Why Our Righting Reflex Get’s It Wrong

Why & How Not To Believe Everything You Think

There’s a bumper sticker that says “Don’t believe everything you think.” I think most of us would agree, at least for much of what runs through the fertile fields of our mind. The exceptions, of course, are our cherished personal opinions and positions.

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Just as sure as the righting reflex in an infant automatically causes their body to follow their head, so does our need to prove ourselves “right” when talking with others. And unlike the infant righting reflex that we’ve all outgrown, our “need-to-be-right” righting reflex is persistent and has to be actively managed.

I was reminded of that reality once again during a discussion with one of my adult kids just the other day. Once again, I had already said too much, too quick before realizing it was mostly in the service of proving my point vs adding to the shared pool of meaning through dialogue (much to my chagrin).

What exactly is the “need-to-be-right” righting reflex? It’s the desire to fix what seems wrong with people, make them see and concede to your position and set them promptly on a better course. It involves the belief that you must convince or persuade the person to do the right thing.

While the righting reflex is normal, it’s also counterproductive to our personal and professional lives.

What Drives It?

Many things. One is the delusion that if you just ask the right questions, find the right arguments, give the right critical information, provoke the decisive emotions, or pursue the correct logic that you’ll convince the other person to your point of view.  Once done of course, the other person will clearly see the error of their own mistaken ways, change and adopt yours!  The reality? We are all wired to look for evidence to support our views….including the person your trying to convince.  And if we can’t find evidence we often conveniently piece stuff together to make it up, make it fit, or make us feel better. The problem is that  because it goes both ways, a vicious positive feedback cycle occurs. What usually ensues is called an argument.

What’s the Impact?

Usually, a very directing and monologue style of communication that almost always repels the other either into some form of silence or violence. As result, healthy dialogue, creativity, resolution and our relationships suffer…..or can be lost. Even if a person is willing to consider your position, the fact you’re forcing it on them automatically turns him or her in the opposite direction, makes discord more likely than dialogue and turns a potential friend toward being a foe.

What To Do?

  • First, realize what resisting the righting reflex is not: It’s not admitting that your wrong! It simply 37056008 - group of school kids with pens and papers writing in classroommeans your open to learning.
  • Understand that your reflexive response to correct, fix, or make change happen may not be the best choice; you could be mistaken, misunderstand one or more points, be flat-out wrong or simply have a legitimate difference of opinion.
  • Challenge what you’re thinking without a rigid attachment to your own perspective.
  • Listen actively and reflectively. Reflective listening means you can feedback to the other person what they said and ask for understanding or clarification
  • Express an openness to looking at your conclusions from other perspectives; be curious.
  • Be gracious when disagreements remain and remember that the topic is separate from the relationship.

Why Curiosity and Openness are effective.

There are several reasons, not the least of which is that people value their autonomy and agency highly and want to come to conclusions ourselves and not have them forced on us. The other is that curiosity and openness foster rapport and engagement, which helps you better understand the other persons needs and motivations. Once you do, you have a better foundation for effective communication, collaboration and enabling change.

The reality is that our own thoughts are not necessarily the most reliable source when it comes to the truth. Yet it’s so easy to forget that. When we do, we become rigidly fixed in our own perspective, closed to seeing things any other way, and very attached to being “right”. I said it before and will repeat it here: remaining unattached to your position and curious about that of others isn’t admitting you’re wrong, it just means you’re open to learning.

Where is the righting reflex showing up in your life and relationships? Once you answer that question you have a choice to make: you can choose to be effective in a winsome way or you can choose to be “right”.

Comments are valuable, so please share yours.

How To Embrace Necessary Endings

3 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Lose The Good Of Any Situation

We usually love beginnings and often hate endings…..at least the ones that are painful, we don’t like or we don’t have control over.  The reality is that some endings are necessary.  In fact, necessary endings are as important to life as are beginnings…..and just as common.

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Necessary endings come in many varieties. Some are relationships, some are life events. Some necessary endings are outside our control and some are things to which we have to respond and act.  Like them or not and no matter how you slice it, necessary endings are indeed a part of life.

What necessary ending have you gone through recently, are experiencing now, or are likely to experience soon?  Here are some I experience repeatedly:

  • My favorite season- I always hate to see summer go, and go it must if I want to experience it again.
  • Our therapists who leave, change roles or professions- Confluent Health has a lot of talent, and as people grow and developed it often takes them in different directions.
  • My physical capacities- I find this is becoming more frequent as I grow older and I have to adapt.

Here are some that are one-time events:

  • Pets dying- our 12 year old lab passed last week.
  • Kids leaving- they start their own household and families.
  • A close friendship- whether due to difficulties or different directions.

Given how common a part of life endings are, what makes them so challenging to go through?  Perhaps the answer is found in how you choose to process them.

By embracing the following 3 factors you can make sure you don’t lose the good out of any situation, no matter how distasteful:

  1. Framework- you get to choose how you will respond. Just how powerful is having and exercising a framework of choice? Enough to survive a concentration camp and go on to live a fulfilling life.
  2. Perspective-you get to choose how you see it. Most people see situations as good or bad.  If you choose instead to see them as pleasant or unpleasant, (like emotions) you can experience them more realistically.
  3. Context-you get to choose how to fit things into an integrated whole.  Reframing a necessary ending with the bigger picture in mind often allows you to pull together overarching themes….and understand that the necessary ending you’re dealing with may be a verse, page or chapter and not the story itself.

The good news is that however unpleasant, you don’t have to simply “settle” or dread necessary endings. That goes for the ones that happen naturally as well as those you need to make happen.

By using the 3 factors above you not only can keep from losing the good out of any situation, you can sometimes even make the difficult easy and the distasteful pleasant.

What necessary ending do you need to process differently  in order to maximize the good of a unpleasant situation?  You sure don’t want to lose the good out of it.

Please leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



1 Fundamental You Have To Ditch

To Better Succeed With Relationships And Results

When it comes to fundamentals, basic building blocks of knowledge and skills that lead to mastery and success usually come to mind. What we don’t realize is that there are certain fundamentals that can do the exact opposite for us and lead us to demise.  The Fundamental Attribution Error or FAE is one of those.

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The FAE, which also goes by the name of correspondence bias or attribution effect, is probably best understood when described: it’s when we attribute ill-intentions to what another person says or does. The pernicious “other side of the coin” is that when it comes to our own behaviors, we almost always attribute it to our circumstances or environment and not our intentions. In other words, we’re really good and giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt while denying it to others….after, it’s the other person who has the problem, not you (right?).

The FAE isn’t some new concept, it’s been described in the psychology literature for some time. What was new and a jolt for me was being aware of how often I commit it.

What does that look like practically? Here is an example:

Your kid has destroyed part of the drywall in the garage by throwing a screwdriver into it about 100 times and making it stick.  You see it and immediately think how ungrateful and disrespectful the kid is. You also begin to worry about the destructive behavior you know he is beginning to develop.

While I’m not sure that’s what my parents thought back in 1975 when they first saw the garage wall mentioned above, I do know they weren’t happy.  I also know the reason that I did it had nothing to do with the reasons given in the example. It’s just that I had gotten pretty good at throwing a screwdriver and making it stick in the wall.  I simply needed extra practice so I could take it to the next level….with a knife in a tree (oops! didn’t notice I tore up a wall in the process).

After what you just read, are you starting to get a bit of a jolt too?  My guess is you are because the FAE is one fundamental that seems to be inherent vs acquired (although some of us learn to make a fine art of it over the years).  My other guess is that results you get when you make the FAE are the same as mine: not good for either your relationships or outcomes.

So what to do?

First, be aware of 5 signs that indicate you may be tromping around in FAE territory:

  1. Disappointment in the other person or pride in yourself.52285885 - the concept of people opposed to judging system
  2. Self-justification, excuse making, and giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Anger, frustration and casting blame and judgement toward others.
  4. Inferring motives to others you wouldn’t ascribe to yourself in the same situation.
  5. You feel these same things from others and feel judged or victimized.

Second, replace a trending FAE mindset with:

  • Curiosity and Interest – observe behavior and results from a place of curiosity.
  • A key question- what are some other reasons  an otherwise sane and rational person would do this (besides the one you are inferring)?

If want to improve your relationships and results, consider how the FAE is impacting you.  It’s one of those low-hanging fruit kind of things you can begin to address and get really positive results fairly quickly…with practice. Like many things, it’s simple and not easy.

If this is all new, where and with who is the FAE showing up most in your life?  If you decided to address it, how would it positively affect your relationships and results?

If you’ve already recognized FAE and are addressing it, outstanding!  What’s working well for you and what isn’t?   Please leave a comment and share the wealth.

3 Non-Negotiables for Ideal, Engaged Teammates

The work by Gallup and others have made it clear that employee engagement across the board is a low 30%. Why would we expect it to be any different for someone simply considered to be an employee? The term “employee” and “engagement” have no natural relationship to one another; the same goes for project or committee member.

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The role of an employee or member is to simply perform a particular role for an agreed amount of pay, reward or recognition……regardless of whether they are engaged or not.  A  teammate, on the other hand, is by definition engaged in the vision, mission and committed to competition. If not, they are no longer a team-mate but dead weight.

Could it be that our real problem with engagement is our own perspective? While a teammate can serve as an employee or member of some sort, a member isn’t necessarily a teammate.

Pat Lencioni’s latest book “The Ideal Team Player” speaks to this issue. It has a simple premise that makes sense: great teams require ideal team players. His definition of an ideal team player or teammate encompasses engagement and more. He defines an ideal teammate as someone who has the ability to work effectively with others and add value within the dynamics of a group endeavor.

What isn’t so simple is how to identify and keep ideal, engaged teammates. Lencioni say’s there are three fundamental virtues that help you do just that:0204 TeamPlayer IIjpg

  • Humble: No excessive ego or status concerns; quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to draw attention to their own. Emphasize team success over self success. This is the single most indispensable virtue.
  • Hungry: Self-motivated and always looking for more to do, learn and take on; always thinking about the next-step and opportunity.
  • Smart: Not head-smart but heart-smart. They have a high SEI, common sense, and listen and ask more than show and tell.

Notice he refers to these three as “virtues”,  not values.  This is because virtue denotes both a quality and asset, which indicate each can be cultivated.

The other critical key point: the three taken together is greater than the sum of their parts. In other words, it’s the combination of the three that makes the ideal teammate.  And while “ideal” likely isn’t attainable, it is possible to hit a certain “sweet-spot” close to the ideal.

What became obvious to me in reflecting on my own experience with memorable teams is that most if not all the individual team members strongly exhibited these 3 essential virtues.  This held up across the board, regardless of personal, business or recreational domains.  These qualities not only made them great teammates, they also made them great people you just wanted to be around (which holds true for my current Confluent Team as well).

Want to find and partner with teammates who can come together and create low maintenance, high performing teams? Then look for someone who is humble, hungry and smart.

Reflect on teams you’ve been a part of in the past in relationship to Lencioni’s three fundamental virtues.  How could you leverage these three to make your current teammates and team better? If you included them as part of your hiring criteria, what impact could they have?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.

How To Make The Most From Mentorship

To Get You Where You Want To Go

I’m convinced that behaviors that appear to be instinctual may not come without the modeling we get from spending time with a mentor. In fact, I believe that mentoring is essential for acquiring the subtle things that can make the biggest difference to our success. I know it has for me and I am thankful for the many mentors God has put in my life.

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There are several “helping conversations” that can fuel both our personal growth as well as enterprise and each have their place. These would included teaching, mentoring, coaching and consulting.  Knowing the differences between these and when each is needed is important in order to get the most out of each of them.  If your curious about these differences, I’ve described and summarized them in a previous video post.

I do want to say a bit more about mentorship.  While mentorship is similar to teaching, there is a critical difference: mentorship imparts knowledge and wisdom that can only be gained through someone else’s personal experience. And while coaching often extends what mentorship begins, it too is very different. Mentoring is taking what God has given me and imparting that to you, whereas with coaching I’m taking what God has given you and drawing it out of you or making you aware of it. The former is taking your place on the stage as the Sage. The latter involves being a Guide on the side.  Both of these as well as teaching and consulting have their place…..at the right time and right context.

So how do you make the most out of your mentoring experiences? Here are six that I have found:

  1. Be humble- forget about whatever status or acclaim you’ve had in the past, assume the role of novice 10320952 - young college student tutoring an older classmate.and learner.
  2. Admire- remember it’s not all about you. Sincerely appreciate what attracts you to your mentor and do so in the right way, time and place.
  3. Understand- seek first to understand their perspective first instead of trying to show them how much you know.
  4. Give- reward and repay your mentor by seeking ways to add value back to them. Sometimes it comes by maximizing what you do with the mentorship you’ve been given, other times it’s something more reciprocal.
  5. Produce- successful people and companies won’t continue to give to what doesn’t reward them. Make sure you’re adding progressive value to the individual mentor as well as the enterprise.
  6. Communicate- know what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Sometimes the silence is just as important as the words spoken.

The reality is that you need great mentorship to maximize your success. And what you get out of your mentorship experience depends more on you than it does your mentor.

What do you need to do differently in order to maximize your own mentorship experience? More importantly, to what are you willing to commit?

Please leave a comment and share what you’ve found to be important in your own mentorship experience; you just never know who you might touch and provide some mentoring to along the way.