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My previous posts have highlighted the importance of well-being in organizations. I have analyzed how well-being is relative experience that emerges from social complexity. I also listed some specific things to do to increase the well-being. I wanted to write also a more general post about ordinary interaction, which can increase well-being in organizations, groups and societies.

As we saw, the insecurity, negative social identity and fear are all poison for well-being. Experiential well-being is lack of those poisonous things. It is living by values that provide positive social identity and good self-esteem. So, how to enable this in our tough environment of business organizations?

Interaction that Increases Well-Being

The five things I listed in my previous post were: teams to commit to, real values, security bringing social networks, fairness and ethics, reflexivity and creativity. Most of these reside on the macro-level of organizations. But what can an individual employee do regardless of the status and decision power?

Ordinary daily interaction is what builds organizations. There are no organizations outside of it! This is why it is the most important ingredient in the experiential well-being.

Sigmund Freud had a three-legged foundation in his approach of therapeutic treatment:

  • Free association
  • Transference
  • Interpretation

His view was that if the problem is psychic, it can be treated by letting the people talk about it in a way they want to, without interfering or guiding it. In organizations we have lots of norms, political games and power games that guide our discussions. Thus we will end up with all kinds of twisted discourses where our true thoughts are limited. We can e.g. pretend to agree with some decisions or processes when we actually feel them to be stupid and limiting.

In our interactions we can seek to provide space for people to express their true minds freely, without a fear of negative consequences. That can be counseling supervision of coaching by some externals, but also some peer groups that don’t limit people’s thinking. Of course this also means that the discussions in the peer groups needs to be such that it doesn’t hurt anybody. That’s why e.g. counseling supervision can be more effective than the peer groups.

Transference is also very important thing here. The discussions need to enable people to actually feel the emotions. This can be tough thing to enable between colleagues. Of course we do this all the time to some extent, but we are also limiting it in order to maintain the above mentioned professional identities. Here an external coach could be also valuable. Also the interpretations are quite hard without some skills and experience. Again, we interpret all the time but it is wise to do that more in the internal dialogue than in public.

In regular interactions we can seek to enable these things by reflexivity and spontaneity. We can seek to be accepting and empathetic. Even though we don’t want to go to the depths of thinking about our colleagues childhood traumas, we can recognize and accept their current feelings and give social support. Instead of making extensive interpretations we can help to build empowering stories of the current situation. We can also point out our own role in those stories by telling how we can help and support. All this means that we have to give time for people to talk about their situations and to be willing to work with the stories that emerge.

We can also use some more modern examples of therapy, such as solution focused techniques and narrative therapy. Here the focus is more on the stories than transference or free association. We can seek to find and highlight the strengths of our colleagues in their situations and help to build stories of them as capable people. We can find different viewpoints where the problems are not in the personal characters but more in the environment that can be worked with. We can be playful and let go of official roles and process descriptions for a while. We can e.g. make a little role plays about how we would talk in certain roles etc. All this can be very helpful in opening fixed attitudes and problems.

It is important to notice that our memory is actually highly reconstructive. We always adjust our memories according to our world-views. Thus building stories of our situations and identities can highly affect how we perceive our past and thus also our current moment and the future.

Social Capital and reflexivity

Individual’s strengths, resources, skills and judgment are all part of his social capital. Thus, In some sense, all of the above mentioned ways to affect well-being are attempts to increase person’s social capital.

In complex interaction, things are always changing. This is why we can’t in reality rely on some fixed methods of increasing the well-being. Instead we need to be self-reflective. My blog is all about reflexivity. All these posts about social complexity are attempts to bring words and viewpoints for myself and others to use in self-reflection. These include individual, interpersonal and societal views to what is happening. One viewpoint isn’t enough for reflexivity, we need to use several viewpoints at the same time, and this is hard.

Thus well-being is also about social participation. If we can be part of many networks it enables us to have also many viewpoints, many social identities to use in our inner dialogues as well public ones. We need to have daily interactions also outside of our ingroups but also maintain the continuity of our identities – both personal and social ones.

Self-reflectivity requires tolerance for ambiguity, spontaneity, creativity, drive for fairness and unselfish judgment of the consequences of our own actions to our social reality. All this can must be practiced in our daily interactions as it cannot be learned from books.

Conclusion

So, as we saw, the well-being is all about the interactions we have. How we interact with others have a tremendous effect on our own experiential well-being as well as on others’. The most important thing is to enable chances for ourselves and others to reflect upon our situations. Not just intellectually but also emotionally. This requires freedom of thought and playfulness. There are organizational practices that can be established to enable some of these things, but mostly it is about interpersonal interactions.

The key for improving one’s skills in therapeutic daily interaction is on building reflexivity. This can include many reflexive practices such as writing blog, diary and having discussions with others. Most important method is still the very daily interaction that we have with out colleagues, families and friends.

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