Vigilant Reflection

Posted on February 19, 2018 by Richard Goulter

One good, sensible motto that is worth keeping in mind every now and then is to reflect: ‘Where am I at? Where do I want to be? How can I get there?’. – I’m not sure how that works for ‘I don’t know what I want’; but it’s much better to know that you don’t know, than to just have the angst.

I think this is useful especially if you find yourself in the same ‘situations’ repeatedly.
– I like to think it’s helped me figure out some of my failure-modes in terms of how I work. e.g. I like having ‘flow’ with my work. This can be described as work with ‘the right level of challenge, for your current level of skill’. (I’ve seen different diagrams for this; I don’t know which are reliable, but this sounds a sensible model).
For me, if I’ve found if I don’t have ‘flow’, it can be difficult to find motivation and to live up to my potential. And if I’m not aware of this, I’ll end up stuck.

So it’s useful to have tools to help reflect.

The term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EQ) gets thrown around every now and then.
It certainly sounds like a bullshit term made for cuddly-feely for people who may not have high IQ, but can get on with other people.
But the concepts related to it seem useful enough tools: awareness and management of self, awareness and management of others. This link looks like cuddly-feely MBA nonsense, but it sensibly expands on examples of these kinds of things. e.g. ‘awareness of self’ includes ‘understanding my emotions and the effects they have on me’; ‘management of others’ includes ‘can you influence others: have a positive impact, and persuade them to gain their support’.

I think a big limitation with the EQ stuff is it kindof splits into ‘good with people’ and ‘bad with people’.
But people can be complicated. This doesn’t mean EQ is nonsense, so much as I think it’s useful to be aware of this limitation.

It can be fascinating to reflect / consider the different ways people interact.
Mis-alignment of assumptions between people inevitably leads to conflict.
This is made clear by Alice Maz’s excellent ‘Splain it to me’. I think another interesting example is e.g. Askers vs Guessers. – The point of these tools isn’t to model people as entirely fitting into the model’s boxes, so much as they help understand / explain interactions between people.

I think something that’s unfortunately omitted in discussions of diversity, where the claim is that it’s beneficial to have different kinds of people working on a task:
Differences risk mis-aligned assumptions.
Which surely leads to tension, and conflict.
– This can be mitigated by emphasis on a shared identity (e.g. Between citizens, a shared national identity. Between employees, a shared company identity), rather than emphasis on differences between identity.
But my concern is: pro-diversity folk often encourage situations which lead to tension/conflict without acknowledging the potential conflict, and without providing tools to mitigate and work around this.

Similarly, I think ‘cultural differences’ aren’t just ‘demographic differences’.

Yet. I kindof wonder if other people in teams reflect on differences like this.
For myself, I think I can get as far as aware of how others feel. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who could easily manipulate others. So I guess ‘Where am I at? etc.’ is useful for ‘What are my limitations? How should I approach these situations from that?’.

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