(With apologies to non-rugby fans BUT with a guarantee that there are universal lessons at play here)
Well that was a major disappointment in Cardiff last Saturday to say the very least (or have you wiped it from your memories already?) Pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong on the day. We've gone from beating the All-Blacks four months ago to needing an injury time score to prevent a whitewash. Anyone who's ever played team sports though will know that feeling. A decision goes against you, your star player makes a mistake, suddenly you look at your team mate. Whereas a minute ago they seemed confident, now they look worried. Now you start to feel worried. Then they see the same thing in you. It's like a virus as it spreads through the team. Of course this can happen in any team, not just a sports team. It could be a team of factory workers (giving out about the boss), a team of teachers or social care workers (giving out about a new roster) or even office workers (worrying about the Christmas party). But how does such a thing actually happen and what do you do about it when its happening?
Take the first question first. Have you ever been at a staff meeting and made a clear, logical point, backed up by experience and evidence only to see it completely dispelled and overrun by an emotional outburst from a colleague. Their point has no basis in reality and/or evidence, but you soon see that everyone's heads are nodding and the discussion is going away from you. If so, you have encountered what happens when emotion meets logic and you now know which one wins (if you really doubt this think about the electoral wins for Trump and Brexit in recent years, clear cases of emotion beating logic). It's all to do with the way our brains work. We call it group THINK but actually group FEEL is a more accurate description. Think of the way you smile when a baby smiles and the way you wince when they wince. We are genetically programmed to respond to the affect (emotions) of others. It's what makes us human and allows us to empathise with others and do things to look after each other. (It also alerts us if something about someone doesn't look right - we read it in their facial expressions). It's also part of what causes sports teams to lose matches, which they might otherwise win, and other teams to sometimes function less productively than they might otherwise do.
Here come's the science bit (as Jennifer Anniston used to say). Affect Theory (as developed by Silvan Tompkins) says there are nine emotional (affective) states and we are only ever in one state at a time. Furthermore, most operate on a continuum, which means you can have a variation of that affect (emotion) from mild to extreme. Two of the states are positive:
Interest - Excitement
Enjoyment - Joy
One is neutral and acts like a restart mechanism, before you switch to another:
Surprise - Startle
The remaining six are negative:
Fear - Terror
Anger - Rage
Distress - Anguish
Shame - Humiliation
Two things are key here. Firstly, you can only be in one of these states at a time, and it's really worth paying attention to which state you are in or which state the person you are dealing with is in. And secondly, the state you are in will determine the outcome of the activity you are engaged in. For example, if you are in state of distress or shame, you are not going to be able to focus properly on any work you have to do. Think here of someone who has been insulted in school or at work and then they are asked to do a task of whatever sort. You might physically go through the motions but you will not be learning. To learn, or work properly, you will need to access a state of interest or enjoyment. The Irish rugby team last Saturday seemed to spend the bulk of the game in a state of fear or distress. In contrast the Welsh team were in a very different state.
All very interesting but what does this mean for the class I teach or the young people I work with? Well, quite simply, you will need to help those young people to access a state of interest or enjoyment before they can learn anything. Here's three ways:
Finally, I started this blog by referencing the Irish rugby team and their woes so, in the interests of completion, here's three pieces of advice to Joe Schmidt and the irish rugby team. I can't say that Leo Varadkar took my advice on Brexit a few months back, but you never know my luck with Joe.
That's Restorative Practice
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.