You are responsible for what you hold in your mind, not for what goes through it.
– John-Roger, D.S.S.
“I will jump that fence and fight every n***** here,”
Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
Both of these seemingly unrelated tidbits entered my field of vision this morning. The first from a daily inspiration email I subscribe to called “Loving Each Day”; the second in the NY Times online edition.
The second, (for which Mr. Cooper has apologized profusely and we can take him at his word that he is ashamed of himself for his racist outburst), illustrates that we are responsible not only for what we hold in our mind, but also what we allow to come out of our mouth.
Every self-conscious and honest human being has to admit we see the world racially, socially, in terms of gender, class, education, caste, popularity and myriad other forms of stratification, categorization and pigeon-holing and bias. I am not sure if those mental constructs are innate or learned. I know for sure they are there. We are bombarded endlessly with the words and thoughts of others. They go through our minds. In the age of 24/7 reality TV, hate news and the social media soup in which we tread water; our exposure level can be toxic to our mental health. But we have filters in place. Maybe based on the above quotes we have to realize that one filter is a valve that allows all kinds of useless negative thinking to go through our heads; in one ear and out the other. The second filter has to be on our mouths. It has to be a valve allowing that which is positive, constructive, healing, supportive and uplifting through easily; allowing the neutral through in moderate doses and holding back the useless, negative, destructive, hateful stuff back like an impenetrable wall.
My message here sounds like preaching, I know, but the application in our business lives is just as pertinent.
We need to improve our interactions with team members, direct reports, clients, suppliers, supervisors, etc. How can we use our filters to ensure that our interactions are positive? Part of this is according respect to everyone. Part is learning to communicate clearly and neutrally. Part goes back to what I wrote about previously in terms of striving for win/win outcomes. Part of it comes from developing enough internal confidence and guidance so we don’t find ourselves in reactive, defensive or overly competitive postures where our fight or flight mechanisms overcome the filters of civility and ultimately of effectiveness.
We need to improve our interactions with ourselves. How can we use the one way filter to allow our negative self talk, odious external conditioning and every other form of useless or harmful stimuli that come into our field of consciousness to pass right back out. This is really a form of metal ecology and leads to reduced stress, stronger bonds with others, greater personal effectiveness and ultimately a sense of health, wellbeing, freedom and joy.