Monthly Archives: May 2016
AS HUMANS, DESPITE OUR COLLECTIVE TALENTS and knowledge, we all encounter challenges in our lives. Although one challenge may be greater than another, challenges create action, create impetus to change, to adapt, or employ patience or some other skill that allows us overcome them and to evolve beyond them.
Challenges can be physical, such as in making the basketball squad in your school or college (a challenge that is not subject to diplomacy: you either are good enough or not). Then there are emotional challenges, such as, involvement of the bereavement process (loss of a loved one) which may further invoke spiritual, religious, and intellectual challenges, i.e., consideration of creeds of worship or religious rites. Moreover, challenges can be social, and perhaps any combination of any of these. No matter the types of challenges, they create stress.
So what do you do then?
Well, some people exercise – to increase endurance; some people do sudoku or perhaps take a night class or online course. Whichever method utilized to combat stress, hopefully it works for you, but there is a pre-stress technique I would like you to be aware of which may allow you to affect a positive outcome in the face of certain social challenges. The technique, termed force-field analysis, comes to us from social-psychologist, Kurt Lewin.  Force-field analysis is used in business, collective-bargaining, and mediation. It can be employed by anyone who takes a few minutes to conduct such an analysis, and it is quite easy to remember. Force-Field Analysis, then, can be viewed like this:
In response to challenging stimuli, people will behave as resistant or encouraged to change – in relation to the adversity. There are 3 types of forces in any “field of controversy”. The first set of forces is called restraining forces – which aid ones resistance to change. Then, there are driving forces – which encourage change. Finally, there is the “inertia force” in the field, where both restraining and driving forces collide. The term force-field analysis is named for the insight used to devise strategies based on what is learned from competing forces in the field.
Let me clarify with an example:
You have been tasked with a project at work, this Friday afternoon, and due to the nature of your employment, are forced to work overtime. The project will likely add another 6-hours to your shift therefore you will certainly miss your son’s coveted playoff basketball match – one you promised to make. However, you realize that you could complete the extra work in around two-hours and still be able to keep your promise to your son if you could convince another colleague to also work overtime – which for any one of them – is not mandatory. After your initial inquiries nobody is convinced to stay late. There is one lead who seemed promising, but she had voiced concerns about additional pay for the babysitter, and was not sure she could afford to cover an extra 3-hours considering she has already exceeded her monthly budget expenditures.
A Force-Field Analysis for this scenario would look like this:
In this situation, without the analysis, it looks as if you will miss your son’s senior basketball game and you will have broken a promise to him. However, a close analysis provides hope. If you are able to introduce an additional driving force (money) it might act upon your colleagues resistance. Offers to cover the babysitter out-of-pocket, and/or perhaps order a take-out meal to reinvigorate your colleague’s energy stores, or you might offer to baby sit for free a few nights, so your colleague could get a night on the town at some point in the future? Whatever course you choose, the answer lies in the creativity you attach to your analysis of the forces at play. This technique not only works well in business and in mediation-type arenas, you might discover that it can be used to see many kinds of challenges from a clearer perspective, thus, overcome resistance to behaviors you wish to modify.
I hope this was helpful. May the force be with you. 😉
1. Lewin, K. (1951) Field Theory in Social Science, New York: Harper and Row
2. Simple guides to carry out force field analysis, with examples in management, see: http://www.mindtools.com/forcefld.html.
Employing Your Personality
In today’s atmosphere, applying for a job entails providing a large amount of personal information to prospective employers. Health records, medical documents, and psychiatric records, are – in the vast majority of cases – protected information beyond the reach of anyone without direct written authorization. This helps to prevent specific discrimination as exemplified by the 1990’s film Philadelphia. 
At any rate, savvy employers may not necessarily require a direct peek into health information as a few carefully worded questions can give any HR Department insight into what type of people are applying for jobs. This way businesses can weed out those applicants – who despite meeting qualifications – are simply not the kind of worker the business desires. Let me exemplify how questions could be posed to applicants in the near future by recalling a few ethics scenarios that I encountered in my college days.
The first scenario presented to you, goes like this:
“Imagine you’re a train conductor on a runaway train. The brakes have failed, the horn does not respond and you have come to a fork in the tracks. On the right side of the tracks – the side you and the train are – there are five Girl Scouts crossing the tracks headed to an adjacent neighborhood to sell cookies. On the left side of the tracks there is a hobo who has fallen asleep on the tracks. You have only enough time to either A) pull a lever to switch the course of the track, saving the five little girls, but killing the hobo, or B) do nothing, whereby the five Girl Scouts are killed, but saving the hobo’s life. Which action do you take?”
That was a rather common ethics question; one I have proposed to my own students over the years. I have heard everything from, “I’m not answering that”, to “I need more information”, and even, “I’m just jumping off the train”. While their responses are simply attempts to avoid responsibility, for class, this was OK, but mostly, for others, the question is a great point of deep contention and leads to discussion that allows students to get to know one another early on in the course.
Let me give another scenario.
“Imagine you’re a mute walking along the sidewalk at a roadside festival. You are part of a small crowd of people where only you notice an oncoming vehicle that is about to ram into three women at a high rate of speed and kill them. The women are beyond your reach, but there is an elderly man between you and the girls such that if you were to instantly act, you know with certainty that A) pushing the man into the girls would create a domino-effect which will save the lives of three ladies, but would kill the man by placing him in the path of the vehicle, or B) do nothing whereby the three women are killed. Which choice would you make? ”
If you compare the two scenarios, there is a basic distinction that produces answers that could be of keen interest to prospective employers. While the vast majority of businesses will never request access to protected health information, answers to scenarios like these are not protected, and may reveal more about “the real you” than a physical exam. In fact, one retailer, KMart has used actual personality assessments. These are used to determine likelihood of deception in answering, or perhaps an inclination to steal, or embezzle money. The practical usefulness of assessments are unknown, but answers are compiled to hopefully reveal more about you than what you present in your history.
Part of the point is that you have to pay close attention to the changes in the law as relates to applicant-prospective employer relationships, but more importantly, that you occasionally remind yourself of the kind of person you truly are. Reread the two scenarios I presented above. If you have any trouble answering, then perhaps you could benefit yourself and everyone else around by taking some time alone to hopefully figure out why that is before applying for that job.
1) HIPA ( The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191)
• Images: public domain customizations
CONSTRUCTS of REALITY
IN LIFE THERE ARE MANY EVENTS that force us to redefine our reality. Think back to that childhood moment when you realized that Disneyland was in California, and that California was over a thousand miles away, or that Santa Claus did not exist! What was to be done with that “new” information? How are white lies incorporated into our morality – especially the one about an elderly do-gooder, dressed in red, who sneaks into our houses to leave gifts and eat our cookies? What is realized when we come to understand mom and dad aren’t going to pack away the family for a week of fun in California when simply getting to school some days remains a challenge?
Aside from these seemingly trivial matters, I’m sure we have all had thoughts along these lines, shared the developmental milestones that opened our consciousness to a society filled with grey areas and the realization that the “real world” is sneakier than we imagined. Obtaining what we want in life – for many of us – begins exactly with a strangely dressed bearded fellow purportedly steering a reindeer sleigh – and evolves into truth: success takes time, patience, hard work, which includes a lot of planning – not simply socially accepted behaviors as reinforced through economic coercion and wrapped gifts. Additionally, these consciousness milestones allow us to question deep-seated cultural and family practices such as bases for religious ceremonies and customs, and a belief in a single immortal being whether called God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Allah, or Yahweh.
With religious ideas, it can become less clear with age just how to maintain these conflicting precepts, especially in our busy lives. Also, the more intelligent we Earthlings become, the less we can honestly conceptualize any divine place. For instance, we now know with complete certainty that “heaven” is not a place behind the clouds, and the “underworld” is neither a place below the Earth’s crust, yet these facts still have the strength to tug at our sense of place and at our family or cultural loyalties – more so than when we discovered it was our lactose intolerant dad who would drink the milk we set out for the burglar we called Santa; and that mom and dad were, in fact, collectively, Santa !
It’s true, no matter the constructs of our beliefs (or disbeliefs) – these ideas are our own. So long as these ideas do not advocate hatred or violence we do ourselves and our communities a service by welcoming diverse views of the world. After all, we can never honestly know how difficult it is (or has been) for those who maintain or adopt ideas we know to be false. Fresh ideas push evolution in consciousness – as our loss of Santa and the knowledge we would never reach Disneyland did. We are a better people without the illusions, and a more empowered people knowing we can influence the mindset of future generations. What do you think? What do you believe?