Firo B Openness
Marsha Clark 0:00
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Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:37
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. We are here, Marsha, in our final installment of this mini series celebrating the work of Will Schutz and his FIRO theory, and you know, I think for those of us along for this ride, it's been enlightening and inspiring. But for you it's been more personal, hasn't it?
Marsha Clark 1:07
Well, it has, Wendi, and as I mentioned in the previous two episodes, I was introduced to Will Shutz's work as part of my Master's Program in Organizational Development at American University. And I actually had the opportunity to meet with Will. Some of my classmates and I went to interview Will. He lived out in Mission Viejo, California. And we were doing an article for the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. And it was an honor and a real privilege to hear from him in a real firsthand and personal way. And he is a strong example of someone who is passionate and committed to his work. And it's the work we're sharing in this mini series.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:50
Well, thank you for sharing that side of the story, Marsha. It really does sound like he was a remarkable man.
Marsha Clark 1:55
Well, he was and his work continues, you know, to create clarity and community around the world, not only with his FIRO-B assessments, but also with his expanded exploration of fundamental needs in his book entitled "The Human Element'. And that has an entire suite of additional tools. So, I'm really honored to share his work in this way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:17
You know, I bet we could do a few episodes celebrating many of the key thought leaders that you've had the opportunity to work with and learn from. Maybe we should make a note for Tracie for the future.
Marsha Clark 2:29
Well, that would be a great idea. And I can think of five or six right off the top of my head that would be great. So, we'll add that to the plan.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:37
Awesome. Okay, so, for today's episode, we are diving into the third of Schutz's fundamental needs, openness. But before we dive in, as we did in the last episode, will you share a quick overview of Schutz's FIRO theory to help lay the groundwork for an exploration in openness.
Marsha Clark 2:56
Yes. So, as I said last week when we started, I really do strongly recommend that our listeners go back to Episode 109 from two weeks ago, and listen to that because it gives more in depth foundational background and some context. And if they missed last week's focus on control needs, they would benefit from listening to that as well. And it's definitely a case where these three episodes really are a package deal. And to get the most out of all of them, you may want to review all of them. So, that's that point. So, to review we've been exploring Will Schutz's FIRO theory, and his FIRO-B assessment and FIRO stands for fundamental interpersonal relationship orientation. And the FIRO-B assessment focuses on the behaviors that align with the three fundamental needs of inclusion, control and openness. And each of these needs shows up in our behavior in two different ways. One is expressed and one is wanted. So, our expressed needs are those that are outwardly directed from us to others and others can observe our expressed needs. The second, our wanted needs, are inwardly directed. These are non observable needs and reflect our unspoken expectations of others. We want "it" being inclusion, control, openness, but our internal want is not visible to or known to others.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:30
Okay, once again, another helpful overview and also like last week, I think it's enlightening to share Will Schutz's quote about the value of understanding these underlying behaviors and needs. So Marsha, will you share that with everyone again?
Marsha Clark 4:45
I sure will. And his quote is, "If I understand behavior, I may gain increased understanding of myself and other people, how and why I behave as I do, why I sometimes have trouble working and being with you, and how to use my full energies to achieve whatever good I desire most effectively."
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:10
Well, and just a quick aside for our listeners, these podcast episodes in this little mini series are not only an homage to Will Schutz's work, but it's really a legacy of your, Marsha's, your own blood, sweat and tears, a gift of material that you've built and delivered around the world for the past 20 plus years. And I realized this in last week's episode on control needs as we were walking through some of the activities that you lead in workshops. And are you afraid of you're giving away the farm, Marsha, by sharing all this information?
Marsha Clark 5:49
Well, you know, it's a yes and no. Yes in the sense that I'm committed to making this content accessible, much more accessible than it would ever be one workshop at a time or one coaching client at a time. So, accessibility has been a big word for me for several years now. And even when we were running multiple workshops around the world for multiple clients, we were still only able to touch 100 plus women or so a year. And I'll be honest, for me, that wasn't enough. I've been blessed to work with some of the most amazing, as we've said, thought leaders in my lifetime and the idea that I had only been able to share the valuable lessons and powerful tools with a few thousand people really wasn't enough for me. And so, that's what finally shifted the books from 'someday I'll write one' in my like to do list to the urgent and important side of that priority matrix. And it's also what ignited the idea for the podcast, which has been an incredible opportunity to increase that accessibility of the content and tools.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:55
That all sounds like the 'yes' part of giving away the farm. You said yes and no. What's the 'no' part?
Marsha Clark 7:02
Yeah, well, I guess I don't think of anything is giving away the farm because I had much more of the abundance versus the scarcity mentality. And I say that, and I'm keenly aware of the business value of what we offer. And I've been a consistent advocate for women, knowing their worth, our worth, negotiating and asking for what we're worth and not giving away that power, which includes their knowledge and expertise. So, I'm not worried that my books or this podcast or cannibalizing business opportunities away from, you know, whether it be coaching or speaking engagements or future workshops, and for our listeners benefit, we're actually in the process of packaging some of the content into an entirely new delivery mechanism. And we'll announce that when we're closer to the launch, but for me, this content is so rich and so relevant that the more ways we can get it into the minds and the hearts of leaders, the better.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:55
Well, thank you for sharing that, Marsha. I really appreciate your transparency. And I started thinking about that after last week's episode, so not to overplay the segue, but it's actually a pretty good example of openness, the topic of today's episode.
Marsha Clark 8:11
I think you're right, as we think about that. So, openness, again, inclusion/control/openness, is the degree to which you are willing to be open, honest, transparent, vulnerable to another person. And your question really, quite nicely, created an invitation for me to go there. So, openness varies across time among individuals and within relationships. And sometimes people enjoy a relationship in which they share their feelings, secrets and innermost thoughts. And you might enjoy having one person or at most, a few people in whom you confide. And at other times you avoid being open with others. You'd rather keep things impersonal, and you prefer to have acquaintances rather than a few close friends. And you have some desire for both open or more public relationships, and for more privacy. And because openness is based on building deeper ties, it's usually the last dimension or phase to emerge in the development of human relationships or of relations within a group. So, inclusion involves how much we want to encounter each other, as well as our decisions to continue our relationships or not. And remember, inclusion is about how much I want to be in or out. And as our relationship continues, openness has to do with the degree to which we literally or figuratively embrace each other. So, again, for those Excel spreadsheet builders, Inclusion - in or out. Control - top or bottom. Openness - public or private.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:48
So, this is yet another example where we can have both a desire to be open with some people, but not everyone or in every circumstance. (That's right.) Okay, so, something you say in the book about openness that I found particularly compelling was the link between openness, trust and safety. So, let's talk about that.
Marsha Clark 10:10
Yeah. So, I heard this years ago and it's always stuck with me. That's why I can, you know, cite it even now is that openness leads to intimacy, intimacy leads to trust and trust leads to safety. So, when you share, when you are public, when you are open meaningfully with another person, the relationship bond is strengthened. So, openness leads to intimacy and that leads to a more intimate connection. And I invite our listeners think about how even as young girls we love to share our secrets, you know, whisper, whisper, whisper. And when you share that the relationship bond is strengthened, thus leading to greater trust.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:00
I really like the interconnectedness of the three. I think people expect that for there to be openness, there must first be safety. But in this example, it's the courage to be open first that creates the space for safety. It's a little chicken and egg situation.
Marsha Clark 11:17
It is. You've heard me use the phrase like whether it be with trust, respect, or anything else you've got to give it to get it. So, it can be seen in that way that you describe it. And yet, I as an individual can't always do anything about the safety part. I mean, it's an outcome, right? It's not input. And yet the input is I can be open and I can initiate that on my own.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:39
Exactly. So, what can I do to create safety? I can be open. That's a bit of a goose bump moment right there. So, you've also said something a couple of minutes ago that I want to follow up on - this idea of literally or figuratively embracing each other. This fundamental need called openness wasn't originally called that, was it? Didn't Will Schutz initially call this need affection?
Marsha Clark 12:08
He did. And so when Will did his initial research and work, this need that we're now calling openness, was labeled affection. And it was when his work was being used in business settings, because remember, this started in the Navy, he then went to the other military branches with this because it was so insightful. But when he then brought it from the military into the business settings, he shifted to the openness label. And as I mentioned earlier, when we interviewed him, I asked him about that. And he said that affection was in the context of this idea of a band of brothers, right. So, you know, he used the example of the strong bonds and connections that are often made when people are quote, unquote, "in the foxhole" together with bullets blazing over their head. That's the band of brothers concept.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:57
That makes sense, since they were literally in the middle of a warzone in a submarine during the Korean War.
Marsha Clark 13:02
Right. So, contextually, it made perfect sense. And the word affection was intended to encompass the behaviors really associated with the camaraderie experienced by the submarine crew members he was working alongside and the feelings of trust and friendship that developed over time or forged when going through some kind of significant experience together. And if you think about it now, when they have the homecomings and the reunions of the people that were more together that you can see the love they have for one another, the affection. So, once the FIRO theory and the assessment tools like FIRO-B migrated into the business settings, Schutz shared that the affection label was confused with sexual intimacy and so he changed it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:49
Yeah, that makes sense. And one thing that I found especially interesting about this fundamental need of openness is that you call out two different aspects of it, a rational aspect, and then a defensive one. So, can you explain more about these two differences?
Marsha Clark 14:08
Yeah. It comes down to our brains, and the protective mechanisms that we have in place to keep us safe. So, if you think about it, they are at work in the other two fundamental needs as well. So, as you even experienc when we were talking about significance and being included or excluded, our brains and really our whole nervous system are on alert to keep us out of danger. So, in our behaviors around openness, these two aspects of rational and defensive, play two very different roles. As Schutz explains it in his book, "The Human Element" that I referred to a moment ago, he says: "The rational part results from your preference for a certain amount of openness in your life. The defensive aspect results from your fear of being too open and thus vulnerable to being rejected and unloved." So, when you're flexible and rational, you can adapt to different situations. When you're rigid and defensive, you react the same way to all circumstances.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:13
Okay, Marsha, will you say that again, because I think that's our key or maybe the key to our willingness to be open or the degree to which we are open - that part about the defensive aspect.
Marsha Clark 15:27
And this goes directly to the underlying feeling driving our openness, which is likability, and we're going to talk about that more in a few minutes. But what I said about the defensive aspect is that it results from your fear of being too open and thus vulnerable to being rejected and unloved.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:46
So, that defensive mechanism kicks in and we hold back in our openness with others to protect ourselves.
Marsha Clark 15:55
That's right. And it will probably come as no surprise to our listeners, that our challenges in relating effectively with others really shows up when we're operating more out of that defensive aspect. And Will introduces us to a couple of new words, or at least they were new words to me. And they are underpersonal and overpersonal to describe behaviors that are being driven by our propensity for openness through the lens of defensiveness.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:23
Okay, I'm so intrigued and I definitely have a guess of what overpersonal looks like but I don't want to spoil it for everyone else.
Marsha Clark 16:34
Don't worry about spoiling anything because I'm betting most of our listeners are thinking similar to you. And so what do you think overpersonal behaviors look like?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:43
You know, it's that Chatty Cathy who thinks, you know, that oversharer who wants to tell you everything about what they did over the weekend, every argument they had with their partner or their mom, how sad they are, how mad they are about the latest drama in the neighborhood, I mean, just the verbal vomit. Am I close?
Marsha Clark 17:03
Nailed it! Or at least part of it. So, when someone is over personal and it's the combination of being rigidly high in openness and rigidly, think about that, that unbendable, inflexible, high in openness through defensiveness, they tell everyone about their feelings and they want everyone else to do the same with them. So, that's the other half of the overpersonal aspect. What is driving their behavior is a deep desire to be liked and it's essential to them. And when I say essential, I mean essential as in almost obsessively important. Their proof of value or worth is linked to their ability to gain and maintain approval of others. And their strategies for building and maintaining this approval can be both direct and indirect. And the direct strategies are, as you mentioned, a moment ago being extremely personal, intimate, confiding, and even ingratiating.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:02
Yeah, I am thinking of some people in my world right now who do this. Yeah.
Marsha Clark 18:09
Yeah. And I think we all know at least one or two people. And unless we've done some pretty good boundary work and managed to extract them from our world, and I don't mean, withhold or withdraw forever and always, but we can take them in small doses, right, and at least minimize that overpersonal intrusion.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:30
Okay, so you said there were some direct and indirect strategies for gaining approval. What are the indirect strategies that we can be on the lookout for?
Marsha Clark 18:39
Yeah, these get really interesting. So, the indirect or more subtle techniques are manipulation and possessiveness. And unfortunately, we may not even notice this is happening to us because the nature of someone who is being overpersonal is that they can almost create a trap. It's like spinning a web where you realize you may have shared something vulnerable, like maybe office gossip, or how you really feel about a colleague, good or bad. And now you're regretting that you've shared that because that person has some sensitive information you don't necessarily want to get out. And quite honestly, they now have leverage and they know it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:20
Okay, so this is the office blood packs that you're now in. They have intel on you and now you have to go to happy hour with them to keep them happy and to make sure that they don't spill your beans.
Marsha Clark 19:34
Yeah, that's a great example.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:36
Okay, so I feel like we just equipped a bunch of people with bugspray... traps hopefully.
Marsha Clark 19:42
Well, that first line of defense is simply knowing that the trap exists, right? Awareness aspect of that, but in all seriousness, I share this information not only so we can be on the lookout for when other people are being overpersonal, but also for our own self awareness of when we might be slipping into those behaviors ourselves. And when we are feeling insecure or bad about ourselves, these defensive postures can creep in quickly and take strong route. And if we're naturally open people to begin with, the unhealthy version of that openness can invade.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:15
That, okay, so that's a fair warning. So, that's what overpersonal behaviors look like. What's the flip side the underpersonal behaviors to be on the lookout for?
Marsha Clark 20:25
Yeah, and I just want to go back for one second that, overpersonal it's the TMI too much information. I just want to make that link for our listeners and thinking about that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:35
Yeah. And I also want to give everybody a heads up that sometimes when people do this, it's purely a manipulative behavior, like they're trying to get you to match their TMI to disclose. That's their strategy. That's the strategy. So, anyway, all right, so what's the flip side, the underpersonal.
Marsha Clark 20:56
Underpersonal behaviors are characterized by being rigidly low in openness, and through defensiveness and are driven by a deep desire to avoid revealing yourself to others.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 21:09
So, if the underlying feeling for openness is likability, how does this play out with somebody who's demonstrating underpersonal behaviors? Are they aloof because they don't want anyone to like them? Like, I don't think that...
Marsha Clark 21:24
So, actually, it's just the opposite. So, the defensiveness aspect of the underpersonal behaviors is there to protect them from being disliked. So, it's a protection mechanism where the overpersonal attitude is I want to be liked, I want you to like me, and everybody to like me so we're going to share and share and share until we're all best friends. Right? That's an oversimplified and exaggerated example, but for the sake of comparison. So, the underpersonal attitude is based on a belief or fear that no one likes you and you anticipate not being liked and you have great difficulty genuinely liking people, and you distrust their feelings toward you. So, you maintain superficial, distant, one to one relationships, and you're most comfortable when other people do the same with you. So, you may maintain this emotional distance and do not become emotionally involved.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:23
Okay, that really breaks my heart. I mean, it feels like these people have built this huge wall around themselves to avoid getting hurt.
Marsha Clark 22:31
Yeah, and that's exactly what the defensiveness aspect is there for, protection. It's like I put on armor, and you cannot penetrate it. You know, the sad part for me is that I may be, I may be protecting myself self from that, but I'm also shutting out all other positive emotions or my extensions or reaching out and connectedness. And so, there's that side of it as well. And why we're even talking about this is so that if someone recognizes these thoughts or feelings or responses in themselves, they can start to explain, or excuse me, to explore other options or other approaches. And what Schutz offers up is what he calls personal versus over or under, so kind of that in between state. In this case, when you are personal or appropriately open as he describes it, your level of interaction with others varies with the individual and the circumstances. So, you're comfortable in a close relationship, as well as in a situation that requires distance. And so, you feel comfortable, both giving and receiving affection, you enjoy being liked, and if you're not liked you can accept that. This simply means that someone doesn't like you. You don't generalize from this one reaction and conclude that you are unlikable or unlovable. That's the real key here. It's that's about them, not about you. Right, that that's the phrase that I often think about. And so, in reality, we're all some sort of mixture of the rational and the defensive, and that we're constantly regulating or modulating. And now we can do that consciously, not just, you know, sort of in a default way. And our challenge is to do it in real time with a keen awareness of the implications for both our own benefit as well as the benefit of others and the relationship itself.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:21
I just want to make one comment about, this has reminded me of episode 109. And with the inclusion want, need, expected, you know, that's what I'm it's making me think about that also in the context of this conversation about openness. So, let's shift a few minutes to the behavior statements as we've done in the other two episodes so our listeners can get a sense of their levels of expressed and wanted openness. So, as an overview, openness reflects the degree to which we prefer to be public or private, repeating what you said earlier, and interestingly enough, it influences our comfort level with being close to others or keeping our distance, both physically and emotionally. So, Marsha, will you share the behavioral statements for expressed openness with everyone?
Marsha Clark 25:15
I sure will. And as we've done with the previous two episodes, I invite our listeners to assess the degree or frequency with which they demonstrate these behaviors. Is it often and with most people, sometimes with some people, rarely and or with only a few select people? So, here we go. The first one is: "I encourage warmth and closeness in my relationships.", Two: "I'm comfortable expressing personal feelings." Three: "I make an effort to get close to people." And this is really more about emotional closeness, not physical closeness. "I'm supportive of other people." "I'm willing to take risks when sharing personal details." "I'm comfortable sharing personal opinions, and I'm comfortable showing concern for others." So, where do you, listeners, see yourself on this dimension of expressed openness? You can again go low, medium or high, one through five, whatever works for you. And then look collectively. You rate yourself on each of these individual statements. And then collectively, would you consider yourself having low, medium or high expressed openness needs?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:34
Okay, so, I know you said number three, about the closeness is more about emotional closeness than physical closeness, the way it's written. But isn't a sign of your degree of expressed openness whether you're a hugger or not, or if you have issues with people invading your personal space?
Marsha Clark 26:54
Yes, it definitely is. And I will tell our listeners or share with our listeners my high expressed openness really shows up in that way. And I have to be really mindful about it. I learned a lesson a long time ago, back in my EDS days, and I'll share this story. I was president of EDS's health care business unit and I was brought in with a mandate to fix several things. So there were problems around customer relations, employee engagement, financial performance, just to name some of the higher priorities. And I had a wonderful man working for me as a direct report. And he managed about half of the people in our business unit, which was close to 1200 people. And we were really partnering closely to get things turned around. And each afternoon, about five o'clock, we'd meet in the hall just outside of our side by side offices. And as I said, I have high expressed openness needs. And this dear man who was 20 years my senior definitely did not. So, as we talked, I unconsciously was moving toward him. So, this idea of physical closeness, I would take a step in. And as I stepped forward, he would step back and so, at the end of our 15 minute touchpoint meetings every day, we would find ourselves at the other end of the hallway from our office doors.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:11
Oh my gosh, I can see this. You were literally like chasing him down the hallway. Probably subconsciously.
Marsha Clark 28:20
We did not even realize it was happening. And I do want to tell our listeners that sort of the other parts of this story. So, you know, first, I learned that our daily meetings became an event to watch. So, some of our team would come just to watch us dance. They called it dancing down the hallway. And second, you know, when this wonderful man retired, he asked me to speak at his retirement celebration. And it was my honor. And of course, I had to tell this story because it had become our thing, right, our bond, our connection. And after I told the story, this man's wife spoke up after I ended it and she said, "You just described the 40 years of our marriage." So, of course, there was great laughter. But it was our story and it was all about this.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 29:09
Wow. So, okay, so, those are the behaviors for expressed openness. What are the behavior statements for wanted openness? And remember, if you want to play along at home, listeners, think about these in terms of the degree or frequency you demonstrate these behaviors. Is it often and with most people, is it sometimes with some people or is it rarely, maybe never or with only a few select people?
Marsha Clark 29:37
Right. So, good reminder. So, here are the wanted openness behaviors. "I want others to act warmly toward me. " "I like to have my efforts encouraged." "I enjoyed, excuse me, I enjoy others sharing their feelings with me." "I desire closeness of others around me." "I like to be trusted with secrets." "If I listen carefully to others." "I want others to take an interest in me." "I make myself available to others." But those are the behavioral statements. So, based on your responses, where do you see yourselves on each dimension? And then collectively, are you low, medium or high?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:19
Yeah, I think I'm pretty high on these. I am, you know, I definitely want others to act warmly towards me. I like to have my efforts encouraged. I love it when others share their feelings and secrets like that... for me. But then I start to think about certain people I know who I would also put these questions to, in my mind, and they seem a little bit too cheerleadery or maybe overly enthusiastic and I realize I'd rather they just move on and clap for somebody else besides me. Like, I don't want to be in the front of their parade. So, then I started to doubt if I really had high wanted openness or if I'm more medium.
Marsha Clark 31:05
Well, if you think about it, I would just offer is your hesitancy about your comfort level of openness with those people and is that a reflection of their genuine enthusiasm or support of you or are they perhaps demonstrating overpersonal manipulative behaviors that you're pulling out?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:21
That's it. Their encouragement, if you will, sometimes can feel disingenuous and like it has a bunch of strings attached. But then maybe that's me and my, I don't know, strategic crazytown you know, chess playing mental what are they really thinking, you know, kind of brain? So, yes, this, I, how much do I owe you for today's psychology therapy coaching class, Marsha? These last three episodes, like, seriously, I'm going back and redoing this FIRO-B test for sure.
Marsha Clark 31:25
We can make that happen.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:54
Yes. Okay. You also tell a great story about how you can usually spot the person on the team with high wanted openness. So, please share that story with our listeners.
Marsha Clark 32:07
So, originally, a program participant shared this story with me, but then I started testing it out with other groups as a bit of a social experiment and I discovered that it has rang true for many participants throughout the years. So, for the benefit of our listeners, that you can participate in this great social experiment, too. So, I want you to think about different work teams that you've been a part of throughout your professional life. And was there often someone who seemed to always know almost everything about everyone else's personal lives? They knew who got a new puppy, who's in-laws were coming for the weekend, who was having marital issues and on and on and on. So, listeners, do you have that person or maybe persons in mind? All right, so next step, picture that person's workspace, assuming you've seen their actual workspace. Look around. Do you see a candy dish or a snack bowl in their workspace? Because anecdotally speaking, this is the story that was introduced early and has been replicated many times. There's a theme that there's a high correlation between candy dishes and the person who always seems to be in the know. It's, I think about it as take a piece of candy, tell me a story. And so, in many cases, you know, the participants laugh out loud, and they even declare that they're the person with the candy dish. So, it makes for a fun way of thinking about this in a practical way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 33:44
I love the story so much. Marsha first shared this when I was in the Power of Self class in 2017 and 2018. And I immediately put a candy dish on my desk because I wanted to be that person. I immediately adopted this. So, you know, we're missing out in this podcast scenario in that we're virtual because I think Marsha and I would definitely have a candy dish on the table. So, that brings up an interesting question. What do you think is the virtual equivalent to the candy dish? Like how on Zoom?
Marsha Clark 34:20
I know! How does that work on teams or whatever? So, I'm gonna say, I don't know the answer. So, this is speculation. I want to be really clear that I've not seen the research or heard this. So, this is my speculation. I think that people who show up in the Zoom meetings early or stay online, and they pay attention to the chatter or they engage others and they start typing into the chat. Yeah, yeah. And they pick up on things that others aren't paying attention to, you know, or might miss. And, they're checking in with colleagues when they know something big might be going on outside of work projects. And this is also the person who sends a direct message or text to the co-worker who was impacted by storms or their child just started school and they're having the side conversations, the equivalent of side conversations, and not in a stalky kind of way but in a, you know, a genuine demonstration of concern or celebration. And they, you might think of this as tending to their relationship gardens in a really careful and honoring way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:26
That's a lovely metaphor. And now I want to figure out a way in, what way I'm nurturing those relationships and being genuine with others so that if they need someone to talk to or sit next to them or just be with them when they're in their stuff they know they can reach out to me. So, what kind of garden am I tending that is safe and inviting?
Marsha Clark 35:48
And I think those are all really relevant questions, and definitely reflecting your wanted openness needs.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:54
Yeah, definitely. Okay. So, as we've mentioned already in this episode, underlying the fundamental need for openness is the feeling of being likable or unlikable, lovable or unlovable. And it's those feelings and the vulnerability attached to them that this activity can evoke in some powerful ways.
Marsha Clark 36:17
Yeah, it is a powerful activity, Wendi, and it encourages participants to share feelings honestly and to be vulnerable in regard to perhaps previously guarded parts of themselves. And the activity invites participants to explore and even confront their own potential issues of openness within themselves. And that is around their self awareness. And our openness to our internal self, and our openness to others are always strongly intertwined. You cannot be open to someone else in a meaningful way if you're not open to yourself. And so the activity here so just again, in contrast, for inclusion it was 'X Marks the Spot', for control it was 'The Dominance Line', and for openness it's called "I Pretend', and here's how I set it up. So, break the group you're working with, I break the group, the participants into randomly assigned small groups of three to four people each, whatever the math provides for. And the small groups are spread out around the room, and they're sitting knee to knee, so, they're close enough that they can hear each other because there are multiple conversations going on around the room.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:17
Okay. So, even with the setup activity, you're creating that physical closeness.
Marsha Clark 37:37
That's right. And I will say that with COVID, we work with people's comfort level and if someone chooses to sit with more space between them, that's fine. But what we try to do is to keep any kind of physical barriers like tables out of the way so that they're not able to kind of hide, metaphorically hide, behind something as they're doing the exercise. So, it's all very intentional. And if you're facilitating an activity like this, you're going to direct the groups to pick one to go first. And that person will turn to the person on their left and ask, "What do you pretend?" Really simple question. Now, I want our listeners to hear this. I always clarify what pretending means, unlike what does significance mean and what does dominance mean, and all that kind of stuff. On this one, it's important. And so again, I'll refer to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, it defines pretending as "Speaking and acting so as to make it appear that something is the case, when in fact, it is not." And so, I offer some examples to groups that I've collected over the years. And so one is, 'I pretend that I'm going to make my budget numbers this year.' Or, 'I pretend to like all the people I work with.' Another, 'I pretend my child is an honor student.' Going really deep and personal. 'I pretend my spouse isn't an alcoholic.' So, these are both personal and professional examples that, in fact, have been shared over the years. And, you know, some of the examples I offer, I want to acknowledge they're quite personal and they're intended to get participants thinking broadly and deeply.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:22
I remember this exercise and this got really real really quick when we did this. Lke people, just that statement, just the question, what do you pretend? That is so right there in your core of having of looking at who you really are and the masks that we wear in front of other people. And I have to say I'm very surprised that you are allowed to do this in business groups. Allowed is maybe the wrong word. That you're expected, that it happens in a business group, because these prompts are important. And they expect, they set this expectation that this is going to be a serious and meaningful exploration.
Marsha Clark 40:21
Well, you know, Wendi, I'll take us all the way back to probably the very first episode we did. When I'm asked to come in and do work, I ask two questions. Are you willing to do deep work? And are you willing to take some risks? And this exercise is a perfect example of both of those because I don't want to do superficial leadership development. I want to do deep and meaningful work. This is where this comes from. So, and, you know, I also want to add just kind of getting back to this exercise. I give some additional instructions. One is do not repeat what you've heard someone else say, so you don't get to not share your own by sharing someone else's. You cannot provide feedback, verbal or otherwise, other than a thank you. So, it's not like, oh, that happened to you. Let me tell you when that happened to me. It's not a pile on discussion. It's listening and saying thank you. You can always pass. I'm not going to force anyone into sharing anything they're not comfortable sharing. And the group is going to keep going around. So, there's three or four in the group, turn to your left, what do you pretend, I pretend blah blah blah, that person turns to the left, what do you pretend, I pretend blah and that's the way it goes around until I tell them to stop. And this idea again, you cannot repeat what you've heard anyone else say.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 41:43
Okay, but that's two different things. Do not repeat what you've heard someone else say, do you mean don't repeat it like later, like gossipy way, or do you mean you can't take another person's answer? Or both?
Marsha Clark 41:54
So, that's right. Both. I remember both. So, this idea of this is very, remember openness leads to intimacy, this is a very intimate group. You can tell your story. You cannot tell anyone else's outside of that group. So, and I want to also say, I, personally, try not to listen to any of the specifics because I'm not sitting in that group with them. And I do try to keep up with how many rounds are completed. So, I'm literally watching lips move and seeing who's talked how many times and when they've gone for about three rounds, I asked them to stop, you know, the sharing or the exchange. And I ask them a few questions. And the first one is I ask them to think about how they might be censoring themselves. What are you thinking that you may not be saying? And it's generally about not wanting to be too vulnerable. Remember, we're going back to the underlying feeling for openness is likability. Can I share that or am I censoring myself? Will they think poorly of me? Will they not like me? Will they not love me? So, this is how open can I be with you and will you still like me? And I just say notice. You know, I offer that the exercise is like peeling back a layer of myself with each round that we go around. And I also say I'm not suggesting that they have to share that with their small group but I want them to be aware of it, that it is in them and that it is their choice to share or not share. And then I instruct each group to complete two more rounds, and then to raise their hands when they're done. And then I further instruct them to sit quietly until everyone has finished.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:39
Yeah, what I remember about this exercise in our group was how the 'I pretend that' statements started with work and maybe volunteer activities and then moved into family maybe like spouse or mother, dad, and then sibling and then move to spouse and children. And it felt like those rounds got deeper and more, more emotional. Like there was a lot more emotional response as the rounds kept going.
Marsha Clark 44:22
Yeah, the energy in this exercise is interesting to observe and experience. And it's really highly consistent with almost all groups that I've taken through the exercise around the globe. You know, we talked about sort of nervous laughter in the 'X Marks the Spot' because we don't really know what we're doing. 'Dominance Line', really nervous laughter, high, laughing to keep from taking it too seriously because it's too much. But in this one, the voices are quieter and I'm not kidding you, heads move closer together with each round, as you said. It goes deeper and the voices are quieter and you're almost whispering in the last rounds, and it almost feels like a reverence, right, as they're sharing their story.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:08
Confessional. It's a confessional. I mean, I remember it feeling like pindrop moments and as I said, tears were shed.
Marsha Clark 45:16
Well, that is often the case when it's all women and, mind you, that's not the goal is to make people cry. But it's often what happens and it's incredibly freeing to share something with someone else that you previously thought you had to pretend, right. And there's one more step to the exercise. After everyone's finished with their I pretends, I don't want to leave it there, right. So, they stay in their small groups, and I ask them to do two things. First, I ask each person to tell the other participants in their group something that that person said, they themselves said, that meant a lot to be able to share it with this group. And then once each person has shared that, then I ask them to go one more round and they tell the other people in their group, the other two or three people in their group, something that they shared that was particularly meaningful or touching. So, one is the expressed, right, I said this and it meant a lot to me; I heard your story about this and it meant a lot to me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:17
Yeah, I remember those final two rounds were absolutely like Kleenex... I mean, you felt like you'd forged some kind of unbreakable bond with your group. It was like watching women shed years of unwanted baggage right there. Like and I felt lighter, too, for having shared.
Marsha Clark 46:39
And again, that's a very typical experience that others have had, as well, Wendi. And once we've completed the exercise, we come back as a whole group. And we debrief, you know what it was like, what the experience was, like, not sharing stories, but just the experience. So, I asked them in general, how did it feel to share their pretends and here are some of the comments that are representative of what I hear. It felt cathartic, like a weight had been lifted off me, like to what you just were speaking about. No laughter, no judgment, no shame, very liberating. You know, another is it was the first time I've ever thought about what I was pretending and speaking the words and giving it voice was scary. Right? Because we don't think about what we're pretending. And if and then we're too busy pretending, too busy pretending and protecting. That's right, this goes back to, to the defensive, protecting. And another representative comment is, if I'm open, I might be rejected or not liked. I always thought it was easier to pretend. Now I'm not so sure. I mean, this think about this. Cathartic. First time I ever thought it's scary. You know, closing down and pretending was a strategy and now I'm not so sure it was a good one. And so people also share, really what an honor and a privilege it was to have someone trust them enough to share what they were pretending, so that's the part that goes on and on, you know. And then another debrief question that I like to ask is how many people heard someone else's 'I pretend' and immediately recognized it as something they also pretend? And I will tell you, almost every hand is raised. I've never had maybe only one or two in a group not raise their hands. And I then asked the group, how much energy does it take to pretend? And you know, almost in unison, the answer comes back a lot. And I then offer a new possibility. And I offer this to our listeners as well. If so many of us are pretending the same or similar things and it takes so much of our energy, what would happen if we shared our pretends, if we supported each other and redirected that energy to something more productive? And literally, I see the light bulbs going off in the room.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 49:07
I love that invitation. And I will say that it was definitely a revelation for me, for sure. I think I do a lot less pretending because of that question right there.
Marsha Clark 49:17
Yeah. And it is another liberating moment. And so, one last debrief question and then I want to move on to some of the observations about the activity. You know, the last question I like to ask is, who heard someone in their small group say that they were pretending and you thought to yourself, oh, we all know you're pretending that. You know, and so, we often trick ourselves into thinking that we fooled everyone, that that armor is thick, right, and we have it all under control. And when others know and so you know, things may be falling apart or falling short altogether. And so it's instead of that thick armor of protection, it's a thin veil that you can just touch and reach right on through and touch the reality of it all.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 50:10
Oh, we all know you're pretending that... that's like the emperor's new clothes right there. And yet the siren song of self deception. That is so loud and so strong enough.
Marsha Clark 50:21
It is, and, you know, we're not fooling anyone but ourselves. And then we're back to how much energy are we putting into that, and dare I say, wasting on that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 50:30
Exactly. Another opportunity to let go and lighten up. So, you said you wanted to share some observations of the activity over time.
Marsha Clark 50:39
So, I want to share some gender differences, so, in my almost 25 years of doing this exercise. So when I'm with women only, the sharing is deeper. And as we said, there are frequently tears. And when it's all men, the sharing is often more superficial. So, you know, guys are 'I pretend to be a scratch golfer', 'I pretend to benchpress 250 pounds'. So, you kind of get the point around all of that. If I'm in a mixed group, and that's usually as part of an in house program, there are typically more men than women. And so, when I create these small groups, I try to have at least one woman in each of the small groups because I want both voices and stories to be heard. And what this does, again, very intentional, the women will help the men go a little deeper, get past those superficial things. And the men will not let the women go so deep that it gets awkward or too vulnerable or one embarrasses themselves because men using humor and self deprecation and all that kind of stuff.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:49
It's a defensive strategy.
Marsha Clark 51:52
It is. It is. So, that's it. I have observed that again and again and again.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:57
Right and and yet if women start going so deep to where tears come up, oh man, man. What do do now? How do I fix it? Make her stop. Make that go away. Look away, look away.
Marsha Clark 52:13
That's right. No eye contact.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:14
Okay, so Marsha, we are getting near the end of this episode. And I know you have some final thoughts around openness that you'd like to share.
Marsha Clark 52:23
I do. Yes. So, you know, after years of tolerating what I would call distortion and secrecy in so many aspects of organizational life, the public is ever more cognizant of, alert to and quite honestly, intolerant of such behavior. And the breakthrough possibilities and actualities are twofold. So, first, many old cliches turn out to be absolutely correct. And what I mean by that is the truth does set you free, right, I mean, personally, interpersonally, organizationally, and even physically/bodily, if you will. And second, the tools and techniques - specifically when you think about feedback, imagery and understanding of the body- are available to test the effects of self disclosure of withholding on the body, on the relationships and on performance in organizations. So, engaging in the use of tools and these techniques, the tool of feedback, the technique of imagery, and really listening to and paying attention to our our bodies. And when you're open, your body feels good. You know, there's a feeling of whether it be the weight being lifted off your shoulders, like you mentioned earlier, Wendi, and the unburdening yourself of these pretends. And then the distortion or withholding also often expresses itself in your body as some form of discomfort, whether it be shortness of breath, neck pain, tightness in the stomach, sweaty palms, a dry throat, a headache. And that expresses itself as well by creating distance in relationships, loss of motivation, burnout, illness, absenteeism, and even declining productivity on the job. So, the more open you are, and this is an important statement, the more open you are, the healthier you are. And that said, I also want to be really clear. I'm not suggesting that you blurt out whatever you might be thinking without clarity and intentionality. And I have to tell this story, because this is one of my favorites, too. I remember I was teaching a session and when I asked the rhetorical question, what do you pretend? A woman at the front table and this was a co-ed group, she shared "I pretend that I enjoyed having sex with my husband last night." And so, mind you, as a co-ed group of about half men and half women and this was probably in year two or three that I was teaching this, it caught me off guard, flat footed. And you know, the laughter in the room gave me a minute to think about what I was gonna say there were 100 or so people in that room. And so, the most clever thing I could think to say in that moment was well, that would be an example of high expressed technique. So, it was, you know, that goes back to the TMI, too much information.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:24
Exactly. Just because you think it doesn't mean you have to say it. So, inclusion, control, openness, these three fundamental human needs, I am so grateful for the work of Will Schutz and your commitment, Marsha, to sharing his powerful FIRO-B tool. And thank you for walking us through the behaviors and then the underlying feelings for each of these elements, and for being so transparent and gracious with your content and design.
Marsha Clark 55:56
Well, it's been a pleasure, Wendi. I mean I really do love talking about, thinking about, exploring, sharing, all of that. And it was a chance for me to get to revisit this remarkable work and over the years, we've adapted and adjusted our program content to stay relevant in adding new models, assessments, research, dropping old tools, and all of that. But even after all these years, I find that Will's work on our fundamental needs for inclusion, control and openness, they are just as applicable and useful today as they were the first day I heard about it and talked about it and taught it. And I would even say even more so today when you think about needs being met or not being met, and I'm honored to continue to offer this work. And, a couple of more thoughts, and I mentioned this a little bit earlier or maybe it was in our previous episode. Do not try this at home. You know, our listeners might be surprised by how these exercises and maybe not can surface some pretty deep feelings and reactions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 57:01
And what you mean by that, Marsha, is not like trying to lead a group of doing this? Yeah. Do it yourself. Do it yourself.
Marsha Clark 57:09
Absolutely. Do it yourself. Thank you for that clarification. But I want to share with our listeners something that I learned in my Master's Program, and again, it's something that has stuck with me, and I've taken it to heart. And that is don't take anyone anywhere (and by that I mean like a highly emotional state) that you can't take care of them when they get there. So, you need to understand this deeply, not superficially, to be able to facilitate and support these kinds of things. And second, I want our listeners to know that we deliver this content and do these activities about halfway through a program. The group knows each other well enough at that point to take a bit of risk in sharing their stories and it would be a very different experience if we did this earlier in the program. So, as always, timing matters and this is usually in module four of a six module program. And so, there's a lot of preparatory work that I would describe, and that's why it's programmatic and not just a standalone. It's two different experiences. If it's a part of a bigger program, it's deeper. If it's a standalone workshop, it's not so much because we haven't built the container, again, a phrase in my line of work, that can hold all of the stuff that can come up around this. So, again, timing matters.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 58:39
Exactly. Well, thank you for those additional points. And I'm definitely going to add another shameless plug to remind everyone if they want to go through the FIRO-B assessment and or do it with their whole team, please just reach out to Marsha on her website marshaclarkandassociates.com and you can get the information for your own coaching or for a facilitated session. And yes, so, thank you, listeners, for joining us today on this journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast. This one and the two before, man, these are repeats. These are good, deep work on these three episodes. And so please share them and visit her website also to find out more about book number one, "Embracing Your Power", and get ready for book number two, "Expanding Your Power", available early in 2024.
Marsha Clark 59:38
Well, thank you Wendi. You know, walking and talking through this, the fact that you had been through the Power of Self program I think adds a dimension to this. You're more than just the interviewer or the hostess in these podcasts. You were a participant and have experienced it and, you know, what I will offer to our listeners, this is, it's good work, it's deep work, it's well researched and grounded work. It's got a bit more of a psychological aspect to it. Not every person in a leadership role has studied psychology and and really understands more about the human element or the human condition as Will talks about. But if this is something that you and your team are ready to explore further, do let us know. We're happy to support you in that and to look at what your objectives are, what the timing is as it relates to your team. Are they a new team, long established team, what else have you done to help create a container of psychological safety and so on. And so, I hope if you've been a longtime listener, you really get the sense that one thing builds on the next thing, which builds on the next thing, which builds on the next thing, and so we can help you depending on what your objectives are in one, being the best leader that you can be and two, having a high performing and effective and productive team. And I don't mean that as a shameless plug. I really mean that sometimes you're looking for those opportunities, and you don't know where to go, and, and we can help you in that regard. So, I also want to say on this openness piece, women tend to score higher than men on the wanted openness in particular. And this idea of intimacy, I'm gonna take you all the way back to invisible differences. We're all in this together, the flat structure of power dead even, that lends itself to both sharing more and wanting more to be shared with you. And so, there's no better thought around this than, as I always close, the women supporting women because we want to hear those stories, we're going to hold the stories in confidence. We also know from a trust perspective, gossip is the number one thing that breaks trust. Breaking confidences is the number two thing that breaks trust in organizations. So, hold this with integrity, with ethics, with care, with love, and be there for one another. And again, it comes in all of these inclusion, control and so on, and being supportive. And I'll recap again, just including others. The worst thing you can do to a woman is isolate her. So, by including other women, it is you want to check it to make sure they want to be included, but offer it up. On control, when women behave in ways that reflects them being in control, they can often be viewed negatively. Don't climb on that bandwagon. See it for what it is. Being in control is a part of being a good leader. And then third on this openness piece, hold those intimate, shared secrets, I pretends, whatever you want to call them with great reverence. So, I'll close with that in the spirit of, as always, "Here's to women supporting women!"
Transcribed by https://otter.ai