One of the most common rules for workshops is “Candour”.  “Speak your mind!”  But this is often the most difficult to practice.  To understand this reticence let’s consider our growth process and development from dependence.

We grow in cycles.

  • On entry into the world we see ourselves as part of our mother, “me and mom are one”.
  • From five to ten months of age, we learn to manipulate our environment.  We realise we are separate and stretch out for learning.
  • From ten to eighteen months we just want to practice, leaving mom behind.  This is a time of exhilaration and delight.
  • From about 18 months to three years, we realise that we cannot do everything and the world looks frightening.  We learn to use our anger, we learn ownership and the word “NO”.  We reconnect with our mother.  But this time with a taste of our individuality.

This can be shown in the following diagram.

This cycle is repeated throughout our lives. When we receive the right feedback in the process, with each great turn of the cycle we learn to trust ourselves and build boundaries allowing us to engage effectively with other people.  Challenges by definition are scary and we learn to balance fear with the joy and excitement of discovery.  This is a good way to understand how we deal with change.

Growth also describes a path from dependence through independence to interdependence, where we learn to work together in teams.  But the development process is seldom perfect.

  • People get stuck in dependence, always looking for someone else to provide what they should provide for themselves; physically (feed me), mentally (think this out for me) and emotionally (take away this fear and make me happy).
  • It is easy to see how independence is more effective than dependence.  And, in corporate life, independence and autonomy is elevated and enshrined as the ultimate state, raising authority over team work, decision-making over communication and competition over cooperation.
  • However today leaders recognise the value of independent people, empowered to act, recognising that community is part of our design and that interdependence is built into nature.  Stepping off from the understanding of interdependence I have the opportunity to share myself deeply and meaningfully with others.  Confident in my capacity to understand a situation in my own unique way, I am able to bring my own individual brilliance.  Open to the beautiful intelligence of those around me I am able join with them to find the ideas that none of us would have found on our own.
  • But even in interdependence, there is danger.  In extreme cases, people become overly passive or excessively care-taking in friendships, romance, families, community and at work.  This is co-dependence and may also be characterised by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and control patterns.

I created this graphic to illustrate these relationships.

The co-dependence diagram in the figure above is probably more descriptive of a situation termed inverted narcissism in which a co-dependent is intensely attuned to others’ needs, but only in so far as it relates to their own need to perform the requisite sacrifice.

So where are you in your team?  Scroll down to the bottom of  this note and leave a comment in the box provided.