Employing Differences

Employing Differences: Episode 36: Is this how I want to be spending my energy?

January 19, 2021 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences: Episode 36: Is this how I want to be spending my energy?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences: Episode 36: Is this how I want to be spending my energy?
Jan 19, 2021
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"That energy that I may need to spend in order to appear professional when I'm working with a client is energy that I can't be spending actually helping them with their problem. Regardless of whether or not that image that I'm trying to create is useful or appropriate, I'm spending the energy on that, which means I can't allocate it to something else."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"That energy that I may need to spend in order to appear professional when I'm working with a client is energy that I can't be spending actually helping them with their problem. Regardless of whether or not that image that I'm trying to create is useful or appropriate, I'm spending the energy on that, which means I can't allocate it to something else."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Karen:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Paul:

I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

Each episode we start with a question and we see where it takes us. This week's question is, "Is this how I want to be spending my energy?"

Karen:

We came to this one really thinking about the time that we're in, of COVID days, and everybody's on Zoom. And Paul and I each sort of confessed that what you see around us is a much sort of cleaner, tidier sort of image than if I stood just over there and took a picture of looking this way. And we were both sort of revealing our piles and thinking about how this time of COVID has shifted some of the expectation. That if a child walked in, or a cat jumped up in front of me, or those kinds of things, that a year ago would have been seen as sort of unprofessional would now be just sort of part of the norm. And how is that part of an overall trend? Or how is that going to land or carry us forward in terms of the image that we tell ourselves we need to keep, versus authentically, fully showing up just as who we naturally are? And even who we most maybe would like to be or like to be seen as? And the energy part of this question came from tracking what energy is taken up by the professionalism or by maintaining an image or by thinking about who I want to be, or by being in the presence of someone who is thinking about who they want to be or who they want to be seen as, and how different that becomes if we let go of all that and show up as authentically ourselves.

Paul:

Yeah. It's really interesting to me when we start to pay attention to how much energy we may or may not be spending on the image that we're trying to project. There are absolutely some intersections of this conversation with larger conversations about privilege and professionalism and appearance in the American workplace and discrimination that people suffer because of those norms and those standards. Different people have to spend different amounts of energy on that imagery. And what we're re lly kind of thinking about he e is, what is the cost of th t not only personally to that in ividual, but also to whatever gr up, that person is a part of, or those people are a part of. Th t energy that I may need to sp nd in order to appear profe sional when I'm working with a client is energy that I can't e spending actually helpi g them with their problem. Reg rdless of whether or not that mage that I'm trying to crea e is useful or appropriate, I m spending the energy on t at, which means I can't allo ate it to something else. Which means that as we were kind of alking, you pointed out like the e are, there's the energy that e're spending, and so we're f ltering, and so we're ot saying things that we mi ht be otherwise saying, becaus that might be unprofessional, but also, then we're not eve having a chance to think about ther things. We're not operat ng at our fuller capacity when we do that. And so there's a c st to ourselves personally. An there's also a cost to t e group. The group gets he group gets dumber when w can't all be devoting as much nergy as we would like towards whatever work it is we'r doing together.

Karen:

Yeah, there's a whole piece of sort of self regulation and that there's a concept called neuroception, which is this earlier than consciousness, it is by definition an unconscious sort of scanning for danger, scanning for relational cues, scanning for anything we might need to pay attention to. And I think our neuroception picks up really clearly when someone else is not showing up authentically. So there's this sort of two sides of the coin of I'm over here spending a ton of my energy thinking about well, is that a thing I'm allowed to say here? Is that a professional image I want to project? Is that an idea that would be welcomed here? That's that personal side, and then on the opposite side, when you're across from that person, your own neuroception is picking up there's something not totally correlating here. There's something not fully authentic here. There's something that's not there's some story that's not being fully told. And then both consciously and unconsciously, we begin to put energy toward, "Where is that story? What's the real story? Do I need to pay attention to the real story? Can I count on this story that's in front of me?" And one thing I want to point out is that this all happens, even in the absence of any bad intent. This isn't just a matter of somebody who's trying to be deceptive. This can be someone who is absolutely showing up as their best self, trying their best to be that professional team player. And they say the thing that you want to hear instead of the thing that's actually most authentically true for them. Or they don't say the thing, that's actually what they're thinking that then maybe influences behavior later or other things. And as soon as I had any sense that I'm across from someone who's like that, I think, mostly unconsciously, and subconsciously, I start spending energy, thinking about, "Can I trust? What can I trust? Where can I trust? How much can I trust? And how do I have to categorize this kind of the information that's coming from them the relational information and maybe the project related information?"

Paul:

Yeah. I think there are times when we notice that, when we really because we are very good at doing it unconsciously. And then we're just later exhausted. But when it becomes conscious to us, it can be really dangerous, vulnerable, and useful to name it. This is where you really have to trust in the relationship. I'm thinking about someone who I worked with, at one point, who was promoted into a new role, and now had a much broader set of responsibilities. And was thinking about the person who had been in that role previously. And so there was a lot of conscious or unconscious comparing, And this person was he and I talked about this, and he was feeling sort of a lack of confidence about this. And this sort of image management was a new behavior for him. He and I had worked together a bunch before that. And when he moved into this new role, he started to show up in these ways that didn't seem as authentic and didn't feel as authentic as I had interacted with him previously. And because of our relationship, I was able to name that. I could say, "I'm feeling like, there's something you're not saying here," or "I'm wondering if.." and basically make an opening for it. And sometimes it worked. And sometimes it didn't. But when it did, it was great, because then actually, we could kind of be honest about what was going on. And we both could spend less energy on that. Him on trying to manage it, and me interacting with it, reacting with it. And so it can be really powerful and dangerous. There's a risk there to doing that, too, asking the other person. To basically saying to the other person, "I'm not trusting what you're saying. I am not perceiving you as being fully authentic or honest." And I was able to use language that worked in our relationship. And deciding to do that or not to do that is something we're also spending energy on.

Karen:

And I think that there is a lot of skill required to do that well, in most cases. I mean, it's one thing, if you're in that coach relationship, I mean, as you said, you have the relationship with him for all the reasons. I think there's a particular energy that goes into holding space for authenticity, holding structures that might welcome it when you're the primary person in the room that does that kind of thing. So naming values, tracking who's getting insurance to speak when, paying attention to what are the dynamics and the power dynamics and all of these things that give us the safety to be vulnerable there's this whole sort of domino effect. But I think that, that one of the things we're really tracking here is that this can be intentionally shifted. And there is this sort of promised land at the other end of the work where we have this lovely flow kind of relationship where which I think Paul and I have actually where we can say these things, mostly, probably not perfectly. So we've got always room to grow, but that we can say to each other, "Yeah, you know, I'm not there with you," or "I'm not sure what this is saying," or whatever. And that's yummy and lovely. And you're not going to go from we're putting on our professional personas to that without expending energy there.

Paul:

Right. The two things that come to mind around this. I mean this is really what Amy Edmondson is talking about when she talks about psychological safety. She's talking about the ability to take interpersonal risks, and then to not have the fear of certain types of consequences prevent you from doing that. And that means that you're not having to manage that fear, you're not having to manage those risks. So you're spending less energy on that. So you're actually able to do this stuff. That's the the research basis for a lot of this. And connected to it is kind of what we've talked about in previous episodes, that when you're going to make a change, usually it's going to get worse before it gets better. If I want to spend less energy, and we as a group want to spend less energy on managing those things, on having more authentic and real relationships, we have to give up our well honed habits of presenting how we present and of interacting with other people in those guarded ways. And it's going to take more energy so that we can eventually spend less energy on all of that, so we can spend more energy eventually on the work we're all trying to do together. Yeah, it's not a smooth, linear path.

Karen:

And I want to name that a big chunk of that more energy is courage. is the energy to talk yourself into it to gather your courage. Because guess what, it is dangerous and it won't always go well. It's not courage to do the thing that won't actually go badly, you just think it might. It's courage to do the thing that actually a percentage of the time is going to go badly?

Paul:

Yeah. Where you screw it up, right, and you try it and it goes wrong. And you've got to deal with the with the consequences of that. Yeah.

Karen:

And I want a name that this is iterative. This isn't an all or nothing, in or out kind of thing. And but it is a process that I think we go through over and over again. And we you know, so we get a little more flow, and that feels great. And then we run into the next stumbling block that kind of points us to, "oh wait, we're, again, getting bogged down in energy." Spending energy and that sort of relational, interpersonal, either self-regulating, what am I allowed to say? What am I safe to do here filtering? Or filtering what's coming from that other person and how much have they filtered and are not fully showing up. Both of those pieces, which tend to travel together. So I think I just want to name that there's no done, but also you don't have to get to perfection to get reward and shift.

Paul:

Lots of little steps. Yeah. So it sounds like what we're really saying here is that there is always energy that we are spending on what it is that we're presenting and what it is that we're not what we're filtering and what we're what we're letting through those filters. There's an energetic cost to ourselves, and also to the people who are interacting with, which means that energy can't be then spent on the work that we're doing together. When we start to recognize that there are strategies that we can use for starting to be a little more open and disclose more and be vulnerable, which can create an environment where we can actually interact more effectively, where we can spend more of our energy on the work that we're trying to do together. That path is not smooth and linear. There's also never a perfect spot that we're going to get to, but that every incremental step that we can take is useful.

Karen:

I think that's gonna do it for us today. Until next time, I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

And I'm Paul Tevis. This has been Employing Differences.