047: Levels of Engagement

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Welcome back to Tuff Love, with Rob Kandell. The topic today is around levels of engagement, which is one of the core things Rob lives his life. He is constantly in this scale of levels of awareness. It’s important to be deliberate with how you engage with the world, with other people, with your romantic partners, with your job, with life. There are six basic levels of engagement, although in time there may be more as Rob has been exploring the concept with others. The six basic levels are: Avoidance, Non-confrontation, Curiosity, Inquiry, Educating and Attack.

In this episode, Rob explores these levels in more detail:

  • Avoidance: some people think that this is not a level of engagement but actually the antithesis of engagement. That’s not true, it takes a lot of time and energy to be in avoidance. It takes time and energy to be aware of circumstance.
  • The classic example is seeing last week’s piece of fish in the fridge, and there’s a small scent, a bit odd. But you ignore it, go to work. Every day you see it in the fridge, the smell is getting worse but you keep ignoring it.
  • This is a form of engagement and interacting with the world. Your lack of confronting it, your avoiding it, actually takes energy.
  • Non-Confrontation: this happens on many levels. You can overtly or deliberately non-confront something, or it could be in your shadow, something that you don’t see.
  • On the deliberate side, how many times has something arisen and you turn away from the issue? It’s similar to avoidance but another step up where you’re actually taking the energy to non-confrontation.
  • On the unconscious side, it’s when something happens and you just don’t see it. You can just turn it off, like filtering your Facebook feed so you can get rid of something and not even see it. That’s a level of engagement.
  • Curiosity: this is where Rob tries to live the major portion of his life. This is where you’re just in what’s happening, you’re noticing and watching in curiosity. We can do this with our relationships, our job, with educating…it’s a taking in.
  • Inquiry: the next level up from curiosity. This is where you are actually actively pulling information out, testing it, asking questions, doing research. There’s a good partnership between inquiry and curiosity.
  • Educating: this is when you have information that you want to engage with a person and relay a concept. We hire teachers, coaches, professionals, or watch documentaries to be in the educating mode. We want to be educated.
  • But in relationship, those roles aren’t as clear and often we find ourselves in the educating role when we should be in the inquiry mode. It’s the concept of spreading and pushing your knowledge on the person receiving it.
  • Attack: this is a big jump up from educating, and it’s when you’re engaging in a form that’s bypassing, it’s not quite civil and you’re in a role of invading. When you move from educating to attacking, you’re taking the force of your will. If we don’t feel heard, or we got triggered, we go into attacking, this place where we’re pushing and pushing. This is a very common and misused form of engagement in today’s society.
  • Rob likes to trigger people, it’s kind of in his personality. He likes the affect of that, and he knows that about himself. What he’s been doing for the last 16 years is working on deliberately triggering people and being in the modes of curiosity, inquiry and/or educating.
  • Recently, Rob had a conversation with two friends about why he triggered one of them. The first conversation was open and it felt good to Rob to receive it, even though he didn’t agree with what they were saying.
  • The next morning they were doing another circle and it moved very quickly into where Rob felt attacked. He takes responsibility for being triggered by his words. However Rob can see how this guy was pushing his agenda, and Rob felt closed (instead of open like the night before).
  • On Monday, Rob got a Facebook message from him that again felt really attacking, so Rob made a deliberate choice to cut the cord of the conversation. If he came back in a more civil tone, in inquiry, Rob would consider the conversation, but there’s not a lot of benefit to it continuing while he’s feeling attacked.
  • Boundaries are really important. Boundaries show Rob the best way to be in integrity and serve the world. If he has loose boundaries and loses energy because of that, then he can’t do what he needs to do in this world.
  • Be really deliberate about what level of engagement you’re at. Most of us are very blind. We don’t quite see when we’ve moved from inquiry to educating. Most of us pay attention to that point where we have something so brilliant to say, and we don’t realize that the other person is not open to our education. The responsibility of the communication is on the communicator.
  • The levels of engagement can switch at any moment. The master communicator can go up and down the scale quickly and easily. At the same time, though, it’s having the acumen to know.
  • People in power positions tend to educate, and not be in inquiry. The best bosses Rob ever had were the ones who asked questions, not just wanted to hear the sound of their own voice. The teachers he respected the most were the ones who were really curious about others experiences.
  • When coaching and teaching, it’s Rob’s job to send out information. But at the same time, it’s his responsibility to figure out what level they want to be talked at. The best way to do that is with curiosity and inquiry.
  • If you want to engage in better partnership with your partner, have more smooth, fluid communication, slip down from educating “you did this to me” to curiosity and inquiry “When this happened, I felt hurt. What was your motivation for saying that?” That tweak could save your relationship. Or make it better and better.
  • We often feel so scarce that our words, our knowledge, who we are will not be heard, we often rush into educating. If we don’t feel heard, we go right into attacking.
  • The awareness of where you are in the levels of engagement will make you a better person, a more engaged person with more connection and intimacy in your life, which leads to more nookie.

Rob coaches Jennifer, who has ended up in a role at work that she doesn’t want to be in. She’s a good strategist, being asked to be a tactitian, which she’s not great at.

  • She ended up in this situation out of a mixture of needing a job to pay the rent, an unconsciousness of not recognizing what the communication is conveying, and also not communicating what she has to offer. She’s been at the job a year and a half, and has a fairly good relationship with her boss. However she has a problem with being “mouthy”: saying what’s on her mind and acting like she’s smarter than others.
  • Rob thinks that’s an attractive and interesting quality, and all of Jennifer is welcome with Rob. However, her bosses may not feel that way. So Jennifer being the mouthy New Yorker, Rob’s perception is they could feel attacked or threatened by her.
  • Jennifer’s opportunity is to get curious about the future of her role in the organization and inquire about how she can best serve the organization, and then educate them on how she would be of benefit if she switched from point A to point B. The way to move into the place you want is to get curious about what they want.
  • Jennifer has had success when she’s been able to just surrender, which similar to curiosity, is a receptive state. Surrender means to Jennifer receiving what’s being given to her instead of pushing back.
  • Curiosity doesn’t have to involve asking questions of the external world. It can be about who you are in the act of surrendering. You can get curious about how you respond, it’s an inside game. Get interested in your own internal state in response to others, so you can learn how best to move towards your goal.
  • Rob and Jennifer explore her ideal job. She’d like to be an educator and a catalyzing force for personal transformation. She says her biggest power is in her sexuality. She has a hard time decoupling the kind of work she wants to do with society stories about women and their sexuality.
  • There are other people out there who have the same viewpoints. Jennifer is a Sister Goddess and knows about Mama Gena’s book Pussy: A reclamation. Jennifer is afraid post the word pussy on her Facebook timeline because she’s afraid she’d get fired from her job.
  • Rob sees Jennifer as a big powerful force with the power to do xyz in the world, and she has her own internal cover/blanket protecting her from doing xyz. This might be a very smart because there is a chance Jennifer could get fired.
  • Moving forward, Jennifer could go and talk to her boss about it. She can be in inquiry with her boss to ensure her stability. Most of us won’t go there because we’re afraid even inquiry would get us in trouble. But do it with respect and curiosity. Then depending on the response, you have more internal inquiry and choices to make.
  • Jennifer says on some level it feels like she’s manifesting getting fired so the blanket gets ripped away. However she’d much rather be in full engagement with the choice. Rob says, most people do that, which is awful for their integrity, so have the deliberateness to do it consciously.
  • Rob advises Jennifer to build a team of support, connect with the support system e.g. Mama Gena’s organization, and do it deliberately, in connection and find your true path.