I first learned about the concept of correlation while studying statistics as part of my Psychology degree. Statistics was my least favourite subject and I often found myself debating whether I’d ever even need to use the knowledge in the future. My frustration was compounded when my first year statistics subject resulted in a 49% grade and I had to repeat the subject! After crying about, I sucked it up and got on with it. Second time around I managed to get myself a distinction grade purely because I was determined not to have to repeat it and have to do any more statistics in my life than was absolutely necessary.
A few years later I was appointed Project Manager of a major coaching project that included a Randomised Wait-listed Control Trial allowing us to research the benefits to those people who received coaching to those in a control group (i.e. those who didn’t receive coaching). To assist me with the research side of the project, I had a wonderful Research Reference Group. They were experts in their fields and – ironically – there were more than a few times that I thanked the universe for having made me do those statistic subjects at university! The stats knowledge allowed me to be able to, sometimes only just, keep up with the statistics conversations had during that project.
In the context of statistics, correlation is defined as: The degree to which two or more attributes or measurements on the same group of elements show a tendency to vary together.
Observing how things correlate was probably one of the few things I found interesting about statistics. Perhaps because I’m a coach and coaches tend (or need) to be good systems thinkers. It’s about understanding when one thing changes, what else changes with it. If I think one way, how does my behaviour change with it?
While coaching someone last week my client was learning how to be more assertive with the some of the people that she was responsible for managing. She needed to be able to tell some of her staff directly that they were not meeting expectations. The theme of the lesson soon became “You’ll be able to say the things you need to say to others when you’re able to hear those things that they say to you.” I explained a little further and it didn’t take long before my client could see it clearly.
I asked “If one of your superiors at your work comes to you and expresses disapproval of your work and/or your behaviour, how does that make you feel? Really imagine it for a moment. Imagine right now that you’re sitting in your office and listening to the very disapproving language and tone of voice of your superior as they tell you what you’ve been doing wrong. What are the thoughts going through your mind? What are the feelings and sensations in your body? Where in your body do you feel it? Do you want to get angry at them? Do you want to go home because you feel so upset? Do you want to justify yourself and your actions? What happens for you in that moment of disapproval?”
My client had a great imagination was quickly able to picture herself in the scenario I was describing. She responded “I’d hate it. I don’t want to hear my boss disapproving of me, especially when I work so hard. I hate the feeling of having done something wrong.”
I explained that the day she is able to hear that kind feedback and not fall apart will be the same day that she will be able to say the things that she needed to say to her staff. Currently she views the experience as very painful so when she has to deliver that kind of information she finds herself doing sympathy rather than empathy.
It’s an interesting correlation and understanding it is very powerful. It means that rather than focusing on how to be more assertive, we can focus on something much more important; something which ultimately underpins the ability to be assertive: Self-worth.
If you have things that you want to be able to say to others – particularly those people who are important to you – start by working on your ability to hear the same kind of information. Learn to accept and really be able to sit with all truths from others and the ability to speak your truth will naturally follow… as one shifts, so too does the other correlate.