Based on each of the five stages of Cultural Intelligence, I’m doing a series of blogs about how to promote mental health in the workplace and the engagement, collaboration and innovation that grow out of it. Last month I wrote a blog about how to move out of the developmental stage of Polarization; this month is about how to move out of Minimization to Acceptance. 

“I can be my own worst critic,” Bryant said to his Ambassador Group. Bryant, a technician at a manufacturing company was talking with his small working group of five employees learning together about how to apply cultural intelligence with both colleagues and clients. Cultural intelligence is the ability to adapt our words and actions to show compassion for ourselves and others amid different circumstances. It’s what enables everyone to feel more valued, heard and engaged at work.

I had just explained to his Ambassador Group that, very often in a conversation, how you show up for yourself is how you show up for others. Bryant put it together that he’s tough on himself, so he wondered how he might unconsciously be impacting his customers and even his family.

Bryant had taken the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®), an online inventory that assesses an individual (and group’s) ability level to talk with people who are different. This is done by measuring five core mindsets and their associated behaviors; these progressive mindsets are: Denial, Polarization, Minimization, Acceptance or Adaptation. When Bryant found out he was in the middle stage of Minimization (where most commonly people are) he was surprised that he could inadvertently be minimizing himself as well as the people around him.

Bryant asked me, “What can I do to stop minimizing myself and other people? Maybe I’m so critical of myself because I don’t really know that much about myself.” I was impressed with his insight. I said, “That’s been my experience. As I’ve come around to accepting myself as I am, the good and bad parts, I’ve learned to be more accepting of others. But you’re right, you can’t accept (or appreciate) someone or something you don’t know.” We may think we know ourselves pretty darn well but read on and discover how Bryant found deeper self-awareness can lead to greater self-confidence.

Bryant asked, “How do I get to know myself better?”

How to develop more self-awareness

Developing self-awareness is the No. 1 learning opportunity for people in the stage of Minimization. I’d just finished explaining to Bryant’s Ambassador Group that self-awareness has two benefits. Self-awareness allows us to become more appreciative of ourselves as well as aware of the impact we have on our colleagues in meetings and other situations, because developing self-awareness in each team member is key to creating a culturally safe and intelligent work environment.

This is because, without self-awareness, there is often an:

  1. Incongruence between our feelings and our nonverbal communication and
  2. Inability to see how we are impacting others.

To develop his self-awareness, I suggested to Bryant that he keep a journal or spreadsheet and track his emotions. To keep it simple, he could date the entry and three times a day (for example at 8 am, Noon and 3 pm) write down how he felt – sad, glad, mad, scared or energized. In the last space or column, he could write any insights or questions that come to mind, if any.

What happened

Bryant embraced the process; he thought he’d keep his Self-Awareness Chart* for a few weeks and ended up maintaining it for few months. At each Ambassador Group meeting, he reported a new insight that he’d had about himself. One particularly intriguing insight was that, as he noticed and named his emotions on a regular basis, he realized his emotions weren’t good/bad or right/wrong; they were just there, informing him. As a result, he became less a judge and more an observer of his feelings.

The next week he noticed that, by being an observer rather than judger, he was more accepting of himself. He observed, “Rather than thinking so much about how I have missed the mark or shouldn’t feel or think a certain way, I can feel my feelings, take myself less seriously and be more accepting. I’m to see now how the chart makes perfect sense.

“What was interesting was that it was my sister who actually noticed the change in me first. My analogy is like a person trying to lose weight and not feeling like much has been achieved until they bump into someone they haven’t seen in a while who comments on the weight loss. My sister could see what I couldn’t. She saw that I was more confident, more appreciative of myself and pointed it out.

“Having a technical background, I always prefer to work with facts and figures, where there is no ambiguity. Although the chart is not a technical document as such, I found by musing over several weeks of data, I can in my mind revisit those instances and remember and see how my emotions changed, and also the progress over time (for similar scenarios).”

How it helped with work

Clearly, Bryant had learned a lot, so I wanted to see what else he’d noticed. I asked him, “How did tracking your emotions help with work?”

Bryant explained, “I would say the chart enabled me to manage my expectations better and see how to handle situations I had little control over better. For example, I’m pretty introverted, and it’s hard for me when I have to go in cold to a new situation to repair equipment. When I don’t know the people or situation, that makes me nervous, so I can get tough on myself. I saw that pattern in the chart.

Then, when I shared with you and the Ambassador Group how I felt about going into a new situation, you and the group brainstormed ways I can familiarize myself with the company ahead of time. Your solutions of researching the company on the Web to learn about them and reaching out for a zoom call with my contact ahead of time really helped me feel more welcome and in control when I arrived on site.”

By noticing and naming his feelings to himself and then sharing them with a trusted person or group, Bryant could adjust his attitude and actions to be more accepting of himself as well as the situation. From there, solutions started emerging. Bryant said, “Critical self-analysis can help keep standards high, but I believe there is a sweet spot; recording the data helped me readjust and find a balance, find my self-confidence.

“My view is that this is work in progress,” he added, “and the results of the core training you delivered are highlighted in my chart.”

Bryant clearly saw the value of journaling, which can be in the form of handwritten notes, filling in a spreadsheet or making audio recordings. It is important because reflecting on an experience can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than the actual event itself. The purpose of journaling is also to provide yourself with a dated record of events so that progress (and setbacks from which to learn) are documented, dots can be connected and patterns can be noticed. These patterns develop in us self-awareness. Self-awareness allows us to be more accepting, even appreciative, of ourselves and the people around us. This creates more sustainable, genuine working relationships leading to greater engagement, collaboration and innovation in any organization.  -Amy S. Narishkin, PhD

Three-day challenge

Discover the head, heart and hands technique we used last month too. Using it, we can develop the self-awareness that allows us to experience more of our own and others’ humanity, as well as increase engagement, collaboration and innovation in an organization. Here’s how: For three consecutive days, notice, observe and experience the impact of Minimization (of self and others).

    1. HEAD: Observe what words and actions correlate with the stage of Minimization.
      • Under what circumstances do you minimize yourself?
      • Who in your family, community or office gets minimized?
      • What is said or done to minimize?
    2. HEART: Today as you observe yourself and others, notice your own feelings and the reactions of others when you or they are minimized.
      • What feelings did you feel you saw in others and how did that observation make you feel?
      • What was particularly heartbreaking or moving?
      • How did this observation make you look at yourself and people differently?
    3. HANDS: Now that you have reflected on Minimization and its impact on you and others, what actions can you take to make sure people you encounter feel a sense of belonging?
      • What thoughts, words and actions can you use to show genuine respect for yourself?
      • What thoughts, words and actions can you use to show genuine respect for others?
      • What minimizing processes or systems could be challenged at home, in your office or in your community?

*If you’d like me to send you a sample Self-awareness chart, email Amy@EmpoweringPartners.com. Who do you know in your family, community or organization that would find this blog helpful? Please share!

References:

  1. Hammer, M. (2016) Intercultural Development Inventory Resource Guide. Olney, MD: IDI, LLC.
  2. Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash