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Conscious Leadership: How To Create Change By Arguing The Other Side With Diana Chapman

These two may be arguing — but they are also having fun! Being willing to argue the opposition while staying curious will help resolve conflict. Make it extreme. Make it ridiculous. Make it fun!

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There is so much polarity and divisiveness going on in the world right now. How can leaders offer and create unity in such a climate? Here to talk about Conscious Leadership is Diana Chapman. Diana is a thought leader in creating sustainable change and has worked with numerous executive teams. In this episode, she joins host Corinna Bellizzi to discuss why, as a leader, it’s important to be curious and open to seeing different perspectives. The two discuss concepts such as the drama triangle and radical responsibility and how they relate to our work to create change in the world, be it through philanthropy or activism. This is an eye-opening take on leadership that you won’t want to miss.

About Diana Chapman

Diana Chapman is an incredible leader in creating sustainable change. She has worked with over 1000 top tier organizational leaders, and executive teams. Her clients range all over the map from science tech companies like Genentech to project management companies like Asana. They value her clarity, compassion, ferocity and playfulness. A well-respected facilitator for the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Diana works with forums and chapters worldwide. She has been a featured guest on top-tier podcasts including The Tim Ferris Show where she even helped him get unstuck and workshop how to take radical responsibility in their nearly 2 hour episode.

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Additional Resources Mentioned
The Mediacasters
Hendricks Institute
Paul Hawken – Past Episode
Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation
Lydiah Kemontu Bosire – Past Episode
Godfrey Coker – Past Episode
Extreme Ownership
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Show Notes: (Edited Audio)
00:00 – 02:25 Introduction
02:26 – 06:11 A Full-Bodied “Yes” and Instinctual Intelligence
06:12 – 09:39 Curiosity and Wonder
09:40 – 16:47 Understanding the Other Perspective and Arguing the Other Side
16:48 – 24:14 The Drama Triangle and the Climate Crisis
24:15 – 28:03 The Three Points of The Drama Triangle
28:04 – 32:50 Conscious Leadership in Philanthropy
32:51 – 34:18 Radical Responsibility and Taking Ownership
34:19 – 36:27 The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
36:28 – 39:15 Implementing the Drama Triangle Workshop at Home
39:16 – 43:38 Exaggerating Our Patterns and Personas and the Ego of Activists
43:39 – 47:54 Republicans Vs. Democrats and Valuing Both Sides of the Polarity
47:55 – 50:51 Why Are We All in So Much Drama?
50:52 – 53:25 Conclusion

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Conscious Leadership: How To Create Change By Arguing The Other Side With Diana Chapman

I invite you to care a little bit more so that together we can all build a better, brighter future. If you haven’t already, I invite you to please subscribe, rate and review. You are sure to discover other similar content and flagged when we release new episodes. I’m joined by an incredible leader and creating sustainable change, Diana Chapman.

Diana has worked with over 1,000 top-tier organizational leaders and executive teams. Her clients range all over the map, from science tech companies like Genentech to project management companies like Asana. They value her clarity, her compassion, ferocity, and playfulness. A well-respected facilitator for the Young President’s Organization, Diana works with forums and chapters worldwide. She has been a featured guest on top-tier podcasts, including The Tim Ferriss Show, where she even helped him get unstuck and workshop how to take radical responsibility in their nearly two-hour episode.

Diana joins us to talk about curiosity, resolving conflict, reducing drama, and improving our human connections across beliefs and across the aisle at work and even at home. I’m confident that this episode will make you a better, more conscious person and leader. Let’s get right to it. Diana, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I’m very happy to be here.

I love that we are both here in sunny California, only a stone’s throw from one another. At one point, we will have to get together and meet face to face. We connected because the amazing relationship therapist, Dr. Laura Berman, who is often featured on The Dr. OZ Show and has her own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, shared that you helped her understand when she reached her full body yes so that she could say no to distractions and things that might not serve the life that she wanted to build.

Julie Lokun, who’s my Cofounder and cohost of The Mediacasters, talked a lot about that concept with her as she talked through how her life changed and how she’s adapted since losing her son. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your work, I was hoping we could start there. I would love to know more about reaching a full-body yes and how it could help balance one’s life, focus, and move them to be more impactful in their lives, creating the world that they want to create.

This idea of full-body yes, I got this concept from Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks of the Hendricks Institute. I learned this many years ago from them. The idea is that when you are in a present state, meaning that you are open and curious, then you have access to three centers of intelligence, your IQ, your EQ, which most of us know, Emotional Intelligence, and now your BQ, your instinctual or Body Intelligence. The idea is that each center has some intelligence that it brings to the table to help make a thoughtful decision.

When they work in harmony together, you get feedback from each of them that all points in what’s the direction that would most serve you? What’s that whole body or full body, yes? I call it the whole body because most of us when we think of the whole body, we think it’s the body itself but I’m saying a body is the head, heart, and gut.

Teaching people to learn how to listen to these three centers helps people feel much more confident. The center that’s the most challenging for people is the gut center, the instinctual intelligence, because most of us got trained in schools and education to listen to our heads. Some of us are starting to learn the value of emotional intelligence. That instinctual intelligence, whether the sensations in the body that says, “Go this way or don’t go this way,” that’s what we are spending a lot of time with leaders, particularly in that area.

If I’m reading this right, it’s that intuition, reading your gut instinct. I finished my MBA at Santa Clara University, and they are trying to give you a formula for success. You are reading all these different books that essentially are geared at giving you that formula. A lot of them say, “We are trying to remove the gut from the decision-making.” I found myself often reflecting on those moments in graduate school and saying, “I’m not sure this is right,” because I think that sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know but something doesn’t feel right for a reason.

CMBB 91 | Conscious Leadership
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Often is that intuition that fantastic leaders will lean back on and say, “Something about that situation didn’t feel right, so I walked away, and it led me to this other thing that I felt better about.” They are going from feeling but doing so with purpose and reason. They may not be able to identify it cerebrally. Is that what we are talking about here?

Exactly. I think of it like a hound dog that points and says, “Dig there. I don’t know why I can’t see it. It’s not intellectual but I have an instinct that something is down there.” In that case, maybe the dog is smelling something but they are also might be in a feeling state of like, “I don’t know why but go to this direction or don’t go this direction.” It doesn’t have data to support it.

Those systems are correct. Don’t listen to your gut if you are in a contracted state, a reactive state. Your gut could be in a threatened state such that it might not be the best intelligence to listen to. When you are open, curious, and considering possibilities, the gut has so much information. I like you have had those decisions where I said no to something and didn’t know why. Only later did it become obvious why it was so thoughtful that I didn’t go in that direction.

I love the word curiosity. It’s my firm belief. This is something I have talked about a few times on the show and even on other people’s shows. The whole concept of curiosity is something that helps to resolve conflict. If you are able to remain curious and you are talking to somebody who has a different or opposing view from your own, you can have a thoughtful conversation with them without getting to this fractious irritation point where you are butting heads.

I have seen this in action many times. I’m not always able to practice it as well as I like to be frank. That’s part of the reason that I was interested in bringing you on this show because we live in a hyperpolarized time where people are learning in a way what’s socially acceptable to feel. They feel less like they can talk about things that are seen as controversial or come from the point of fear to even speak about their political ideologies or work somewhere where they know most of the people might have an opposing view from their own.

Even while we are now being encouraged to do things like share a little bit of our personal lives on LinkedIn, as an example, we are given this opposing idea. I love for you to talk a little bit about that, share your perspective, and even dive into the work that you are doing to help people get over these hurdles.

Let’s talk about curiosity first. In my mind, curiosity is when I’m in a real true state of curiosity. I feel there’s an innocence in there like, “I want to learn.” I’m asking questions, “You think that? Tell me more about why you think that. Where did you get that from? Why is that important to you? Why does that matter so much to you? What’s underneath that?” I’m in this very investigative state of, “I want to learn about you. I want to learn about where did your ideas come from and what happened to you that has you have these ideas?”

I can find some common ground and have some understanding that has me then be able to say, “It makes sense why you think the way you do and stand for these things.” I can use that information to start to open up a deeper conversation about “Here’s what I care about. Here’s where I wonder how we could get a result in which the things that we both care about both get met. There’s got to be a way.”

The other thing I see is that people don’t see how we all could win. There could be a win for all. To find a win for all, you have to be in a state of wonder. A state of wonder is even beyond curious because wonder is like, “I don’t know how you are going to win, and I’m going to win. It’s outside of my background, whatever I can do.”

If I get into a state of wonder, the question is now bigger than me, and I’m going to listen for something outside of myself for the answer. It’s not going to come from in me. There’s curiosity, which comes more from in me of let me learn. Wonder pops me out to this bigger state in which now we start getting deeply creative by collaborating with intelligence outside of my own experience to come to something altogether new and transformational.

[bctt tweet=”The body is the head, heart, and gut. Teaching people to learn how to listen to these three centers helps people feel much more confident.” via=”no”]

Curiosity leading to transformation at all makes logical sense to me. I realized that so much of your work centers and revolves around this idea of being conscious of those actions. Sometimes we think that we are coming from a curious perspective but some of our thoughts are more accusational like, “Why do you think this way?” as opposed to being in that state of wonder and wanting to discover. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that and this concept of being above the line or in that ideal state or below the line and in this more reactive and accusatory state.

First of all, I hold the belief that everybody has positive intent, even if they disagree with me. I believe that there’s something they care about. They are not crazy or stupid. There’s something that matters to them. I want to get to the heart of what matters to you so that we can support you. Hopefully, my interest in getting to care about you will support you in wanting to care back about me.

If not, that’s okay. I find that I can change a conversation by offering up so much of a willingness to take care of the other, and transformation happens. To your point, most of us go to these conversations thinking, “I’m right, you are wrong.” I have to be willing to argue why their point of view may be valid and truly argue like I’m a lawyer arguing for a jury point. Most people don’t want to argue with the other side. They want to stay with the one right.

It can be very uncomfortable. I have a very good example for my professional life that was amazing. I went to ISSFAL, the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, back in 2010, and it’s offered every other year and goes to different cities around the globe. This time it was in Maastricht in Holland. We are all there. Many of these people are Omega-3 researchers. They focus their entire careers on researching the benefits of Omega-3s as it relates to heart and brain health.

They were given a full-scale debate assignment. Some of these researchers were going to have to argue that Omega-6s were better for heart health. On the other side of the room would argue that Omega-3s are better for something very specific. What was interesting was that the researchers who were put on the task of proving that Omega-6s would benefit heart health were able to prove through the research that it was true.

It flipped everything on its head. It spurred some new clinical trials where people were like, “I had this belief but it looks like what it’s turning out to be is that the DPA, which is a specific omega fatty acid that can be either an Omega-6 or Omega-3, is having an impact on heart health in a positive way.” Something that we didn’t have enough data on before suddenly became a new focal point.

Even admitting that we might have a great argument and think that we are right about any number of things but only be talking from a limited dataset because that’s our focus. Especially in our time now, where the news media we get is more entertainment-driven than a whole story, our knowledge base is becoming more myopic. I love this conversation. Obviously, it’s getting me thinking about a lot of different things but I want to learn more.

I often work with business teams in which there’s a decision that needs to be made. It’s pretty common that half the people want to go one way and half the people want to go another. These days I’m working most of the time virtually. Back in the day, when I was working in person, I literally would get a piece of tape and put the tape down in the middle of the room and say, “I want you to go stand on the side that you believe is the better way to go.”

Everybody on the left side thinks we should go in the direction A argues for why you are right. I would have Side B, and you argue for why you are right. I would make them physically cross the line and step into the other side. I would have them both argue now from this other. I said, “You have to argue with this same amount of passion and gusto that you had on the other side.” They did.

Like your example, they all have this a-has of seeing the validation of the other side. Suddenly, everybody started to go, “We are not so righteous anymore about our opinions. We are starting to open up and see the other side. We are starting to be able to recognize there could be value either way.” This is where I see people get stuck. If there’s value either way, then how do we know what to choose? We are so trained to choose what’s righteous.

CMBB 91 | Conscious Leadership
Conscious Leadership: The idea is that when you’re in a present state, meaning that you are open and curious, you have access to three centers of intelligence, your IQ, your EQ(Emotional intelligence), and your BQ(Body Intelligence). It helps you make a thoughtful decision.

We start to go, “What we’re going to choose is what’s our preference. What do we most want? What are our core values? What are we standing for? What are the priorities? Let’s make a decision based on that.” That’s a practice I use very regularly. I find that I don’t trust people if they are not willing to argue on the other side. I don’t trust that they have all the perspectives.

Especially these days, even when your whole self goes, “I don’t want to argue that other side.” I say, “Push on yourself to go try it out and see so that at least some openness starts to happen.” You can still hold your perspective but hopefully, you are not gripping it anymore. You have a little more of a looseness in your perspective.

What you are talking about is inspiring their creativity too. When we are in this fixed state, we are only looking at things from a very analytical space. We are not looking at the problem creatively. The problem is the conflict that you are in. I think about another exercise I have done from a marketing perspective. This is to get to the bottom of creating good messaging. There’s this exercise.

Let’s say you want to open a restaurant. You are going to open a restaurant in the market in San Francisco. How do you create the worst possible restaurant? Do the opposite thing of what you are trying to do, and it inspires creativity in a new way. You attack a challenge from a different perspective. You might realize that there’s a stumbling block in the way that you wouldn’t have otherwise identified like, “This could be a strong value proposition for us if we solved this problem.”

This experience that we have all hated when we go to a restaurant. There’s value in that. Especially if we have family members on opposing sides of a political spectrum, and you get into a heated debate about something. If you are somebody who wants to be vaccinated and someone close to you does not, have that discussion and be in a real space about that. Any number of things that we might run into in this world. It’s so very important.

You have also detailed something that you have spent a lot of time working on, the drama triangle. The reason I would like to transition talking about this is that sometimes, we have used this terminology in my friends and family circle, we call it drama when it’s self-created as opposed to drama like a film that you might want to watch.

Much of the time, the arguments we get into, the things that upset us that get under our skin that make us feel anxious are self-created or we could avoid. I want to speak specifically to people who are having trouble in a way with remaining optimistic about the impact that can make with something as big as climate activism or climate health as a whole, that type of world too. Much of my reader base is very concerned about the future of this planet and global warming. If we can look at it from those lenses, I would love you to talk about it.

Looking at the lens of how we stay curious about global warming? First of all, one of the things that I notice is the moment I start believing there’s a Problem, I’m going to start to get reactive. The moment I start saying, “It’s a problem, global warming,” I’m already stuck in the drama triangle. What I mean by that is I now believe there’s a problem, and I’m right. It’s a problem. I start to blame somebody. I get on the role of the villain in the drama triangle or the persecutor. I start blaming who’s at fault.

I have been given the role of victim and feeling about the effect of those people. I go over to the role of hero or reliever and start figuring out, “What am I going to do to save the day?” I get caught in this spin of this drama triangle. As long as I’m in there, in which honestly, I see the majority of activists deeply in the drama triangle.

I do too. That’s part of why I want to have this conversation. It’s hard not to be judgmental about people who don’t recycle or buy plastic items willy-nilly, or who don’t seem to think it’s a real issue when you are evacuated from your home in Scott’s Valley, as I’m sure you were a couple of years back for a whole ten days. These things impact many of us. When we are looking at all the facts that we see and starting to make our conclusions about that are agreeing with climate scientists.

[bctt tweet=”People don’t see how we all could win. There could be a win for all. In order to find a win for all, you have to be in a state of wonder.” via=”no”]

Suddenly, everybody who thinks differently, who isn’t in the agreement or who doesn’t want to work as hard at it becomes the enemy. We are not going to change the world that way. We are not going to build a healthier system. We are certainly not going to solve climate issues if that’s the lens from which we’re looking. Help us get out of this drama triangle, the drama.

I say to them, “Your critical thoughts of others are a form of pollution, and now you’ve become the thing you are complaining about.” First and foremost, I want people to first say, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad that we are having climate change.” We have data that says things are heating up. Things are cooling down over here. In ways they ought not to, we have more fires, droughts, etc. We know data says something is changing.

It’s debatable about who, how, and why all that’s changing. Although there are some theories about that, nobody knows for sure. You’ve got to be willing to go, “I don’t know.” Identities or personalities hate sitting in, I don’t know. We are uncomfortable because personalities secure themselves by, I know. Can everybody relax into, “I don’t know for sure?” There are some data, some pointers or some things but I don’t know for sure. This is going to sound wild, and it’s going to upset some people reading.

Could you argue why we should have climate change? That’s a radical concept but argue for what could serve us about having climate change? What could we learn if we get into some more challenging situations with climate change that we couldn’t learn any other way? What if climate change is here to serve and help us wake up in consciousness?

I still prefer we take care of our beautiful planet and all the other creatures who are here. It’s a big passion of mine but I’m not right that it’s the better way. I’m open to the possibility that there may be some kinds of collaborations that we all get into as a species that happens only because we get ourselves into such precarious places. I sit with all of that first and argue that there’s no Problem here. There’s something happening, and we get to learn. That’s the mindset first and foremost. I stay open in my heart, my mind, my body, my breath, and my muscles. “Here’s what’s happening? What are we get to learn?”

One thing I’m going to point to is from my conversation with Paul Hawken. I interviewed him on the show in September 2021 as he was releasing his book, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. He said, “The climate is perfect. It’s always in balance. Us judging it isn’t going to change that.” What we’re talking about is reducing global warming, the effect that we’ve had on the planet.

I do think there’s something as dramatic and global as an increase in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius on average to motivate people to connect in a new way, potentially equalize the amount of money that people have on a global scale to where it isn’t. You have the super-wealthy and a lot of everyone else and a lower tier of society because we are going to have to tackle this together.

It’s my belief that part of the positive will come out of the fact that it’s getting hotter, and there are more intense storms than we’ve had in a while. We are going into a phase where instead of having a century storm, it’s a once every 10-year storm to a once every 5-year storm. These are the things that we are seeing with a changing climate. The other thing to keep in mind is that the climate has always changed. I studied Anthropology and Archeology an undergrad.

There was a lot of geological study in that as well to try and understand and ascertain the great moments in time where we’ve had strongly fluctuating temperatures when the Neanderthal went extinct, as with a lot of these larger-bodied mammals. We had fluctuations in temperature in a 50-year period where a specific space could go from being temperate to subtropical to freezing. These fluctuations occur. Geologists think when the Earth wobbles too and some other things. We don’t know what we don’t know but we always look at the data.

The fact is life will likely go on, maybe not as we know it now. Air conditioning may not be the only thing to solve how hot it gets in your home, and heating may have to change. We are going to have to look at all of it but none of us knows everything. If we stay in that space and get back to that curious mindset, we can move through the drama triangle and have a conversation.

CMBB 91 | Conscious Leadership
Conscious Leadership: Hold the belief that everybody has positive intent, even if they disagree with you.

Let’s talk about the drama triangle a little bit more because you have these three different spaces. I heard you speak on another show. I was looking for where you might’ve spoken about sustainability and climate in another show. You had mentioned having the three spots stenciled out on your floor or would move between the spaces of the drama triangle to help workshop even in your own home and arguments that you might get into with your partner. I was fascinated because all of us went through this.

We have the cards laminated. I work with myself and with my clients. I say, “Everybody ought to have laminated cards at home and if they go physically to a job at work.” The idea is that they are on the ground. For a long time, when I was practicing, I had one set in my master bedroom, my living room, and my kitchen. Whenever we would get into a debate, either by myself, I would get into the drama triangle, or maybe I was talking to my mom on the phone. I might talk to her while moving around on a basis with my husband or with my kids, and we would all recognize we are just caught in the drama triangle. We are in a reactive state and not available fully to learn because we would rather be right about something.

Our practice was to notice that we were doing it so that we didn’t denying that. We could recognize and allow that there’s one in us that’s scared and threatened in a drama. Notice that allow is important if you want to have any chance of shifting the pattern. One of the reasons why I’m a big fan of meditation because meditation is, can you notice? Can you allow it? Can you notice your reactivity in yourself and others and allows it? We would check to see if they would be willing to get off the drama triangle. I would say the majority of the time, the answer was no.

I still find that now when I work with teams, 80% of the time, people are not willing to get off the drama triangle. That’s fine. It’s because there are some threats still being perceived, and it doesn’t feel friendly to get off that threat. We go, “You are threatened. You are in the drama triangle, then own it. I’m committed to being right over being in connection with you. I’m committed to being right over solving this problem.” You would have to own and sit with that. For most people, that would hit you in the gut after like, “Really, I would rather be right than be close to you? That doesn’t feel so good.” That often would be the motivation for wanting to start to open up and shift.

What are the three points of the drama triangle again?

The first is the victim. The victim is whining, “It’s hard, and I don’t have any power. I’m me climate change or whatever the issue is social injustices. I’m at the effect of it.” The villain’s job is to blame. “It’s me. I should be better. You, you are the problem or them,” we all know who they are. That’s screwing this whole thing up. The villain’s job is to blame. The hero is, “Let me bring some temporary relief.” The temporary relief to myself might be, “I can’t stand this anymore. I’m going to binge out on Netflix to check out this whole thing.

I don’t have to deal with it at all. Where’s my glass of Pinot noir?” exercise or whatever I’m going to do to go check out, or I’m going to a hero you, “It’s okay. Let’s think positively.” I’m going to try to give you some temporary relief or them, “Let’s go start up some a philanthropy and toss him a bunch of money at something that we can save.” It works temporarily but the next year, they come back and need all the same resources because nothing shifted. The reason why it doesn’t fit is that the hero creates temporary relief. It doesn’t reproduce a permanent solution.

You have me thinking about a couple of guests I’ve had on the show before. Lydiah Kemontu Bosire is the champion behind 8B Education Investments. She is creating educational opportunities for citizens of Africa to get world-class educations at universities like Cornell and Oxford and things like that. One of the things that she said in my show, and this was probably in my first fifteen shows, was, “When you try to create change from the outside, the solutions you come up with may not even be what’s needed.”

That has been echoed in another episode I had with Godfrey Coker, where he talked about this as a specific technology he worked to create. The intent was to equalize access so that people living in Africa could use this particular application to access their funds on their phones, and nobody wanted to use it.

It was a complete flop. He put all of this effort out and got investment. It may be a good idea from a technological perspective for an American company but it didn’t resonate with people in Ghana. Even though he’s trying to do something good there, going back to his African roots in a spot that he thought needed time, attention, and a little love in this way, it wasn’t the solution they needed or wanted.

[bctt tweet=”Your critical thoughts of others are a form of pollution, and now you’ve become the thing you’re complaining about.” via=”no”]

I do believe that we often have to look at grassroots efforts when it is something like you want to fund something philanthropically, find somebody who’s already doing it there and doing the good work as opposed to trying to create something brand new, where you are creating a system that may not do anything. This is also part of the reason that some of the bigger not-for-profits like the giant NGOs aren’t able to do as much with the resources to get as you might think that they should be able to do.

If you start to look at a population as a set of victims, you are already setting yourself up for drama. You are already seeing them as less than, not equal, and not powerful. You are going to create that result with them. The mindset here is you all are very powerful as opposed to your issues living within you. My job is to help you get present and aware so that you can find those solutions and take responsibility for yourselves in how you can create what you most need and want. That’s conscious leadership. In our work, that’s our theory you don’t need mentors and guides. It’s in you. You need to get in a state of curiosity and openness so that you can relax and find out what’s needed. You know that yourself. I have not seen that ever not be true.

Part of what we have to do is show people they are on the drama triangle and reactive. One of my favorite things I have them do is, “You are complaining about X, Y, Z. Teach me the course. How did you co-create this pattern that you are complaining about?” At first, people go, “I don’t have anything to do with this.” I go, “Try it anyway. Teach me a course.” Everybody can. For example, an executive team at a company is saying, “Everybody is complaining about having to come back to work, and it’s horrible.” I say, “Teach me the course. How do you make sure everybody complains about leadership’s lack of empathy and compassion when asking people to come back to work?”

They go, “Let’s look.” They can start to see, “I guess we did this and this, and so that’s how we have created another over our employees, thinking that we are the bad guys.” I go, “Now, you know you had a part to play in the result you are complaining about.” All you have to do is do the opposite of everything you described that you did to get here. Go do the opposite to get a new solution.” They do it, and something different altogether happens as a result. That’s my go-to all the time. Teach me a course, including like, “People on the left, and you’re complaining that people on the right are opening curious. How have you created them not opening curious? If this is about you and not about them, so teach me a course.”

If people really look, they will start to go, “I can see how I have a part to play.” There are only things that I have control over but I have control over quite a bit. How have I done that such that I have created a reactivity over there? I can wake up to that. I have a new set of conditions that I could use to start to generate curiosity on the other side.

What you are talking about is the concept that you talk a lot about in your book, Radical Responsibility, taking ownership of the very things that you create in your environment, your work, and home life. There’s been a smattering of books on this subject from many different angles. One that I love is Extreme Ownership, written by a couple of ex-military men who talk about what it takes to take ownership of your actions.

One of the things that I will note for anybody that’s working to ladder climb in your jobs and your life is when you take responsibility for things that happen within your department that may not have been your direct responsibility but you have ownership over management like that. It’s generally a thing. You take, “I could have seen this differently. I could have given a different direction. I’m taking ownership of the thing that I was working to do within my team. I didn’t see it as clearly because I have identified that, and now, I’m not going to do that again.”

It’s simple as, “I’m sorry. I’m late. Traffic was horrible.” That’s a victim stance consciousness. I’m at the effect of traffic instead of, “I want to take responsibility for not planning ahead and thinking of traffic, such that I showed up here five minutes past. I want to see how that’s impacted you all.” It’s a very different way to show up and claim how you are creating the results rather than being at the effect of them.

Let’s talk for a moment about your book specifically. You coauthored The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. I went through the quick list online because I do not have the entire book, but it reads like a long laundry list of things that I should already know to be doing but sometimes forget to do. I wanted to see for a moment if you could talk about the origin of this book and how someone who’s reading this and wants to dive deeper could use it to improve their consciousness as it relates to their work and home lives, not just work lives.

I came from this background of how do we end drama? I love your new word now, drama inside of me and drama around me. We have this model that we learned from Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, which is not unique to them, called Above and Below the Line. The line basically represents the distinguished state between, “I’m open, curious, and wanting to learn,” versus “I’m closed, reactive, and wanting to defend.”

CMBB 91 | Conscious Leadership
Conscious Leadership: If you start to look at a population as a set of victims, you’re already setting yourself up for drama. You’re already seeing them as less than, not equal, and not powerful.

At any given moment, we are all either above the line or below the line. We are wired to go below the line pretty often. It’s part of our DNA to get reactive and try to survive. Jim, Kaley and I were all working with YPO, Young Presidents Organization, and top leaders around the globe. We were teaching this model, and they loved it. They love starting to look at themselves and to see, “Am I above or below the line?”

One of the questions they asked was, “How do you know you are above the line versus below the line?” That kept coming up over and over again, and where can we read about it? We didn’t have any place to point to. We decided, “Let’s distinguish the difference between these things.” We ended up coming up with fifteen different distinguishing things, which we felt were a lot. We tried to see if we could condense it but we felt like each one had a certain, very particular nuance that was important to capture. The 15 Commitments define these fifteen unique ways you need to be in order to be able to be fully in a present state where you can open, learn, grow and permanently solve your issues. That’s what the book is all about.

Permanently solved one’s issues, I hope to be able to solve them by the time I move off this mortal coil. I’m going to have to read your book cover to cover because everything that I have learned and listened to your podcast with Tim Ferriss or the many other individuals that have brought you on to their shows to tell your story rings blatantly true. As far as doing something like implementing that drama triangle in one’s own home, if somebody wanted to do that, how would you advise them to do that? What does that look like if they wanted to try it out and workshop it in their own space?

I would say get educated and learn more about exactly the distinctions between each of these bases or roles in the drama triangle. We have a fantastic resource page on our website with lots of content on this topic. You can go access it for free. Google ‘drama triangle,’ and you will learn more about it because it’s a model that’s out there by Stephen Karpman. He was the originator of this model. Thank you, Stephen, for that.

Get informed, print out some of these pages, and have the printouts on our website. We also sell the drama triangle on our website if you want to buy a set. You are going to put them on the ground. One of the things we want people to do is we want you to move their bodies around on the drama triangle physically. Ideally, we want you to ham it up, make it like a soap opera like, “You are a climate change, God.” Be exaggerated and take your body into the physical formation of what’s it like to be a victim, a hero, and a villain.

You get to see, “I’m in this pattern,” and keep talking about your issue as you are dealing with it. What people discover is that they move around. We call it a dance. Everybody has a unique dance they do in the drama triangle. We all usually have a unique place. We enter into the triangle. We have a unique way we move around the basis. It doesn’t change that much based on the content or a pretty similar pattern. We want people to see their patterns. What they see is they have a certain way they move around the basis, pauses, and repeats again. The big a-ha comes in when you do that. You realize, “As long as I’m dealing with the issue from here, I can’t get out of the cycle.”

You are talking in circles, and it’s the same thing.

What often people do is double down, “Maybe if I try harder and I’m more critical,” they realize that it’s still the same result. You get the big a-ha of, “This isn’t going to get me any place new. Maybe I’m still not willing to get out of here because I would still rather be right. Now, I’m going to realize I cannot be the solution yet.”

You’re bringing something else into this whole exercise too when you talk about doing it as dramatically as possible. It goes to the point of almost being satire or comedy. When you get people laughing, you break down their inhibitions in a way. That helps to solve some of the arguments. It brings you out of the drama because you are moving into a different state of being.

The more not funny your situation is, the more committed you are to drama. To your point, we got to make this a little funny. When we exaggerate our pattern, it starts to go, “I’m adorable. This is funny.” Little more available for a possible solution, and that lightheartedness is a place where I can start to access new knowledge. That’s one of the reasons why we have people exaggerate it.

[bctt tweet=”It’s a very different way to show up and claim how you’re creating the results rather than being at the effect of them.” via=”no”]

The other reason why is we want people to start to see their personas. This is important because a lot of activists have a very exaggerated hero persona. That persona is like, “I’m here to save the day.” It’s part of the identity that has set this persona up to be able to be seen as valuable. The persona is invested in keeping the drama going so that the persona can keep being in charge so that we can think that you are valuable.

This is the thing that’s one of the most challenging things for activists to wake up to and face. It’s like, “If I’m not that hero, if I’m not that, then who am I? Where does my value come from?” We have a bigger piece of work to do, which is to start to source approval from within instead of needing a drama to come and prove your worth.

What you are talking about here too is a bit of the ego. When you get invested in it so much that you can’t see clearly anymore. You can’t even stay curious because you are so invested in this idea of yourself being one thing.

While I am so grateful for the hearts of activists and the values they stand for, I find that the most challenging people to work with around helping them relax their egos are activists over everybody else by a long shot in my work. In a state of all of you activists, you are wonderful and caught in a pattern that most of you can’t see. You are keeping the problem going. You are not the solution as long as your ego drives this pattern.

I might have to stare at my own belly button as you say this thing because what did I call my show? It’s an invitation to ask people to care a little bit more so we can all create a better world. That sounds a lot like it’s hero-driven, the whole brand, in a way.

I would say the brand can be above the line, meaning care more, be better. Why not? We could also argue that maybe you shouldn’t care more or maybe you don’t need to be better.

I created a show art. I was going to do an April Fools episode called Care Less Be Worse. I had an intern I was working with creating show art around that. It was basically this dark cloudy Earth symbol on fire. It was going to be the reverse of what my show typically is. I loved it but I didn’t get around to recording it, so maybe next April 1st.

If you know me, you will know I’m a huge April Fools prankster, so I’m all for that. That’s meant for why we should care less and why we should be worse. I find that there could be some people who would be happier if they stopped caring so much but their unhappiness is polluting us. I can argue the opposite. That doesn’t mean, though, that we are not going to still say, “Care more, be better,” because that’s an option too. We are not anxious about that. We can argue on the other side but that this is something that you care about, so you could bring this. Activism can be done from above the line. Activism can be done from a state of presence. I’m all for activism. I want to say, “Can we wake up to how we get caught in these unconscious patterns that we don’t even know that we are in?”

In a future episode, I’m going to be bringing on somebody who’s from a long line of Republicans. We are going to have an open discourse about how to connect across the aisle because I’m from a long line of Democrats, so to speak. I identify as that but it doesn’t mean I always agree. That’s the reality too. I’m still a thinking person. There are some things that are endemic to the party that I don’t like. I would prefer more progressive and other arenas where I’m like, “I think a more conservative approach here would be good too,” but I also don’t like how the language has been co-opted because I love language.

The conservative notion doesn’t need to mean like a fiscal conservative or a political conservative, the same way that progressive shouldn’t mean to be as far left as possible. It means that you are looking at how a culture of people, a system, and society can progress, which can be a very positive thing. When we get so myopically focused, we don’t even think about what the words mean anymore. We end up butting heads, even though we might agree.

CMBB 91 | Conscious Leadership
Conscious Leadership: At any given moment, we’re all either above the line or below the line. We’re wired to go below the line pretty often. It’s part of our DNA to get reactive and try to survive.

I have the gift of being raised Republican in Indiana, a very Republican state. Finding my own way to a much more Liberal perspective up here in California. I have a certain perspective on how I see this. I see Republicans like dad, and the Republican values are like dad’s values, archetypal dad, masculine values, which is like, “We need to empower them to do their own thing. We need to be responsible. We need to protect ourselves. It was certain kinds of right.”

The Democratic Party is like, “We need to make sure that everybody is being cared for. We need to be relational. We need to not be so aggressive.” There are these polarities in reality that are super thoughtful. They are not off. If they honor that each side of the polarity is bringing a slightly different perspective but that they come together. If they honor each other’s stands equally, they come up with something beautiful. That’s how I’m looking at it. It’s like, “Mom and dad are fighting.”

When can it stop? Why can’t we get along? I find this so frustrating because I do believe, more often than not, we agree. You’ve got 1 side with 1 agenda and the other side with another, and they are sitting there with their hands on their hips like, “No.”

My next piece is, “How am I like them? A lot of these in myself that don’t value each other in which they are fighting and dismissing one another’s needs and wants in a way that my micro here is like the macro. The thing I’m asking all of us to do as activists and otherwise is to say, “Can I go see how I’m still dismissing certain sides of the polarities in myself? For example, what I’m working on now is the one who wants to rest and be in me and the one who wants to push and be more impactful. There’s a tension between those two.

I can feel in my personality that I will dismiss the one who wants to rest and be and make that one less valid. I’ve got a war in myself. I am the thing I’m complaining about out there. I’m going to go my own deep work and myself around seeing both sides equally, standing for the value of each, and having those parts come together to collaborate, to go, “What’s something that we are going to create together that’s regenerative, sustainable, and values both sides of this polarity?”

You hear a lot of leaders say, “You want to change the world. Look inside yourself.” I’m a big fan of that. I think there’s a lot out there that people are going, “Can you believe they are polluting?” I go, “I’m polluting all the time in my head. I would say critical things toward myself.” That’s pollution. I am that. There’s nothing out there that I am not. Can I own that in me? Can I love and accept that in me so that I can love and accept why that happens out there? If I can’t love and accept it here and there, I won’t be part of the solution.

We have come to that point in the conversation where I like to ask my guests a closing question, which is simply, if there’s a question that I haven’t asked that you wish I had, what would it be? If you have one, you could ask and answer it.

The one question I would say is, “What else creates this drama? Why are we all in so much drama?” The answer is that there’s a big unwillingness to feel heartbreak. One of the things that I’m standing for is, can we all pause and feel? I particularly feel this like ache in our chest that most of us are trying so hard to get away from. If I can feel my heartbreak and be with that, the chances of me being able to then get off the drama triangle are significantly higher.

I have a practice called morning tears where I find something to cry about every morning and find something to be heartbroken about. I did it this morning. I’m going to cry. Somebody posted the pictures of the ten people who were killed in Pennsylvania. I looked at their faces and felt my heartbreak with these beautiful souls, having been murdered in their grocery store, and let myself ouch. If people can’t do that, if you can’t drop in and let yourself feel, then you are going to get on the drama triangle to try to punish or whatever. Instead of we are humans and do awful things. We forget who we are. It’s what we always do. We likely always will on some level. Can we let our hearts break about that?

Resting in the discomfort and understanding too that life doesn’t come without pain. We have to work through, honor it and not mask it, cover it up or charge on. If we are charging on or certainly going to be in a fixed state, the drama triangle will feel like home.

Conscious Leadership: Why are we all in so much drama? The answer is that there’s a big unwillingness to feel heartbreak.

It will be reactive instead of responsive.

We struggle not to feel. If I have to go on feeling all of the barrage of these onslaughts from what’s happening in Ukraine to these tragedies, what occurred in Pennsylvania, you get to the sense of overwhelm too. If we don’t acknowledge our emotions and feelings, then all we are going to do is build this hardened shell exterior that doesn’t let anything else in. That’s what you are getting at.

To your point, I have to be careful. I also need to put my attention on the beauty that’s here. I’m not over-focusing in any direction but I’m being honest that it’s clarity here and as beautiful as it is painful.

If there was one thought that you would like to leave our audience with, what might it be?

One of my other morning practices is I get up in the morning and go, “Can I let it be okay to be me with all of my flaws and beauty? Can I accept the character that I am? My ability to make an impact and change out there has a direct result for how much I’m willing to love and accept what’s in me.” That’s one of the things I would say is to wake up and love yourself for a minute.

One of the interesting things I’m taking away from this conversation is that there’s value in physically moving through something like that drama triangle or even physically kissing yourself like I would kiss my four-year-old who’s coming to my bed to say, “Good morning.” The kinetic work of it brings value and makes something more real, so I love that. I feel like I have been given a gift. Thank you.

You are welcome. I’m a big fan of the kinetic.

Thank you, Diana, for your hard work and for joining us.

It’s my great pleasure. Thank you for this work and all of you reading. Thank you for your hearts.

As we close this episode, I want to invite you again to lean into discovery, stay curious, and ask questions. Doing this very thing will ensure that you continue to grow and create that better, more just world in your home and the environment around you. If you enjoyed this episode, I would encourage you to subscribe, so you are sure to be notified each time we release a new interview episode and even the solo episodes where I dive deep into a subject. I know they don’t always come but they are a bonus from time to time.

If you will do me the huge favor of rating and reviewing, that certainly helps us reach more people, so more people can discover this content. Thank you, readers, now and always, for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more, and we can be better. We can even regenerate the Earth. Thank you.

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  • Diana Chapman

    Diana Chapman is an incredible leader in creating sustainable change. She has worked with over 1000 top tier organizational leaders, and executive teams. Her clients range all over the map from science tech companies like Genentech to project management companies like Asana. They value her clarity, compassion, ferocity and playfulness. A well-respected facilitator for the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Diana works with forums and chapters worldwide. She has been a featured guest on top-tier podcasts including The Tim Ferris Show where she even helped him get unstuck and workshop how to take radical responsibility in their nearly 2 hour episode.

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