Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

NEW at 99-Word Stories

Talk Quick!
99-Word Stories to Spark Discussion about Common Management Issues
by Brian Remer

Talk Quick! is a collection of group discussion starters designed to inspire meaningful conversations about important management issues.
(12 Discussion Activities, 33 pages, Cross Referenced, $10)

Learn more HERE.

99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2014 Brian Remer
Updated May 2015

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

May 2015

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

Crash Friendship
I was zooming down the highway on the way to an appointment. I'd borrowed my wife's car, a bright green VW Beetle. Coming toward me was the identical car. In the brief moment as we passed, I could see the passengers smiling and waving. We were friends in that instant!

Now this never happens when I drive my old Subaru! Yet people seem desperate to discover something in common. They'll grab the slimmest thread of shared interest and begin weaving a stronger relationship.

Perhaps we can use this strategy more often to create friendships, build our communities.

Discussion
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.

 

Interpretation
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

Fight, Flight, or Friend?
It has been referred to as the "love" hormone because of its influence in creating the bonds of attachment between mothers and their infants. But in fact, oxytocin is at work any time we feel a connection to others no matter what our relationship.

According to Wikipedia, many studies have shown a correlation between this hormone and human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. In a risky investment game, experimental subjects given nasally administered oxytocin displayed "the highest level of trust" twice as often as the control group. One explanation for this is that oxytocin might be inhibiting the amygdala which is believed to be responsible for our fear responses.

Most of us will probably never experience the effects of oxytocin as administered through a nasal spray. But we don't need to. We can feel its influence any time we see the smiling face of a loved one, get a hug, receive praise, shake someone's hand, express gratitude, offer assistance, or find something in common with a stranger. Even at 50 miles per hour, as the 99-Word Story suggests, oxytocin can give our mood a boost.

If we can find friendships - or at least positive feelings of good will - at 50 mph, there are probably many other situations when we would benefit from a boost of oxytocin. What can we do to promote attachment, commitment, and connection?

This challenge was raised by Allan Silva, a professor of the Neuroscience of Leadership Development at Antioch University. He has studied the well-known stages of group or team evolution put forth by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman suggested that every group must go through the same four stages before it can function effectively. These stages include Forming, members are driven by a need to be accepted by each other; Storming, members express competing ideas that may be contentious; Norming, members agree upon goals and standards of behavior; and Performing, members function as a unit getting the job done smoothly and effectively.

But Silva has been researching the effects of oxytocin so he has raised an interesting question. Do we have to endure the painful Storming stage in order to become effective team members in the Performing stage? After all, when we are angry, tense, or fearful, less blood flows to the neocortex while more blood flows to the limbic system. Rational thought gets hijacked by emotions. How effectively can we learn or collaborate if we are overly stressed?

Humans have a hardwired response for either fight or flight when faced with extreme stress. But Silva notes that we also have a hardwired response for bonding and attachment. Oxytocin is the key to that hardwiring. Why not capitalize upon that more positive attribute and spare everyone the difficulties of Storming by helping them connect with each other?

To counter Tuckman's model, Silva suggests four different stages for team formation: Framing, members set the stage for connections; Sharing, members solidify their connections by being somewhat vulnerable; Networking, members moderate or decrease anxiety; and Bonding, members establish strong connections of trust that lead to productive work. According to Silva, Storming in a group is a result of improper Framing.

When groups have their expectations "Framed" around connection and collaboration, they don't have to choose between fight or flight. They can "friend" instead.

 

Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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