There are enough of them that i'm going to divide this up into a few parts over the next few weeks. This will be the first on the Groundwork. Some of which have their origins in Rogerian Person Centred, Humanistic Psychological Theory and numerous other sources, but given that my frame of reference in writing about this is based as much in my past Therapeutic background as my present training and educational one and my own personal relating experience, I think it's worth remembering in reading this, that, as some of Carl Rogers leading critics also pointed out, to some reading this who've been doing a lot of personal development work, some of these may feel a bit more second nature, and to some reading this, it may feel like Olympic level gymnastics while one is simply feeling like they just nailed learning to walk. In that respect, i think the best way to think of it is aspirational, with a growth focus in mind. I say that too knowing that i sometimes read this kind of things and the whole time as critiquing myself on where am i rocking and where am i kind of sucking on this....writing this on the back of a full moon in scorpio, go gently on your gorgeous self. Ok here we go....
1-Vision: Growth focus
As Stephen Covey, Author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle Centred Leadership talks about, relationships of all kinds actually require a vision. Friendships, Marriages, Family Units and yes, at work teams of all kinds, need a vision, a set of principles and a mission statement of sorts to accompany them, so that know matter who you're relating with and what life throws at you in the process, you're focussing and hence growing towards something, together. Part of that vision incorporates the individual aspirations and goals each person is working towards, as well as the shared relationship vision or, as it may be, team vision. Nine times out of 10 when I talk to people about their relationship woes, and ask them what their vision of the perfect relationship would look like, or what they want within it, they draw a blank. A little difficult to ask for what you want and both be working towards what you both want if you aren’t clear what exactly that is.
As i was saying to a friend on the weekend, it's a bit like driving up a freeway. You're in separate cars, but you're going towards a similar agreed upon destination together...you have a course in mind and when something comes up, e.g. a trigger around not wanting to be treated that way, which may temporarily take one off track, down an exit somewhere, the relationship or team vision becomes the map you use to get out of the trigger and get back on course, to your desired destination. Agreed upon destinations may and do change and re-arrange over time, but so long as you're in mutual agreement you're on the same path, you're good.
No matter what kind of relationship we're talking about, all members involved therefore, benefit greatly from looking at the relationship as a team effort, if not, dare i say it, to make it a little more fun, a team adventure of life, growth and all things within it. In a team, you're both or all like-principled, like-valued people, in this together, roles and responsibilities need to be created and shared based on people's complimentary strengths and weaknesses, as you, together, navigate the road and traffic hazards of work, of family, of friendship, of marriage, or parenthood, of society, of humanity, of health and wellbeing, of personal growth, learning and evolution, of life. More or less of that depending on wether it's a personal relationship or based on what kind of team you're running at work. But there are different types of teams too. So part of our long term success in maintaining relationships comes from deciding also what kind of team you both or all want to be running together and what roles and responsibilities look like within that kind of team. And then holding to the commitment you’ve made to you both or all as a team, in balance with our commitments to individual aspiration and despite the tremendous fear of inadequacy or of letting go of our comfort zones of familiarity that might come with that.
Founder of Thoughtleaders, Co-Founder of Thoughtleaders Business School and one of Australia's Leading Leadership Experts, Matt Church published an awesome piece called The 4 Teams last year which addresses the question at work "what kind of team are you building?“
Stephen Covey talks about family team roles in terms of Leadership, Management and Production roles in Principle Centred Leadership.
While both can fit together neatly, the ones with not only the greatest team style compatibility and the greatest willingness to adjust course to keep driving along together in unison in that team are the ones that evolve and grow together.
In the 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr John Gottman and Nan Silver’s guidebook on how to create a harmonious and long-lasting relationship, they also talk about the importance of accepting influence, e.g. your partners input in decision making and planning, as well as the importance in what they call the spiritual dimension of relationship, of envisioning roles, goals and rituals as a way creating a shared sense of what it means to be a part of one’s relationship or family.
All might be very handy in reflecting on what teamwork at home and at work means and might look like in practical application for you and yours. If you were to then write it down for yourself, what IS your version of team for each area of your life?
Qualities to Cultivate Within Ourselves
E.g. (the willingness to show one’s true self and speak/share authentically, both sides, willingness to let others close enough to see and love you and vice versa, warts and all, as well as to feel the stretch to growth and evolution that is going to grow the relationship forward.)
Carl Rogers, one of the early Humanistic Psychologists who described Person Centred Theory and out of it founded Client Centred Therapy, called this “genuineness.” In the context of therapist client relationships, described this as being an essential component to the client being able to develop trust and open up to both the therapist facilitating the session space and their own innate healing and empowerment process. At it’s one aspect of Person Centred Theory that has applicability to everyday life is that our relationships of all kinds just as much benefit from our willingness to show up authentically and, as Brene Brown famously put it, vulnerably in our interactions with others, as well as powerfully in being willing to shine in being our biggest, brightest selves. Which means both sides willingness to show one’s true self and speak/share authentically, along with both sides’ willingness to let others close enough to experience, interact with and maybe even love the real us, warts and all, as well as to feel the stretch to growth and evolution that is going to grow the relationship forward. And vice versa.)
I think my best examples of the obvious impact of authenticity on the spark and longevity of a relationship came for me the year I was as a Sagittarian (all about universal truth and meaning) dating a Scorpio (all about integrity relative to the depths of the REAL us). If one of us was 1 mm out on being completely honest with each other on how we really felt about something for trying to please the other instead of stepping fully into the truest and most powerful version of ourselves, the spark (energy) would instantly die and feel like we were over. The second though, we owned up, got vulnerable and spoke to what we really wanted or felt following some recent moment of insight, a necessary emotional transformation, the innate cycle of death and rebirth that happens when you grow out of one old way of doing things and grow into adopting a new way of being, would happen through the acknowledgement of that reality, like hitting the energetic re-set button, it would see the inner fire re-ignite and then it was on again for young and old. Thus authenticity and vulnerability is like the spark that ignites the fuel in our fuel tanks as we drive along the freeway of life together, the more of it we have to ignite, the further we can go.
4- Acknowledgement and Acceptance
Authenticity and vulnerability are further supported, and trust and depth facilitated by the energy they are met with by the other person. Rogers coined the term unconditional positive regard e.g. witnessing someone without judgement or evaluation, but with empathy and the desire to better understand how things actually are for them moment to moment and support them to be all of themselves and grow into their highest potential as the intention to hold if we are to make it “safe’ for others to be their true selves around us. Deep down, even the people showing up purely to functional jobs or relationships of convenience need to know that, when they open up to us, whatever they say (regardless of wether we agree or feel the same, or perhaps have another perspective) need to feel that they’ll be met with acknowledgement of the validity of whatever it is that they’re presently experiencing and to have the sense that there’ll still be love (acceptance and continuity) on the other side of that disclosure when they do, in order for trust to be established and deepen with the repetition of this practice. Most people need to know that we’re committed to making the effort to notice and take stock of what is truly important to them too. Personally and, yes at work too if you’re Manager or Business Leader. Employees are looking for this from their Leaders and Managers just as much as the Leaders and Managers are looking for signs that their team are genuinely supportive and interested in them and the realisation of their cause. Thus acceptance is a bit like the favourable weather that we drive in on the highway that makes for an easy drive. Acknowledgement is the spark that ignites the fuel the car needs to run.
5- Transfiguration and Positive Outlook
Now this one may be a little more appropriate for our personal relationships. But if you’re into a family or a sports team style collaborative team at work, where you want to facilitate the deepening of connection, or if you want to facilitate the growth and inspiration of the people who come to you as clients wanting your support to learn a new skill/s, this might just be relevant to you too. This practice the warmth, the acceptance, and love people feel met with when they interact with us a step further again though if we can practice a little something that the Yogi’s call Transfiguration. E.g. To practice seeing others in this way is truly to, as the Bali Medicine Man puts it to Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love, to see the world through the eyes of our heart.
This basically means always being open to seeing not just the future potential within, but in the present moment, the divine gift and potential that is inherently expressed at all times through all people and in all things. And sitting across from another, essentially means looking them in the eyes and soulfully connecting with the other person, with this intention and appreciation. What is it that makes this person the gorgeous, unique and talented person they are? What gifts can we be grateful for that they offer up to us while they sit in our presence? Even if we’re there to literally teach them something, and especially if we’re there to support them, this practice literally improves the quality of your relationships 100 fold.
Many people out there though have rarely been met with this level of transpersonal, higher love in their lives, yet their whole lives, many people, deep down crave to connect in this way, so when they experience it, be warned, it can feel a bit to them like they’re falling in love with you as they reconnect with this level of love at first THROUGH you (until they, if they want to, also learn to do this for themselves) , because, beyond bonds with biological family, like parents or siblings or children, that’s the main socially societal frame of reference we have to categorise a level of love that pure, graceful and strong. In truth though, the more we practice this as a collective, the more we each just level up in being able to experience the higher levels of love. Imagine then romantic love from this place.
If authenticity is the spark, then Transfiguration is like the supply of fuel that comes from the universal petrol station of higher love that never runs out. Through the transpersonal eyes, we can see others, particularly in their moments of projection, pain and perceived failures with empathy and compassion for their human fragility, as well as their highest potential. Which doesn’t (as other parts of us seem to sometimes fear) mean we’re justifying or coddling or making slight on genuine transgressions of boundaries in any form of relationships. With higher love, it’s actually possible to hold both truths at the same time, that this is a person we love, doing their best to be love and to love to the best of their ability AND these are our boundaries and terms on how we want to be met and loved and what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour as we drive together down this road of life. From this place too, it's far easier to understand another, as well as to be understood by them.
Transpersonal/higher love helps us let GO of the fear that we’ll lose our power or enable the other by pursuing forgiveness. Our true power comes NOT from trying to exert control or pain and consequence over them, but from simply owning our truth and embodying it accordingly and staying committed to that truth, within the shared relationship vision. Thus is the power of transfiguration and transpersonal (divine) love.
6- Service over Self Satisfaction
This kind of love too is more an expression of service, rather than the desire to be loved/the high of being loved or the desire to get what one wants out of the equation, in and of itself. That alone, weather it be through desire, through healing, or ambition, or just the blatant old Captain Jack Sparrow “take what you want, give nothing back” equation, can get pretty yawn-worthy, or rather just flat out unfulfilling pretty fast for the women or the men on the giving/allowing side of that equation, not being met back in a two way feedback loop. Like Liz in Eat Pray Love with the Bali Medicine Man, healing so she can find her way back to service and love or Bruce Almighty learning to see Grace through the eyes of God again and feel into what she wants again, the Transfiguration/Transpersonal Love practice (which puts us directly in touch with our most authentic, intuitive, fully expressed/embodied selves) helps us balance both being of service and being met at the same time, and more than that, align them, personally and professionally, in perfect order. Wether at work or personally, if you want to inspire and motivate or create connection long term, try on the transpersonal for size and give the Transfiguration bit a try.
Afterthought: It’s a brilliant skill for de-escalating conflicts in all relationships too, professional and personal. Because the moment one party can stop, breathe and shift themselves into this heart space, in a heart beat, if we look the other party or parties in the eyes, it will bust people back out of projections and conflict and back into connecting with you and everyone present in the same way. Note: most effective done live in person. Harder to execute in online discussion, messaging or email, because the person is in their head reading/visually sensing and decoding what you’re saying, they’re not necessarily seeing or feeling your non verbals like they would in person. It helps to move it to video chat if you can.
Stay tuned for next week in which we continue to talk about the qualities to cultivate within ourselves.....
Until next week, have fun, take care.
Covey, S.R., Principle Centred Leadership, 8th Edition, Simon & Schuster, London, 1992
Church, C. Talking Point 22 The 4 Teams
Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N., The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, HARMONY BOOK, United States, 2015
Gottman J.M. & Silver, N., What Makes Love Last, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2015
Myss, C. Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential, Three Rivers Press, 2003
Rogers, C. Client-Centred Therapy, Constable, London, 1951
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.