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So, we’ve had to up the ante, and now it’s time for Phase Two. It’s time for things to get difficult.

James Dashner, American Novelist

Definitions of Upping the Ante: to raise the cost or price; to increase the risk or possible harm that could result from something; to set a higher standard or goal.

In my work in culture transformation, in month 6 of our yearlong process, we introduce a powerful tool called redirecting negative behavior. This tool is an alternative to punishment, bribing, shaming and other counter-productive actions used to get people to stop misbehaving. Redirect is important because traditional ways of addressing negative behavior work only temporarily if at all, do not address underlying causes, and worse, reinforce limiting and fearful beliefs people have about themselves when they get discouraged and act out. Redirecting negative behavior requires all four emotional intelligence competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management.

In the redirect process, the one encountering the negative behavior in another person, first exercises self-awareness about feelings being evoked in them by the misbehaving person. Then, the redirector become socially-aware concerning what mistaken and unconscious pattern and goal is in play by the misbehaving person. Then, they self-manage so they don’t inadvertently support the other person’s fearful and limiting beliefs. Next, they manage the relationship by consciously countering the mistaken goal, by refusing to confirm something critical and shameful the person is believing about themselves.

When the redirecting begins, the misbehaving person does what’s called upping the ante. In other words, they get worse initially because they are trying to get others to validate their fearful and limiting self-beliefs and resistance occurs in them as a result. As Dashner puts it, they raise the price, increase the risk, and set a higher goal! Even when it is mistaken! Knowing this about upping the ante helps the one redirecting because they are taught to realize that holding a positive view of the person IS working. They stay with their influence until the misbehaving person internally concedes their fearful and limiting beliefs and their behavior reflects this. This heals not only the one misbehaving of his or her fearful, limiting self-concepts, but at the same time this also heals the same beliefs in the one doing the redirecting.

I felt compelled to write this article at this time because I see so many people increasingly discouraged and displaying negative behavior. Their belief in their inferiority surfaces. Because of centuries of conditioning, the parts of them wanting to believe better of themselves are at odds with the unconscious and self-conscious (ego identity) are holding onto fearful, limiting beliefs about themselves. As they seek to rise above this, their unconscious and self-conscious (ego identity) ups the ante. I see this in myself. In fact, in reading the book, You’re Not Broken, by Christopher Duncan, I see parallels between his work and the individual psychology of Alfred Adler we use in our work, including redirecting negative behavior, whether I do this internally with myself or externally with others.

As I go deeper into the truth of goodness and infinite possibilities and creativity, the unconscious and self-conscious, outdated, conditioned self ups the ante to pull people back down only because the familiar self-shrinking parts of people feel safe shrinking! The more we all understand this, the better our environments can become at work, at home, and in society at large. When we or others up the ante in response to seeing the best in people (redirecting them), it is tempting to believe that our faith in people (including ourselves) is misplaced, and that we should just get resigned to re-establishing the use of shaming, punishing, and controlling, which in reality only further discourages and promotes greater internal and external struggles and negative behavior!

I remember a time I witnessed a highly accomplished, award-winning business woman in a mistaken goal of negative behavior called the mistaken goal of Significance. In this goal, she was clinging to a belief she was not ok and not enough. Some call this imposter syndrome. Even though she had accomplished tremendous success in her business, including outstanding revenue growth and service for many people, I could see she was wreaking havoc by trying to get people to take her down and invalidate her. She did this by puffing up, bragging and demeaning others. As I recognized this pattern in her (my self-awareness could feel inadequacy evoked in me and my social awareness realized her pattern), I redirected her by acknowledging her accomplishments and asking her to let me help her with a blind spot holding her back in her business. I was anticipating what would come up next and reminded myself that it would signal progress!

As expected, she upped the ante. She lit into me about how I was not as good as she was at running a business; that I didn’t have her experience, revenues or awards, so how could I possibly help her when I was the one who could learn so much from her?! I managed the redirect by listing her assets once more and by mirroring her words and feelings, all while inviting her again to receive from me, refusing to take her bait to invalidate anything about her. Only after influencing her by refusing to invalidate her, was she redirected and in this instance, showed me the underbelly of her darkest fears. It was incredibly powerful to witness and despite being a tense, somewhat intimidating exchange (redirecting negative behavior is not for the faint of heart! It is for Commandos in the love revolution!), while in front of others, I could feel the healing within her and myself. I could feel the power of positive intention and commitment to supporting the best in people. Redirecting her increased my abilities to love and appreciate her where at one time I would have felt only repelled by her outer façade.

I am writing this article because this is a critical time in our evolution as people. Not just in our businesses but in all settings. The more we understand how to counter fearful and limiting beliefs in ourselves and others, the faster we will heal ourselves and them, and collectively come into our magnificence and creativity instead of engaging in ongoing struggles and a lack of progress. This is not only good business; this is good humanity. Only then can we solve our many current and future challenges. Only then can we cause amazing things for and with one another and believe in, and co-create all possibilities needed as we evolve.

Please let me know if you are open to learning more about this and many other strategies possible through LifeWork Systems that have proven to expand human potential and bring out the best in people. You matter and are important to this vital process of change at this time. As you believe in yourself and others, and learn to feel encouraged when you remember that we are all better than we think, you rejoice when you witness upping the ante. You come to recognize that you are making much-needed headway, and breaking through negativity, so you free up that which is life-giving. You rejoice when you witness the dark before the dawn, because you know that your steadfastness and determination IS winning the day and bringing everyone into full appreciation for all they are and all they have to offer!

This article is published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, May, 2024

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