“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
The above three quotes perfectly describe how human beings mask their behaviours. Try answering the following questions.
- How often do we tell our wives we love them? How often do we seek feedback from them about what they think about us?
- We all feel emotions like happiness, pleasure, anger, disappointment, satisfaction, hurt etc.. Are we aware where these feelings come from? Why do we feel the way we feel?
- In case others make us happy, do we acknowledge it upfront? If we get hurt by others, do we immediately point it out? Or do we keep quiet and sulk? In case we do point it out, how well do we do it?
- We are often the cause of some emotions in others. Are we aware why we make others feel the way they feel? In case others point out to us how we made them feel, do we accept the feedback and modify or reinforce our behaviour? How well do we respond?
- When did we last vent out our emotions? How many years of emotional burden are we carrying? Do we have anyone with whom we can share it all? Is there a single person who will just hear us out, instead of judging or advising us?
What is common in all the above questions? Yes, It is about unmasking the hidden feelings we carry. It is about being aware of impact of our behaviour on self and others. So how aware are we? Is there any way of knowing this? Is there any way to learn this art?
Leadership is a lot about these subtle aspects of human behaviour. It is in this backdrop that I recently attended a workshop called Human Process Lab conducted by Dr Zeb Waturuocha, founder of aui Consultants based at Mysore, India.
A Human Process Lab is conducted with 10-12 participants. It’s not a classroom-with-chairs-and-a-projector kind of setting. Instead, mattresses and pillows are laid out on the floor.
|About this pic : Typical sitting arrangement in a process lab|
Participants are seated on these mattresses as they engage with each other as well as the coach over 40 hours of the lab duration.
The first 16 hours of the lab involves free-wheeling discussion between participants on what concerns them in their professional and personal life. The discussion at times gets intense, as debates occur and participants try to push their own agenda, dominate, digress or simply avoid talking. This develops some sort of dynamics among team members. Feelings and emotions germinate among the participants towards each other. This inventory of incidents, statements, feelings, emotions, feedbacks and judgements form the data which is critical for the balance 24 hours of the workshop.
It’s then that the coach takes complete charge and the workshop gets intense. The coach helps participants to express what they are feeling and makes them to get aware where that feeling is coming from. The coach then enables participants to give feedback to (and not pass judgement on) those who made them feel what they felt.
By the 32nd hour, the group really opens up. Participants start sharing on their own, as they see in the group a medium to shed their masks which they had been wearing for years. Their pent up emotions, deepest prejudices, fears etc. start flowing seamlessly in the room. The coach as well as the group help the participants in the process.
As the coach digs deeper into each participant on his/her feelings and emotions, things get really interesting. Since participants have inhibitions about sharing too much information, they fortify their positions, leaving little space for the coach to explore deeper. However, pressure gradually builds up on participants. That the group is being taken over a cliff becomes palpable. It’s at this stage that some participants even break down and emotions literally start flowing out in the form of tears. It is therefore best advised to be upfront, open and forthcoming right at the outset in the lab.
|About this pic : RULER Concept to deal with emotions. To be able to recognize our emotions and respond in a regulated manner.|
Participants who see the lab as a unique opportunity to offload their years of emotional burden share openly. They feel relieved after shedding the burden and learn from the experience. The coach as well as the group help such participants to deal with the emotional catharsis. However, there are still participants who do not share openly. They miss out on not only offloading their burden of emotions for good but also valuable insight from the coach and other participants on how to deal with these emotions.
|About this pic : Stress often results in emotional outbursts. We can manage stress by focussing on what is in our control, the smallest circle.|
Human Process Lab is clearly like an ocean. If one dives, one has the possibility of getting one or more pearls that can make all the difference to one’s life. If one doesn’t dive, life continues the way it was. No pearls! Mask remains.
Needless to mention, there is a clear understanding among participants not to share outside any specifics of what was discussed in the room.
Clearly, Human Process Lab is a tool to enhance one’s emotional intelligence. It offers what they don’t teach in B-Schools.
Wondering why is it called a lab? These 40 hours bring about behavioural change in a person. However, the outside world doesn’t understand what changed in the person after the lab. Hence, the participant is asked to experiment with his and others’ feelings during the workshop and learn therefrom. This experiment acts as a precursor to using the learning at home or in office. Using the learning directly in the outside world is not advised. Hence the word – lab.
I feel this program is a must for those already in leadership positions or aspiring to be there. It will also help those who wish to improve their emotional intelligence (EQ). That tools existed to help us on such subtle aspects of human behaviour was a pleasant revelation to me!