Reflecting on this video, Tammy Lenski over at Conflict Zen says:
“We’re wired for compassion — our default setting is to help. But sometimes we turn off that part of ourselves.”
Tammy’s comment and Goleman’s video got the wheels spinning in my head. I immediately thought of the concept of self-deception that I first learned from the book Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute.
I’ll paraphrase from the book to set the stage for my observation:
- An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal.”
- When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.
- When I see a self-justifying world, my view of reality becomes distorted.
- I then become self-deceived.
Once I am self-deceived, I:
- Inflate others’ faults.
- Inflate my own virtue.
- Inflate the value of things that I perceive will justify my self-betrayal.
- Blame others for my original act of self-betrayal.
So, if we are “wired for compassion,” any time we act in a way that is not compassionate we betray ourselves. The act of self-betrayal then sets off the chain of events leading ultimately to self-deception. Once I am self-deceived, I get angry with others, blame them, etc. I suddenly find myself in conflict with someone, and the conflict started with me.
Towards the end of the video, Goleman points out that we can turn off our compassion drive. He also says that we can choose to turn it on by simply noticing the needs of others.
Let’s work this backwards. If I notice the needs of others. I then act on the drive to show compassion, and I never betray myself. Since I do not betray myself, I never need to justify my betrayal. If I do not need to justify my betrayal, I do not need to blame others. So, I find myself in fewer conflicts.
If that is so, then maybe a key to resolving workplace conflicts starts with the choice to notice others’ needs so that we can show compassion.
I wonder: if we are willing to make that choice, do we find ourselves in fewer conflicts that need resolution?
The Anatomy of Peace is another book that expands on this concept.