Experience + Reflection + Application = Learning

Sometimes it appears that all we have to do is learn a concept and use the language to demonstrate that we “get it” and we are “performing it”. I know this is true for me. After all these years of studying people and the human interaction process, you would think that I “get it” and can “perform it”. And then in a very brief conversation I am quickly reminded, a lot lately, that I really don’t know how to “live it”.

If this doesn’t make sense, let me clarify. I have shared several times in these postings about the work of Roger Schwarz and the “Unilateral Control Model” and the “Mutual Learning Model”. I have shared examples of these two models and the outcomes from practicing each model.

And, if you are not careful, you might begin to think I have it all mastered. Well, let me quickly stop that line of thinking. I’m very much a learner in all of this; trying hard to improve my skills on a daily basis. However, the reality is I struggle to use these concepts and skills to help integrate this knowledge into my work and way of living.

Recently, this awareness has humbled me once again. I have been in a number of conversations with co-workers that have provided me the opportunity to practice and improve my skills and build on my strengths. Unfortunately, I have not lived up to my own expectations.

As I reflect upon these experiences, I can identify time and again where I wish I had said something or done something different. Of course I can easily identify a number of reasons for these shortcomings; I didn’t have the time to focus on the situation, I needed to look good and provide the answer, I was intimidated by people in positions of power, etc. The excuses and rationale can go on endlessly.

However, the truth is I failed to recognize that I too am human and have a lifetime of “Unilateral Control Model” under my belt. And, when stressed, I allow my ego to take over and function out of the model that I grew up with and live in every day of my life. I lose my sense of being mindful of my experience, of being present in the moment, and being authentic and vulnerable. In other words, I perform unconsciously, and fail to utilize what I know is a better way to perform.

The positive aspect of all of these experiences is the many opportunities I have for reflection and learning. I leave each and every experience with a renewed desire and commitment to learn more and do better at helping people learn instead of trying to “fix it” for them. And, to be fair to myself, I am getting better over time and with experience.

With that in mind, let me ask you to think about the outcomes of your interpersonal interactions and decide which of the following you would prefer for the consequences of those interactions;

  1. Misunderstanding, conflict, defensiveness, mistrust, reduced effectiveness, limited learning, reduced quality of work life, or
  2. Increased understanding, reduced conflict, reduced defensiveness, increased trust, increased learning, increased effectiveness, and increase quality of work life.

While I am making an assumption here, I’m guessing few would select the consequences listed in number one over number two.

If you selected the consequences in number two, then I encourage you to learn as much as you can about the Unilateral Control and Mutual Learning models and commit to practicing the skills that will help integrate your choice into your way of being. I suggest a couple of great resources for your study; The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz and The Skilled Facilitator Handbook by Roger Schwarz, Anne Davidson, Peg Carlson, Sue McKinney and other contributors.

Until next time, continue to fully experience situations, reflect upon the outcomes, and apply your learning to the next experience.