

Best wishes and good adventures for 2012!

Mark


Overview:

1. Shrink Rap I:  This essay provides a hierarchical listing of various meanings of the word “power” – from power based on coercion to power bases on persuasion.  At the same time, even a negative conception of power can take on a positive and empowering tone when self-directed.  Moving beyond the abstract, power is examined through the lens of real world interaction or at least role-paying simulation.  Learning to “drop the rope” and “letting go” through grief sets the stage for paradoxically transforming feelings of loss into new possibilities and pathways of power.  Finally, contemplating “Inspiring Power and Partnership,” two perspectives on power relations emerge:  1) “Partner Power” (in contrast to Pawn-oriented Power), including the psychological and interactive steps essential for its development, and 2) “The Interdependence of Partner Power” – whereby times of crisis vulnerability often motivate one party to risk and open up emotionally and also infuse power into the other party along with a readiness to provide support.  This crisis interdependency provides uncommon if not synergistic problem-solving opportunity for both parties…parts may be able to transform into partners!

2. Shrink Rap II:  “Two Communicational Tools Providing Perspective, Patience and Presence:  Message and Mantra for Transforming Reaction into Response,” a) differentiates assertive and hostile ways of communicating with conflict and b) provides a mantra for not going for the blaming, “put down” or “power struggle” bait.  And both tools enable you to fight defensive reactivity with mature conviction and maybe even compassion.

3. Main Essay:  The article, “Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM:  Designing a Matrix for “Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness,” provides a matrix for "Cognitive-Communication Consciousness." Because it involves a matrix, I will need to attach the entire article.  At this point, I have just sketched the model; I have not explained it in detail. My goal is to develop a model that will help a communicator be better prepared as a thinker and message developer-deliverer to, “Ready…Aim…Fire!” not “Ready…Fire…Aim!”  Despite being in the gestation phase, I hope it may pique your curiosity. As always, I would love to hear any impressions and ideas.

P.S.  Here’s some of my motive for writing this article:  In our “Hyper-Speed Digital” (HSD) world, the medium is not just shaping the message but also the messenger, along with the mentality of over messaged-stimulated masses.  One obvious example:  attention span appears to be shrinking across the age spectrum.  However, I’m also noticing overdrive speech patterns, especially for the generations who have grown up with the Internet and Social Media (that is, Internet Natives in contrast to us older Generational Slugs, actually, Internet Immigrants, according to Nick Bolton technology blogger for the New York Times and author of I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works, 2010).  People just seem to talk faster, (also louder), as if they are racing to get their words in (or heard) before the other party’s ever restless radar is distracted elsewhere or simply tunes out.  (See attachment for entire article.)

Shrink Rap I:

Inspiring Power and Partnership:  An Interactive and Interdependent Perspective

I had an epiphany the other day…and it wasn’t related to Tim Tebow!  The “aha” moment involved the concept of power and the unexpected way it might play out in a meaningful relationship.  This new concept, the reciprocal if not paradoxical nature of power and vulnerability, is based on recent formal and informal coaching work with various clients and colleagues.  And some investigative work in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary helped transform my intuition into insight.  Consider this listing of “Seven Definitions and Synonyms of Power” 

1.  Force.  First, is the popular conception and usage – an “ability to compel obedience” or to “wield coercive force.”

2.  Strength.  A kindred concept, “The power residing in a thing as a result of qualities or properties (as health or soundness in bodily condition, or numbers or great equipment in a military organization) that enable it to exert force or manifest great strength as in resistance, attack, endurance (or resilience).

3.  Control.  Involving “direction or restraint,” a need for “control” often underlies the first two meanings, especially “force.”

4.  Authority.  Used as a synonym, “authority usually implies the granting of power for a specific purpose and within a carefully delineated framework, (including) to act as a leader and to guide others.”

5.  Ability.  The “capability of acting or producing an effect,” which relates to “a mental or physical ability or aptitude:  faculty or talent.”

6.  Influence.  The “capacity to hold political or social sway”; power is connected to “influence and prestige.”

7.  Empower.  Finally, power as a verb is instructive:  “to give strength to:  to make powerful.”  I especially like a second definition:  “to supply with or propel by means of motive power” and “to give impetus to.”  (Regarding the word impetus, in addition to common synonyms such as push and drive, I would also add the more subtle connotations, to touch and to move – both emotionally and to spur to movement or action, i.e., the motion in emotion.)

Clearly there is a qualitative difference in the first three power definitions – force, strength, and control – and the last three definitions – ability, influence, and empower.  And authority seems to bridge the two camps, especially when envisioning “permissive authority” in contrast to one that “compels obedience.”  I envision an authority based on the differential yet mutual recognition of strengths and resources in all parties; there is the potential for reciprocal learning, and the foundation of this authoritative power comes from the power to persuade through objective and heartfelt information, ideas and stories.  This positive authority also grants permission or responsibly delegates discretionary power to others.  (Of course, in times of crisis or imminent danger, for good and bad, people tend to follow the lead of those in positions of “authority.”)

Turning Negative Power into Positive Empowerment

The first three power terms seem a triumvirate or a troika – in my mind force, strength, and control are often associated with superior-subordinate, one up-one down, power-pawn relationships.  However, another perspective can be discovered even within our word sets.  Imagine force, strength and control used to promote self-growth rather than exploit others.  Now the essence of these terms and the power dynamic has changed.  (Of course, the converse also applies; the leader of a clique or gang often has great influence, yet too often with negative consequences.)  Positive self-empowerment:

a. Harnesses Energy and Discipline – harnesses an individual’s own ability to both focus and flexibly flow with energy, passion and discipline through trial and error and repeated practice,

b. Pursues Purpose, Meaning and Mission – pursues developing one’s sense of purpose (including “purposeful play”) and the search for meaning and mission,

c. Cultivates and Integrates Knowledge and Talents – cultivates and integrates one’s experience and knowledge, cultural heritage, skills and talents, and

d. Manages and Demonstrates Performance Process – manages performance anxiety and demonstrates a capacity for successful exploratory and goal-directed performance.

For example, learning to channel and focus aggression is a vital component of peak performance in such diverse pursuits as sports, the arts and public speaking.  Hey, I bring aggressive energy to my role as a writer.  And, not surprisingly, such an enlightened individual often becomes a role model, one who helps empower others.   (Hmm…maybe we are “Tebowing” a bit, after all.)

Which leads us to the final three – ability, influence, and empower – terms that comprise a trio or threesome, more a person-situation contingent, interactive, and mutually engaging or “give and take” and “ebb and flow” exchange of emotions and ideas yielding renewed energy, knowledge, and skill-building.  Now let’s see if we can apply the abstract to the world of real interaction or at least with a simulation.

A Power Jolting Exercise

In a recent “give and take” session, a colleague shared the powerful emotional impact of my communication and control workshop exercise.  She was surprised that the mini-role play had touched her so personally.  (In light of her dysfunctional and draining work environment, perhaps it was not so surprising that a “Drop the Rope” exercise struck such a strong chord.)  Basically, the exercise involves presenting an imaginary rope to a workshop participant and provocatively inviting the individual to engage with me in a “tug of war.”  That is, I tell the person to “sit up straight, feet on the ground, grab the rope with two hands, and get ready to pull at the count of three…”  Now most people will slip into role, though some will refuse the “rope.”  I suspect some folks fear being embarrassed; others don’t know exactly what’s going on and perhaps are less adventuresome or just want to retain control.

With invisible rope in hand, and the other individual beginning to tense, in anticipation of our face-off, at the count of “two” and beginning to mouth “three,” with both our muscles straining, I suddenly let go of the rope.  And then ask, “What just happened?”  With a sheepish look, the other person usually feigns falling backwards.  While I minimize any embarrassment by saying, “I better start running; I can tell, this guy (or gal) is probably coming after me.”  There’s a Keystone Cops quality to the interaction, and frequently we have a laugh.

“Drop the Rope”:  Fast Food for Thought

However, this rapid-fire role play may well provide some powerful insight.  (Actually, the interplay also sets up a discussion on the “Six ‘C’ Dynamics of Power Struggles” and a power struggle exercise involving the entire audience.  Email stressdoc@aol.com for details.)  How do you not take the bait when someone is provocatively fishing for an argument or power struggle?  The challenge becomes not instinctively pulling back when someone offers you a rope and then “yanks your chain.”  You don’t have to prove you can give (or be) as big a jerk.  In fact, you can just “drop the rope.”  This is not a sign of weakness.  Not wanting to play this self-defeating or dysfunctional game, you can say with energy and conviction, “This tugging back and forth isn’t working for me, I don’t know about for you?  Can we come up with a more productive way to address your grievance or solve our problem?”  Power comes from voicing your integrity and not being afraid to set limits and boundaries.

Through the “pulling the rope” exercise, my colleague came to realize that in her own dysfunctional circumstance while the power struggle rope didn’t really exist she was accepting and struggling with the entrapping bait.  She was not only disempowering herself but giving her boss more power than he actually had.  Learning to “Drop the Rope,” to let go of “being right” and getting past the palpable “unfairness” (in an environment that was not interested in engagement, justice, reform…or fairness) was critical to extricating herself and achieving “R & R”:  not simply “Rest and Relaxation” but actually “R & R & R” – knowing when to “Retreat and Retool” before deciding when, where and how to “Return” to her organization.)  This realization was part of her evolving empowerment and eventual liberation process.  (Also knowing that the power is too one-sided, sometimes you need to call in an objective third party.  And if this option is not available…alas, you may need to be updating the old resume.)

Real Relief and Belief through Grief

Frequently, this kind of letting go, seeing past the blinding outrage, only comes with some grieving.  When feeling unfairly judged, maligned or the subject of subterfuge or basically being “forced out” by a dysfunctional person and/or situation, it’s hard not to experience being out of control, or seen as injured or invaded.  It often takes courageous tears of “feeling your sorrow” (as opposed to “feeling sorry for yourself”) to cleanse wounds of hurt and humiliation.  As I once penned:

For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning desire.

And once you are mostly past the teeth-clenching unfairness and/or the ego- or dependency-fueled rage, grief compels a quiet time and soulful space for “how did I get myself into this mess” reflection and for “where do I go from here” support, planning and action.  As widely-admired 20th c. Algerian-French author and philosopher, Albert Camus, observed:  Once we have accepted the fact of loss, we understand that the loved one [or loved position; or detested person, as it were] has obstructed a whole corner of the possible, pure now as a sky washed by rain.

A Pawn or Partner in the Power Game

As I said, the spark from a colleague in the context of recent counseling experiences conjured an image of power that was both very interactive and turned the forceful, superior-subordinate dynamic on its head.  But my perspective was not simply shaped by recent encounters.  Over the years, personal and professional roles and relations have confirmed an “ability” and “empowering influence” as a careful and understanding listener.  If patient, attentive and authoritative listening is foundational, then the first floor is a capacity to engage through “good questions.”  More than ever, in a hyper-speed and distracted world, it is vital to connect to and elicit other peoples’ beliefs and ideas and emotions.  And a communicator who models laughing at one’s flaws and foibles while enabling folks to believe they have been genuinely seen and heard wields a gentle yet subtle power.  This semantic “power” threesome – careful listening, sensitive questioning, and mutual laughing – fosters a sharing that allows one party to feel it is safe to be temporarily dependent and vulnerable, to trust the other’s ability and authority within the context of an honest and open, a non-manipulative and mutual partnership.  Individuals and groups often feel energized and more “empowered” to act. 

Contemplating “Inspiring Power and Partnership,” two perspectives on power relations emerge:

1.  Partner Power.  I’m calling the use of domineering force or intimidating notions of strength and control, where exploiting, manipulating, bullying, pulling rank, or “using” the other is the typical mode of interaction, “Pawn-oriented Power.”  Conversely, “Partner-oriented Power,” an open, increasingly secure and solid relationship climate based on a non-coercive, “give and take” sharing of power, tends to evolve over time when both parties recognize the value of and possibility for:

a. the gradual belief that it is safe to share one’s vulnerability or self-doubt, while still having one’s emotional strengths and resources affirmed,

b. a relationship capable of both interdependency and appropriate dependency; naturally, the person feeling most vulnerable (or capable) is subject to change with shifting sands of time, circumstance, health, motivation, ability, skills, and resources,

c. careful and compassionate, analytic and empathic, head and heart listening,

d. often followed by selective, emotionally sensitive and thoughtful, responsible and responsive “good questions” and the meaningful exploration and engagement with the other’s perspective and point of view,

e. the appropriate use of “self-effacing” humor (reflecting a sense of humility, humanity and openness); remember, as the Stress Doc penned:  People are more open to a serious message that is gift-wrapped with humor,

f. the option of making tentative suggestions along with recommendations grounded in firm conviction, while still being receptive to counter-feedback and diverging perspective,

g. engaging in mutual discussion as well as respectful, real and candid disagreement (candor can be assertive and genuine, yet still enable a person to save face when strategically tactful or sensitive to the other’s self-esteem and identity; such candor is preferred to honesty used as a weapon to demean and demoralize),

h. recognizing and respecting basic experiential, personality, and cultural differences, and, finally,

i. the understanding that following the above psychological and communicational map of engagement often paves the way for the evolution of trust.

Actually, these steps provide another power pathway – “Partner Power.”  The ongoing evolution of trust may be the most vital and powerful interpersonal process for building or strengthening a relationship.  It is certainly foundational for forging an ongoing supportive, strategic and, especially, a synergistic alliance – whereby not only is “the whole greater than the sum of the parts” but the free flowing communication, camaraderie, and creative interplay between or among the parts means these “parts can evolve and transform into partners.”

2.  The Interdependence of Partner Power.  While trust may be a consequence of “Partner Power,” a willingness to risk and trust may also provide an infusion of power into a partner.  Though there may be a decidedly more vulnerable party, nonetheless, from a “give and take” perspective both individuals are part of the shared and evolving power equation.  Let me explain.  First, I knew a person’s vulnerability is often crisis-driven and thus time-limited.  While a person’s strengths may be partially eclipsed by momentary depletion and self-doubt, they are usually still clear to my way of perceiving, thinking, and listening.  Momentary feelings of self-doubt or helplessness don’t necessarily foreshadow long term hopelessness or dependency, especially if the vulnerable party can reach out for support in a timely fashion.  During the “crisis window” the individual is feeling disoriented, and defenses are lowered.  However, this state of vulnerability often opens a person to new problem-solving approaches along with expanded support systems and resources in order to regain control and psychic equilibrium.   While crisis is a time of danger, it is also an opportunity for significant or surprising, if not creative and synergistic, growth.

But the new insight, or perhaps it’s more a reframe, is that the vulnerable person still carries considerable power, especially within an ever evolving and reciprocal relationship where one person may be “better or worse” at a moment in (or for periods of) time.  A healthy partnership recognizes the fluid, seesaw-like nature of a relationship, and creates a climate where vital issues, including personal vulnerability as well as differences in strengths and competencies may, and sometimes must, be explored and even tested.  This “being periodically put to the test” is likely necessary for meaningful trust, real reciprocity, and interdependence to evolve, not erode, over time.

As mentioned, feeling entrapped in a web of change, conflict, and crisis may heighten one’s perceived vulnerability, including a need for more personal sharing along with a caring ear and shoulder; such uncertainty or confusion may motivate a search for guidance and resources.  (Alas, a rigid, “fight or flight” Rambo or Rambette coping pattern may preclude reaching out.  It’s why I say strong silent types often get more ulcers than Oscars!)  Still, for a healthy, functional partnership, when one party is under duress, is the other party viewed as a caring and competent resource capable of responding effectively?  For example, in my coaching work, does the other party trust that I am trustworthy?  Is the other person comfortable with the common and dissimilar ways we share and engage?  Is he willing to allow me incremental access to some of the recesses of his mind, heart, and even his soul?  If I’m able to accept and patiently listen to my own painful and vulnerable memories, emotions, and life experience, without being too quick to assess, diagnose, or judge, intimate sharing is more likely to proceed.  Especially, if I can ask questions that say to the other, “I truly want to know your ideas and experience,” that is, “I want to understand your pain and passion, purpose and power (and/or lack thereof).”

And being stimulated by such important and intense sharing invariably heightens and hones my concentration and insight, my intuition and empathy.  The vulnerable party-partner (despite a doubting self-image) is a courageous and an integral player in an interactive process that infuses me with energy, humility, and emotion as well as moving me to both analytic and compassionate engagement.  The intimate-vulnerable other has helped unleash my power, has given me license to share my authority, ability and influence (mostly as a skilled listener and occasional problem-solver), to support and empower.  Clearly, unlike “Pawn Power” which often exploits dependency, role and resource discrepancy, or lesser status, “Partner Power” creates a two-way, ebb and flow transfusion that ultimately empowers both parties.

Closing Summary

This essay has provided a hierarchical listing of various meanings of the word “power” – from power based on coercion to power bases on persuasion.  At the same time, even a negative conception of power can take on a positive and empowering tone when self-directed.  Moving beyond the abstract, power is examined through the lens of real world interaction or at least role-paying simulation.  Learning to “drop the rope” and “letting go” through grief sets the stage for paradoxically transforming feelings of loss into new possibilities and pathways of power.  Finally, contemplating “Inspiring Power and Partnership,” two perspectives on power relations emerge:  1) “Partner Power” (in contrast to Pawn-oriented Power), including the psychological and interactive steps essential for its development, and 2) “The Interdependence of Partner Power” – whereby times of crisis vulnerability often motivate one party to risk and open up emotionally and also infuse power into the other party along with eliciting a readiness to provide support.  This crisis interdependency provides uncommon if not synergistic problem-solving opportunity for both parties…parts may be able to transform into partners!

 

Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM:  Designing a Matrix for

“Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness

In our “Hyper-Speed Digital” (HSD) world, the medium is not just shaping the message but also the messenger, along with the mentality of over messaged-stimulated masses.  One obvious example:  attention span appears to be shrinking across the age spectrum.  However, I’m also noticing overdrive speech patterns, especially for the generations who have grown up with the Internet and Social Media (that is, Internet Natives in contrast to us older Generational Slugs, actually, Internet Immigrants, according to Nick Bolton technology blogger for the New York Times and author of I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works, 2010).  People just seem to talk faster, (also louder), as if they are racing to get their words in (or heard) before the other party’s ever restless radar is distracted elsewhere or simply tunes out. (Or perhaps it’s just my hearing that’s slowing as, in my sixth decade, I more consciously ebb and flow between moving smartly and purposefully as per my foundational New York/East Coast mode and mentally meandering “out of the creative closet” and into my “American in Cajun Paris,” “N’Awlins/Big Easy” mode.)

 

In addition to the speech rate, I’m also aware of multi-generational hyper-tendencies – individuals frequently blurting out the first thing that comes up.  I was going to say “comes to mind,” but I think certain cerebral circuits are being bypassed:  people are simply “shooting from the lip.”   More and more, especially when engaged in intense discussion or disagreement, my sense is that people are reflexively following their own silent and internal convoluted command:  Ready…Fire…Aim!  There’s too much electronic, scattershot, “shoot first, ask questions later” messaging.  Once feeling provoked or disrespected, you’re gunning for or putting down perceived antagonists or competitors; inflating one’s self-importance at another’s expense may or not be premeditated.  For example, while you expect some testiness (and testosterone) in a Presidential Primary Debate, Mitt Romney’s “$10,000 bet/challenge” in reaction to Rick Perry’s repeated criticism, instantly becomes a “shoot from the lip” classic.

Four “C”-ing Communication

In general, communication short on forethought, flexibility and focus is communication not concerned with the other person’s (or ironically sometimes your own) content and context; it is an exchange not attuned to fears and frustrations, as well as needs, hopes and dreams.  In the heat of civilized interpersonal battle, being “ready” and having a thoughtful “aim” before firing – speaking clearly, concisely, calmly when possible, and with conviction is vital.  Let’s call this being a “Four ‘C’-ing Civilized Communicator.”  And for extra credit, I’ll add a fifth “C” – an ability to employ a wise over a smart “comic” touch, that is, a capacity for emotionally aware and empathic “healing humor.”

And while it’s not always possible to be calm when confronted or challenged, one can be psychologically or passionately responsive instead of reactive.  For example, imagine you are in an argument, perhaps over politics or whether a movie was worth seeing, and the other party suddenly tires of the logical back and forth.  Consider the impact of each of these two-word declarations.  Can you hear and feel the difference between “You’re wrong” (said with a judgmental tone) as compared to “I disagree” (declared with energy and conviction; or perhaps with a tad more tact, “I see it differently”)?  “I disagree” meets our “Four ‘C’” criteria:  clear, concise, mostly calm and said with conviction.  “You’re wrong” shifts the focus from addressing the issue to attacking the individual in a manner that is aggressive, condescending and dismissive.  See my article, “Two Communicational Tools Providing Perspective, Patience and Presence:  Message and Mantra for Transforming Reaction into Response.”)  A pattern of impulsive, random or overkill “firing” tends to elicit defensive reactivity, “getting even,” or just plain shutdown.  Especially when the purpose and goal of your message exchange involve motivation-, trust- and relation-building, you don’t want to dumb down or numb out, to silence, intimidate or inflame. 

From Lips to Tips

Unless, of course, the communication strategy for avoiding “shooting from the lips” is shooting from the tips, that is, the finger tips, by sending a text or email.  Clearly, this is a dangerous option as anger – self-righteous or otherwise – can so easily insinuate itself into and contaminate your message.  (Okay, I concede the point; you can more safely give an antagonist the finger.)  Remember, an electronic message is devoid of face-to-face nonverbal cues; a reader can’t see your body language or readily detect a “just kidding” tone.  And emoticons don’t count as contextual information in a heated, sensitive or ego-driven exchange.  Whatever the medium, the use or equivalent of “just kidding” after jabbing the other party can easily confound if not contaminate the communication process.  Your words may now be a “mixed message” with dubious results, unless patterns of humor and trust have been clearly established.

Actually, you can outsmart yourself with excessive verbal flourishes or fireworks, if you will, whether on page or stage.  There is so much smoke and mirrors wordplay (especially if you are enchanted by your own colorful ideas and imagery) that key points or the core message may be lost in too elaborate or self-indulgent word artistry or argument.  (The Stress Doc pleads guilty as charged, and intends to mend some of his ways.  More pithy patter, anyone?) 

And finally, the other problem when a person chronically deals with conflict electronically is that you’re being a wimp.  Rather than walking ten feet to speak directly to a colleague, I’ve heard stories of employees shooting e-missiles, I mean emails, at one another through their adjacent office walls.  It’s why I say the “e” in email stands for escape!  (Hey, this punch-line not only elicits predictable laughter but often generates out loud cheering from an audience.)  Here’s my “Wimp to Warrior Conflict Engagement Scale”:  Text-Email-Phone-(depending on the image of that Skype call, I’m not sure this is a major evolutionary step for problem-solving-kind) and, finally, Face-to-Face.

Ten Tips for Professional-Productive Communication and Consensus

Summarizing the above, in today’s HSD times, for “head and heart” communication, a) to be truly informational as well as emotionally effective and efficient, and for the communication, b) to overcome interactive barriers to understanding and c) to help build consensual bridges, the messaging process must be:

1.  clear and concise,

2.  respectful and real,

3.  responsible and responsive; (email stressdoc@aol.com for the article, “The Four “R”s of PRO Relating”),

4.  open and timely, that is, candid and courageous communication needs to occur in close proximity of the conflict triggering event, and

5.  at some point, especially when dealing with emotional conflict, the exchange needs to be at least voice-to-voice, though face to face is preferable.  (And sometimes you will need a third party or mediator when egos are too injured or inflated and battle-lines are intractable.)

The exchange also needs to:

6.  slow down enough to move less at the speed of light and more at the pace and “ebb and flow” rhythm of sound,

7.  reverberate through mutual venting, curious and patient questioning-listening and responsive problem-solving feedback; such collaborative back and forth, a) loosens rigid or fixed positions, b) helps adversaries negotiate some ”starting point” or “common ground understanding” that c) acknowledges if not begins to engage the essential needs, frustrations, hopes and goals of all parties and, finally, d) helps individuals to be meaningfully seen and heard (i.e., to feel like “origins” who impact their environment, not simply being “pawns” pushed around by their environment), enabling participants to e) accept some personal loss of expectation and/or control for the greater good, goal or gain,

8.  encourage “cultural diversity,” that is, the understanding and valuing of diversity in the realms of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, age, etc., even bringing together the division’s or organization’s silo-impaired; strangers, competitors or antagonists over time better appreciate varying viewpoints and the potential for interconnectivity (or at least affirm that “difference and disagreement do not necessarily equate with disapproval and disloyalty”),

9.  stimulate “hands on” engagement resulting in tangible “getting on the same page” goals and action plans thereby yielding genuine “buy-in,” while

10. accepting the reality that issues often remain unresolved, perhaps needing to be addressed at another critical communicational juncture.

Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM:  Designing a Matrix for “Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness

Surely there’s need for conceptual tools that will strengthen a capacity for thinking-listening-questioning-responding-motivating.  I envision a model to help people become more Four ‘C’-ing thinkers and communicators – as was cited earlier, possessing clarity, concision, calm and conviction.  And as a bonus, this model will highlight the importance of:

a) employing the comedic tactically, tactfully and empathically; remember, “People are more open to a serious message gift-wrapped with humor”,

b) developing and drawing on your own inner complexity to better understand – make more tangible and comprehensible – the complexity of the outer world, and

c) motivating if not inspiring the people with whom you are engaged by speaking both to people’s real and ideal self-image as well as transforming a sense of threat, loss, and crisis into time-conscious challenge and opportunity; also helping others laugh at their flaws and foibles while touching people’s desire for imaginatively and effectively designing a balanced-integrated-animated “work-love-play” life path, and/or impacting or simplifying (without dumbing down) the outer complexity of their world.

And naturally, a critical component of inner and outer complexity involves viewing people and situations, experiences and events in context, that is, not as isolated phenomenon but in historical-psychological-relational-social-cultural perspective.  (So we might have to speak of the “Seven ‘C’s of “Conscious Cognition-Communication”:  clarity, concision, calm, and conviction as foundation for higher level cognition-communication – comedy, complexity and contextual processing.

I especially envision a model-tool for people who want to be more inspiring – purposeful, passionate and powerful – communicators, educators, managers and leaders, whether formally titled or not.

Actually, I have been designing a matrix model based on the interaction of “Individual – Physical, Mental-Emotional – Sources of Cognitive-Communication,” for example, Muscle-Mind-Mood, and a Yin-Yang, “Human Being-Human Doing,” or Flexible-Focused Energy-Consciousness.  This interplay between sources and energy-essences is depicted as follows:

 

n  Muscle (Body)  + Flexible or Focused

n  Mind (Psyche)  + Flexible or Focused

n  Mood   (Heart)  + Flexible or Focused

And “Muscle, Mind and Mood” are linked to one of three fundamental components of “Cognitive-Communication Consciousness”:  Muscle is linked to “Action,” Mind to “Intention,” and Mood to “Meaning.”  (As for the link between “mood” and “meaning,” emotions often indicate the intensity or importance of an experience, encounter and/or event.)

The interaction yields six possible matrix pieces or outcomes:

n  Muscle Focused and Muscle Flexible  =  two primary “Action” states

n  Mind Focused and Mind Flexible         =  two primary “Intention” states

n  Mood Focused and Mood Flexible       =  two primary “Meaning” states

The model components, Action, Intention and Meaning (AIM), are the interchangeable building blocks of “Cognitive-Communication Consciousness,” reflecting the interaction of “Mind-Mood-Muscle” and “Focused and Flexible.”  Arranging the letters “A-I-M” in different sequences (akin to a very mini DNA code) provides six combinatory states or styles that result from the interaction of “Cognitive-Communication Sources” (“Muscle-Mind-Mood”) and “Yang-Yin Energy-Consciousness” (“Focused and Flexible”).  For example, “Action” followed by “Intention” and then “Meaning” yields “Provocative,” while the outcome for “Action” followed by “Meaning” and “Intention” converts to “Playful.”  The “Six Cognitive-Communication Consciousness States” are:
 

n  AIM  =  (Action-Intention-Meaning)  or  “Provocative

n  AMI  =  (Action-Meaning-Intention)  or  “Playful”        

n  IAM  =  (Intention-Action-Meaning)  or  “Purposeful”

n  IMA  =  (Intention-Meaning-Action)  or  “Prospective”

n  MAI  =  (Meaning-Action-Intention)  or  “Passionate”

n  MIA  =  (Meaning-Intention-Action)  or  “Philosophical”

I’m calling the conceptual model:

“An ‘Action-Intention-Meaning’ (AIM) Matrix for Dynamic-Integrated Leadership:

A Conceptual Tool for Expanding Cognitive-Communication Consciousness”

 

             PHYSICAL-MENTAL-EMOTIONAL Sources of COGNITIVE-COMMUNICATION

 

                                          MUSCLE                            MIND                                  MOOD

                                          (Body-Intuition)                   (Psyche-Insight)                 (Heart-Imagination)

 

 

FOCUSED (Yang)

 

Provocative  (AIM)

 

Purposeful  (IAM)

 

Passionate  (MAI)

 

CONSCIOUSNESS

 

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FLEXIBLE (Yin)

 

Playful  (AMI)

 

Prospective  (IMA)

 

Philosophical  (MIA)

 

As is evident from the “Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness Matrix you can divide the states by “Consciousness”:

n  Focused:  “Provocative” (Muscle), “Purposeful” (Mind) and “Passionate” (Mood) – (Yang energy)

n  Flexible:    Playful (Muscle), Prospective (Mind) and Philosophical (Mood)   –  (Yin energy)

The model also differentiates the states by “Sources of Cognitive-Communication”:

n  Muscle/Body-Intuition:      “Provocative” (Focused) and “Playful” (Flexible)

n  Mind/Psyche-Insight:        “Purposeful” (Focused) and “Prospective” (Flexible)

n  Mood/Heart-Imagination:  “Passionate (Focused) and “Philosophical” (Flexible)

I will provide a sketch of this model, elaborating the parts and the whole in subsequent writings, i.e., defining, explaining and illustrating:

a)  two states of consciousness – “Focused” and “Flexible” reflecting “Yang” and “Yin” energy

b)  three sources of cognitive-communication – “Muscle-Mind-Mood”

c)  three “I”s illuminating 3 “M” sources – “Intuition,” “Insight” and “Imagination”

d)  the three code letters – “A-I-M”:  “Action-Intention-Meaning”

e)  the “Six ‘P’ Cognitive-Communication Consciousness States” – “Provocative, Purposeful, Passionate,

Playful, Prospective, and Philosophical.”

Finally, there’s one other dimension that is noteworthy:  Each of the “Six ‘P’” states can have a “negative to positive” quality on a 7-“R” “Cognitive-Communication Consciousness” gradient:  Regressive-Rigid-Reactive-Resilient-Reflective-Responsive-Radiant.”  One can reveal, for example, a Purposeful “consciousness” having a “Rigid” nature or a Playful “consciousness being “Resilient.”

Closing Summary

In our “Hyper-Speed Digital” (HSD) world, the medium is not just shaping the message but also the messenger, along with the mentality of over messaged-stimulated masses.  Attention span appears to be shrinking across the age spectrum; many people seem to talk faster and louder, often blurting out the first thing that comes up.  This is called “shooting from the lip,” a hasty if not hostile mode of messaging only outdone in dysfuntionality by shooting from the finger tips, that is, sending an angry text or email.  Whatever the medium, too often the messaging process reflects the convoluted internal command:  Ready…Fire…Aim!

After noting the aforementioned communicational barriers, “Ten Tips for Professional-Productive Communication and Consensus,” are outlined.  These tips are the ingredients of “head and heart” communication that:  a) provides effective and efficient data as well as emotionally engaging information, b) overcomes interactive barriers to understanding, and c) helps build consensual bridges.  The “Top Ten” introduces “Four ‘C’s of Civilized Communication” (clarity, concision, calm and conviction).   The “Four Civilizing C”s provides a platform for the “Seven ‘C’s of Conscious ‘Cognitive-Communication’” (or clarity, concision, calm, and conviction as foundation for higher level cognition-communication – comedy, complexity and contextual processing).

These concepts are aligned with a tool for people who want to be more inspiring – purposeful, passionate and powerful – communicators, educators, managers and leaders, whether formally titled or not.  More specifically, a sketch of a model has been presented for taking “Kaleidoscopic AIM” through “An ‘Action-Intention-Meaning’ (AIM) Matrix for Dynamic-Integrated Leadership:  A Conceptual Tool for Expanding Cognitive-Communication Consciousness.”

More to follow.  Until then…Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote & kickoff speaker, webinar presenter, as well as "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant.  He is providing "Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building" programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA as well as Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services.  Mark has also rotated as a Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, The Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger.  See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567.