Some years ago I read the book “Leadership and Self Deception” by the Arbinger Institute. This is an organization based in Salt Lake City, USA run by Professor Terry Warner who started the Organisation Behaviour department at the Bringham Young University. The thesis of the book states that as individuals we are myopic to understanding what our problems are and usually reject solutions given by others – causing self-deception. More importantly, it talks about the process of how we become people who thrive in self-deception and what we can do in our daily lives to prevent being such people.
One of the interesting aspects the book describes is the process of “ways of being”. Basically claiming the fact that we can have of one of two ways of being towards another person. We can either treat the person as an “object” – trying to use this person to get what I need, or ascertain a value to this person to help me get a job done. For Example: X is of value to me because he has a network and will connect me to the right people to help increase my sales numbers. Or how is useful to X me in my larger scheme of things? Is X a “valuable” person to know? The other “way of being” is to treat the person like a “person” – being empathetic to the person’s needs and wants and placing him or her in our shoes in any situation. The theory gets interesting further by vouching that we always know whether a person is looking at us (or has a way of being towards us) as an object or person, regardless of what the external behaviour may be. Which means I always know that my neighbour James is treating me as an object (he wants to be invited to all my parties so that he can get free wine and meet other women) even though he is sweet, send flowers on my birthday and drops in to help with errands.
Mirror neurons that help us understand how the other person is actually “looking at us” or in Arbinger’s language, what is X’s way of being towards me. I would even go a step ahead and say, the mirror neurons are also the basis of covert processes that we study in understanding human behaviour – feelings, thoughts and actions that are “felt” but that remain unsaid in a relationship or group.
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.