This jam packed podcast is full of great stuff!
Have you heard of the Righting Reflex? The righting reflex in communication is a concept IFIOC teaches in our Introduction to Motivational Interviewing classes, as it’s our natural instinct to keep ourselves in balance or with a compassionate heart, help others stay in balance. (We dive deeper into the Righting reflex in the podcast).
The righting reflex in communication is a tool that can help your conversations be more effective and efficient when discussing change or reducing resistance.
We cover so many great things including:
- The history of the Righting Reflex
- The Righting Reflex comes from a desire to help
- Curiosity vs Judgement
- Understanding our own bias
- And so much more!
Check out the Transcript! Righting Reflex and Relationships
00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the communication solution podcast today. We’ve got Casey Jackson on the line, John Gilbert, and I’m Tammy here atIFIOC. We love to talk communication. We love to talk motivational interviewing, and we love talking about improving outcomes for individuals, organizations, and the communities that they serve.
Welcome to the conversation today. And we’ll be addressing the righting reflex and communication, particularly in relationships and maybe that’s friendships. Maybe that’s romantic relationships. We can talk about this a little bit more, but in relation to. Uh, seems to be a little more personal than professional is what I’m gathering from this.
So, uh, for anyone that would like to start us off, what are your initial thoughts? We could define our terms. Casey, you had looked at some stuff to see if you knew the history of this or how it was created. We could start there, or I [00:01:00] don’t know if there’s another place you want. I’d be curious to start with more of the history of how, where did this come from?
We talk about it in IFIOCs trainings, but yeah, I, you know, one of the things that, the vast majority of things, I just, as a trainer, or just as somebody whose knowledge, I just want to know what I’m talking about. So it’s something I looked up quite a while ago and I think. When I was first learning, am I in training?
You know, getting trained on Motivational Interviewing and training. And my, I just thought Righting Reflex was something that was an Motivational Interviewing term. Um, and, but then when I was looking about teaching that I wanted to look up some pictures and that which led me down a whole rabbit hole and, and it, it is a reflex. It is a, it’s a human reflex.
Um, the righting reflex, it is a combination of things with our sensory input that helps us to stand up straight, um, to not fall over. Yeah. So there is a, how do we, how do we stay centered? And so between our, our vision between our hearing, between [00:02:00] our vestibular system, there’s multiple systems that help us.
Literally, we’re such an awkward tall thing that, that we don’t fall over as we’re putting one foot in front of the other has to do with this whole complex thing about writing reflex it, the one that, and that wasn’t even where I originally started when I was doing kind of my, I want to understand what this means.
It was the most popular things that came up were around cats. Um, That a cat will physiologically write itself in the air. If it gets tossed up in the air or it falls out of a tree, that little body and all the muscles in it will wiggle every way it can to make sure that it lands on all fours. Um, and so literally it will write itself in the air and land on its feet.
Um, so that’s, that’s the source of it. And so when you think about that in relationship with motivational interviewing, it’s when we start to fall out of our own orientation, It’s how do we get back oriented to where our center is? Um, so it’s usually when something is triggering us and the way we teach it [00:03:00] at IFIOC, is that when something is triggering your values, either in a way that you believe in, or you disagree with the stronger that conflicts with or aligns with the more.
Wanna write, you know, to, to, to show where your orientation is into that. Um, and traditionally we think in motivational interviewing more often than not, it’s usually when somebody is doing something that completely goes against our, our values or what we think might be good for them or what we think the fix might be.
When I talk about it that most people relate to is, you know, I was talking to the training. I don’t care where you fall on the political spectrum and I don’t care what news station you watch or what social media that you’re most drawn to. But what I tell people is I can almost guarantee in 2020, around, you know, September, October, November, right before the presidential elections in the us, I can guarantee no matter what news station you go towards or, or apps you look at or social media, I can [00:04:00] almost guarantee your righting reflex was triggered no matter where you are or why the spectrum, that you’re seeing things that don’t feel right to.
So it’s this, there’s kind of an amalgam of different ways. We looked at the righting reflex, but it’s basically, you look at something, you go, that’s not right. And when you see that it’s not right, you want to do something to correct it, to make it right. You want to post something, you want to scream something you want to, you know, you want to pound your fist on the table and say, that’s not right.
This is what. That’s your righting reflex. When you get into personal relationships, what it is is you can see people making decisions that you’re going, oh my gosh, this is doing damage to you. Or that’s not a good way to parent. If we see somebody spank a child in a grocery store, you’re righting reflexes.
That’s not okay. Um, because your righting reflects is getting triggered. That doesn’t look right to you. So that’s, that’s kinda the, the backdrop to different concepts around the writing reflex. And this my mind was going in so many different [00:05:00] ways, Casey, but, um, one thing that’s really fascinating and I don’t I’m, I don’t know if either of you have the answer to this or anything, but I’m thinking about our righting reflex com like in 1995, compared to 2015.
So as social media has grown, I feel like we see more people’s righting reflex’s. But I don’t know if that’s because the righting reflex is become stronger with people or now people just have a platform to share it. I, I, yeah, I just off the top of my head, what I think of is, I don’t know if the righting reflex is any different today than it was in the wild west.
Um, you know what I mean? That when you see something or in the south, or, you know, I just, I can take anybody at least in, you know, this is very, you know, you know, cultural centric has just been, when I think from a us perspective, you know, my brain, then I keep thinking about all these different areas in time [00:06:00] and I just think, oh my gosh, Look at the civil unrest around this and how many opinions there are the civil war.
I mean, they’re just, there’s all sorts of writing reflex around and, and even to go back, you know, further and, and see Casey used to train on it this way in a certain way, that goes, you know, we’re always going to be influenced by our own culture, but whether you believe in creationism or you believe in evolution or something that.
Just the very fact of when you come up to another person, be it back in the Savannah or whatever, where you go, do we commune or do we go to war? And you, you had, uh, talked about that many years ago as, as a way of thinking. And so much of our realities are egocentric to our perspective. And so if you don’t align with what I think is right, my center, that you were implying, Casey, you’ve got a lot for a lot of things.
Is my center is that I am right. [00:07:00] And that therefore, if you are not right with me, we go to. And that to me goes way further back and is way more deeply rooted in a source of many things outside of even, you know, I believe humans, but the whole idea of that is to try to now shape that back into relationships.
To me, uh, we could get in a very deep, very nuanced conversation about identity politics, cancel culture, human rights, equal opportunity, equal outcome, and all these things. Right. But to me, there’s a lot of righting reflux for sure. And it’s easier to be distanced from all that, with my righting reflex, if it’s not affecting me or I’m, I believe, or perceive it’s not affecting me day to day, versus someone that believes or perceives it does when you take that into your inner circle of someone.
That you’re with day to day, or very often either romantic or friendship or business even, uh, you’re you’re in a relationship and the closer you [00:08:00] get to your inner circle and the more they’re their influence and you’re influencing them. Day-to-day the more that writing. Seems to be intense because it’s more attachment to the outcome.
It doesn’t mean that’s not for a lot of other people with some of these bigger things, but given today’s topic is the relationships there seems to be an intensity. The more you have your inner circle involved of what you think is right. Especially if it’s kids and there’s an innocence like you were getting at case.
Vaccines or all these other things we could talk about there there’s innocence. So I got to do what’s right. But I’m wondering your thoughts of either your experiences or as you think about kind of inner circle and relationships what’s been your experience, or what do you think about the writing reflects in those investors?
The way that, that made it easiest for me to kind of comprehend it, you know, in 10 may, I’ve talked about this before, is it seems that it’s proportional or the correlation is the more attached you are to the actual outcome, [00:09:00] which tends to obviously be more attachment to more outcomes. The closer it is to your inner.
You know, somebody you’ve never met before. Um, you know, and they’re making some decision and you kind of hear about it on the news and it’s nothing you really have an opinion about. You’re probably not gonna much writing reflects. It can be something you, you never met the person before, but you’ve seen atrocity.
Some atrocity happened to them by some governor. And you’re probably going to have a stronger righting reflex, even though you’ve never met the person before. Um, you can have a conversation with your spouse about finances and you too have a very heated disagreement around that. That’s a righting reflex.
So. So what I, what I tend to think of is, yes, it definitely tends to be more amplified the closer, you know, in proximity or, you know, in your inner circle, it is. But I also find that that correlation holds true, depending on how attached you are to certain [00:10:00] outcomes or how invested you are in certain constructs.
Um, the more investment in those constructs, because again, there’s things that your, your spouse or your partner may say that are fairly inconsequential to you, as they’re talking about things. And you’re listening to, but you don’t have a strong writing reflects. Um, but if they talk about how one of their coworkers, um, you know, was really making some massage monistic comments and being really inappropriate, you might have a very much stronger reaction to that.
Righting reflex to that because it more taps into your own personal. Your own feelings and your own biases around those things. You have case a, you just use this word consequential. And that really resonated for me of what we’re talking about. Attachment to the outcome is to what degree is there a consequence?
To what degree is there a, uh, an outcome from this that really matters? And that’s what I was interpreting from what you were throwing out there. How [00:11:00] consequential is this? And the degree to which it’s consequential consequential is the degree of our intensity of our writing reflects. That seems to be true to what you’re saying, which could be about some of these things happening in the world, of course, but seems to be especially true when.
Finances that you’re working hard to make that you’re sharing with your smiles. And it’s like, oh, this is so consequential because this is my, you know, blood and sweat and time. And so, because it’s mine and we’re trying to share this, it’s very consequential. And I just really resonated with that. That, that seems to, it could be a variety of topics beyond financial.
It could be so many other things, but then consequences. That seems to be big in this. Well, and I think that helps cause I was actually just thinking of asking the question. Is there a difference between writing reflects and opinions too, but I think John, the consequential piece of it is opinion.
Everyone just has [00:12:00] opinions in general, but the righting reflex reflex is really Trevor triggered when there’s some sort of consequence. That you see happening that you don’t want to see happening, or maybe well, yeah. That you don’t want to see happening. So anyways, my question before I asked it, well, it’s so interesting because it speaks to what Casey ended on and Casey, you sound like you were going to come in with something, so please do.
But this bias that we all have bias. I am biased. You advise everyone listening as bias, implicit biases that were unconscious of conscious one. Things that you can all see right now or hear from me that I’m not aware of. And so we have biases and when we have biases, how much, cause it gets deeper into how much are we seeing that as a consequence and how much are we not, we could be projecting all our stuff on.
Or our past experience with them, whether it’s true or not, we’re going to have a stronger righting reflex when I have [00:13:00] this perceived, believed or actual history of consequence with this person or perceived consequence. And to me, it goes very deep that we don’t need to get super deep in this one into, but how much are you in your relationship?
Seeing the other person from a light of wrongness. And how much are you trying to see them in this light of understanding and trying to be having that hump versus. Response. And that, uh, is therighting reflex. And that ha that curious, you can still have a writing reflex, but you’re, you’re trying to fake it till you make it.
You’re trying to understand and genuinely provide this space, but that’s so much easier said than done Casey, with your example of talking about finances with your partner. So I’m curious what you were going to expand on as well as, how do you make that practical? How do you embody this when we’re talking about it?
So conceptually, [00:14:00] when you. Triggered in the moment. You know, I think one of the things that we acknowledge, you know, that I think it’s always critical to acknowledge is what are you trying to accomplish? Not, I think what we always go back to is not every conversations at EMI based conversation. So it’s not that the righting reflex is a bad thing or be aware, or I think it just depends on what, what outcome do you want?
Um, if you’re trying to affect behavior change, that’s why we have to be hypervigilant of our writing reflects because we’re trying to help orchestrate or facilitate change in another person. Our bias can profoundly contaminate that process. If you are talking to your spouse about finances, It may or may not be a good thing for you to be detached from your righting reflex.
There may be things that are very critical of why you’re righting reflex getting triggered. And it’s not something that you need to surrender because there is a real outcome for yourselves or for the family that, that, that may be because of [00:15:00] that. You know, if somebody decides to take all the money and go to Vegas and spend all the money and all the savings, and there’s nothing left in the family loses their house.
You, you, you don’t tell people yeah. You shouldn’t have that righting reflex, you know, when you’re trying to change. Right. I mean, so, so I think that we have to put it in context as well as that it’s not, it is a reflex, it’s a good thing. A bad thing. We’re not going to define good or bad. It’s what is the functionality or the mechanism of it.
And when. Depending on what the nature of our interaction is and what the kind of intention behind that is, is going to have an indicator of, do we need to pay attention to it? Do we need to be aware of it? Do we need to certain vent it? Um, which is what we tend to do in motivational Interviewing is my righting reflex my bias is not going to help you get clear about how you feel about these behaviors or this circumstance or these situations.
Yeah, that’s really, I’m trying to absorb all this of what are you really wanting? What [00:16:00] are you intending? Right. We talk about that with the Mica, that motivational interviewing competency assessment. What are you intending? But even just in personal life, regardless of doing Motivational Interviewing Casey, outside of that, the righting reflex is real.
And even if you’re not doing I, and people are listening to this and, you know, have either gone through Motivational Interviewing or never gone through. The reflex happens. It’s a trigger is we get triggered and it’s a form of a trigger that we’re talking about. And so I just want to say that, but you use this word contaminate and it’s interesting because it’s like, it made me.
Am I contaminating or am I helping construct, which comes from a bias and a thought process of how much am I being destructive or constructive. And if I want to be more constructive and that’s my intention, how much am I contaminating this with my writing reflects? Or maybe my writing reflects, I believe perceive whatever project that me having.
My righting reflex right now is actually going to be constructive, [00:17:00] righteous, indignation. Protests, I’m going to do whatever, right. I’m going to have my righting reflex and that I’m not going to allow my partner to go to Vegas and spend all that money that it can be constructive for pro-social or healthy things possibly.
But you have to have the context. I think that’s so critical context, intention, and what’s contaminating versus what’s constructive. That’s so. Specific to the situation, as well as the life experience of each person involved. Um, you know, we could talk about executive functioning and all these other things that, that form our emotional selves.
Um, there’s so much going on there, but thank you for adding that. That was really rich for me. Yeah. Yeah. As I say, before we wrap up, I did want to touch on, you know, John, you had mentioned at one point, you know, trust and safety with therighting reflex. And so I was hoping we could talk a little bit more about that.
Yeah, I’ll speak to it a little bit. And then, you know, it’s nothing we need to go deep into, but [00:18:00] we, we talk about it, um, about values, uh, in motivational interviewing Steven Rollnick. I forget what year it was. I think it was in. Atlanta or Poland, Casey wind. We, we were talking about how Steve and Rollnick brought up values at the mint conference.
And Kelly was like, you were on at KC. I remember that moment. It was fun. Uh, but we were, we were kind of thanks to Casey on the cutting edge of where am I was headed, talking about values, hashtag trend-setting. I will say this as a, maybe not so humblebrag. Uh, Casey has probably gotten a lot more, but with when Casey and I were in Poland, uh, we were told to be the avant-garde of Motivational Interviewing by this incredibly intelligent, um, psychologists there, I forget his name.
Um, but he was, he was, that was a huge compliment. So. The reason I was saying all this is because those are sorts of [00:19:00] values, trust, safety, that sense of security. And that comes from value. Siri that Casey put at the top of this concept called focus mountain that we train on and we have various podcasts and other things that go deeper into that.
And to what degree, you know, you get into Maslow’s hierarchy, you can get into all these things. To what degree do I feel safe and secure to open up to this person in certain ways or not? And there’s just a, there, there. If I don’t feel those things, I could easily be coming from a defensive place and see whatever you’re saying as an attack.
So I got to defend, and my righting reflex is this defensive posture or this victim posture, or this hurt posture or this righteous posture that I’m better than you because of the, you know, and so there’s all these things to think about how safe do I feel? Um, how much trust do I feel there? And I just thought it would be worth putting that on the table to think about, um, [00:20:00] as well as the same, uh, for this concept that I learned from a separate, uh, Arbery Marcus podcast that was getting at, do you, do, are you communicating with your significant other in your relationship to win or to love.
And there’s a huge difference of what’s your intention. Like Casey was saying, what are you trying to do? And sometimes if we’re unconscious of that, that can go awry. And the more we don’t feel safe and the more we don’t feel secure or we feel it way more than the other person, the more we can come at it from I’m going to communicate to.
Versus to discover or love or respect or treat this person with dignity. And I just wanted to give voice to that as a possibility, but I don’t know if you have any thoughts or if that’s going off the rails. Well, for me instantly, that that seems so on point because your righting reflex reflexes kicked in when you’re feeling like it’s not in alignment with yourself, but in reality, [00:21:00] You know, why not be curious to find out what’s going through their head and why that makes the most sense for them to.
Well, I would say a Casey’s example might come to mind from my righting reflex, well, I don’t want to be curious about why he wants to go spin the well, that’s not true. I’m ambivalent about that. Now that I say that maybe there is a positive intent there that they think they’re going to win all the family money at Vegas.
I don’t know. Casey, what are your thoughts? Well, I think that. I think it’s so helpful to hear things from so many different angles, like the whole thing about, you know, is your intention to win or to love it. I think that’s just, I think it’s a very clean layman’s version of how attached are you to the outcome?
What, how come are you attached to, um, so it’s, it’s catchy, but it’s still the same mechanism of how attached are you to that outcome. If you’re, if you’re attached to winning or being right. You’re writing reflects by definition is going to be higher. [00:22:00] And if your intention is to be present and curious, like Tammy said, you’re righting reflex is going to be more at bay and it’s less about winning.
So I think, I think the mechanisms are the same and I just, I like that. There’s different angles that make it accessible to brain to think of it that way. I know for me, Uh, there’s, you know, the, the, the, when the video that Miller does around the good lines, you know, reclined to bad lines. One of the things that just strikes me, and I, I say this nearly every single training to some professional or group of professionals at some point in time, nearly every week that therighting reflex comes from a desire of wanting to help.
And I, I, when Miller said that it just was something that just, I thought, oh my gosh, I looked through every profession that I work with, whether it’s law enforcement or obviously like behavioral health addiction, mental health, healthcare, you know, dietetics, just whatever you look from, the education, the fundamental [00:23:00] desire is a desire to help.
It’s not the harm. Our desire is to help. Um, and, but, and from that desire to help is where the righting reflex can rear up the most. And, you know, and the way that Miller articulate to just, you know, you see somebody going down the wrong path, a path that could do damage to them that could harm them. And you want to say, no, don’t go down this path, turn around and go this way instead.
And, and what he says is that is just the natural instinct of somebody that’s trying to help, but it is the righting reflex. And now not only they not now, not only do they want to go to the path they didn’t want to. Now they’re mad at you as well. Um, and saying, who are you to tell me which path I can go down?
And that was the contamination I was talking about as well, too, that, um, instead of having them an ambivalent state, my righting reflex can actually have a detrimental effect. On an outcome, as opposed if I would have never opened my mouth, they may have stayed in a state of ambivalence or not. It’s gone deep down that road instead of, you know, jogging down that road and turning around [00:24:00] and give me the finger.
You know, it’s like, well, that was not an outcome I intended. And then we ended up stigmatizing or blaming the individual instead of taking relate a responsibility for gosh, maybe the way that I articulated that sparked this. This reflects in them that caused a more negative outcome or, or for them to hold even more tightly to a self destructive thought or behavior.
Yes. Yeah. I don’t know if I took this from you, Casey, but on that point, the humble bite of pie of Motivational Interviewing, I have said before is really bringing it back to go, what did I do to help, uh, Or hinder, and I know I can’t control their people, but I influenced it. So, Hmm. And just bringing it back to that place of being able to respond by taking some responsibility, you know?
And, uh, so we’re, we’re bringing it to a close, but for those of you that, uh, enjoy us to expand on things again, you can, uh, email. [00:25:00] firstname.lastname@example.org. And we could go in so many directions. I’m curious to go in so many directions of like, well, wait a minute, but then when is it construction versus contaminating with that person?
That’s going to go spend the money at Vegas. When do you, where is the line? Right? Where is the line? And so, whereas tonight, John. Exactly. So there’s that example. There’s so many other examples that flow through my mind. Uh, there’s writing reflexes, what are healthier and what are less healthier. And so that’s interesting.
Um, as well as that, the more you care, the more you’re likely attached to the outcome, and that can be, uh, coming from a compassionate place. And then it can ironically turn into righteous. And, uh, just, so how do you be conscientious of that and how that shapes the relationship you’re in, whatever that is.
Um, so anyhow, we wrap up here, it’s been a pleasure. Uh, I’ve got to learn a lot from you both. So thank you for that. Hopefully you all, they’re all out there [00:26:00] have as well. Did you two want to add anything else before we finish up here for resources or where they can go or anything else? If you want to learn more about the righting reflex and how this is engaged in motivational interviewing in a deeper level, that’s going to be in our introduction to motivational interviewing class.
Wonderful. We will wrap there then wishing you all the. We will see you next time. Take care. Thank you. Bye-bye thank you for listening to the communication solution podcast as always. This podcast is all about you. So if you have questions, thoughts, topics, suggestions. Please send them our way at email@example.com.
That’s casey@ifioc.Com for more resources, feel free to check out IFIOC.com. We also have a public Facebook group called motivational interviewing every day. We have an amazing blog and we have lots of [00:27:00] communication tips on our web. In addition to all these amazing resources we do offer online public courses on our website on motivational interviewing and effective communication strategies.
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