Behavioural Flexibility and Adaptability


I’m in the midst of writing an article for the National Guild of Hypnotists publication, “The Journal of Hypnotism” on ‘Adaptability and Flexibility in Hypnosis’. This is something, as a practising hypnotherapist, I feel is an essential skill in order for me to give my very best to my patients/clients.

There is no one method, tool, technique works for everyone and as therapists, we must be aware of  what our clients present us with and how they respond to what we say and do as we figure out the most beneficial way to help them.

The same principal is true in every day life in how we interact with other people, not just in our verbal language but also in how we behave, our non-verbal communication which is much more telling most of the time than what we say.

Have you ever responded to someone else’s comments or behaviour in a way that either immediately or a bit later on you thought, “that didn’t quite go to plan”? Sometimes, because of the mood you were in i.e. grumpy, frustrated or angry etc you spoke, and/or behaved towards someone else from that mindset when they had absolutely nothing to do with it and they got the brunt of your mood.

It happens to all of us from time to time as it is part of being human and it most likely happens before you even realise it. When you’re in this frame of mind it can be difficult to remember that you have a choice in how you communicate with someone else as you are on a roll at that point, however it can be learnt like anything else.

Of course, equally you could be the one on the receiving end of it and it can be much easier at this point to behave differently and perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when you know you are not the cause of the other persons mood. By remaining calm and show a little care for the other person, it is quite possible that they will calm down quicker than they would have on their own, and certainly quicker than if you had retaliated in the same manner.

This is what I mean by having adaptability and flexibility in our behaviour. It allows us to make informed choices and make good decisions about how we can respond in any given situation and also to different people and their differing personalities. This doesn’t mean you roll over and become a soft touch that can be pushed around, what it does mean is that you can create positive solutions to many different situations that could, if handled in a less adaptable away lead to escalation, aggression and personal conflict.

This has become most evident for me with my kids who are 6 & 8. At their age they don’t necessarily understand why they feel the way they do and can get frustrated, angry and upset for no real apparent reason. This happens in particular when they are asked to do something and I’m pretty sure any of you that are parents will recognise this all too well. Now I realise that what I’m about to explain can’t realistically be used in the exact same way with adults, however you can adapt it to fit the circumstances you find yourself in.

What I do when my kids get angry and upset is continue to talk to them calmly and ask them what’s going on for them to feel the way they do right now. As I do this I ask them to take my hand and come and sit down with me, this gets compliance from the outset. If they won’t take my hand I ask them to come and sit down with me and if they won’t do that, I sit on the floor in front of them and hold their hands, at this point they just sit on my lap. If they are really upset and crying I look them in the eyes and get them to take a few deep breaths with me as I softly tell them to relax and calm down.

When I talk to them I explain, if they have not done what I originally asked them to do, why I got annoyed with them and ask them if they understand. I do not continue until they tell me that they do understand my reasons. If they are upset for no particular reason I ask them to tell how they feel, where they feel it and jut to let it go and give them a big hug. I tend to find that they sob their hearts out at this point and may not actually know at the end how or why they felt the way they did and they just feel better.

Now you understand why this won’t work with adults, I can’t imagine sitting with a client or a colleague on my lap with them sobbing into my shoulder, however, you can quite easily adapt this to fit your own style and the other persons to resolve a bad mood, confrontation or whatever is going on.

A simple way to help someone shift their mood and mindset is to change their posture. When we are in a bad mood, angry, annoyed, frustrated etc we adopt a certain posture which generally includes tensing muscles, clenching jaws among many other characteristics.

By talking to that person and mentioning how tense they look and making them aware of it can be a good start and then  lead them to take a deep breath and tell you what’s going on. Maybe even going for a coffee somewhere to do that so they can feel easier about talking in private, if they want to at all. Sometimes just showing a little compassion can make all the difference as they feel they are being heard and that someone else actually recognises them and the way they feel.

If they are up for it, go through a brief progressive muscle relaxation with them to help reduce tension and enable them to let that negative mood begin to slip away.

At the end of the day, if they turn round and tell you to Foxtrot Oscar, at least you have been kind enough to reach out and you can’t force it, they have to want to accept it. They may come back to you late anyway so give them the benefit of the doubt and leave it open.

Have a brilliant day.

Simon 🙂

P.S.

Chesterfield School in the UK have this really cool Behaviour for Learning Code poster which you can see below. We can all take something from this because every day’s a school day 😉

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