When the light around you lessens / And your thoughts darken /. . . Search yourself and see / That it is your own thinking / that darkens your world. John O’Donohue
“I just finished reading another LinkedIn Post about the paradox of innovation; namely, termination due to computer innovation. It took courage for an innovation expert who advises companies about innovation to share his personal story of how and why it came to be that his company fired staff. Yet, that ELEPHANT in the room idiom, had to be handled in a manner considering the employee’s best interest.
When we think about the idiom phrase of handling “the ELEPHANT in the room,” it usually refers to a subject matter that no one wants to discuss. Our brain perceives the conflict greater than it may be, represented by a large insurmountable figure.
Business Leaders accept the fact that the challenge of an ELEPHANT in the room must be dealt with. It is a conflict. Sometimes all that needs to be done is to have a conversation and the ELEPHANT is no longer in the room. Neuroscience, however, has offered a remarkable perspective, using an analogy of a Rider and an Elephant. The perspective is given by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Neuroscientist, Mr. Emile Bruneau.
Bruneau explains the analogy as an example of how the brain handles conflict by stating – all the Rider can do is to train the Elephant because the Elephant is more powerful that the Rider. The Rider cannot control or fully understand the Elephant. While this story is recited in a Post by the United States Institute of Peace in an effort to teach people how to deal with conflict. I believe it speaks volumes for the business actions we are involved with. A tool is introduced to deal with conflict, “universal empathy.” http://www.usip.org/olivebranch/2016/05/05/dalai-lama-offers-hope-youth-leaders-and-vice-versa?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=event&utm_campaign=events_weekly
We know we cannot control another individual. Since we do not understand the perspective of the individual, represented by the Elephant idiom, we need to ask open-ended questions so that a two-sided conversation takes place. The How of this neuroscience perspective is to approach an Elephant in the room, with universal empathy. Questions such as, “How would you describe. . .” “What did you think would happen if . . .? “What did you expect would happen. . .”
What’s remarkable is that neuroscience now helps to explain the issue of how the ELEPHANT in the room, comes to be – in the first place. The ELEPHANT is an idiom character representing conflict, triggered by an unconscious bias. The tool — new phrase of “universal empathy” becomes a positive application to use with the conflict idiom.
The term “universal empathy” may become mainstream because it is an inclusive term. We want and do take the first step in handling a conflict. As we begin to practice the use of universal empathy – when we access our own Pause button – perhaps we can alleviate the ELEPHANT idiom character showing up. It’s another way of handling ourselves and Choosing Who We Want to be Known As in our chosen career. Have a great week!
“Jo Ann” M. Radja, Executive and Career Management Coach”