It's another year ending and a New Year beginning. My guess is that many of us would like this year to be a 'one of a kind,' and not something we intentionally repeat. Often actions with high emotion become patterns, which become rituals even without intention.
So as 2009 ends and we step into a hopeful and exciting 2010, think about the rituals that you would like to hardwire into your organization, and work on rituals that build community and empathy.
Here are some ideas of how to think about rituals. I put this together with Barbara Biziou, one of the founding members of Creating WE Institute, who is a ritual guru.
Healthy Rituals that build community bring individuals together awaken the spirit of the team, and they enable individuals to build healthy thriving relationships. In this changing and uncertain time, our relationships are more important than ever before. They become our anchors in the sea of uncertainty, and help us quell the hardwired fear centers that live inside our brain.
Power of Relationship Rituals
Our research shows that if you are having an unhealthy relationship with someone in your team, the impact on you and others will be unhealthy - and the negative influence may go on for weeks, or months and spread to others on the team. When something is wrong in a relationship, the other person may tend to 'blow you off.' However, if you do have a healthy relationship with people, they will take the time to work through the difficult conversations with you. Relationship Building Rituals are the keystones to building successful business relationships at work. Connection breeds loyalty, trust and compassion.
If we do not feel connected to others, we won't feel connected to the job; we lose motivation and become apathetic. We check out, we give up and give in, and we lose our voice, or we get angry or resistant to change.
Pay Attention to the Meta Messages
Why and how do rituals impact the brain? Rituals communicate inclusion, acceptance, and send messages to the brain, saying: "you are part of the team." These 'relational messages' are non-verbal and could account for as much as 90% of the impact you have on others.
Notice the impact: our pupils will dilate when we are interested in something. Looking at someone directly can show him or her that we care. We tend to put higher trust in and believe more in these signals than the words spoken. For example, saying, "you did a good job" while scowling and rolling your eyes sends a mixed message causing a breakdown in communication, which leads us to distrust others.
Rituals You Can Experiment With: A Venting Ritual
When we interact with others, conflicts may arise - that's normal. Each of us has our own ideas for what we want to make happen, and when others disagree, we can get mad, emotional, angry, upset and sometimes avoid others when we can't find a way to work through the conflict.
There is an Ancient Ritual, which was called Stenia. The younger women got a chance to complain, and moan about what was bothering her, releasing anger and resentment they would have held onto. The 21st century version of this is called It's Okay to Vent Once a Day. Venting can be positive if it is done correctly. It releases stuck energy from the body and quiets the mind. Venting is the process of giving each other permission for venting time with others, rather than letting it go on forever. We can choose to vent for 7 seconds, 7 minutes, even 7 hours.
We all have interactions with life that create emotional responses that often don't end at the time that the interaction ends. It's like striking a guitar cord. After your hand leaves the strings, the cord you've played continues to reverberate. Sour notes create music we don't like to hear, and we complain.
Here are the steps:
1. Establish a timeframe for venting.
2. Pick a partner that you totally trust to keep the information confidential.
3. Choose the role you want your partner to play in order to help you "work through it."
4. Decide if the role should be to:
- Listen for something specific.
- Listen with the intention of helping you create a new strategy for reentering the relationship or situation with a fresh point of view: to re-contract, or reconnect.
- Listen so you can give the person coaching-a new perspective on the situation.
- Listen to help you interrupt a negative cycle you may be having and transform it into a positive cycle.
6. Ask your colleague to try different roles to see which one helps you the most.
Healthy Rituals allow individuals, teams and organizations to practice what we call "self-regulation," which doesn't mean suppression - it means 'self-expression' and that is healthy. Suppression is a form of holding in emotions - such as frustration, anger, disappointment. When we suppress, we cause a cascade of stress hormones to 'own us' - hence the term Amygdala Hijacking (Amygdala is our 'flight, fight, freeze and fear' mechanism in our older Reptilian Brain).
Creating Healthy Check Ins
Check in with people to create positive rituals that meet the needs of team members.
1. Ask for input from the members of the organization so people feel included in the rituals.
2. Be creative.
3. Listen non-judgmentally.
4. Be consistent, be mindful and be open to change.
5. Rituals can open the door to new behavior and pave the way for new business results.
Neuro-tips: Rituals enable us to meet the needs of connectivity, our most profound and powerful need.
Neuro-tip #1: When needs are unmet in a relationship, we become more emotional and frustrated. We become dissatisfied with the person, which over time will increase and can turn into dislike. (Shifting from friend to foe).
Neuro-tip #2: Positive mood states in one person encourage positive mood states in others. Oxytocin, a bonding hormone in men and women, is released during human contact, connecting and bonding, which reduces aggressions and increases cooperation.
Neuro-tip #3: Empathy for others is expanded through community rituals. Empathy is more than a feeling; it leads us to actions. By experiencing positive community rituals, we trigger our 'mirror-neuron' systems, which are located in the parietal lobes and prefrontal cortex. Positive Rituals expand our ability to empathize with others.
Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:
Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose; and editor and contributor of 42 Rule for Creating WE, a newly published Amazon bestseller.
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