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“It’s not our job to play judge and jury, to determine who is worthy of our kindness and who is not. We just need to be kind, unconditionally and without ulterior motive, even – or rather, especially – when we’d prefer not to be.”

Josh Radnor, Director, Author

The more I work with people who are willing to undergo the courageous work of personal and professional transformation, the more I recognize the critical need for patience and reassurance.

We live in a world where it’s highly tolerated to use shaming in our socialization process. We hear parents, teachers and employers say things like, “You’ve disappointed me,” “What were you thinking?” and “You should be ashamed of yourself” all in an attempt to quickly bring about desired behavior change. Using shame to modify behavior is about as effective as trying to remove one’s finger from a Chinese finger trap, all while shaming becomes internalized. The harder you try to “force” behavior change, the less opportunity for genuine change.

I help people understand there are four stages in the change process. The first is unconsciously incompetent, when we don’t realize what we are doing and what it costs; we have a blind spot. Next we graduate to consciously incompetent, a stage in which we know better, but we are not yet sufficiently capable of shifting our behavior. This stage cannot be rushed. This stage requires patience and reassurance. Yet, recognizing conscious incompetence often instead, triggers people to engage in internalized (and externalized) shaming.

Here’s an example: In our work, we address cynicism head on, and at a client site, an employee had an unexpected moment of clarity; conscious incompetence when she realized that she and her team were habitually cynical about the doctors they served. Her first reaction to her realization was, “Oh my gosh. I feel so ashamed!” I suggested she put the shame down and pick up patience and reassurance instead. Shame would have her entering that Chinese finger trap, arresting her ability to make genuine, and sustainable progress.

Helpful AND Harmless

How can one transform effectively in a community in which helpful is not always paired with harmless? When we use shaming or other control methods, while it may be expedient, it is never harmless. Is it possible that helpful and harmless together is the winning combination we often overlook? Consider this true story about how one group of people manage to be helpful and harmless when misconduct occurs.

In Southern Africa there is a tribe called the Babemba tribe, which is comprised of peaceful and supportive members. On rare occasions, someone misbehaves. When this happens, the entire community gathers around the person and makes it priority to spend as much time as needed, to recite all the good things the person has ever done in the community. They say that the need for this ceremony is rare. Imagine what our communities would be like if we also applied patience and reassurance to those in a discouraged state who have forgotten who they really are. What if we were to remind each other we are, and want to be, great? This is a radical departure and it takes time (patience) and reminding one another of their goodness and our faith in them (reassurance).

If you are ready to become equipped to influence and improve relationships and productivity through respectful and trustworthy means and processes, give me a call. I’m happy to help you!

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Judy Ryan and Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace. For a limited time, Judy’s book, What’s the Deal with Workplace Culture Change? is available FREE at www.GetMyCultureBook.com You can also contact Judy at 314-239-4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

This article was published in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, December 2017