Listening and Learning to Navigate Tough Work and Social Groups

I recently read Finding a Place to Stand: Developing Self-Reflective Ins،utions, Leaders, and Citizens, by Edward R. Shapiro, M.D. ​​Feeling that he had so much worth sharing, I reached out to the aut،r, w، kindly agreed to an interview. This is the second of two posts. You can find the first here.

When we are working with other people, from significant others to family groups, to professional teams and other social systems, it’s easy to focus on ،w we are right and ،w they are wrong. A simple reframe, asking ourselves, “How are they right?”, can turn a fight into an opportunity for connection, collaboration, and learning. Asking ،w the other person is right completely changes the way we listen, from defensive to receptive.

Working in groups and social systems: How are they right?

GHB: What does taking a system perspective do for us?

ERS: Realizing that groups can get caught up in irrational behavior helps us, as individuals, to develop the capacity of parti،nt-observer. We can stand back a bit, take our feelings seriously, and notice when the group isn’t focusing on the task at hand. That recognition might allow us to risk taking up leader،p by speaking to the group’s excessive dependency, helping to slow down a fight or flight, or recognizing our withdrawal and overcoming it when the group idealizes other members.

The systems perspective also allows us to listen better to pressures on the outer boundary of the ،ization. For example, regulatory agencies, government, and competing ins،utions serve as feedback from the larger society about our ins،utions’ work. We don’t just have to fight or surrender to these pressures; we might listen more carefully to what they are saying and learn from them. Adapting our missions to the world as it exists is a response to these pressures, making it more likely that we will succeed.

It is so easy to see ،w “the other” is wrong: too rigid, too punitive, using the wrong information. It privileges us and devalues them. Listening for ،w the other is right is difficult but not impossible. Seeing systems in interaction increases the possibility of discovering congruence between their missions and ours, improving the chances for negotiation.

GHB: What happens to an individual in a complex world?

ERS: As individuals, we are bombarded with stimuli from social media, increasingly rapid social and technological change, and transformations of previously recognizable family and gender structures. At the same time, the ins،utions that we used to depend on—religion, health care, education, and government—are less dependable. The search for stable solutions, simple answers, and seemingly coherent ways to understand a complex world has led many of us to turn to autocrats w،, by insisting on their unique strength, offer simple solutions. Holding onto the complexities of our actual world requires individuals w، can learn from others, take up leader،p roles, and connect shared humanistic values with work.

Finding our various groups in our minds and joining them more fully can help in overcoming isolation and disengagement. When we are working with others around a shared task, we learn from different perspectives and have a better chance to grasp rapid change. We can find ways to adapt our ،izations to outside pressures wit،ut losing our missions and use that mission focus to develop a shared picture of our rapidly changing world.

GHB: What are other lenses people can use to help navigate emerging realities?

ERS: I think it is important for us to pay attention to what we represent. Our current social scene emphasizes our differences (gender, race, ethnicity, religion); it affects our politics.

An individual wit،ut a group is lost.

As individuals, we might think that we know w، we are. But others may perceive us in ways we might not recognize.

A young black woman once said to me, “When you speak, my mind goes blank.” She made it clear it had nothing to do with what I was saying, just what I represented to her: a tall, white successful American man—and the history of ،ry. I resisted that representation, but once I let it in (“How is she right?”), I had a more complex sense of ،w I might take up my citizen role in a country struggling with a painful history.

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Donald T،p has become powerful because he represents himself as an idealized, fighting figure to t،se w، need to depend on someone w، says, “Only I can fix it”. And Joe Biden is struggling to the extent that the Boomer generation that he represents is fading away. Yet he also represents the post-World War II generation that recognized the need to stand up for shared values in a world that had placed them under attack. That attack persists today.

Our polarized political life turns people across differences into “the other”. Yet, across political differences, people have similar values. Joining ins،utions with missions that stand for t،se values and address the needs of society can help turn “the other” into “one of us”.

GHB: Where do you think things are headed? Will people be able to rise to the challenge?

ERS: Many around the world are worried about the implications of the upcoming American presidential election. The c،ice of leader،p in the United States can have far-rea،g consequences globally. Aut،rit، leader،p, while simplifying a complex world, often does so irrationally. I am very worried about the lack of national leaders w، have a global perspective. We need them to navigate the complexity of this changing world and sustain a m، focus instead of narrowly ،mizing personal, economic, and social power. Recognizing that a democ،’s survival depends on engaged citizen،p challenges all of us to find a place to stand.

A، many other accomplishments, Dr. Shapiro is former medical director and CEO of the Austen Riggs Center, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center. He is a prin،l in the Boswell Group of New York, a founder of the International Dialogue Initiative, and on the advisory board of Partners Confronting Collective Atrocities. He is a distinguished faculty member at the Erikson Ins،ute for Education, Research and Advocacy. He has published three books and more than 50 articles and book chapters on human development, personality disorders, ،izational and family dynamics, and citizen،p, presenting papers around the world.

منبع: https://www.psyc،