Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Change in the Right Places: Robert E. Quinn

"When we see the need for deep change, we usually see it as something that needs to take place in someone else. In our roles of authority, such as parent, teacher, or boss, we are particularly quick to direct others to change. Such directives often fail, and we respond to the resistance by increasing our efforts. The power struggle that follows seldom results in change or brings about excellence. One of the most important insights about the need to bring about deep change in others has to do with where deep change actually starts."
~ Robert E. Quinn

Of all the changes I have written about so far this month, this is the most challenging but, I think, the most rewarding. I have not perfected this way of thinking but continually try to look at situations and think, "What is my part in this? What do I need to do differently? Can I respond differently? Is there another angle that I have not seen?"

My challenge is to remain calm while in the midst of these thoughts. Often, when I most need to be thinking them, my mind has probably left my body. I wish I was a more placid person sometimes. Having strong emotional reactions has its pros and cons - a pro is that I do have strong feelings about things. A con is that...I have strong feelings about things. I express them in certain ways that sometimes are either intimidating or distasteful to others. I have worked all my life to reign that is a daily struggle.

I'm not sure if I've shared this story here before, so forgive me if I repeat myself. I just had a flash, so even though it is a little off-point, I'm going ahead...

When I was in the second grade, there was a girl in my class, Jill Foreman, who I admired and wanted to be friends with. She was one of those girls - beautiful, petit, waist-length golden hair. Everyone wanted to be around her and protect her and she seemed like she knew it. She and some of her friends were teasing me on the way home from school at one point. I was already tall enough that when we went to the base movie theatre, they asked for ID to prove I was under age 10. My mother had always drilled into us, "Never hit people who are smaller than you." (I'm pretty sure there were other caveats - don't hit people at all...but that isn't part of this story). I didn't say anything and didn't say anything and one day, she said something (I don't remember what) and I just SNAPPED! But I KNEW I could NOT hit her - she was at least a foot shorter than, I picked her up and threw her in a mud puddle. After a satisfying splash, I turned and walked home, satisfied in the knowledge that I had not broken the rule.

When I arrived home, I confessed all to my mother, who is a saint for not laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. Within minutes, the phone was ringing (a black, WWII era rotary phone) with Jill's mother on the line...apparently, she had been wearing a brand new coat and what was my mother going to do about it. (This story is much funnier in person, by the way...)

Needless to say, reigning in some of my reactions is difficult at times, but I know that sometimes all it takes is me changing my mind, changing the angle, changing my reaction. It's that old saying that if you are pointing at someone with one finger there are 4 others pointing back at you. I believe it, I work at it, but it is still the hardest kind of change there is. Initiating the change in myself.

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