I have been giving a few presentations about The Responsibility Process™ recently. This is Christopher Avery and Bill McCarley’s research into the automatic series of coping reactions which we go through every time we experience an upset – I described it in this blog post last year. It’s amazing how trying to explain something to other people helps you understand and appreciate it more yourself.
Over the summer, I got to experience the process in a 2-day nutshell. I had had the intention to teach my son to ride a bike before the end of the summer holidays, and we succeeded. The next weekend I persuaded him to go out again. He was a bit unsure because it was quite windy, but I talked him round. We got the bike out and he set off.
After a few false starts he got going. As he was going, he looked up and called something to his sister (who was cycling nearby). You can guess what happened next. He lost his balance and veered off into a parked car. The bump threw him forward off his seat onto the stem of the handlebars.
As a sympathetic father, how did I react?
I dived straight into Blame: “You idiot! I told you to concentrate on your own riding and not worry about other things!” (Fortunately, I managed to catch it and not to say this out loud…).
“No, not his fault,” I thought, “I need to get off this.”
Next reaction: Justify. “Why did I have to have a son who isn’t interested in outdoor things like I am?” (Okay, there’s still a bit of blame there…).
Still not useful – he’s still in pain…
Shame: “I shouldn’t have forced him to go out when he didn’t want to. I should have been near enough to catch him before he hit the car.”
As I put the bike away and escorted him inside to the sofa, still clutching his bruised midriff, I moved into Obligation: “Oh well, I’ll just have to accept he isn’t going to learn. After such a bad experience that’s going to completely put him off. He won’t let me teach him.”
I remember thinking at this point – no, that’s Obligation. I should be able to work through this. It took me about half an hour to get myself off the island and into Responsibility to start looking for a positive solution. But I found it.
Next morning, we went to a local DIY store together and bought some of the foam tubing for insulating hot water pipes. Then we came home, I got out some coloured insulating tape, and I helped him cut it to size and tape it over the top of his handlebar stem so if he did come off again it wouldn’t hurt as much.
I then popped inside to put something away. When I came out, he was half-way down the street.
This was an interesting experience for me. It was the first time I actively caught myself at each stage, recognised and acknowledged it and moved on. Understanding the different stages and how natural and automatic they are, and having the awareness to recognise them, allowed me to move forward to a satisfactory and happy conclusion for both of us.
Christopher is restarting The Leadership Gift™ programme this Friday (8th November). You can access a preview here, and if you do sign up and you use code IBBLGP, you will get $100 off the initial price. (I don’t get anything for this – I’m just a delighted customer who wants to share it). Hope to “see” you there.