How To Balance Connection and Conviction to Lead Better


Connection and Conviction2

Here’s a lens you can use to lower your anxiety and lead yourself and others more effectively.

It’s balancing connection and conviction.

It’s a good, simple model, with a lot of depth behind it.  The key is to be able to take a thoughtful position while staying connected to others who disagree.

I learned this model a few years back during my Doing Leadership @ Microsoft training.

While I liked the model right from the start, I came to appreciate it more, as I put it into practice.

It’s also a great way to improve your emotional intelligence.

Manage Your Reactivity, Stay Connected, and Change Yourself First

There are 3 keys to remember when you want to reduce anxiety and lead yourself and others effectively:

  1. Manage how you react in different contexts.
  2. Lead with a differentiated self (know what you want, think, and feel, and what others want, think, and feel.)
  3. Focus on changing yourself when you’re stuck in interpersonal patterns that aren’t working.

Balance Your Connection

Connection is simply how cut-off or how connected you are to others.  You improve your connection by listening, validating, empathizing, and showing interest.  You don’t want to be cut-off, avoiding, or indifferent.  You also don’t want to be extremely approval-seeking, over-accommodating or dependent.  You want to balance by understanding the thoughts and feelings of others as input.  Practicing your empathy with others is practicing your emotional intelligence.

Balance Your Conviction

Conviction is how flexible or rigid you are in your position or belief.  The key here to improve your effectiveness is to have clarity on your position, but to be open and flexible to other realities or perspective.  This is how you improve your ability to use better judgment and make more thoughtful decisions.  It’s also how you avoid pushing people away by taking dogmatic positions.  It’s also how you keep your emotions in check by distinguishing between your feelings and your intellectual process.

Differentiate to Reduce Anxiety

If you feel the need to people please or you worry about criticism, rejection, or approval, you raise your chronic anxiety.   According to Murray Bowen, chronic anxiety is based on a perceived threat of imbalance in the relationship system.

When you can differentiate from others effectively, you lower your chronic anxiety.

A differentiated person is aware of their own feelings, as well as the feelings of others.  A differentiated person does not automatically react with an emotional response.  A differentiated person does not feel the need to automatically please or oppose.

Instead, a differentiated individual makes a thoughtful response for the situation, taking into consideration their own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of the group.

Balance makes you stronger from the inside out.

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  1. Hi J.D.,

    Great post. I love the part about managing how we react in different contexts and how by having empathy for others and their beliefs, we can benefit for the good of all.

    Instead of getting caught up in an “I’m right. You’re wrong” mentality what you’re suggesting shows how most situations can be a win-win for all who are involved. I like that.

  2. This reminds me of an exercise I did a little while back about how one deals with crisis or stress from 4 different perspectives: Beliefs, Relationships, Actions and Guidance. The Connection and Conviction elements seem similar to relationships and beliefs parts of those perspectives. The other sides are what you’d do and who would advise you in times of crisis or stress that can also be useful.

    Re:Life may be of some interest for another way to view motivation.

  3. Good frame.

    Brings up a thought on connection and differetiation.

    I think being connected enough to be influenced by choice yet disconnected enough to see when you are entering “group-think” is a key skill in life.

    On a little tanget…
    There’s actually a lot of talk about “differentiation” and in the book Passionate Marriage which talks about how couples think that becoming fused together as one is the purpose of marriage. After all, many of our vows even explicitly include this language. As if connection is the end all be all of marriage.

    But this can lead to boredom, helplessness and a loss of one’s self. You become approval seeking, otherwise you risk losing your partner and the things you “need” from them. This creates a great deal of anxiety. The less you need from your mate, the better off you are. But it’s like getting Xmas presents. Appreciate and allow peopel to give, but if you don’t get it for XMas and you need it, you get it for yourself (taking into account what’s effective long term of course)

    Just like in marriage, I do there there is a tension at work too. Many people handle it by saying “it’s just my job” so they don’t seek certain things from their job explicitly, even through they may actually be seeking those things below the surface anyway.


  4. Great succinct summary JD. Thanks!

    I find the challenge is to reflect, when you start to get irritated or angry. If you assume positive intentions, you may experience less anxiety and when it still happens, then try to understand first when you speak!

    You can change yourself and that may be a catalyst for a change in a relationship, whether it is professional, with friends or your committed partner.

    Rob referred to Passionate Marriage emphasizing the importance of self differentiation in committed relationships. The author emphasizes that serious conflicts (gridlocks) may enable the individual and relationship developing, as the high level of anxiety becomes a catalyst. The author claims that people have relationship with partners that are at approximate similar levels of developmental maturity. Which may mean that if you develop either your partner develops as well and so does the relationship or it withers.

  5. I am going to reference Nonviolent Communications/Compassionate Communications by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg…this is how the system works and there are exercises and catch phrases to use to bring yourself to a better grounding place when the imbalance occurs and you can recover your connection.

    I just wish I was better at it! Practice helps, but when someone is going after my core value or attacking me in a way that makes me feel too vulnerable all my good practice really goes out the door.

    I seem to be having difficulty finding balance with financial issues right now – the betrayal of my core values produces much anxiety.

    Liked this post

  6. Change your responses, improve your outcomes. I have learned it from Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles.

  7. @ Barbara

    The “I’m right, you’re wrong” never helps and there’s usually is a 3rd alternative if we look for it.

    @ Positively Present

    Anxiety is an interesting topic with lots of bits and pieces. I liked hitting it from the relationship perspective this round.

    @ JB King

    It sounds like an effective exercise, and I really like the idea of analyzing your mentors for crisis and stress scenarios. Everybody

    @ Rob

    Good point on avoiding group-think. That’s worth a post at some point.

    I haven’t read Passionate Marriage but it sounds like it’s got some interesting insights.

  8. @ Per

    State, mindset and assumptions definitely make a difference. If I get angry or irritated I interrupt the pattern and get curious. The curiosity helps me stay objective.

    I like the point about relationships growing together or growing apart … nothing’s static.

    @ Patricia

    I like catch phrases — they help things stick.

    Everybody has their hot buttons. It sounds like you know yours so that’s good. When you know your hot buttons, you can better manage your response. A little awareness goes a long way.

    @ Alik

    Jack’s got a wealth of insights.

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