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Building Community Through Better Relationships

Survival Brain Or Learning Brain?

Emotional trauma has recently become a consistent companion to our youth, especially with respect to their capacity to learn and grow. From a Social Emotional Learning perspective, our young people’s growth is under attack to the point that understanding how to act in different environments is more and more difficult. The difference between right and wrong for youth has typically shifted depending on the particular environment where you find them. The major problem presently is that their school, home, and play environments continue to become more confusing. Between increasing technology access and restricted recreational areas due to the pandemic, the challenge morphs between how youth should behave in one environment, as opposed to how they behave differently in others.

Survival Brain
As social beings, humans are designed to protect themselves and others from external harm. Harm can come from physical attacks, as well as emotional and mental threats. Particularly concerning young people, Social Emotional Learning skills have become increasingly essential because personal threats are being managed differently. A grade school child can call another child a particularly nasty slur, and the second child may respond with a weapon. Essentially threats are perceived inequitably, and tend to escalate quickly because too many youths are ill-equipped to manage conflict. Clearly harm can happen physically, as well as mentally. Yet violence appears to escalate increasingly quickly. Such behaviors can be traced to minor threats that escalate to survival-based responses featuring violence in response to verbally-initiated, emotional triggers.

By emphasizing responses according to the survival brain, reason becomes secondary. Currently, survival responses escalate quickly because severity of threats are harder to identify, largely because of the trauma associated with unpredictable outcomes when youths’ interact physically. Furthemore, the Survival Brain informs that persevering as a species remains essential to the human experience. Even, youth benefit when they develop trust in people who are teaching them that the world can be harmful. Furthermore, harm can appear physically as well as mentally, or emotionally. Ultimately survival focuses on an individual’s ability to navigate advantages and disadvantages resulting from routine decision making in their environment.

Learning Brain
On the other hand, the Learning Brain uses a different approach to sustain survivability in the face of newly evolving threats. The Learning Brain sounds a lot like “school smarts”. Actually, from a Social Emotional Learning perspective, it actually points more toward adaptability. When new threats emerge, the Learning Brain engages in identifying solutions that will protect the individual, or the group. Self-preservation remains a priority, but the approach leading to a solution differs. Specifically, the Learning Brain processes information and facts. As new types of threats enter our youth’s environments, they have to become more astute at discerning genuine threats. The Learning Brain processes information so that better decisions are made for self-preservation. Fundamentally, when threats emerge in society, the advantage goes to the person that can recognize the threat and has visibility to an effective remedy. The Learning Brain essentially is processing alternatives to improve adaptability and self-preservation to sustain the individual.

To look at current school-based, Social Emotional Learning problems in the last 12 – 18 months, the ability to learn has been derailed by political agendas, fear among the teaching ranks, and trauma throughout families. In environments that emphasize repetition and certainty, the question resurfaces are learning assumptions safe, effective, or even relevant. Hiding behind unsafe environments, adult apathy, and social uncertainty, short-term learning has taken a back seat. The problem is that each learning step contributes to the next learning step. With students either missing days, ignoring assignments, or plain-old struggling with lessons, the inconsistency in learning has created an unprecedented problem. The learning inconsistency results in as much underperformance as the inadequately managed education administration does across the board.

Conclusion
Social Emotional Learning has to be emphasized because students have to be re-acquainted with confidence, as well as education. The trauma surrounding academic uncertainty has created a learning deficit. Furthermore, the inconsistency and devaluing of teachers’ contributions has fundamentally weakened their crucial role. In short, the education solution resides in re-establishing honor and self-esteem at every step of the learning ladder. Lessons have to be re-established as well as students’ confidence. The Survival Brain and the Learning Brain must be sufficiently re-ignited such that students and teachers feel safe and their contributions feel valued! That correction directly requires Social Emotional Learning solutions throughout school communities. Equity in education must be prioritized. The same for reinforcing self-esteem. Coaching and cajoling becomes as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Steps for personal confidence must be incorporated and validated. Then, the learning can take better root in fertile soil. Ultimately, Social Emotional Learning impacts the heart for learning that enables better learning in the head, and results in more knowledge-friendly environments.

By Glenn W Hunter

Author of “Storytelling Wins The Best Engagements”

Board Chair, Touchstone Youth Resource Service

To Donate Please Click: http://www.tyrs.org

https://www.amazon.com/Storytelling-Wins-Engagements-Glenn-Hunter/dp/B094SZRYZ5/

September 7, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World, Social Emotional Learning | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Child Left Behind

At the beginning of children’s academic careers, they are young, eager, and possess absorbent minds. Beyond an academic foundation, primary schools were once instrumental in building communities where families flourished. Then, in too many cases, pedagogical standards and metrics moved to the forefront. What once represented a community had turned into a common geographic proximity of people who bused, walked, or drove past each other during pre-determined times to their daily obligations. Isolation and trauma became common terms to describe childhood, unless you counted technology-based communication as connection. Then, in the midst of this evolution a pandemic hit the nation and consequently, established practices and rules concerning schools no longer made sense for consistent interactivity and learning progress.

Lessons Learned
The ideas that evolved regarding masks and virtual learning, represented the best thinking from an antiquated system that ran into an ultra-modern crisis. Arguing whether health and safety issues should be governed by established learning practices completely misses the point of students’ emotional needs! The point is that a student’s cry for help is not necessarily based on academic challenges. Learning can be hard. Being ill-equipped to navigate emotionally, as well as how to connect culturally, eventually creates emotional wreckage.

Lessons through a Social Emotional Learning lens emphasize that children need to feel comfortable and confident to navigate their social challenges. Social comfort and personal confidence facilitate better learning environments. Social comfort extends beyond having friends in the classroom. Its power resides in the comfort level that individual youth embrace when encountering new experiences. Fundamentally, educating youth involves a sense of wonder and a sense of comfort. Fear is the enemy of open minds. In developing students in foreign environments, either remote or in person, new barriers and restrictions facilitate classrooms that become ripe with fear, inequality, and societal pressures. Illness becomes a refuge of certainty. The problem now becomes facilitating lessons that emphasize embracing challenges as learning opportunities. Unfortunately fear and uncertainty run rampant in an environment where institutions and health seem to cripple the security where learning best occurs.

Progress Revisited
In environments that demanded individual growth, many schools dragged through an atmosphere full of collective fear and uncertainty. Often, the next growth step was treacherous. Social pressure, illness, individual isolation, all interacted to limit individual student growth. To refresh learning and growth, school environments must embrace new ideas. When the most prevalent obstacles involve contagion, uncertainty and cultural attacks, then individual and emotional stability is impossible. Progress is no longer matriculating to the next grade. Progress relies more on children continuing on a path that embraces intellectual and social growth. Progress is having the mental and psychological faculties to engage the next learning level.

Unfortunately, what too many school communities have found in recent environments is diversity represented in an unattractive fashion. Diversity is not necessarily new points of views, but rather pointing fingers at different points of view. The big, hairy obstacle is maintaining positive self-esteem among students, as well as families, while students persevere through an inconsistent school environment. Lesson plans, virtual or physical learning environments, and minimized extracurricular activities, as well as peer camaraderie have all been compromised. Recapturing progress first means revisiting academic processes. Holding a child back scholastically because of illness, fear, or embraced apathy now results in blending multiple ages in a classroom. Who wins the tie regarding consistency: academic progress, social progress, or age progress? Factor in a pandemic where attendance became a wild card, and the distinction between academic preparedness stretches academically and genealogically.

Conclusion
Assuming that successful academic progress is the ultimate goal, then competence is logically achieved at the grade level where the youth participates. Age differences become a factor that must be navigated. However, these factors do not occur in isolation. Lack of academic progress can align with anger management from a home that endured illness and financial sufferings. The choices are difficult. Unfortunately, the process of incarcerating maladjusted young adults who had their social-emotional needs ignored because they were inconvenient, creates a much larger societal problem. Incorporating emotional and cultural self-care skills among students, teachers, and administrators will benefit entire school communities. Aligning maturity and intellect need to be drivers for progress. At this point in history an age-based academic system where youth endured assorted trauma from institutions, peers, and unprecedented home dysfunction, only creates opportunity for tension to escalate. Aligning academic progress with Social Emotional Learning gives students the best chance of personal growth in a system that prioritizes their individual development.

By Glenn W Hunter
Author of “Storytelling Wins The Best Engagements”
Chair, Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To Donate Please Click: www.tyrs.org

Click Below To Buy “Storytelling Wins The Best Engagements

August 4, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being Self-Absorbed With No One Looking

Beautiful people and gorgeous weather summarizes Southern California’s landscape. Depending on who’s counting, California’s southern half has an approximate population of 20 million people within proximity of awesome sunsets into the Pacific Ocean. So far, the profile is creating a breathtaking  profile, and it is lying! No matter how self-absorbed, tanned, manicured, or well-dressed they appear to be, many Californians are ugly. Not necessarily physically unattractive, but ugly people. Ironically, it is relatively easy to be self-absorbed when no one is looking. Despite external appearances, by being self-absorbed, individual frustration reveals itself in various ways. One way that sadly affects Californians is mindless violence!

Is Bad Behavior Sexy?

Once a community, a region, or a state, realizes that enormous material and social disparities exist, then the polite response for the perceived less fortunate is correcting the disparity. The truth is at the foundation for California’s notorious violent culture. Between the haves and have-nots, the state has enormous social and economic gaps. Then, after factoring inflamed frustrations from Covid-19, inconsistently fractured educational environments and largely unjustified cultural entitlement, a state emerges with potential secession in the north and race-based displacement to the south. Forget about “Can we all just get along?”; the new question is how do so many self-interested citizens find social alignment?

In a land where everyone is supposedly sexy and entitled, is anyone really either one? Fundamentally, hate is ugly. Road rage has captured the imagination of too many citizens and conspiracy theorists. Interpreting the statistics of violent crimes in our current environment and communities is debatable, particularly among a population that cannot even agree on who actually belongs here. The violence is evident in freeway snipers, race-based violence, renegade law enforcement caught up in crimes of violence and vice, plus citizens choosing to practice random mayhem. Furthermore, in sunny, southern California’s deserts, it seems that more corpses are being found there lately. This problem has become much more complicated than gang violence based on colors!

What Is To Fear?

Random violence creates panic. Consequently, scared people exhibit escalated anxiety and possess weapons. Law enforcement is doing the best that they can in tight budgetary environments and unprecedented violent conditions. Then, youth stopped attending school in some areas. Meanwhile, other schools enjoyed privilege in continuing to march toward an educated and prosperous future. The haves and have-nots encroached uncomfortably near each other physically, and those consequences led to profiling, as well as violence and incarceration. Entire communities struggled with comprehending the consequences and repercussions. Literally, the mindsets have progressed to the point where certain communities are wondering loudly, “Can we shoot them, yet?”

With multitudes exercising their broadening Second Amendments rights birthed out of unprecedented social anxiety, is anyone safe? The question is no longer whether justice is applied equally regarding violence, the issue has emerged is it practiced at all in some places? Whether it is social pressure, individuals trying to understand their place in this changing society, or economic pressure of what is a good paying job, the reality reveals a fragmenting society. Communication breakdowns in such societies are common because rules continuously shift, then trust in authority erodes. Technology permits communities to communicate quickly. But, is the information reliable? Is it trustworthy? Who’s truth do we believe?

Conclusion

Remaining calm is a tactic and people can make that choice. Yet, violence and mayhem makes news. Are life choices now driven by ratings? Nevertheless, experience says that California will survive this turmoil. Furthermore, hope appears within the most interesting stereotypes and the oddest pockets of society. For example, during a recent trip to the post office, people were politely social-distanced. Patrons smiled and held doors open for each other. The staff was professional. The post offices’ reputation for violence and unhinged customers and employees, does not stand up to this typical experience. Southern Californians, in the aggregate, want to attend to their business and contribute to their communities. The details may get a little messy, but decency seems to prevail. Fundamentally, society retains the opportunity to be kind! Such hope is not perfect. But, it clearly beats living in a militarized police state. And, while we are being kind, also be mindful, to be safe! Communities appreciate that, too!

By Glenn W Hunter

Author of “Storytelling Wins The Best Engagements”

Chair, Touchstone Youth Resource Services

To Donate Please Click: www.tyrs.org

June 23, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Protection is More Than Lotion

A young mother, smearing suntan lotion on one child, while trying to keep up with another child in search of mischief, was a sure sign that summer had arrived. In bygone years, summer suggested longer, warmer, sunny days. It meant more outdoor recreation. Time spent with friends and family expanded as vacation plans came to fruition. However, the previous year has had unprecedented confusion for children navigating school requirements and parents deciphering continuously changing routines. Covid 19, political unrest, disrupted school semesters across levels, and future uncertainty displaced reading, writing and arithmetic as education’s cornerstones. Yet, families continued to seek normalcy, or at least a consistent routine. With or without a mask, individuals desire a consistent set of social rules. What revised coping skills will emerge to help manage the collision of emotions and rights? With tension coming from so many social, cultural, and economic sources, what should families expect regarding an enjoyable summer? 

Violence

Extraordinary violence in retail outlets, places of employment, schools, city streets, and highways accelerate overall feelings of fear. Trauma dominates across age groups and demographics. Coping skills are becoming harder to deploy, as fear escalates. With news cycles that now routinely highlight both random and premeditated deviant violence, American society is having a harder time discerning the bad actors from our protective heroes. Was that officer a bad cop before, or after being associated with violence targeting minorities? Who exactly are our leaders that are supposed to serve and protect honest, decent citizens?

First, recognize that not all citizens, educators, legislators, authorities, and cultural icons are bad actors. Instances that suggest otherwise remain newsworthy largely because they remain out of the ordinary. Additionally, honest, hard working people across cultures and ethnic backgrounds make it through the day because they demonstrate responsibility and avoid situations that randomly compromise their safety. These millions of American often get overlooked because they are ordinary. Fundamentally, violence is part of our society. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people. Yet, embracing behaviors that emphasize neighborly experience should have favorable outcomes. Except for the fact that guarantees do not exist. Still, losing hope is not an option.

Social Skills

Important tools to support community and individual desires for enjoying American liberties feature Social Emotional Learning skills. As people embrace their ability to act neighborly within their work and social spaces, the outcomes of these positive behaviors must have priorities. On the surface non-violence is an admirable goal. In reality, solutions are more nuanced. The absence of violence does not have to advance a local sense of community. Violence itself may reflect a more sinister problem. The problem may be insensitivity to honoring and respecting each other. What skills is society providing that are designed to enhance the well-being of society as a whole?

Empathy, compassion, respect are obvious correct answers to this challenge. Yet again, the problem resides in understanding the absence of these attributes. Exercising the ability to think before responding is an important skill for people of all ages. Assumptions are important considering they help individuals benefit from shortcuts in assessing situations in the aggregate. The problem is that interpersonal interactions are individual engagements. Social resolution for such challenges reside in the public’s ability to deploy respect whenever possible. That skill requires listening, understanding, and then responding. Ultimately, diffusing violence in the upcoming summer largely depends on societies’ ability to listen and understand. As long as individuals remain determined to impose their opinions and biases on others with the full support of authority figures, then misunderstandings will continue to escalate with deadly ramifications. Compassion, dialogue, and mutual respect provide foundations for less destructive interactions. Longer, hot days may be ingredients for troublesome summers. However, cooler heads, common goals, and civil conversations are certainlyt great foundations for local communities to mutually enjoy each others’ attributes!

Conclusion

Key challenges in many summers routinely reflect increasing violence. More aggressive conversation among national leaders fuels local trauma. Increased uncertainty on learning standards and educational progress results in student anxiety. Then, cultural and racial stress expresses itself in random and structured acts of violence. With so many problems hitting so many subgroups of our population, identifying a quick resolution is impractical, if not impossible. What can be done is to seek common ground in the supermarkets, playgrounds, and shopping locations for sharing mutual respect . Staying in place regarding social tension helps no one. Common courtesy and advocating its spread provides a chance for accountability to emerge within our national culture. Ultimately, common courtesy, civil discussion and suspending prejudiced assumptions are essential steps toward cooler heads prevailing in the midst of escalating summer temperatures. Try these steps to reduce trauma. Peace.

By Glenn W Hunter

Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services

Author of “Storytelling Wins The Best Engagements” Click: Available on Amazon.

May 31, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons, Grades or Fogging a Mirror

School is an essential part of American life. But, what exactly happens in the process of delivering education to our youth? Furthermore, what exactly happens when schooling gets interrupted? As many communities across the country wrestle with assorted variations of this question, what is undeniably consistent is that education is enduring unprecedented shifts! As different approaches to normalizing education have emerged in the last year across assorted communities nationally, the essential point features that lessons have experienced interruptions. Furthermore, as interruptions have taken different forms, re-engagement will require different approaches to re-establish progress with youth’s school work.

Learning

Learning is the foundation that establishes education. Still, the activity and the institution do not necessarily align. Disparities in educational resources and backgrounds have been an issue since the founding of the country. Over several decades, improvement has been achieved to varying degrees. Still consistency is at best an aspiration, and at worse, a lie! Nevertheless, what happens when fundamental academic institutions are disrupted at every level? How do students re-engage to resume their educational progress across an entire spectrum of available learning opportunities?

Putting textbooks and lesson plans in front of students is relatively straightforward. The Social Emotional Learning component remains trickier. What trauma has impacted individual children as they have individually navigated learning in the pandemic? With public comments attacking the American consciousness from various and contrary viewpoints, how does youth process the messages? More importantly, how do they emotionally process all the verbal contradictions? “Wear a mask!” “Don’t wear a mask!” For learning to function as it should, students have to buy in! Such engagement happens best when it is heart to heart. All stakeholders must communicate encouragingly and emotionally to progress down a more effective learning path!

Measuring

Nevertheless, without engagement no progress happens. Grades fundamentally measure progress. Yet, what happens when academic progress is interrupted? Then, emotional dysfunction and questionable performance emerges. Is interrupted progress really the cause of inferior performance? How is students’ progress measured consistently when they are having such widely varied experiences reconnecting with school? How does overall performance fairly measure outcomes when one student spent time away from school with designated daily study time, while another spent the same hours without wi-fi? If grades reflect comparative outcomes, then consistent inputs must be available first.

As education systems reset the ability to teach our youth, acknowledge the facts that the emotional weight of performance has social emotional components. When comparing students with lesser resources to students with superior resources, evaluating performance strictly numerically will yield erroneous consequences. Emotionally, students and families will recognize disadvantages. Furthermore, unfair comparison to performance metrics will eventually result in disproportionate emotional challenges among disadvantaged students. Flexibility in teaching and grading goes far beyond placating bruised egos and inferior learning. The outcomes now factor in potential hopelessness that has been communicated to previous achievers who suddenly were socially excluded from social-emotional support and resources which encouraged competitive performance.

Conclusion

According to legendary motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “Success leaves clues.” Regarding Social Emotional Learning, youth must be encouraged in locating clues so that they experience positive reinforcement and affirmation regarding academic performance. Repeat for social performance, as well. Good behavior now has an opportunity to reset! Educators can now execute previous plans to encourage more socially inclusive behaviors. Under no circumstances should students be rewarded for fogging a mirror. However, with a clean slate that rewards classroom contributions, opportunities surface to reset expectations for desired behaviors. A door has opened for youth to experience fresh social-emotional encouragement to embrace the benefits of being more functional and positive contributors in the classroom, society, and their greater communities! Have them enter that specific door!

By Glenn W Hunter

Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services.

To contribute: Click on www.TYRS.org

March 31, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gonna Make The Honor Roll

A young man from an undesirable part of town had a secret! Considering the violence and lawlessness where he lived, secrets were nothing special. But this singular young man had a very specific secret. He liked school! He worked hard to fit in with his peers. But, astute teachers and nosy students could not help but notice. Some teachers who had settled comfortably in their own mediocrity refused to believe the miracle that was before them, especially in THAT community. In the spirit of John 1:46, “‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathaniel asked. ‘Come and see’ said Phillip.” Lo and behold, the young man was educationally gifted. He then decided and declared, “I shall make the honor roll to prove it!”

Be The Voice

Typically, teachers would have found additional work to challenge the rising star. Or, they would have empowered him as a positive example by having him tutor weaker students. But, they did not want to bring more work upon themselves, nor shine unnecessary attention to make other students jealous. Regardless, excellence emerged! That is what excellence does! Subsequently, the next growth step was now self-esteem. He needed to acquire Social Emotional Skills to match his intellect. The trauma of being an outsider required tools that supported confirming his inner excellence and confidence. Furthermore, he needed coping skills to overcome jealous taunts. His intellectual confidence could only protect him so far. Intentionality to embrace singular skills, and to reward any new talents, are necessary to build rising leaders! Although the environment may have remained consistent, progress regarding his individual development required more nurturing soil.

Beyond the bold public statement, the young man began doing the work. He read. He studied. He answered questions correctly. Yet, the youth demonstrated his excellence in relative silence. Nevertheless, as he quietly pursued his task, his gifts screamed for attention! The other students could not ignore his superior performance. Aggregately, they were not pleased. Furthermore, many teachers were unsure how to manage his level of excellence and discipline. He had disrupted the status quo, plus implicitly began to challenge peers and teachers to perform better.

Make The Choice

The classroom, the school building, and the learning center do not exist in a vacuum. Consciously developing well rounded skills must be cultivated to fulfill all the latent powers that are in this individual, and others. Math skills are a wonderful foundation; now they can provide a direct learning path to musical excellence. Likewise his mastery of essays, reinforced the foundation of a superior orator and leader who infused emotion into flawless prose. Stages and podiums were fast becoming inevitable destinations. Consequently, proven academic choices to develop this leader had to be intentionally introduced as quickly as his academic greatness sprouted.

These developmental choices go beyond celebrating one rising star. The true value is providing the courage for the next star. The positive momentum has to become the new normal. The next bright young lady can now be ready to demonstrate the ability to excel, too. Without intentionality, the next star student may choose to ease up a bit. The challenge with a positive example is that it is conspicuous and is easy to take for granted. Still, what educator is willing to embrace the unique genius of the next academic superstar?

Conclusion

When superior talent is left uncheck, too often it resorts to hijinks. Furthermore, inside every student with strong grades is the temptation to ease off the accelerator. The student that believes that by making the honor roll once, he can easily make it again probably has limited leadership for greatness speaking to him. “Excellence is not an act; but a habit.” Miss the joy of being exceptional, then witness the difficult challenge to regain greatness. Of course, repetitive stardom is achievable. But returning to the pinnacle becomes more difficult upon leaving it. Excellence is not sustained if it is achieved to make Mom happy. Ongoing growth, and continued high performance must be internally driven. When that foundation is reinforced on an ongoing basis, then the sustained excellence becomes replicable and contagious. That path paves the way to more robust learning environments!

By Glenn W Hunter

Chair, Board of Directors, Touchstone Youth Resource Services

Learn more about Social Emotional Learning, or to donate got to TYRS.org

March 9, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sick and Tired (Of Being Sick and Tired)

Two drivers on their morning commute in an urban area get too close for comfort. One yells an obscenity. The other chooses to express his response in sign language. They both perfectly understood the other’s perspective and continue to their destinations. For decades working Americans have wanted less stressful commutes to work. The trauma results from traffic, short tempered drivers, too many old drivers, too many new drivers, or just because it is Monday. Urban traffic has stretched bad attitudes and shrank tempers on drivers’ daily travels to employment for a long time. But, in the last year Covid 19 has seemingly invaded every aspect of American lives, including what used to be the workplace commute. The virus’ reach has impacted so many aspects of American’s daily existence, that people simply accept that they are now “Sick and Tired, Of Being Sick and Tired”.

Zoom Fatigue

As Covid 19 expanded its influence on the American workplace, physical work locations became more problematic and virtual meetings replaced them. Connecting with colleagues and customers from the comfort of home sounded great in theory, until workers realized that they nearly never left home, nor family members for that matter. Simply, focusing on communicating via screen created new problems. Workers soon became eager to replace work – life balance with work-life separation. If being “on” for your boss for eight hours was bad, being “on” for family members of assorted ages and background was worse. “Zoom fatigue” quickly became the popular term to describe being accessible via audio-visual communication without ceasing.

Fundamentally, fatigue is no joke. Where once fatigue resulted from physical exhaustion, intense exertion, or mental weariness, now staring at screens incessantly has become mind-numbingly exhausting. Only seeing people from their mid-torso and up results in greater annoyance. From a Social Emotional Learning perspective, people at work encounter more irritability and greater fatigue because now the technology seems to monitor individuals, as opposed to supervisors managing groups. People are not just concerned about getting caught slacking, they are concerned that a technological record of the slacking is now available at all times. The perceived additional scrutiny results in increased trauma. Ultimately, workers are wearing down emotionally because they continuously carry psychological burdens with fewer resources to support them.

Quarantine Fatigue

In the event that Zoom Fatigue did not social-emotionally wear people into the ground, then Quarantine Fatigue emerged as the second punch in the arsenal of corporate boxing. Quarantine fatigue was the next attack on unsuspecting citizens. As the Covid 19 pandemic ebbed, flowed, then surged, people were being required to adhere to Stay-At-Home orders. The result was that people who co-habitated could no longer escape. At its core, Quarantine Fatigue results from too much closeness overpowering individuals’ coping skills. Quarantine Fatigue is not the need to distance from others in your proximity, it is the inability to manage the trauma of being around them at all times! At the core, is the resultant fatigue a byproduct of never escaping the tools that people use for commuting and communicating, or is it the technology evolving to the point it channels our human bitterness more efficiently than people can personal space and comfort?

Essentially Quarantine Fatigue is the tiredness that results from being detached from others. The human experience features the ability to connect with other people, preferably in a multi-sensory fashion. Voice conversations are good. Being able to interpret body language in addition to verbal expression is much better! Positive connectivity resulting from multi-sensory contact invigorates people. The invigorated activity leads to productivity. When Quarantine Fatigue urges people to engage less, the associated energy required for productivity decreases along with it. Even introverts, who stereotypically prefer to be alone, in reality desire some connectivity. Often, their connectivity is strategically in moderation.

Conclusion

Being sick and tired of being sick and tired eventually diminishes productivity. The human experience is not really complicated. For desired outcomes, positively engage people visibly, verbally and emotionally. Personal energy increases productivity. Zoom communication is more effective than a phone call, yet still less optimal than personal interaction. Performing in a quarantined environment works well in the short-run. However, denying emotional connectivity ultimately results in sub-optimal performance. Nevertheless, deliberately maximizing the energy that any functional individual can produce can lead to extraordinary results. Minimize Zoom fatigue by visually experiencing the rest of the world through a window, with a pet or via one-on-one conversations. Multi-sensory exchanges make a positive difference. Acknowledge the rest of the world. The purpose is to experience life beyond the social emotional limitations of a stifling work environment. Then, get back to work! Maximizing your productivity is still good for your personal well-being and ongoing employment.

By Glenn W Hunter

Board Chair, Touchstone Youth Resources Serices. For more information or to contribute, please go to www.TYRS.org

January 11, 2021 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Person, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Normal, New Dysfunction

Somewhere in America, from a freshly redecorated home office, an employee communicates with a multi-tasking boss overseeing multiple employees under her watch, and her children who cannot be fired! With evolving telecommunication technology, remote workers can create visual facades and silence background family arguments in order to demonstrate professionalism. Parents have threatened children and placated customers simultaneously since the hold button first entered the workforce decades ago. The New Normal’s challenge is that these two important responsibilities now intersect because a pandemic has caused domestic and professional roles to collide shamelessly in the same physical space. 

NEW NORMAL

Regardless of the environment, workers must find a way to get along. Despite numerous concerns of technological disruption within our work world, a physical virus completely disrupts how workplaces operate. A familiar refrain delivers a stark reminder of the new reality: “The virus is in the driver’s seat.” Consequently, the workplace continues to evolve, largely as a result of a microscopic adversary. Physical distancing is now a counter-intuitive, yet important, component of human interaction. Nevertheless, functional human connectivity remains essential to most job performance. So, what coping skills are necessary to influence and impact this new reality where people yearn to connect, just not closely?

A paradoxical, yet important, part of workplace interaction, as well as school environments, recognizes that maximum productivity involves both communal and individual performance. Successful people functionally cooperate! In virtual environments, individual performance appears to be easier considering that most likely workers are in an environment without interrupting colleagues. Nevertheless, too often personal lives collide with the reality that multi-generational families are confined to one dwelling unit. Less traffic may be in the environment, but more people, including students and the elderly occupy that space. Sometimes, families benefit from the availability of extra contributors for academic and professional purposes. However, virtual work’s urgency creates ongoing pressure that the next family emergency or outburst can put undeniable strain on the primary breadwinner’s professionalism. 

NEW DYSFUNCTION

Vulnerability to concurrently combining professional and personal responsibilities are hard enough when priorities across generations can erupt at any time. But, the vulnerability has new, heightened urgency when it involves colleagues peeking into your home life. Regardless of the workstation and the work-life balance that a diligent worker displays in their presentation, inevitably, a personally improper conversation will be overheard, or an indiscrete family member will wander too close to the lens during a video conference.

Furthermore, realize that the video lens goes both ways. What are the consequences of a team leader revealing human indiscretions within their household, or personal space? Realistically, Vice-Presidents have family members of all ages in their household that may not care about discretion, too. From a social emotional perspective, an untimely revelation can lead to shame and lack of confidence. Some personal weaknesses should not be exposed. Subsequent judgment of underlings may also compromise a leader’s authority and performance. To combat effectively these threats in a practical sense, employees of assorted ranks need to acknowledge the potential of family-based indiscretions disrupting professional interactions. Proactively, embrace the power of empathy!

CONCLUSION

New Normal still means dealing with people. If colleagues are incompatible they are not going to like each other more because one set of kids has more trophies. In the event that best buds are involved, they are not going to like each other less because one has a child that is an emotional wreck and now everyone has seen it. Most importantly, virtual employees, like live employees, have a job to do! Then, stakes elevate upon realizing that jobs are not necessarily easy to keep. Nor, are they necessarily easy to find. Ultimately, workers in this environment have to confront dysfunction, anxiety, and uncertainty. Manage situations with empathy. Regardless of age, developing coping skills leads to more functional performance. Empathy makes the insanity more bearable. Listening becomes an empowering tool. Such positive examples travel well whether employees are in their house, or the downtown office. Better performance happens when people cooperate and collaborate. Teamwork makes the dream work!

By Glenn W Hunter

Chair, Board of Directors, Touchstone Youth Resource Services
Learn more about social emotional learning, or to donate go to TYRS.org

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Better Business, Better Communication, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Square Peg, Round Hole, New Solution

A young couple stare at each other across their table trying to figure how to stay in front of their bills. They are smart, responsible, and hard-working. They are patient, kind, and considerate toward each other. They are truly in love. Yet, they cannot seem to squeeze their modest lifestyle into their more modest budget. Their budget’s math seemingly has no solution. The husband exhales heavily, looks at the figures again, and declares, “Doing our budget is like putting a square peg in a round hole.” The wife radiantly smiles. You are absolutely right. We can now fix the problem! 

Square Peg 

In the classic children’s book “Alice in the Looking Glass” the caterpillar tells Alice when they are stopped at a keyhole, “It is impassible, not impossible. Nothing is impossible.” With that mindset re-evaluate the shape and size of the peg. Is all of it necessary, or can corners be sacrificed by cutting them? Regarding the round hole, sometimes the answer is a bigger hammer. Other times it is a sharp saw. Can the true goal be accomplished by sacrificing the edges in order to get the peg through the hole? No need to save the edges if they are unnecessary. 

At first glance a square peg in a round hole may not fit. The corners are not designed to squeeze through circular holes. Too many problems get stuck when facing obvious facts. The square peg could represent monthly salary, available time, or inherent intellect. The problem with the square peg is that it must pass through a different shape. Too much month, and not enough money is one way to look at the square peg. Old problems, or previous limitations are other ways to look at it. But what happens when a new perspective reveals itself? What opportunities are missed in focusing on the square peg’s limitations? 

 
Round Hole 

First recognize the round hole is circular. An object of similar size with edges may experience problems passing through this particular hole. However, in this case what is the round hole’s purpose? Is it a constraint or an opportunity? The challenge with round holes is that they are perceived to be inflexible. But, with an active and creative imagination revealing additional possibilities, a round hole may become more malleable and accommodating. 

Round holes may be mathematically awkward because most calculations involve the number, pi. By definition, pi is an irrational number. However, its irrationality does not mean that it is impractical. Because of pi, circular shapes have mathematical solutions. These problems require sufficient skill and confidence to pursue accurate solutions. Consequently, the important question is who is bold enough to study deeper, or seek help on challenging problems? Where can the answer be found? 

 
Conclusion 

First, truly evaluate the ultimate goal. Determine what can be sacrificed. What are the consequences if the problem is not solved at all? What are the want-to-haves, as opposed to the got-to-haves? What is the worth of the ultimate reward of solving the impossible problem? Life is full of square pegs that must fit into round holes. Sacrifice and priority are no one’s favorite terms. Yet, compromise helps them roll off the tongue better. Trade off and solve. Get a bigger hammer or a sharper chisel. Too often, pegs and holes are not the obstacles. Fixed mindsets are! Remove unnecessary boundaries. Solve the true problem. Perhaps the family budget simply needs to prioritize and postpone the brand new sneakers and the to-die-for pumps for 30 more days. The sacrifices may just keep the peace and set the foundation for greater accomplishment! 

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Chair, Board of Directors, Touchstone Youth Resource Services
Learn more about social emotional learning, or to donate go to TYRS.org

November 30, 2020 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Community Building – For Fun, Profit & Ego?

INTRODUCTION 

“They came to do good and stayed to do well.” ~Anonymous. Community building starts with good feelings and self-sacrifice. American culture arrogantly boasts of traditions featuring the ability of lifting by one’s bootstraps and improving one’s livelihood. Regardless of where anyone starts, opportunities abound to finish in a better place. Hard work, loyalty and service are words that culturally resonate in American quests for success. Communities develop based on those success characteristics. Nevertheless, the challenge remains for many people to access sufficient advantages to smooth their transition to a better life.   

STARTING PLACE 

One challenge is different people start at different places in their struggle. Furthermore, advantages are unequally distributed. They can be allocated by favoring physical location, family attributes, emotional stability or any number of other traits. Regardless, embracing familiarity and associated comforts are important in establishing community. In locations or psychological space where one individual may experience trauma, the next individual finds solace. Furthermore, perceived physically dangerous locations often feature locals enjoying comfort because their familiarity helps avoid harm.  Community can represent both physical and social locations where struggle starts. Still, a common launch point for community provides a source of comfort, particularly upon recognizing that a better world exists beyond the present. 

PROFIT 

In other cases, community becomes a place of plunder. Charity may start at home but, beware of charlatans entering a location with expecting to take whatever valuables they can. Building community often involves outside influences bringing expertise, resources, and prior accomplishment to a specific location to replicate success. Too often, that success ends with outsiders bring resources in order to take more resources out. Schemers and scammers that manipulate charitable contributions or external generosity commonly enter a community, only to plunder what is already there. Then, they exit with their ill-gotten gains. Community building for profit can also feature the schemes of current residents. The integrity of the community is often the only defense. Those defenses must emerge when needed, or those that remain become victims to further dysfunction. 

SELF-GRATIFYING 

Occasionally, community building comes with self-gratifying agendas. Individuals contribute to particular communities in order to elevate their personal status. In these cases, the money does not necessarily matter. But, the plundering of social capital can be equally criminal. An individual who elevates his status on the unwilling shoulders of others is nearly equivalent to the outside thief. This ego-driven activity weakens the community as social capital is squandered instead of developing stronger people and institutions. Community building for ego means that physical capital will not be deployed for the greater good, but for the greedy few. In total, the entire community suffers at the hands of a few individuals feeding their own egos as other locals starve for attention, coping skills and emotional empowering. 

CONCLUSION 

While community building is essential to progress, the path is littered with ill-conceived plans and naked greed. Communities of all social-economic levels can thrive as a result of healthy human investment and cooperative economic effort. Problems surface when social, cultural, and financial greed overrides the benefits of the many. Beware of the group that falsely peddles that a rising tide raises all boats, only to sail away with plunder upon accessing the waterway on the backs of locals. In building community, the masses need their needs met. Benefits must be distributed. Savvy planning and accountable execution must remain at the forefront. Otherwise, communities of all levels will be susceptible to decay, misery and poverty. These pitfalls are not just from an asset perspective, but to the social-emotional core of the human beings who remain there. 

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC Chair, Board of Directors, Touchstone Youth Resource Services  Learn more about social emotional learning, or donate go to TYRS.org 

September 29, 2020 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment