Strategies to Decrease Frustration when
Working with Low Levels of Awareness in the Workplace
By Marilee Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D.
Recently, I have had the honor of listening to a number of masters-level and doctorate-level students who are experiencing high levels of frustration in working with what I would like to call low levels of awarenessin the workplace. So, what does that mean? Borrowing from the wisdom archive of “it takes one to know one.” I can easily identify low levels of awarenessin the workplace because for most of my life, that is the place in which I have operated. What do I mean?
Beginning with a definition from Merriam Webster, awareness is “the quality or state of being aware : knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists promoting a heightened awareness of the problemseemed to have only a slight awareness of what was going on, an acute awareness of subtle differences.” Extracted from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awareness on 11-15-18.). And now noticing the frustration of having a word defined by using the word, perhaps it is useful to examine the synonyms of awareness and they are ”attention, cognizance, consciousness, ear, eye, heed, knowledge, mindfulness, note, notice, observance, observation.” If the use of these synonyms is still not helpful, I like to operationally define awareness as simply noticing what you are noticing with open curiosity and gentle kindness. So, as opposed to the kind of intensity that researchers bring to their research, this is more of an effortless effort of noting what is being observed and inquiring into what else is there. And then engaging in this – noting what you are noticing – in a manner that goes beyond the first impression where judgment ensues and inquiry shuts down. ‘Ya know what I mean?
According to the National Academies of Science (2017) and the Institute of Educational Sciences (2016), we can intentionally educate our students to become more open, mindful, and conscious. I have interpreted this to mean that we can move ourselves from low levels of awareness to high levels of awareness but ONLY if we want to do so. I want to do so because I have become so sad knowing all of the harm my choices have created when they emerge from low levels of awareness. As such, I have found myself enrolling in training program after training program for the last 13 years all in a passionate effort to move myself from operating consistently in low levels of awareness to a higher level of awareness. In essence, I have sought to change the way I see the world. I seek to move from a self-preservation, quick to judge, survival modality that informs decisions that can harm self and others to an open, vulnerable, curious, gentle, and kind way of being in the world that then leads to wiser and more skillful choices.
Yes, I notice I have a long way to go in moving to a high level of awareness – to a more consistent and frequent way of noting what I am noticing with open curiosity and gentle kindness that informs wise and skillful choice; the training (and continued training) have been immensely helpful. And what I have also noticed is that the students and colleagues I serve are my best teachers – of course they are. And here is what they demonstrated in their being with my low levels of awareness behavior that was particularly valuable for my moving forward in this awareness training. In other words, rather than their moving to meet my low level of awareness and judging me (which would trigger survival behaviors such as avoidance or fighting), they remained at their high levels of awareness and engaged in inquiry that places the responsibility for doing something differently directly on my shoulders, as opposed to their needing to fix what my low level of awareness behavior was creating.
SO, when you notice low levels of awareness, consider practicing this…
- What I heard you say is…
- What I heard you feel is…
- What creative solution is possible from the statement you just made?
- What would that choice that you are considering create for [fill in the blank for the person or people your high level of awareness notices may be harmed from the choice they are about to make]?
There are many more questions and practices to engage in if you would like to do so… but these, as I can attest, have been useful in moving me forward. Thank you students, colleagues, and my trusted teachers and mentors.