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In recent blogs I have addressed the power of self-change. A long time ago, I had an enlightening experience. I was working with a woman who was a health administrator. I will call her Eleanor. We were doing a workshop for her people, and they were collectively expressing the difficulty of making change. The name of a senior administrator entered the conversation. We’ll call him Dr. Jones. While I did not know this man, it was clear from the reactions from the group that he was a difficult authority figure. They blamed him for their inability to change.
When the people had this reaction, Eleanor’s response was not to argue but to tell a story. She told her people about a time when she and her husband were driving across town. He was doing something that irritated her immensely. It was something he always did, and she was getting angry at him–again!–as she always did.
She said to the group, “I told myself, ‘This man is driving me crazy!’ I was about to tell him a thing or two when another thought crossed my mind. ‘He is not driving you crazy, you are driving yourself crazy. The issue is not what he is doing; rather, the issue is how you are reacting to him.’ I thought about this and decided to change my reaction. Pretty soon he started to change his behavior…without my even asking him!”
“Now you all know what Dr. Jones is like,” she continued. “Well, two months ago he was behaving as he always does and I said to myself: ‘This man is making me crazy.’ The phrase led me to recall the episode with my husband. It dawned on me that the two contexts were the same. I decided that I would change how I reacted to him. That was two months ago. Let me tell you how he is treating me now.”
She went on to describe a series of incidents with the good doctor. People sat in disbelief. They could not imagine the man behaving as this woman was now describing.
People like Eleanor understand that the world creates us and we create the world. Because they understand this reciprocal interaction, they have the power to change the world. They know they are free to choose their own responses, and they do. By changing their response, they cause the world to change. In addition, they impact others. In telling the above story, for example, Eleanor was teaching her people how to deal with their own fears and hypocrisy. She taught them how they are responsible for the world they live in. If there is a bad relationship, it is a relationship they were helping to create. They could change it, if they first would change themselves. The key is to first look within. Eleanor taught her people about the realities of power and how to gather the inner resources that allow us to change the world by changing ourselves.
- What do you learn from this statement: “He is not driving you crazy, you are driving yourself crazy. The issue is not what he is doing; rather, the issue is how you are reacting to him.”
- Do you believe it is possible to change how your react to others, even authority figures?
- In your personal theory of how to transform a social context what role does self-change play?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?