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Stop trying to be right!

In two recent posts we covered anabolic and catabolic energy and the seven levels of energy as defined by Bruce Schneider. Today’s post will show how our desire to be right and our fear of being wrong influences our energy levels.

It’s a good feeling to be right. Such a good feeling, in fact, that we want to feel it again and again and again. Being right can be addictive, in part because being right gives us a shot of dopamine and adrenaline. Adrenaline is a great asset when our life is threatened, but it can rub others the wrong way when it’s released at, say, a weekly staff meeting. That’s why, in Scheider’s terms, being right typically results in Level 2 energy (I win and you lose).

Being wrong (or having your idea rejected) creates stress and higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is important for the body (and can help narrow your focus), yet it can also impair cognitive performance. That’s because cortisol and stress prevent our bodies from fully relaxing and recharging. Naturally, being wrong and the fear of being wrong doesn’t lead to great energy. It typically results in Level 1 energy (I lose).

Getting to Level 5 energy (I win and you win or we don’t continue) requires oxytocin. This hormone is stimulated when we have a connection to another person. It has been referred to as the “love” hormone. It has also been called the “trust” hormone. It doesn’t have the drawbacks of adrenaline or cortisol.

If you want your team to operate with Level 5 energy, here are five steps to take:

  1. Learn how to listen with empathy. Suspend all judgment and just listen.
  2. Establish rules of engagement. Don’t let somebody dominate the conversation.
  3. Hug. Yes, I said hug. If you’re not into hugging at work then develop a more personable handshake by using both hands or lightly touching the elbow of the other person.
  4. Perform a centering exercise before the meeting starts. This is especially important when we are running from one meeting to another and have not had time to relax.
  5. Smile and laugh!

It’s not good for you to be right too much or wrong too much. It is good to work together as a team and succeed together.


About the Author

Calvin has nearly three decades of executive and leadership experience. He is a former Air Force officer where he directed the Air Force Oil Analysis Program, the B-1 Bomber flight simulator modification program, and the design and integration of the Advanced Cruise Missile Variant. His executive leadership includes Director of the Rochester Merrill Lynch office and Vice President of Investment Services at Think Mutual Bank. Calvin Guyer Full Bio

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