Your Jekyll and Hyde Brains

Your Jekyll and Hyde Brains

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

September 2022

If you watched the 1994 movie, Shawshank Redemption, you may remember the one character Brooks, who goes to extreme measures from long-term institutionalization that has instilled qualities of learned helplessness and learned hopelessness. Another character in the movie – Red, played by actor Morgan Freeman, displays similar behavior when he gives up on his chances of getting parole. Positive psychology jargon aside and so as not to be a spoiler alert if you haven’t seen this amazing film, allow me to cut to the chase.

We all have instances when we get triggered or allow our survivor brain to overtake the thrive, aka sage part of our brain. Our brains are akin to a case of Jekyll and Hyde; two very distinct and different renderings that appropriately, have self-fulfilling outcomes. The survival region of our brain is necessary for imminent physical dangers. It keeps us from walking into a street when traffic is crazy, but doesn’t serve us when an employee consistently fails to execute a task and we respond with judgmental accusations or interrogation. Our brains have not evolved rapidly enough to distinguish physical vs. psychological threats, yet more of our dangers now are of the latter type.  

Unfortunately, our survivor brain keeps us and our ego safe and comfortable. We “learn” to accept and fall victim to doing what is easy or familiar because a goal can seem too far from reach. The more the ‘easy’ behavior is chosen, the more Mr. Hyde appears, alluring behavior is reinforced, and the response becomes entrenched through neural pathways in our brain. As a result, the negatively motivated survival brain wins and so, goals are not achieved, potential is not achieved and helpless or hopeless feelings can become consuming.

Next, we have the thrive part of the brain where your sage power and Dr. Jekyll reside. 

The gap between vision and steps to achieving it may be far apart, even daunting. Add to it how the initial appeal can wear off when progress seems minimal or setbacks further reinforce the negativity that resides in the survival part of our brain. 

Although the character Brooks succumbs to the helpless and hopeless allure of his survival brain, Red’s outcome is much different when he reframes to take a different approach. And if you watched the film you may believe otherwise, so I challenge you to consider how Red liberated himself from pressure. Herein lies the power of the thrive portion of our brain; we can still win when we learn and regroup. And the outcome can be much more desirable. Intentionality, awareness, and consistent practice are critical in building up the neural pathways that will weaken your survival brain and build up the thrive part of your brain where sage wisdom and many more productive behaviors and characteristics reside. How?

Here are a few simple strategies that have worked for those who have accomplished great things and experienced more Dr. Jekyll moments:

1.  Practice consistent gratitude. Appreciation is like a muscle and grows with use. If we want to appreciate more and invite more appreciation (and joy) into our lives, it’s necessary to practice appreciation by showing gratitude. Done consistently (daily!), this is a fun activity you may do with team members, direct reports, and your kids, and when done frequently for a period of weeks, I am extremely confident you will experience more positive moments and facilitate more successful outcomes and results.

2.  Meditate or do some PQ reps (latter for those who have or will be going through the Positive Intelligence program) to zone in not out and become mindful of your being. Being drives doing and as Deepak Chopra likes to say – we are human beings. Slowing down to be intentional, fall back in love with that which is ordinary, and connecting with how your internal being drives your external doing will positively impact you and others.

2.  Reward yourself for effort not outcome. Similar to practicing appreciation is the kind and empathetic regard for yourself to focus on the courage you took, no matter how much or how little, to engage in behavior to move the needle. When you celebrate the effort, you will be more likely to act boldly again in the future because you are reinforcing the rationale for the behavior. Additionally, when you celebrate effort, rinse and repeat, you will more likely have a desirable outcome to also celebrate.

When we focus on quick fixes or strive for instant gratification, there is a tendency to “die before going into battle.”  And this is the reason that many leaders and people in general never achieve their greatest potential and dreams.

There are of course more strategies and exercises we may explore to weaken the survival part of your brain and reinforce the thrive part of your brain. If you’d like to do more than just survive, let’s connect to purge Mr. Hyde and reinforce Dr. Jekyll in your sage aka thrive brain. Click the button below to schedule your complimentary strategy session. 

What Mr. Rogers Can Teach Us About Empathy and Why it Matters

Your spouse regularly lashes out, frustrated over the temperature at home, and you engage in ongoing thermostat wars. At work, a project manager you supervise continually complains about software that doesn’t maintain her progress notes. A close friend continues to vent to you about how it’s difficult for her to commit to gathering when you propose limited options. Do you ever wonder why some people remain stuck sharing the same story over and over?

As Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.” This round-and-round dialogue may indicate a need for empathy. It’s difficult for us to move past a topic or issue or listen to others until we have felt heard. Empathy holds tremendous power in creating thriving relationships and is one of the most misunderstood and under-utilized EQ skills.

Dr. Brené Brown indicates that empathy is about understanding and connecting to the emotions around an experience. It is feeling with someone, not feeling for them; this is where empathy can be blurred with sympathy. Sympathy often involves pity for another person, which can be insulting as it implies we are outpacing in some way. Empathy does not involve pity and requires us to suspend all judgment of another’s viewpoint as being good or bad or seeing another’s feelings as being invalid. While we may disagree with why someone feels a certain way about a given situation, empathy teaches us to connect with shared emotions. I.e., “I, too, know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, sad, etc.”

It’s this disconnect in understanding and acceptance that often leads to incivility, disrespect, and a lack of empathy, especially when controversial topics and strong belief systems are involved.

Developing Empathy:

We must first have deep empathy for ourselves before fully empathizing with another. This can be difficult, especially in cultures where it’s reinforced to first attend to the concern of others and suppress our feelings. We must be aware of, understand, and accept our feelings and emotions to fully understand and accept them in others.

Empathy creates a safe container for vulnerable communication. Vulnerability is powerful and is the currency of exchange to build trust and thriving relationships at home, work, and everywhere in our sphere of influence. It’s also necessary to apply a little two-step in conversation and spend some time to discover what is meaningful to others and motivates them so we know how to respond appropriately. The Platinum Rule teaches us to treat others as THEY want to be treated (not the cookie-cutter Golden Rule that most of us were taught growing up, which says we should do unto others as they would do unto us). Brené Brown also talks about putting ourselves in another’s shoes to connect to an emotion we’ve likely experienced, though maybe for a different situation. For example, if a friend loses their job, we can relate to the emotion of fear and disappointment even though we were never laid off or fired from a position.

Emulating Mr. Rogers

Due to his keen ability to empathize, Mr. Rogers was among the most highly respected and regarded TV personalities for decades. He makes a great ‘avatar’ for empathy because he treated everyone as a VIP and was diligent in his communication. Mr. Rogers reads, relates, and responds with ease and finesse, which segues to three strategies you may incorporate to elevate your empathy skills:

Read – Deep active listening is critical and needs to happen at a level attuned to the other party. “LISTEN,” rearranged, spells “SILENT.” Listening with the intent to respond is not effective and will shut down a healthy communication cycle. Suspend judgment. This is a time for learning. To quote Tom Chi, “Knowing is the enemy of learning.”

Relate – This might involve using more silence, asking powerful questions to extract more meaning, and using body language like a smile, hug, or leaning in. Mirroring body language can also be helpful if it’s not threatening because our neurons respond favorably to similar gestures—this happens naturally when we are genuinely engaged and shouldn’t be forced. Remember the platinum rule, so you are making your interaction about the other person and not your agenda. It can help to internalize the mantra that everyone has a story.

Paraphrasing and summarizing can help check that you fully understand and facilitate relating. Responses could include: “I hear you saying….,” or “That sucks that you didn’t get the promotion. Would you like to talk about it?”

Respond – This is relating at a higher level. After feeling with the person, it’s time to decide if there is more to learn. Perhaps ask if the other person would like to share more or if you feel equipped, ask if they would like some help to solve the challenge. But don’t go into problem-solving without asking permission first, as the other party may not want ideas. If they welcome the opportunity, batting around some ideas may provide some hope and initial peace. Finally, when some closure and peace have been restored, it can be helpful to redirect to a new topic. Possibilities may include saying, “I’m off to the water cooler” if you’re at work or “any interesting weekend plans?” which could apply to almost anyone. Or, it might be better to say nothing more and just let the other party stay in their space to process their thoughts and feelings. There is no cookie-cutter formula, and it is ok to experiment and even admit that you’re not quite sure how to respond.

Acknowledging and showing others’ thoughts and feelings matter helps stop the cycle of repeating stories so others can move beyond feeling stuck. Hearing what others are communicating intellectually and emotionally is empathy in practice. It helps to recognize communication verbally, through body language, and behaviorally. Empathy requires a genuine interest in the other person and applying the platinum rule. Remember what Mr. Rogers would do to slow down, deeply listen and treat everyone like a VIP. Get curious, ask questions, listen without judging and then check to be sure you understand and respond for some initial resolve. Life is too short for thermostat wars, misunderstood employees, and not making the most of our time on this planet with family and friends. Let’s change the dialogue to heal and transform our planet.

How to Become Part of the GREAT RETENTION

How to Become Part of the GREAT RETENTION

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

June 2022

We’ve made the concept of Leadership into something bigger than it needs to be. The never-ending research, books, theories, programs and courses are testament to this. And week after week, the struggles of leading come up in my sessions with clients. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting to have all the answers and certainly, I have had my share of “learning experiences” in different leadership roles. Though there are some things I know to be true and effective that have resulted in home runs (measured through engagement and fulfillment).

Everyone leads at some point or another in their sphere of influence at work, home or in their community. Mastery of personal leadership is of course critical. We can only go as far with others as we’re willing to be honest and open in our own awareness, acceptance and willingness to learn and grow. And there are some basics of leadership that transcend every situation and challenge to which I offer my basic definition of Leadership:   

Giving of ourselves to bring out the best in others for a positive outcome – Doni Landefeld

Leadership doesn’t need to be a big, scary, abstract, difficult concept. There are some basics that transcend time. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

Here are 10 basics you may incorporate immediately to get higher engagement and sustain happiness amongst your staff. It all begins with the mastery of personal leadership – giving of yourself to bring out the best in others…

Top 10: Ways to Lead by Example

Good leaders must lead by example. Through their actions, which are aligned with what they say, they become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of productive leadership. Here are 10 of the dozens of ways to lead by example.

  1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth.
  2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy.
  3. Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose.
  4. Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary.
  5. Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team.
  6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems, instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more.
  7. Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.
  8. Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths.
  9. Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it!
  10. Roll up your sleeves. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness in your company.

If you’re feeling stuck, curious, or might benefit from accountability and more ideas, let’s connect! Click the button below to schedule your complimentary strategy session and come to the call with a challenge or opportunity!