I’ve called this idea People Architecture before, but actually think the dynamics and social patterns in our life, work and relationships are rooted in something more intrinsic and less visible than just behaviour. The image in my mind is a sort of connectedness founded in our emotional response, experiences and interaction with others.
A mentor and friend of mine once described me as the emotional equivalent of ‘A Canary down the Mine’ (canaries were used historically to detect dangerous gases). He meant that I can read the emotional atmosphere in a room at a hundred paces and consequently see and sense the tensions between individuals and teams. Seeing and interpreting these tensions sometimes, but not always, enables me to intervene and dispel that tension in a practical way.
One of my favourite quotes is by Maya Angelou, genius author of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings‘, among other titles:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Tension and frustration builds imperceptibly within some groups, with others it builds tangibly and is visible to all inside or out. This may arise from incremental and repeated frustrations that are unresolved or as a more direct response to perceived insult or hurt. The frustrations, hurt or insults may or may not be real, as much depends on each individual’s perspective. It takes courage to face and dissolve that tension and when people talk of ‘the elephant in the room’, this is basically it.
Honesty helps. Being real helps. Understanding the perspectives of others helps.
I guess one of my biggest lessons is that a difficult start to a relationship does not always result in a difficult ending. In fact some of my best friends now had, in the beginning, questioned my views and didn’t seem to be my friend. They made me question myself, I suspect in the best possible way!
I always try to understand others, even when really annoyed(!) though this aspiration is not always easy. I hope that I can help facilitate change. Preferably good change, healthy change, wherever that leads and however the group dynamic manifests itself in the end.
Lots of love,