The most important thing

There may be no thing more important to understand than this:

“The social psychologist Solomon Asch, who demonstrated that, when faced with obviously incorrect information, 75 per cent of participants publicly denied clear evidence before their own eyes rather than buck the majority opinion. However, when just one other person disagreed with the majority and broke the unanimous bloc, the conformity effect almost entirely disappeared.”  Alexandra Stein

There is nothing we can do for others about this.  There is only what we can do for ourselves.  An elevated level of consciousness is critically necessary if one is to understand his or her resistance.

From our book, Healing Leadership:

Paralysis occurs when anxiety-driven reactivity trumps rational process.  When the brain’s rational functioning is hijacked by fear, it can’t operate at the high levels required for effective problem solving. This fact creates its own paradox.  As events challenge an organizations’ sense of purpose and stability, the capacity to imagine, choose and implement critical responses is diminished.  The irony is, at the moment rational behavior is most required, emotional reactivity is at red level alert.  An engaged mind producing imaginative thinking gets blocked by the anxiety response which is generated by whatever threats seem to appear.  (Not all threats are real.  When rattled, the brain doesn’t always see things accurately.) The blockage is a particular disadvantage to the organization when it attempts to follow a strategic planning process.  Strategic planning requires a cool and rational analysis of threats and opportunities without the attendant fear of the future such analyses can foster.  I have been present in the room as team leaders attempt to become more strategically competent.  I’ve witnessed emotional responses to the realization that becoming “strategic” involves dealing with complexities which seem insurmountable.  (A leader I revered told our team we couldn’t allow ourselves to “manage by hope.”  He meant we had to muster the courage to embrace the painful obstacles to our success.) It is precisely that moment when leaders most move to new levels of non-reactivity to alter the rising temperature of fear in the room.  It’s a critical moment for new maturity among the players.  The barrier often can’t be overcome and the intention to become a more intelligent business team is abandoned in the paralysis of the moment.

Leaders who dedicate themselves to overcoming paralysis must consider their own ways of reacting to threats.  If their reactions are emotional responses to others’ emotional responses, paralysis will deepen.  When leaders choose to ignore emotional reactivity, and focus on rational problem solving, or, when they address the emotional reactivity with strong opposition, mind-locking debris is cleared away.  There’s a chance for progress.

Peace and Courage,

Howard

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