The Power of Vulnerability
Years ago I read an article by Harvard business professor Chris Argyris whose message stuck with me. “Good Communication that Blocks Learning” was about the mental models we develop early in life for dealing with emotional and threatening issues. These “defensive routines,” as Argyris termed them, exist to prevent human beings from experiencing embarrassment or threat. At the same time, however, they prevent examination of the nature and causes of both. In short, they prevent learning and thereby perpetuate bad choices.
Breaking free of defensive communication routines requires a willingness to be vulnerable. Only while bringing down our guard are we able to effectively examine why certain unsavory situations occur repeatedly in our lives. Ironically, this kind of vulnerability requires courage.
Doing the unexpected, as hard as it may be, often brings rewards. We know that apologizing, when defensiveness or retaliation is expected, can lead to calmer communication. The unexpected causes most of us to reflect. Indeed, it is often how young children learn new things.
Moreover, the rule of reciprocity in human interaction calls for a civil response to a civil offering. Ignoring this rule has its consequences, but here again breaking free of defensive routines can enable us to change the communication options of others. If we move beyond defensiveness, the rule of reciprocity encourages others to do so as well.
It would be naïve to suggest that antagonistic relationships around the world would disappear were the key players to reflect more on their defensive routines. But it wouldn’t hurt, either.
To the extent we stick with routines, we cease to learn other communication options. Perhaps worse, we become predictable -- and thereby manageable -- by others, many of whom we’d prefer not to give such power if we had our wits about us. They are able to provoke us to and corner us within our own defensiveness because it’s so easy to do.
Unblocking defensive communication routines starts with recognizing their existence and realizing what can be said in their place. “This is where I usually become defensive...” or “Rather than escalate this into an argument neither of us wants, let me suggest...” are two phrases that may prove useful the next time you feel yourself becoming defensive, and there are many others. Their use opens us up to learning, and so makes us more skillful at communication.
Sure, there is risk in relinquishing defensiveness. The greater risk, though, is that of becoming stuck in routines that repeatedly take us to the same unhappy and unproductive place.
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Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?
A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.
- The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.
- It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
- Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
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