Brave New World

We know the pace of change in our society appears to be accelerating and the accepted norms and behaviours we traditionally have operated from are being challenged.

For me this has been born out in a couple of examples.

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I attended the SOCAP conference in Sydney (Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals Australia) and one of the keynote speakers was a 19 year old women, Alexia Hilbertidou (click here for more info), who is the founder of New Zealand’s largest organisation for young women. She described in her keynote presentation some of the characteristics being ascribed to her generation (Gen-Z). One of these characteristics is a belief they can and must take action both political and economic. They are not limited by a belief system that tells them they need to wait their time or follow a traditional approach. As an example, Alexia turned down the opportunity to use a significant scholarship to attend university, instead following her passion for creating a community of change for young women, (GirlBoss NZ).

A hallmark of Gen-Z is that they are more political than other generations. One only need look at Greta Thunberg and the impact her words and actions are having in raising awareness and making changes around climate change. 30 years ago to have a 16 year old, as a climate activist speaking to the United Nations would have been unheard of, let alone her voice being a catalyst for change.

Gen-Z’s approach to employment and their role within an organisation is radically different. I was told a story about a new employee of a large banking organisation who somehow got into the office of the CEO, introduced herself and told the CEO about how much they were looking forward to working alongside the CEO. The Gen-Z saw themselves as an equal in terms of contribution to the organisation.

Even the manner in which Gen-Z’s gain employment is radically different. They are not looking necessarily for a career path or even full-time employment. An example of this which struck me was about a recent University graduate, who had completed a Masters degree in the field of computer graphics. When it came time for the graduate to seek employment, he turned to the online community of those internationally who were doing similar work and sent a tweet which included his online bio, asking the online community to retweet it letting them know he was available for work.

Within a very short space of time he was approached by five international reputable companies seeking to offer him employment. The Gen-Z decided on a USA based company which allowed him to work remotely and on hours which fits his lifestyle and allows him flexibility.

So what does this mean for us who are not of Gen-Z?

  • be mindful and challenge our own assumptions and attitudes we have towards Gen-Z.

  • be open to the creative options which a Gen-Z might bring to your employment

  • value that they will speak their minds and expect to work with you, not for you.

Driving...the great stress indicator

I was sitting at stop lights the other day and watched a motorist next to me twice in short succession appear to be agitated by what he was observing other motorists doing. He saved the best til last. As the motorist in front was slightly slower getting going than he thought reasonable, he communicated his views by horn tooting, finger waving, and the questioning of the person’s parentage.

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It was a self-reflective moment for me. With a gulp I realised how often I would comment on another driver’s skills and even their IQ when I drove a vehicle! For whatever reason I was calm and relaxed as I sat at that stoplight that day, and mindful enough to realise what this calmness was doing for me.

I thought about the interactions that ‘angry’ motorist in the other car might have once he reached his destination , compared to what mine might be like in my state of calm.

It stuck me how effective driving a car is as an effective barometer of stress. I now use it as an indicator for myself. If I am driving by myself in the car and I catch myself thinking or saying judgmental comments about another motorists driving ability, I use it as an opportunity to reflect on my stress levels at that moment in time. It’s an opportunity to pause and make a change.

Take the Time to Connect

On a sunny winter Friday morning, I was taking our young dog for a walk. I was due to meet my partner on Oriental Parade, and since I’d arrived early, I thought I’d take a few moments to check my emails as I waited by the beach.

My dog, Astro, had been spotted by another dog and their owner as they came off the beach. The owner said how disappointing it was that there were no dogs on the beach; her dog wanted to play. I replied that I would let Astro off on the beach so the two dogs could interact; meanwhile, I sent off an email.

By the time I was actually ‘present’ on the beach they were heading off. I had missed an opportunity to connect.

The irony of the situation was that, on the walk down the hill, I had been thinking about a newsletter I was writing and tossing around ideas around wellbeing, connection, happiness, and mindfulness in my head. I was in my head and missed the moment.

An important contributor to happiness and wellbeing is our social relationships. Strengthening our relationships with others improves our experience. It could be making eye contact and smiling at a stranger, really listening to a colleague to connect and understand, a hug with a friend, or an act of kindness for someone else.

We are social creatures and need to connect. Because we are all connected, how I am will impact others. It’s a ripple effect.

That morning was just one missed opportunity to connect. We have so many of these opportunities each day – it’s worth taking the time to use them.

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‘Not who we are’ or ‘Not who we want to be'

As I reflect on the terrible tragedy from March 15, 2019 which has impacted on our Muslim community, Christchurch and wider New Zealand society I am proud of the leadership response shown by our Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern and the government to this incredibly sad and devastating event.

My thoughts went out also to the parents of those children in Christchurch who have had to explain to their children why there was a lockdown and ultimately give them an age appropriate understanding of the tragedy. The educators on the Monday afterwards who also were tasked with the unenviable and incredibly important task of assisting children of all ages to understand and move forward.

There are some helpful resources out that I would refer you to:

Madeleine Taylor has written a blog https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-children-watching-raising-resilient-through-tough-taylor

The Parenting Place also has this piece: https://www.theparentingplace.com/how-to-talk—about/world-trauma/

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As adults we want and need to see some good come out of tragedies such as this. We have already seen it in the form of generosity of people donating money, attending vigils, standing in solidarity and support of our Muslim community and importantly, a conscious turning away from giving the perpetrator a voice.

Jacinda’s words of ‘not who we are’ need to be grounded in an understanding of what our values are as New Zealanders. It is a chance for us to challenge and make clear what is and isn’t acceptable in our society.

The level of casual racism, sexism, lack of acceptance of gender diversity, and high levels of domestic violence in New Zealand society is not markedly different from other Western cultures. It was only a few months ago that I attended a vigil about domestic violence (Grace Millane) and the plea was for our country to do better.

I recently spoke with someone who was, with their partner and daughter going to attend the PRIDE parade in Wellington, they were relieved that it was cancelled because of fear that they would be targeted by hate. Part of the reason it was cancelled was because it was a celebration at a time of mourning, and it also would have stretched police resources.  If we truly were an inclusive society which accepted difference would we even need a police presence for such events?

While I absolutely agree with the Prime Minister’s sentiment that extremism has no place in Aotearoa, New Zealand, I prefer to see it as ‘not who we want to be’  as it allows for the reality that we are an imperfect society and sets up the question of ‘how then do we want to be?’

What changes do we need to make to be able to stand up and protect any human being who is being treated differently because of their religion, culture, colour, sex or gender and possibly even more importantly what changes need to occur so the need to protect is gone?

 

 

Why did you do that?

How often do you catch yourself asking someone, “Why did you do that?” and then getting into a situation where things have escalated?

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A number of years ago,  I ran a Hall of Residence for University students. It was both an incredibly rewarding and  incredibly challenging role and experience. The majority of students were in their late teens and in the main impressive, engaging and respectful.  On occasion I also dealt with students who made errors in judgement and the responsibility fell to me to deal with such things.

One particular incident I had to deal with was when a dome security camera had been ripped off a ceiling. I had a conversation with the alleged vandal and in response to my asking him about what he had done, he folded his arms and said in a somewhat defensive tone,  “How do you know it was me?” 

At this point I asked him whether he wanted to think about that question for a nanosecond, or would he rather just see the last 30 seconds shown on the video feed?  After a couple of minutes he twigged and realised the video feed probably had a brilliant shot of his face and hands reaching up and ripping the camera off the ceiling. 

I then proceeded to ask the most useless question of all, “Why did you do that?” and I got the predictable and unhelpful response, “I don’t know”. In doing this, I had created a situation of escalating the incident.

Flight, fight or freeze.  As my question started with a ‘why’ it is more likely to be perceived as accusatory, and increases the chances of them going into a ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response,  which subsequently makes resolving the issue that bit more difficult. 

If I had framed the question differently, using open questions which were less threatening, such as, “Help me understand what was going on for you at that moment?” or “What questions might I have about what happened?” or “What can you tell me about what happened?” or “How can we resolve what has occurred?” or “What information do you need to know from me at this point?” the conversation may have opened up and the situation may have been resolved much more quickly.

The outcome of the conversation with the student was a requirement for them to pay for the replacement of the dome camera. Incidentally, the parent also got involved and demanded they be allowed to keep the damaged camera, seeing they had paid for it... However, that is another story!

 

 

 

The Behaviour, not the person

I was explaining to a young relative the technique first introduced over four decades ago by Thomas Gordon P.E.T (Parent Effectiveness Training).

The conversation had come about because of their comments about people being dumb or stupid. I had explained it can be useful to separate the person from the behaviour. I said the behaviour might be dumb or stupid, however attaching it to the person limits them, and makes it harder to see them as a person instead of their behaviour or actions. When explaining it I used an example of driving a vehicle and observing dangerous driving, saying the behaviour of driving very fast was stupid, instead of the person being stupid. It is more effective to name the action rather than the person as being stupid.

We also discussed  making assumptions for the reasons why someone might speed or overtake in a dangerous place.  There was some discussion, debate and disagreement before the conversation ended.

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I got ‘schooled’ by my young relative the next day as I observed in the rear vision mirror someone  overtaking a truck on a bend which had double yellow lines. Automatically, from my mouth, came out  “you bloody idiot!” From the back of our car  a voice pipes up with “remember it is not the person it is the behaviour!”

 It was a great reminder about how instinctive it is to attach the behaviour to the identity of the person and how  easily it is to fall into the trap of the behaviour not the person!

Not forgetting also how quickly young person learn! 

 

Fine, I will just do it all myself!

“Fine, I will do it all myself”, “Fine, I will I never ask you for help again”, “Fine, I will contact the CEO then!” or “Fine, I will move out then!” are classic ‘dead-end’ statements.

Whether its in business or personal life, it is useful to have strategies in your head to assist if you want to maintain the relationship.

It is fairly common to respond to those sorts of statements with “Fine!” or “Whatever” which is a sure fire way of tipping the conversation closer to the precipice of no return.  Tammy Lenski suggests a better response is “That’s an option we can consider”, or “How can we figure a less extreme solution?” These responses acknowledge the reaction without getting positional or caving to their words.

The key is embedding in your brain, to respond with a “How can...? to encourage problem solving without getting into yes and no responses. 

What it does require is an awareness of own reaction to the words being said, and the ability to create a space between reaction and action. 

Tammy Lenski is well worth following and has some other great times for situations where a person is being defensive, uncommunicative or they are simply unloading a lot and leaving you feeling overwhelmed.