Recently, I attended an interesting workshop entitled “Peaceful Parenting.” (Don’t ask…) The presenter, Dr. Nancy S. Buck offered a method for dealing with tantrums and meltdowns in children. As it turns out, I see this approach as equally useful for adults (including management, bosses, heads of state and terrorists).
The approach understands all behaviors as purposeful and are attempts to meet one or more of 5 basic human needs. These needs are hard-wired into our brains and our bodies and we are under a biological mandate to meet them. (unless we are suicidal). The needs can be understood in the acronym “FLIPS.” They are:
All needs are equally important. There is no hierarchy. These needs are so much a part of who we are that we cannot NOT attempt to meet them. The keyword here is attempt. All behaviors are purposeful. But not all behaviors are useful in meeting our basic needs in ways that are respectful of others and their needs.
This way of understanding behavior is very honest in admitting that you cannot control or change other people. Let me say that again, YOU CANNOT CONTROL OR CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE! This flies in the face of most management theories and goals that carry the agenda of controlling others.
You cannot control or change other people. But you can negotiate with them if they are willing to explore other ways to meet their needs that also help you meet your needs as a leader. This negotiation begins with taking a non-judgmental stance toward all behaviors. It starts with an unconditional positive regard for the other person you would like to see change their behaviors. (the presenter said, dogs do this the best).
The starting place in understanding the behavior of others and inviting different behaviors is unconditional acceptance. I call this “granting otherness.” It does not mean that you like the other person’s behaviors, or that you agree with them or that you even like the other person. It simply means that you grant the other person the right to be different from you and accept them without judgment. This requires a choice on our part about how we are going to show up in any situation; defensive and manipulating or open and accepting.
When you show up as open and accepting, you can then get curious about which need the other person is trying to meet with their behavior? You can ask the magic question – “What need are you attempting to meet through your behavior?” You can explore with them to raise their awareness for the motivations behind their behavior. It is likely that more than one of the FLIPS needs will be at the root of things.
Once you have truly listened and the other person has become aware of what need they are attempting to meet, you can ask magic question number two – “Would you be willing to explore other behaviors to meet your needs instead of the one you are using?” If they are willing, you can then explore with them or let them suggest on their own other ways of meeting their needs in a way that is respectful of yours.
Though this sounds a lot like “three easy steps to getting others to behave the way you want,” viewing it in this way would be to miss the point. The real point is you can’t get people to behave the way you want them to behave. You can only respectfully and creatively invite the exploration of flexibility in the ways people behave to meet the needs that they are going to attempt to meet whether you want them to or not.
Just something to think about when you are annoyed beyond belief at all those holiday gatherings you have planned for the coming week. Perhaps you don’t have to “FLIPS out” after all!