Inquisitive Report 46/52

Week Ending December 14th, 2018

Content Covered: Building Resilience


Grit. Hope. Optimism. Belief. Faith. There are so many words that are used to describe the ability that some display in face of difficulties. But the word that I want to focus on today is “resilience.” More specifically I want to talk about how to build it.

But before we talk about how, I assume you would like to know why it is important to build resiliency in your self and in others.

The reason is because at its core most of life is uncertain. We make choices, take decisions, pursue avenues not knowing what will happen next, but hoping that things will go in our favor. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty itself, which means that our ability to navigate through the ambiguity is the greatest asset we can equip our self, our children, our employees, and our friends with.


re·sil·ience
/rəˈzilyəns/
noun
  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

In Sheryl Sanderberg’s book Option B, she talks about the building blocks of resiliency in children. I think the concepts that she shares about Adam Grant’s research can be broadly applied to all individuals seeking to increase their “Resiliency Quotient”.

There are four core beliefs that act as the foundation upon which the ability of being “resilient” rests:

  • Believing you have some control over your life
  • Believing you can learn from failure
  • Believing that you matter as a human being
  • Believing that you have strengths that you can rely on & share

Fundamentally, each belief rests on the interdependence of two parties: the other and the self, or the self and our consciousness (or self-talk). For this post we are going to focus on the first type of interdependence.

When we are younger, the “other” is comprised of our parents, our teachers, our neighbors. As we grow up the “other” shifts to our friends, our colleagues, and members of the family with whom we keep in touch.

The relationship between the self and the other is that of bid and reciprocation. A person makes a choice, behaves in a certain way or says something that the other receives. The way the other receives and responds to the person making the bid, is how each of the four beliefs will or will not be formed.

A simple example: I approach my manager with an assignment that I have not been able to complete in time. I’m worried that my manger is going to think that I am slacking (perhaps I have missed a deadline before). Now my manager has two choices: they can get angry with me for missing another deadline, tell me that if I keeping doing this I won’t have a job, etc. Or they can ask me: what happened?

Keeping this scenario in mind, my manager and I can engage in different conversations that have the possibility of reinforcing one of the four beliefs.

For example, after asking me what happened, I might respond with the fact that I had a family emergency and could not get to my laptop to finish the work. Having this additional information my manger could respond with: I understand your situation, and I hope everything is alright with your family; what do you think we can do differently next time a situation like this arises?

By opening up the conversation to address how to handle such situations in the future, my manager would do serval things: first they would validate me as a human being and not just an employee, second they would show me how to navigate through situations that I feel like I don’t have any control over (in this case a family emergency that conflicted with a deadline), and third as we reach a decision on what to do next time such a challenge arises, they would show me that I actually do have more control over my actions in uncertain situations that I think I do.

Seems subtle doesn’t it? Besides who’s to say that next time I would actually remember our plan? Who’s to say I am actually listening with the intent to apply as my manager talks to me?

The truth is: we can’t guarantee anything. The problem may persist, the person may truly not be interested in working, they could lie etc. – we honestly don’t know what will happen. After all the future is uncertain.

And yet, every time we engage with someone– something from that conversation sticks. All I’m saying is by becoming conscientious of what we talk about and how we engage – we can choose what sticks. And by choosing what sticks we can slowly but surely nudge ourselves and others closer to cultivating the building blocks that comprise resiliency.

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