The New Science of Leadership

Attachment science is now recognized as one of the most profound and creative research in human behavior. Applying this new science to leadership and organizational development adds a new level of understanding of how much we impact each other when we work together.

 

In this webinar, we will talk about attachment and the way it forms the basis of effective leadership. We will talk about the Emotional Connection strategies (EmC) and focus on how using EmC can shape your work environment in a new and immensely promising direction.

 

EmC is a model where people expand their emotional awareness, learn the language of emotions, and use emotional responsiveness to send new signals to each other that evoke new and more positive responses. These positive responses are then organized into a new “dance” of secure connection which redefines leadership and the work environment, that offers employees the benefits of thriving.

 

Webinar Transcript:

I’m Dr. Lola Gershfeld, CEO and Founder of EmC Leaders and a developer of the Emotional Connection process or EmC, a science-based approach to effective leadership, creating a cohesive team culture, where people can thrive. I am very excited to have Polina Marian who will be presenting this webinar with me. Polina is my amazing daughter. She is an EmC Certified Coach and Trainer. For the last 15 years, Polina has been dedicated to helping individuals to improve their health and wellbeing. As a Health and Wellness Coach, Polina has been using the EmC process in her work and in her life. 

She lives in Hawaii, has 5 adorable children, and has been using the EmC strategy in her parenting, which has been transformational.

Welcome, Polina.

 

Polina:

Thank you, Mom. Hello everyone.

I think we live in very exciting times today, with the advances and explosion of technology, social media, and research in the neural sciences, it has really revolutionized the way we think about our brains, our relationships, and our world. We now know that our brains are adaptable, that we're hard-wired for social interaction, so that is why we’re talking today about the revolutionary new science of leadership through emotional connection.

What we understand, we can shape.

Today, we’ll be exploring the underlying forces that impact our leadership styles and the interactions that we have with others from an evidence-attachment perspective, where we focus not only on helping people to be less distressed and disengaged, but we show you how you can shape your way to create a sense of safety, security, and transform your workplace cultures where people can thrive.

 

Lola:  As a co-author of Emotional Connection, the EmC Strategy, How Leaders Can Unlock the Human Potential, Build Resilient Teams, and Nurture Thriving Cultures, I have conducted close to 700 training sessions using the EmC strategy where I see leaders become much more effective in creating positive team dynamics. EmC has become the gold standard for repairing workplace conflict, increasing productivity, and creating psychological safety. At EmC Leaders, we offer training solutions to developing and sustaining emotional intelligence. Our next training is coming up.

It's a pleasure to be here with you. I never get tired of talking about emotional connection because, after all, is there anything more important than to understand how to build and nurture work relationships? How to be more effective in our communication? And create a culture where people want to work at? And is there anything more revolutionary than for me to say to you that attachment science has really cracked the code to emotional intelligence, providing us with a roadmap on how to deliberately shape your team dynamics? If you really think about it, that is an incredible shift. Because it's really not too long ago that we couldn't use words like emotions and emotional connection in the same sentence without people laughing at us. The father of attachment theory, John Bowlby, which I'm going to suggest really did crack the code of love, beginning in about the 1960s was reputed to have sat at his kitchen table writing about what he called attachment theory, and his wife said to him,

"Well, why are you calling it that? It's really a theory of love."

And he said, "Don't be ridiculous. If I called it a theory of love, basically everyone will hate me, everyone will laugh at me, and no one would listen."

So, we have assumed over the years that of all the mysteries in life, creating positive team dynamics that last is an impenetrable mystery. Really, when you look at it, the nearest we've got is to suggest that it's some sort of mixture of goals and rewards, and the implication is that it doesn’t last long, you have to constantly come up with a new way of motivating people to perform. If you think about it when we hire people, we sort of hope that they work together cohesively, creating a positive culture. It's not something that you can really force people to do. And for years we've been focusing on teaching people communication skills or how to be nice to each other. We might reduce a bit of conflict here and there and get people to be friends, but the idea of actually creating bonding conversations, boning moments where people transform their relationships and create more secure bonds with each other, and a felt sense of belonging and care, that is new. That involves us shifting our heads in a number of ways and I think you'll hear that this new science has some pretty revolutionary insights for us.

 

Polina: Well, one of the big ones is that we have pretty much distrusted dependency on other people. We've had all kinds of theories throughout the years where we've talked about things like enmeshment, and overdependency. And how we need to be independent, self-sufficient, and self-reliant. However, what this new science says, is that we are, by nature, dependent. By nature, our brains are tuned to find others and hold onto others, and that emotional connection is actually an ancient, wired-in survival code, designed to keep the people we depend on close to us. It is a powerful survival code and an adaptive survival code, and the strongest among us actually accepts that we need other people and learn how to create what we call constructive dependency.

Constructive dependency or secure attachment is where I accept my need for attachment. I accept my need for emotional connection and support. I can regulate my emotions enough to tune into those needs. I know how to reach for the people I depend on in a way that pulls them close. And when I pull them close, I can take in their care and support, and that makes me stronger. It makes me feel good about myself, it reassures me that I can face danger and survive. It helps me to have the confidence I need to explore the world and take risks. So, that's just one of the kinds of revolutionary shifts that's come out of this research, and there are more coming.

One of the most interesting ones, perhaps, is that attachment researchers have started to look at performance and come up with some really interesting links between bonding and motivation that start to change the way we approach team dynamics. One of the big things we are starting to understand is that collaboration at its best requires an incredible act of attunement and coordination. Emotional safety potentiates that attunement and coordination. The evidence shows that securely connected team members experience a high level of support and encouragement from each other, creating a sense of working together that is most thrilling and becoming resilient in times of adversity and high stress. So, we’re trying to give you in a nutshell that this new way of looking at work interactions has got some very revolutionary aspects to it that have shifted the way we think and approach team dynamics.

 

Lola: Perhaps the biggest shift of all is to say that in general in western society, we've accepted that the most powerful instincts are power and aggression. And what John Bowlby said was, “No, there is a much more primary instinct than that. It is called the longing for emotional connection, especially with people we depend on.” What Bowlby said is that emotional connection is the most powerful drive in human beings because it is a survival drive. I just want you to think about that. If you think, "Well, that's a bit abstract. I just want you to think about that just for a moment in terms of team dynamics, for example. 

If I really believe that the longing for connection is the most powerful instinct in men, then when somebody turns to me and says, "I don’t want to work with this person. This person is being difficult or they don’t have any skills. And I don't really need anything from them," where my brain goes is, "How are you blocking off that most powerful instinct that is? And how can I help you move into that longing? Because it's wired in. We don't get to choose it. It's wired into our mammalian brain. So, then I go into, "What are the blocks here?" 

This new way of thinking translates into a very different way of working with people which gives you a new set of tools in addressing challenges and problems.  I think using this attachment lens has amazing, amazing implications for all of us - leaders, teams, and organizations, and anyone who is seeking to understand what goes wrong in work relationships and how to put them right.

 

Polina: The adult attachment has been really going only since about the 1990s and it didn't start there. It started, not with people deciding to study adult relationships, but it started with people like John Bowlby way back in the 1950s and 60s deciding to study loneliness and loss, interviewing widowers, and interviewing orphans after World War II. And that's quite interesting because that's actually where most of the social science research on attachment started.

Phil Shaver, for example, at Davis was intrigued at understanding at loneliness and how come loneliness was so painful, and then it segued into, well, what is this about? What is this incredible longing? What is this sense of loss that is so devastating? And they started to look at adult relationships, and they started to look back at John Bowlby's basic research on the bonding between mother and child.

 

Lola: What's fascinating about this is that's kind of what happened to me. When I joined my first private company board, I had a bachelor’s degree in business and experience in building manufacturing companies, working with different teams and different caliber of people, but somehow, our board was struggling in communicating with each other. I remember the CEO and I would try to experiment with different ways to make our meetings more productive.  And some of those methods actually worked. But I didn't really understand why they worked, and why we would get those results. It was still somehow mysterious to me. Then years later after learning about human behavior, psychology, and finally, understanding the science of emotional connection and attachment, I finally realized that we were getting those results because we're dealing with the most basic drama that happens in attachment relationships is the drama of connecting and disconnecting. 

We were getting those results because we were moving board members into bonding moments. And John Bowlby had told us all about that. He'd shown us how that works when he was looking at the bonding between mother and child. By the way, John Bowlby always said that attachment goes from the cradle to the grave. We never outgrow our need for others, but as adults, we don't need others there all the time. We can carry them in our minds. I invite you to think about when you're in a difficult situation where you feel uncertain and unsure or when you might have felt vulnerable or fragile, who do you call? Who do you reach out to? You can even access them in your mind. I’ll give an example.

Some years ago, I would get really nervous with public speaking, which is not very helpful as I love speaking in public and especially about emotional connection as it is always exciting for me. However as with any public speaking, I would get really nervous and that feeling of anxiety would come over me. And basically, I tried all kinds of methods. I mean, I'm a psychologist. I had thousands of techniques and strategies that I tried. The one that worked the best was as I was about to go on stage, I listened to my husband's voice in my head, and I trust that voice, and that voice soothes my nervous system. It changes the hormones that are released into my blood. It reduces the cortisol level which is a stress hormone that's being released into my nervous system. It calms my heart rate down, and it gives me this image of the safe haven that I have with him where he would say, "Would I let you do anything dangerous? You're going to speak to all these people, and then you're going to come home to me, and I'm here. You can come home to me."

And my whole body would respond with Ah,,,, and I would relax. That is accessing an attachment figure in order to calm my nervous system, in order to deal with stress, in order to regain my emotional balance. And what we're really starting to understand about work relationships is how much we need each other for us to do that. I was talking with a reporter some time ago, and he asked if I had one thing that CEOs don’t know what would that be. And that is kind of a hard question because CEOs know so much. But he said, "If you would have one thing to share what that be?” I basically said, “CEOs have not idea on how much impact people at work have on each other. No idea.” Because they don't understand that they are dancing this dance of survival, and it's a dance that their brains completely, completely are wired into in terms of safety and danger, they have no idea how they trigger each other and how much they need each other to regain their balance, to get back to themself again. No idea. 

 

Polina: If you're a bonding mammal, disconnection from people you depend on is seen by your brain as a danger cue. Disconnection is another word for a fight, argument, conflict and is a part of the language we use in the Emotional Connection process. For example, the new science shows that in relationships, the most basic conflict that we see is what we call “dances of distress”, involves a pursuer or a withdrawer. In a moment of a disconnect, a pursuer starts pushing for connection by complaining, criticizing, blaming, lecturing, judging, and the withdrawer preserves the connection by shutting down, avoiding, and getting busy. In a conflict, there could be a pursuer and pursuer or withdrawer and withdrawer. Because they are bonding mammals, each action from both people involved in a conflict tends to aggravate the situation and trigger their sense of safety based on the only way they know how to deal with conflicts and they don’t realize they are trying to get that connection back.  This is a start of a negative cycle. When ineffective strategies such as blaming, shaming, criticizing, and judging is used in conflicts a pattern of this negative cycle is created. This is the most important aspect to understand in conflicts and in learning how to use effective ways to connect and break the negative cycle. During these conflicts, people are struggling with moments of disconnection, and the way they deal with those moments of disconnection actually pushes people away from them rather than pulls them close. So, they just get caught in a dreadful pattern of pushing for connection, missing each other, threatening each other. They get caught in a terrible negative cycle. From the team effectiveness point of view, conflict, which most people focus on since the beginning of time, is really not the issue. We think that resolving conflicts has to do with finding solutions to situations but the underlying issue in conflicts is being able to break the negative cycle and create a new positive one through emotional connection. With a strong positive cycle any problem can be resolved and solutions can be found.

 Conflict is the inflammation. The virus is emotional disconnection. Emotional disconnection with a group of people whose brains are tuned to monitor and seek connection, see a disconnection in terms of a threat. This is a very different way of looking at team dynamics. 

 

Lola: I remember when was on that private company board, I was pretty confident.  I’ve worked with lots of different individuals, interviewed hundreds of people, and worked with lots of teams but when some of our board members would get into these awful fights with each other, I couldn't believe how completely incompetent and useless I was to help these board members.  I couldn't stop them from fighting.  I didn't really understand what they were fighting about. It was pretty obvious to me they weren't just fighting about content issues. There was something much more heavy at stake. Every time I would take one side or the other, one person would get angry at me, or somebody would shut down and not talk. I was completely, completely lost, and so I went and looked at all the different ways of understanding this drama. "Oh, they didn't have any communication skills." They weren't interested in learning communication skills, but the interesting thing is that even if I taught communication skills to them, they wouldn't be able to use them when they needed them, which is when they were threatened and upset. They could only use those skills when they were calm and in emotional balance. And I think that's just like the rest of us, that's true. The thing with skills is, it's often not an acquisition problem. It's an access problem. Then I read books on leadership and psychology and tried to give these board members insights into their past, and they would say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that this sensitivity of mine comes from my past, and that's very interesting,” and then they'd just go back berating each other. So, I not only didn't know what to do,  I didn't know how to understand the drama that was in front of my face, the powerful emotions, the visceral responses, and the momentum that would drive this music. Emotion is the music of the dance. So, this music would just pick up these board members and carry them off, and our meetings would become this dreadful and draining place to be in. So, it is an amazing thing for me to say, and every time I talk about this it still hits me, that things have really changed. We have a map to this drama that happens in the workplace and to the emotional connection that is revolutionizing leadership, teams, and organizations.  And especially with COVID, it has accelerated everyone’s awareness of how much we need to learn about emotions and emotional responsiveness. We see employees differently. We understand employees’ emotional needs differently. We respond to them differently. We need to respond to them emotionally. We no longer ignore people’s emotions and tell employees what to do which is what we used to do even as late as the 1990s.

 

Polina: What this science does is give us a road map to the key elements that create a positive cycle of interaction within our work and team culture. And we don't have to change everything in our interactions. We have to change the core organizing elements. The core organizing elements are how we deal with emotions, how we send clear emotional signals to each other, and how these signals create a dance that either leads us into a secure connection or leaves us in painful chronic disconnections. So, we’re starting to understand that our goal is not just to calm people down or make them a bit nicer with each other, our goal is to help people move into a bonding dance of secure connection where they know how to turn and pull each other closer. That is the way to get lasting change in a team culture.

People think that managers fight about strategy, employees, and finances, and we say, "No, they don’t." Managers have differences about those topics, and if you're securely connected, you can deal with those kinds of differences because they don't scare you. They're just about the topics, these are about content. They don't really say anything about your relationship, right? But what we talk about is that really significant fights that define the relationship are always and only about one question, the attachment bonding question, "ARE you there for me? Do I matter?"

Let's do it in ARE you there for me? - A.R.E.

A: "Are you there? Are you accessible to me? Can I reach you? Will you hear when I call?

R: Are you responsive, emotionally responsive to me? Do you feel my pain? Can I see when I look into your face that my emotions impact you? Do you respond to me emotionally?

E: Are you engaged with me? Would you come and help me to understand the things I need to get as my fellow peer, as my boss?"

A.R.E., "Are you there for me?"

All relationship distress, from an attachment point of view, results from a No or a Maybe answer to that question.

What we do when we work with people is we create bonding moments where each team member can actually feel that the answer to that question is yes, and I say "feel" because the way we work is through an experiential process. This means it's not a coaching session. It's not a top-down approach. We don't give insight. It's not about giving explanations. EmC is an experiential process, we create a new corrective emotional experience, and what we try to do is to get that connection back. Over the years, we've shown that we've not only changed satisfaction in the relationship, but we can actually create more secure attachment within the team, and that's pretty significant. There are a lot of neuroscience studies that are supporting the bonding science that's happening.

Naomi Eisenberger at UCLA has pointed out that we often talk about hurt feelings in relationships as a metaphor, but in fact, we are bonding social animals, so hurt feelings are not a metaphor. Particularly, in our most important relationships, the evidence is if you look at people in a brain scan machine, getting a cue that you are about to be rejected, excluded, or criticized by someone you depend on is processed in the same part of the brain and exactly the same way as physical pain. That makes perfect sense, because, for a mammal who depends on calling others and having them come, getting cues of rejection and abandonment are considered to be danger cues. So, your brain doesn't really distinguish that much between getting a massive rejection on the person’s face and stepping on the nail. So, when people say, as one person says, "I hurt. I don't know why. He shuts me out. I'm an adult. Why should that hurt? But it hurts, it hurts." We say, "Yes, it hurts.” We take it literally. It hurts. This is how our body tunes into connection and disconnection.  

Another study was done after 9-11 where researchers looked at companies and the people who worked for those companies in the vicinity of the towers. And what they found was that the people who were there at that time but who said they could turn to others, confide in them, ask for comfort, trust that comfort, and create this secure connection were basically doing just fine 18 months later. The people who could not do that were not doing well. So, when I say to you that secure attachment doesn't mean that we're needy and weak or enmeshed or not differentiated. Secure attachment is the royal road to strength, flexibility, confidence, resilience, and the ability to explore the world and take risks. We are not just giving you our opinion. We’re giving you something that is substantiated by research study after research study after research study in all kinds of different contexts.

And this new science says that the main element that defines a secure bond that lasts is emotional responsiveness. Being able to reach somebody emotionally, create that emotional connection, and trust that you can engage with them when you need them, that they will be there for you. That is what defines a secure bond. And an insecure bond is where you don't trust that, you're not sure that's going to happen, you don't know how to do that, and so what you do is you end up pushing for this connection or being very agitated, monitoring it all the time, being preoccupied with it and never feeling sure you're safe. Or you end up denying your need and saying, "Other people are dangerous. It's way too dangerous to need others. I'm not going to do it.”

 

Lola: If you look at attachment theory and you look at the interaction as a dance, there are really only three basic moves in the dance of connection. And this is nicely demonstrated with an experiment, called Still Face. It’s on YouTube and was done by Ed Tronick, a development psychologist at Harvard and his team.  The experiment involves a mother engaging with the baby and the baby engages with the mother. They are playing around and the baby and the mother are having a wonderful exchange. Then the researchers ask the mother to stop responding to the baby. And you see that the baby starts to react to the disengagement of the mother. Ed Tronick observed the baby and the mother and then they observed adults during disconnections and what they saw was that that sequence of events that took place was exactly the same. So, no matter whether you are one year old or 30 years old, or 50 years old or 90 years old, your brain is wired for bonding. You will go through the same sequence of events when you sense a disconnect with the people you depend on. 

Why do leaders need to know that? Because leading is about helping people work cohesively together. That is the leaders’ job to help people feel connected with each other and connected to the mission of the organization so that they can collectively get more done. They need to know how to recognize when people are disconnected and help them to reconnect. That is what leaders do. Their primary job is to make sure that the team is working cohesively together. For that, you need to know the dance that is happening in the team, the dance of connection and disconnecting.   

If you watch the mother and baby in the video, you will see that the baby goes through three basic moves. When the mother stops relating to the baby and goes still, the baby picks up on this instantly.

The first thing the baby does is to reach. And that's what we do when we feel disconnected with the people we depend on. We try to reach for them. Now, we may not even know what that really looks like. We may not even have experienced that, so we may not do it terribly well. Like one manager says to me that her way of reaching out was to say to one of her colleague, "You are leaving early these days.” Listen to her voice. It's the emotional music. And the colleague says, “No, I'm not.” because he hears the threat. In her tone, she says, Yes, you are. And you've been going early for weeks. And I guess it doesn't matter to you that we have this due date that is coming up.” And listen to her. I mean, she’s on the attack. As human beings, we are acutely sensitive to signs of rejection or abandonment by the people we depend on, acutely sensitive. That's how we are wired. So he hears that he's blown it. He hears it, that she’s rejecting him. She’s telling him he's done something wrong. She was trying to reach him, but she didn't do a very good job of it. So, it didn't work. So, reaching is the first one, and it's the most optimal strategy. You reach for other people, and you say, "Are you there for me?"

If you can't do that and don't know how to do that, you're too anxious, something gets in the way, what you do is you push, and that is basically reaching fueled by anxiety. Just like this manager pushes and says, "Why are you leaving early? Where are you? Why don't you come and help me? You shouldn't leave early. If you were more available, we'd resolve this together. Why do you always disagree? Can't you ever? I'd just like you to respond to me," and it's protesting, complaining, and criticizing. So, if you can't reach and get the response you need from the other person, you push. The trouble with pushing is your negative signals come across to the other person as “danger” to the other person's mammalian brain, and often you're seen as a threat, and you're trying to get them to come towards you, but, inadvertently, you push them away. 

The other thing the baby does in the video is when the mother doesn't respond to the baby's reaching and the baby's shrieking and pushing and saying, "Where are you? Come!" the baby gets overwhelmed and distressed and turns away from the mother and withdraws. Turns away and shuts down in order to shut down her own emotions, in order to somehow change the situation. So her colleague says, I don't wanna talk about this right now. And she says, oh, let me guess you have to go home because you're so tired. And they’re off.  That is the typical demand-withdraw attack-defend dialogue that you'll see in distressed team interactions. And it's totally predictable. The tricky part with shutting down is when you shut down, you shut the other person out which makes them more triggered and upset, not less. This is one of the myths is if I just stop the conversation, the problem will go away. Unfortunately, the storm gets bigger and the negative cycle gets stronger. 

So, you reach, you push, try to control, "I'll make you respond," or you shut down, "I'll give up. I don't need a response from you. I'm hurting. I don't want to feel rejected or abandoned," because we're all terrified of that. “I give up, I numb out, I turn away." The tricky part about that one is it leaves you alone, and so does yelling and trying to control. It leaves you alone. The strategy that works is reaching, and as a chairman once said to me, "We never really saw anyone do that,” he said, "I don't even know what reaching looks like. How do you reach? “ This is fascinating, right? And it makes sense because we have never been taught how to do that, but of course, he learned, because he desperately, desperately longs to be connected with his board members.  

The last reaction is fear and panic. And that is where we see the baby losing her balance. She loses control of her emotions and cries. That’s a panic response.  And that is what happens in the workplace. I remember when I would get disconnected at work and go through these phases, the last phase would always be very painful, I would lock myself in the office and cry. These are all real feelings to have. Not everybody cries, of course. Some people become angry, yell, or become extremely defensive. But underneath, it is the same feeling of fear and panic that the baby displays in the video, this is our basic cry for connection.

Then a beautiful thing happens. The mother becomes available, the baby responds, and they create a repair. Everything we do in EmC is to move people into that repair of the positive path of connection. I just want to get a closer look at how the mother repairs the bond. First, the mother reaches. Her face is open. Her eyes are open. All her non-verbal cues send a clear message of, “I am here.” She actually says, “I am here.” And what does the baby do, the baby immediately stops crying, the baby is smiling and re-engages with the mother. This is what we see happen with people in EmC. As we create that safe space where people go into their emotions, understand what it is that they need to feel safe and connected, and we use EmC techniques to coregulate their emotions enough so that they can send clear emotional signals to the other person, they start to re-engage people on an emotional level where they pull each other closer and repair the disconnect. That type of emotional accessibility and responsiveness is what helps leaders to be much more effective in creating safety in the workplace. That type of emotional awareness is what helps leaders to catch the disconnects early and repair the relationship before team members get into terrible negative cycles. 

 

Polina: Just as we mentioned earlier we take one of the two positions in a disconnection, we either pursue or withdraw. In the video, the baby was the pursuer, and the mother was the withdrawer. In adults, pursuing might look like angry emails, all capital letters, voices raised. Withdrawing might look like ignoring, turning away, not responding, stonewalling. All these behaviors are signs to reconnect. Pursuers are actively pursuing the connection. Withdrawers are actively preserving the connection.

In EmC, we teach you how to take people in a distressed situation through three stages.

STAGE 1: is the de-escalation and awareness of their negative cycle where we acknowledge the disconnection and create safety by clarifying that no one is blamed for the disconnection. "No one has to be the bad guy. You are not bad people, you just haven't understood the emotional connection, and you’re caught in this dreadful cycle, and you don't even see how the cycle is taking over your relationship. You don't know what it's doing to you, and you end up in this perpetual disconnection and despair.” We help people see the pattern, that it's all about attachment. And we help people learn to focus on the pattern and help each other out of it so people start to create a basic platform of secure safe connection. 

STAGE 2: The next stage is Restructuring the pattern. We help create a positive interactional cycle where people learn to reach for each other in a way that pulls them closer. We help them to talk about the vulnerabilities, their triggers so that others can start to understand what's going on with them in moments before they shut down or before they start to attack. We help people to turn at that moment and share, whereas they typically shut down, start to talk about their vulnerabilities in a safe and comfortable way, and start identifying their needs.

STAGE 3: And then the last stage, we consolidate, we integrate the EmC process into daily conversations where they start to use the EmC language in their communication, meetings, emails. It becomes their second nature so that they can nurture their connection and makes the bond stronger. We help people create a culture where they can nurture and continue to strengthen their connection that changes their relationship. Every few minutes in this process, we validate people, we help them feel safe. For those who know the work of Carl Rogers, this is a Rogerian approach. We help people feel safe, we help them regulate their emotions because if we don't do that, they will not turn and take these risks to open up to and share their emotions.  So, safety is our primary goal.

 

Lola: All across all these stages and in all these times, if you look at this process, the EmC Coach does four basic moves, four basic actions, and I want you to think about this process as a combination of an experiential approach to change and a systemic approach to change the relationship. We're experiential and we are also bonding theorists and bonding theory is what gives us the direction to the process and helps us understand people's emotions. Let’s go over an example of a conflict and how we use the Emc process to understand what's happening emotionally. 

I dance the Argentine tango with my husband, which fits perfectly with what we’re talking about here. If you know anything about Argentine tango is it’s not like a traditional tango. Argentine tango is improvised. You could say that it's the Ph.D. in attunement and responsiveness. You have to really get tuned into your partner and feel the music as you dance the tango. Daniel Goleman calls this being in synch with your team, being in the same emotional channel. So in tango, we talk about the fact that you improvise constantly, just like in interactions, you constantly improvise what is that you are going to say next. You tune into, you create each dance anew, but you also have some basic moves as a base, so what do we do?

The first thing is we stay in the present, this is a present-oriented process and stays with the process of interaction and the process of how people create their emotions, how they create the music, and then how the music plays out and creates the dance.

For example, if you watch me, I almost always start again and again with, "What happened here? Could I stop you for a minute? What's happening right now? What's happening right now, Sam? You are giving the CEO tips and trying to teach her how not to move away from you. Is that what you're doing? Could you help me? That's what's happening right now?” and I'm looking in between.

"And as you do that, Sue turns away from you and looks out the window and sighs, and then you become more and more upset. And this is the pattern that happens in your interaction, isn't it?"

So, I'm looking in-between at the dance. Or I might look within because we look at both, and say:

"What's happening right now, Sam? As you're breathing differently, your voice is going up? Could you help me? I'd like to slow it down as you’re saying something really important."

We slow emotion down a lot so that we can kind of unpack it and understand what's going on and order it for people, helping them to make sense.

"So, what's happening right now as you're yelling?" 

He says, "Well, I just think she should learn."

You say, "I'm sorry, could you help me? What's happening right, there's something here that's very hard and upsetting. What is so hard for you? Could you help me? My sense is that when you talk, she turns away. “

He says, "Yes, she shuts me out and there's nothing I can do, and I'm not going to put up with it."

And you hear the desperation in his voice, and he gets to the point where he says, "I guess that's right, I'm desperate."

So, you focus on the present process, the process of interaction, and the process of how people put together and regulate their emotions. That's move one.

Move #2: 

Move two, you explore softer and primary emotions. Because they can only stay on the surface. All she sees is he's angry. All he sees is her shutdown. There are tons of other stuff going on.

I might turn to her at that point and say, "Sue, you turn away."

And she says, "Yes, there's no point in talking."

"Could you help me, 'There's no point in talking?"

And this time I'll stay with her. And I'll walk around in the trigger, her raw spots, emotions, body sensation, her fears, her automatic thoughts, and what her protective behavior wants to do, which is to move away. 

I'll walk around in that experience with her and help her put it together. And she starts saying, "All I hear is that I'm a big disappointment. All I hear is that I'm a bad CEO." 

And then she looks down and her face goes really tight, and I stay with that, and I say, "Could you help me? This is very painful for you. You're a bad CEO? That's where you go in the moment before you shut down. You say to yourself, 'I'm a bad CEO.’

She says, "Yes, I'll never please him. I'm not good enough, so I give up and I just get depressed. I give up."

And I say, "Could you help me? Your face looks sad right now."

She says, "Yes, I just want to cry."

I say, "So this is very difficult. When he raises his voice, you just hear all this stuff about how you're inadequate, you can never please him, and it's sad. And could you help me? What else?"

And she says, "It's scary because I'm on my own here. I am hanging by a thread. I just never make it.  I am all alone and I try so hard, and I've tried so hard."

So I go into her emotions, the emotions that are pushing this conflict, the music that's pushing it, and I help her to order it.

I reflect it, I hold it, and then I give it back to her, I distill it. I discovered it with her, and I organized it, and I created new music from the new emotion. I create a new emotional signal to change the dance.

Move #3:

I say, "Can you turn and tell him? Can you turn and tell him, I do shut down, I do shut you out because all I hear is I'm not a good enough CEO, and that hurts so much, I can't bear it. Can you tell him that?"

This is move three. I get her to tell him. I set up a new corrective emotional experience, a disclosure. 

And people can struggle with it, people say, "No, I don't want to tell him."

From an information processing point of view, that is ridiculous because the other person's heard every word, but it's not about information. It's about emotional engagement. 

When the emotional engagement with the other person isn't safe, the person might say, "I don't want to tell him. I'll tell you."

In that case, I say, "Could you turn and tell him, ‘It's hard to even tell you how small I feel in the moment before I turn away and how I feel that I could never make it right with you."

And so, she tells him how hard it is, which is me titrating the risk she has to take with him, but she still turns to him and tells him it's hard.

So, Sue turns and tells him, “I shut down because I can't bear the message that I'm a bad CEO when I try so hard."

Now, a new emotional experience is being formulated, turning into a new, different kind of cue on a different kind of emotional level to the other person.

Move #4

Move four: Process the enactment.

We've reflected the present process within and between, we've explored and deepened emotion, we've changed the music, we've created an enactment, a new dance, and now a new signal is sent to the other person.

Now we're going to process that new signal, that new dance. 

I say to her, "Sue, what does it feel like to tell him that?"

She says, "It feels good. It feels a hell of a lot better than running and putting up 3,000 feet walls and hiding all the time. It feels good. I don't know why I've never learned to do this."

And then I ask Sam, "How does it feel?"

He says: "I like it. I didn't know you felt that way. You're an amazing CEO. There are times when I just get overwhelmed when I get your emails and it just freaks me out. I don't want you to feel like you're a bad CEO. I don't want you to feel small. That makes me sad that you feel that way." Ah.

Now he responds to her. He comes and joins her in the new pattern that's safer, that involves her talking about her vulnerability and him responding to it. So that's much more positive, and it's moving towards more secure bonding.

So then what do I do? We've created a new pattern. I tie a bow on it, I integrate.

I focus on the moment. "Wow, look at what you guys did. That's amazing, what you guys just did. You just shifted out of this pattern that's controlled your interaction. You were so brave. You went into difficult emotions. You turned and, Sue, you turned and took this risk. You're so honest. And, Sam, you were able to be there for Sue and reassure her. That's incredible. You can do that. Look at this, you're changing your relationship."

Now, what am I doing? Am I just sort of being over the top weird, nice? 

No. I'm validating. I'm supporting them as people take new risks, and that's my responsibility is to titrate their risks, support them, and integrate the risks that they take, when they take them.

I'm validating and I'm giving them the message, "Yes! You can understand emotional connection. Yes, emotional safety makes sense. You can understand this pattern you're caught in. You can start to shape it. And, yes, look at what you just did. You're doing it right now. You're competent, you can do it. All I'm doing is guiding you. You can do it."

And the fascinating thing is that somehow that knowledge is wired into our brain.

I have worked with people who have lost trust in each other, and don’t even look at each other in meetings, and you have to go much slower in those situations, but my experience shows that if you give people enough support and safety, they will still take those risks because, in the end, we are homo vinculum. We are not just social animals. We are the one who bonds, and if you tap into the power of that, that is an amazing, amazing, amazing motivator for change.

 

Polina: When you approach disconnections that are based on this new science, you have the most amazing arena for change. I get more individual change through this process than I individually work with people because the people change each other. Nothing grows people more like emotional connection. Nothing creates strong relationships like emotional connection. Based on this new science, leaders help their people grow and they grow themselves as effective leaders. They start to change their relationships in a lasting, significant way into a more secure bond, and, of course, it changes the organization. The very best gift that any leader can give to their employees is to have a secure bond with them and to join in creating a safe haven and secure base for all team members.

 

Lola:

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