Posts Tagged ‘selfishness’

Facilitation Antipattern: Infantile

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 26 2009

infantileMotto: I want you to pay attention to me right now right now right NOW!
: Everyone else is supposed to pay attention, and do and say what I want them to, and I will behave however I want until they do because that’s the way it works.
: Takes things personally, and makes things personal, while behaving in attention-grabbing, discussion-dominating ways.
Characteristics: Childish, selfish, self-focused, loud, intrusive, dominant, manipulative


I thought about calling this one “Tantrum” or “Baby”. They all describe the same thing, regardless.

“Why aren’t you listening to me?” followed by attention-grabbing, self-destructive behavior. The equivalent of rolling around on the floor, screaming and kicking.

We’ve all met an Infantile. Somehow, no matter what the topic, if you don’t listen to them – and, of course, agree with them – somehow things turn personal and emotional. They make it clear that your failure to listen (the way they want you to listen), and your failure to understand (that is, agree), expresses your disrespect for, and even hostility toward them.

Infantiles have never learned proper socialization. They don’t share well, and they’re not usually interested in dialogue. Their focus is on what they want when they want it, or else.  The “or else” is not usually targeted at a single individual. Rather it’s aimed at getting everyone to pay attention to them, and then to give in to their demands because dealing with their behavior is too annoying/painful.

Of course, once they get their way, Infantiles can be most charming and pleasant.

The two faces of “It’s all about me!”

Coping and Communicating, Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 22 2009

When you hear me say “It’s all about me!” (IAAM), do you think “How horribly selfish and self-centered!” or “How aware and evolved.”?

There are certainly more than just two faces to the concept, and yet these are the two extremes, in my mind.

Ego-Driven, Self-Centered “It’s all about me!” (IAAM-)

As I write about facilitation antipatterns, it’s clear that I’m focusing on the self-centered, ego-need-driven side of “It’s all about me!” Look at Professor Moriarty or the Orator or the Dominator. For each of them, they want – perhaps need – the focus and attention of the group.

IAAM- (the negative IAAM) clearly is driven by the needs and desires of the speaker/actor, rather than a focus on improving communications or teamwork or anything else. While the person exhibiting IAAM- may convince themselves that they’re doing it “for your good” or “for the good of the group”, I believe that their reality is quite different – that they’re doing it because they need it to feel better about themselves. They may start from a position of low self-esteem or insecurity, as surprising as that sounds.

There are many common behaviors, for those who don’t feel good about themselves. Two that come to mind here are “pay attention to me” and “make you feel bad so you’ll recognize my power”.  Both of these are instances of IAAM-.

I did it a lot, in the earlier days of my marriage. Having to be right, as opposed to having a dialogue with my wife. Explaining how she didn’t understand, instead of finding common ground. Taking the center stage, rather than participating and allowing others to participate. These are examples of IAAM-.

Taking Responsibility, Connection-Focused “It’s all about me.” (IAAM+)

In my writing (and talking and talking and… 😉 ) about communication, I tend to focus on a movement away from IAAM- and toward IAAM+ as an understanding of human behavior and interactions.

In IAAM+, it’s two-sided: understanding that my behavior expresses who I am, what I believe, how I feel; and understanding that your behavior expresses the same things about you. As I embrace and internalize that understanding, my behavior changes, because my focus changes. And sometimes, by changing my behavior towards what I would like it to be, I change my feelings and understanding.

Communication and Facilitation and Participation

It all comes together in many places and times. Including in meetings. When I find myself thinking “he always…” or “she’s doing that because…” and I assign motivations and assume what’s going on inside someone else’s head, I push myself back from IAAM- toward IAAM+.  At least, I try.

Facilitation Antipattern: Orator

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 21 2009

oratorMotto: I’m worth listening to.
: I know that people love to hear what I have to say because I’m so articulate and I have such a way with words.
: Dominates the conversation by talking. And talking. And talking. Not malicious, just unable to hear anyone besides herself.
Characteristics: Relentless, verbose, determined.


The Orator likes to hear the sound of her own voice. While she believes that she has a lot of value to contribute, it frequently seems as though her focus is on what she has to say, rather than whether it’s interesting or valuable to you.

The Orator’s self-focus is not malicious. She isn’t trying to dominate or manipulate. She just has a lot to say, and frequently will use ten words where one will do.

The Orator is very pleased with what she has to say and the sound of her own voice, seems to be able to talk endlessly without taking a breath, and rarely leaves an opening for someone else to speak until she’s good and ready.

The damage to the team is similar to many of the other antipatterns, regardless of whether the Orator is the facilitator or a member of the meeting. Her dominance of the proceedings through relentless takeover of the floor causes others to resign their passion, and become reluctant to even try to say something.

Exercises that force a democratic process, like the Circle of Questions or Starfish, are best for dealing with an Orator in the meeting.

If you are the facilitator and you are an Orator, well,…

Facilitation Antipattern: Hoarder

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 12 2009

hoarderMotto: The more I have, the more important I am.
Belief: Controlling information gives me power and makes me important.
Behavior: Doles out information in little bits, controlling the flow. Waits to be asked before sharing.
Characteristics: Quiet, selfish, frightened, insecure, terse


The Hoarder is all about control of information. She believes that it’s all that gives her an edge, makes her important, in a world that seems hostile and highly competitive. She rarely shares without being directly asked, because it’s only her control of information that maintains her sense of position and power.

This is not to say that Hoarders are actually powerful. Their power – such as it is – is illusory and mostly perceived only by the Hoarder. Others frequently see the Hoarder as obstructionist, frustrating, and self-serving.

Since Hoarders are naturally insecure and suffering from self-image issues, dealing with them requires putting aside your emotional reactions and biases toward this kind of behavior, and encouraging them through recognition and appreciation.

As with most of the antipatterns, the people who exhibit Hoarder tendencies can be either moderate or pathological.  That is, some do it out of habit, rather than a psychological need to be in control. These folks will probably respond readily when either encouraged or when having it privately explained to them. Note that I said “explained to them” not “confronted”. Confrontation implies attack and hostility, at least to some degree, and those are rarely useful.

The pathological, however, as with most of the antipatterns, are outside the scope of your ability or responsibility as a facilitator or coworker or friend to deal with. Please be careful in these circumstances. It’s not your job to deal with pathologies – issues that are deep and tightly held.

What’s in it for me?

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 12 2009

I’m going back to my premise that we’re all born selfish, grow up selfish, and die selfish. The difference between those whom society labels as selfish and those it doesn’t is the degree to which they have not learned to socialize their selfishness.

To phrase it differently, everything I do is about me, preferably about making me feel good (about myself, of course).  If you want the context of this, please go back and read It’s All About Me.

What led to this particular post, today, was a conversation I had with an old friend of mine. She’s working as the assistant manager at a toy store, and had a question/challenge regarding one of the staff.  Here’s the dialogue:

Friend: hey, mr facilitator - I could use your advice with a co-worker's 
        communication

Me    : mmhmm

Friend: ... has been with us for ages. she got pretty pissed when I was
        made asst mgr instead of her, but she and I are working together
        ok. she gets phone calls (anyone can answer the phone) from the
        office, asking her/us to do something. she'll do the thing, but
        never tells anyone abt the msg/event, which causes problems.
        I've asked her to let us know when she gets msgs like that, she
        says she will, but doesn't. any ideas on how to change her
        behavior?
Friend: not sure if it's a passive/agressive thing, or what.

Me    : hmm...
Me    : Make it be to her advantage to change

Friend: hmm, to her advantage.....

Me    : so far, it's "tell me so I'll know"
Me    : how about "tell me so I can make sure you get recognition for
        all you do"?

Friend: aha!

Me    : I'd guess she has no incentive to give you what you want if
        she doesn't see the value for her
Me    : so appeal to her selfishness (you know my position on that)
Me    : and then ask her how she'd like that to work

Friend: you're absolutely right. I hadn't seen that there was no
        "her" in it
Friend: hunh!
Friend: she doesn't realize how hard we're working to keep her job
        - everything she does, and it is much, is almost invisible

And there you have it. Dealing with the reality that each of us is looking for what’s in it for us.

Yes, I said “reality”, because that’s what I believe.

I don’t think badly of the other woman that my friend is dealing with. She’s normal – she’s looking for motivation that makes sense within her world view.

Few of us do things altruistically. Even when we’re doing a good job for the benefit of the organization we work for, it’s about (a) keeping our job, and (b) enjoying the feeling of belonging to and contributing to something bigger than ourselves.

I’ll say it again – I don’t see this as a negative or bad thing. Understanding this helps me to more effectively deal with the people in my world.

If you doubt me, ask yourself the question “Why am I doing this?” and use the Five Whys technique to help you get closer to the core.

Facilitation Pattern: Co-Worker

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 10 2009

coworkerMotto: Succeeding together is better than failing individually.
Belief: Two heads – or three or four – are better than one, and the group is more important than the individual.
Behavior: Frequently takes on facilitative roles/activities, looks for ways to cooperate and collaborate with others.
Characteristics: Patient, team-focused, non-combative, conciliatory


The Co-Worker* believes that the best results are achieved by cooperation, collaboration, and putting the group/team above the individual.

What I like about the Co-Worker is that they are very much like a facilitator. They believe in teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, dialogue… There’s nothing quite so good as having a Co-Worker or two in a meeting to make the facilitator’s life that much easier.

You’ll recognize the Co-Worker as the person who seems to always step in and say “I can see both of your points of view. How can we bring this to some kind of compromise or conclusion?”

Co-Workers rarely seek their own aggrandizement – they work for the group, and will put in as much effort as it takes to see the group succeed. They will frequently take on action items at the end of the meeting, and will seek others to work with in most cases.


* I was going to call this one Collaborator – as in one who labors with others – but was afraid that too many people would take the negative definition of that word – like traitor. English does have its challenges.

Facililtation Antipattern: Zealot

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 09 2009

ZealotMotto: The force of my convictions makes me right!
Belief: If you understand what I’m saying, then you must agree with me. My conviction is my strength.
Behavior: Speaks with passion and fervor, acting in the sincere belief that she is right and that if she pursues the topic long enough, others must see the rightness of her argument and agree with her.
Characteristics: Passionate, articulate, determined, argumentative, zealous


The Zealot (sometimes known as The Missionary) believes strongly, even passionately, in whatever they believe in. No half-measures for them.

They are willing to argue, fight, persuade, convince, and argue some more to win you over to their point of view. This means that they have the tendency to dominate a discussion, in their passion for what they know to be true/right.

This has the effect of taking over a meeting so that it is entirely focused on the Zealot’s issue. Which suits the Zealot just fine, but does not contribute to the group’s overall success.

It is important to realize that the Zealot is thoroughly well-intentioned, believing that they are serving you/the group by convincing anyone and everyone of the rightness of their view. They have nothing but good intentions, in fact. You might find yourself having the opportunity to ask “the question” (see I feel sad) from Crucial Conversations.

Dealing with this requires the strength to choose when to cut off a conversation (The Facilitation Four-Step), offer to either park it or consider it done, and keep the group moving forward. Challenging, but relatively straightforward.  This also requires the support of the other participants, which is usually forthcoming.

Facilitation Antipattern: Professor Moriarty (aka Evil Genius)

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 02 2009

professor_moriartyMotto: The end, if it’s what I want, justifies any means.
Belief: I can, and will, utilize any tool or stratagem to achieve my goals. I’m entitled to do so because I’m smarter and cleverer and it’s what I want.
Behavior: Manipulates, uses loaded language, conspires, convinces, distracts, distorts
Characteristics: Insidious, manipulative, conspiratorial, superficially open and honest


This may be one of my least favorite antipatterns, because it’s so destructive, while trying to wear the guise of constructive and collaborative. The Evil Genius is the one who’s whispering to others, who catches others alone during breaks, who speaks against one to another, who proposes antagonistic ideas and tries to make them sound constructive, and so on.

It does go on and on.

It’s frequently hard to spot the Evil Genius, because they mask their insidious manipulation so well.

And their manipulations are destructive, because they violate all the principles of collaboration.

“If I can get this one to side with me against that one, then I’ll weaken the entire group so that I can achieve my ends.”

And they frequently delude themselves into thinking that they are working for the good of the group.

Frankly, I have trouble imagining someone acting in this antipattern as a facilitator. And if they were, I can’t imagine that they’d be open and honest enough to own up to it and change.

This one is hard to deal with, because they are so good at being deceitful and duplicitous.

Facilitation Antipattern: Conclusion Jumper

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jan 31 2009

conclusion_jumperMotto: I don’t need to hear everything you have to say – I’ve got it!
Belief: I am quicker than others in figuring things out, and am required to tell them so.
Behavior: States a conclusion as if they have enough information, then argues the point.
Characteristics: articulate, convincing


In my life, I have been so guilty of this. When I was younger, because I knew I was smart, I always assumed that I knew where the other person was going and would jump in. Of course, the other person was offended/annoyed, even if I was right.

Why? Because they wanted to finish what they had to say. They didn’t care that I was impatient to move on, that I thought I knew what they were going to say and where they were going, that I thought I was smart  – they wanted a show of respect.

Yup – Conclusion Jumpers are generally disrespectful. What their behavior says is “I’m smart, I’m fast, and what you have to say is less important than my desire to show my smarts and move things forward.” Who is that about? Them – the Jumper – not me.

If you are a facilitator, even if only for one meeting, then your responsibility is to be patient, listen, ask questions – not interrupt, nor assume that you know what someone means or what they’re going to say. Your responsibility is to encourage all parties to listen to all parties – if you don’t do it, then they will learn that they don’t have to.

In fact, part of your responsibility is to teach everyone present about respect and patience and listening.

I seem to have used the word resonsibility a lot in this post, don’t I?

Drum Major Instinct

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jan 24 2009

“We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. …And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968
American Civil Rights Leader

Courtesy of Inspiration Peak

This is so entirely consistent with my views that I had to post it. This post is about healthy selfishness, in which I put myself first, but not at the expense of others. It’s about seeing the world in the context of my own beliefs and seeing others as part of that context and about finding gratification from the things that connect me to and benefit others.

Dr. King was truly inspiring and remarkable.

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