Stepping Into a
I've never chewed anybody's ass, and I won't accept
getting my ass chewed! When somebody tries, I just don't play the
game. I focus on what's important and say, '"What
are we trying to accomplish here? Because the way
you're acting isn't working, and I'm not going to take
So spoke Irving K. as we
discussed his relationship with a co-worker.
I have great zeal for helping people learn how to work
together more effectively instead of vying for power and control. But frankly, most people
I meet get hooked in interpersonal power plays - in large part because we usually don't see
how our own behavior plays a role in the difficulties that
arise in relationships. Instead, we tend to blame others for
their behavior. We
lose sight of the fact that the very act of "blaming" makes us players in the
The Fifth Discipline Peter Senge describes how
the underlying structure of a human system "causes its own behavior."
We have the power to alter these structures and
new patterns, but our interaction systems are subtle: we usually don't see the
structures at play. This idea, of course, can be fruitfully
to our personality styles.
In particular we don't see how our own behavior
helps maintain the status quo in relationships. Changing such patterns requires a complete
change in context -- it requires that we step into a parallel universe of human
interaction where the old, unexamined rules no longer compel us to act in certain ways,
where we ask new questions:
"What's behind this other person's behavior?"
"What am I
doing that keeps this dysfunctional pattern of interaction repeating itself?"
the pay-off possibly be for me to have things remain the same?"
"How might either
of us do something different?"
I learned to
Although my patterns are now easier
for me to catch, I still get
hooked by certain situations and act
passive-aggressive. For my clients, too, when
things start going downhill in an interaction they tend to react from their own deeply
engrained style. We can begin to break these patterns by asking,
going on with the other person?"
I doing that may be contributing
to our problems?"
"What are my
"What are we trying to
Is it working?"
So I was delighted to hear in Irving's own inimitable words how
he steps aside from the pattern of "ass-chewing." Irving's story
was simple: "I grew up in a family of brothers who fought all
the time, and it didn't change anything! So I figured if I was
going to change things, I'd have to find a better way." (Irving
Enneagram Four, by the way, so we shouldn't be surprised at
unique way of looking at
Well, that's exactly my point of view. If we're going to
change things, we'll have to find a better way - we'll have to discover parallels:
same people, same events, different context.