It may be hard to believe that merely listening compassionately can actually produce positive results quickly, in an easy and relaxed manner, with individuals whose behaviors are upsetting to us, at home or at work.
Can one bad apple spoil the whole bunch?
When William Felps was a doctoral student at the UW Business School, he designed an experiment to see what happens when a "bad apple" worker joins a team. He divided people into small groups and gave them a task. One member of the group would be an actor, acting like a bad apple: either like a jerk, a disrupter or a depressive. Within forty-five minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple.
What was particularly surprising was that, while the results were consistent from one group study to the next, there was one time when a team member was a particularly good leader and he would ask questions, engage all the team members and defuse conflicts by really listening to what they had to say. In this one study group, the bad apple had no sustaining impact on the rest.
Later it was discovered that this young man's father was a diplomat, and what he did with the bad apple and the others who had been negatively influenced, was engage them and connect with them - like a diplomat. He had an amazing diplomatic ability to defuse conflict that would normally emerge as the actor would display this real bad apple type behavior, by asking questions and then listen attentively to their answers.
The research is in: a leader can in fact change the dynamics and performance of a group by simply listening compassionately with the intention of engaging fear based perceptions in order to defuse the disruption. By going around the group and asking questions, soliciting everyone's opinions - no matter how negative they appear to be - making sure everybody is heard, one person can literally transform the energy and dynamics of a group that's being adversely affected.
The Power of One
All it takes to overcome unskilled behavior is for one person to step up who is willing to listen attentively and without judgment. Listening with "healing ears" is more powerful than meanness, rudeness, negativism, avoidance, minimizing or just plain checking-out mentally and emotionally.
By really listening to each other, by asking questions to gather necessary information about "what" is going on for them, you will see an immediate climate change in the environment. Ask enough questions to discover what their underlying thinking is that is causing the disconnect: fear and subsequent negativity. This one action alone creates a new culture from which to live, work and play.
The Power of One
I am only one,
Excerpt from The Power of Compassion: 7 Ways You Can Make A Difference
©1990 to 2018 Mary Robinson Reynolds.
All Rights Reserved.
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