The session that I attended at AYE this morning was Steve Smith’s session on the Satir change model. The meat of the session was a simulation, where one person was going through the stages of the model and the rest of us were broken up into teams representing stages: the Old Status Quo, the Foreign Element, Chaos, and the transformation into the New Status Quo.
I was on the Old Status Quo team; we (like the other teams) really put ourselves into it. We dragged in some comfy chairs from the hotel lobby, one of us brought in a bottle of wine and some nuts, we had some music playing that (we hoped) he’d like, one of us was acting as his best friend while others of us were whispering comforts (about the present) and uncertainties (about change) in his ears.
And we were prepared to take an active role in guarding him from change, in bringing him back to our comforts. Which was a good thing, since the Foreign Element members were not shy about making their presence known. Ditto for the New Status Quo; in fact, at first our three groups were causing enough confusion ourselves that the Chaos group really didn’t have to act: there was quite enough chaos already, thank you very much. We lured him back once (or, really, he got buffeted enough by the chaos to return to us as a haven), but the second time, the New Status Quo took hold and lured him into their haven. Which, ironically, looked an awful lot like ours: it turns out that we weren’t the only people taking comfy chairs from the hotel lobby and providing alcoholic beverages!
While I was actually taking part in the exercise, I wasn’t sure how valuable it was: sure, it was fun, but was I learning anything useful about change from it? But the subsequent debrief was extremely interesting, in ways that it wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t been directly involved in the experience.
For one: I was really tenacious in my role to lure him back to the Old Status Quo. So even when he was sitting in the New Status Quo comfy chair, I was still trying desperately to tell him that this was a cult, or that he was just their new shiny play toy, or something. But then I looked back, and I realized that the people from the Foreign Element team had actually taken away our Old Status Quo comfy chairs: that I was trying to lead him back to a state of affairs that had been far surpassed by reality!
Aside from being a brilliant tactic by the Foreign Element team, I thought that this really was saying something about change efforts in the real world: even once people are getting integrated into a New Status Quo and even when anybody can see that the Old world has vanished if they’ll just open their eyes, there will still be people trying to get back to the old way of things. (I did stop my efforts once I realized what had happened, though: I’m slow but not blind.)
The other thing that struck me the most in the debriefing was the tactics that the New Status Quo had used to guide him in. I’d somehow managed to avoid noticing this in the simulation, but (much to the consternation of other elements, the Chaos members in particular), there was one woman on the New Status Quo team who was variously described as his siren, his muse, or his guardian angel. She spent the whole time making direct eye contact with him and touching him as if they were dancing together (she’d in fact learned this eye contact idea from dance class), letting him focus on her to help him not be distracted by everything else that was going on. (And the Chaos team was quite creative: people spoke to him in foreign languages, one of them introduced himself over and over with different names, another one had this very annoying red flashing light, and I think there was some singing going on, too.) It took him a while to decide that he wanted to move forward, but once he did, nothing was stopping him, and I’m sure her actions were a big reason why.
This points out a way in which I could be more effective. I have changes that I’d like to promote, that I would sincerely like to guide people along. But, so often, I step away from making the necessary personal contact. Returning to the MBTI talk from yesterday, part of this is the NT Visionary or, even worse, INTP Architect / Designer Theorizer, part of my personality: once I’ve figured out how I would like things to be, a strong part of my brain considers that a solved problem and wants to move on to something else. (Fortunately, there are other parts of my brain that like to get their neurons dirty with the details of the implementation, if for no other reason than to see what they can learn from that.) And being a strong I (introvert) is also a big barrier: my default behavior is frequently to go sit in my office by myself, to send an e-mail when something else would be more helpful.
With luck, this conference will serve as a sort of aikido move in that regard: experiences like this will feed in the right sort of experience and theory into my brain that, with the help of blog posts like this one, my theorizer INTP brain will come up with a delightful theoretical realization that I should behave in certain ways in order to solve certain problems. And, with luck, the resulting theoretical realization will be enough of a counterweight to my ingrained traits to get me to actually do something about that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to change who I am, but I should be able to find ways of acting that acknowledge my feelings while providing the benefits of hands-on interactions where it’s most useful. (Though not hands-on in quite as literal a sense as in this example!)
This post has not been revised since publication.