Yes, Yes, Yes

Hello my friends,
You may remember that in last year’s message I noticed how 09-09-09 sounds like “Oh nein, Oh nein, Oh nein.” At least it does for those who know a Germanic language. So I wrote about saying “Oh no, Oh no, Oh no.”

This year, my Singaporean friend Yeo Keng Choo told me how, in Chinese, 10-10-10 sounds like “Yes, Yes, Yes!”

That is, “ten” sounds like “yes” if you say both words in Mandarin Chinese—which is a tonal language. As Keng Choo explains: “Ten pronounced in Mandarin sounds like ‘sh’. The Mandarin word for ‘yes’ is also ‘sh’, although in a different tone.”

So those of you reading this message who speak Chinese (and there are at least twenty of you on the mailing list!) will see 10-10-10 and hear yes, yes, yes.

For the rest of you, I asked Keng Choo what the Chinese character is for ten. To my delight, Keng Choo replied: “Ten’ in Chinese is written as +.”

Isn’t that wonderful? Not only does ten sound positive in Chinese, it looks positive too.

I talked with Keng Choo about all this in Singapore a few days ago during the first NTL Festival of Learning. Sushma Sharma and I imagined this festival more than a year ago—and Keng Choo made it happen: six days with forty people taking one or more of the four workshops we offered.

As I wrote the first draft of this message on the flight home from Singapore, I asked myself: “If ten ten ten sounds like yes yes yes, then what are you saying yes to?” As I sat there quietly, the answer came to me clearly: “I am saying yes to what I do, yes to how I live, and yes to who I love.”

So I would like to share some stories of what I’ve been learning lately about what I do, how I live, and who I love. Starting with who I love, Rosie has listened to my stories of my experiences in Singapore and noticed a connection with an article that we had discussed before I left: "Nobler Instincts Take Time" by Carl Marziali.

During the Festival, we took time each day for a Sunrise Seminar. This is an NTL tradition to open the day with a 45 minute learning experience.

On the second day, my colleagues Deborah Howard and Yvette Hyater-Adams did a Sunrise Seminar in which they asked us to read a poem—silently and slowly. Then we read it aloud as a group and shared what resonated for us. The poem was one I treasure: "The Journey" by Mary Oliver.

It is about making choices and doing what you need to do, even when others do not agree with you. It begins this way:

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began”

I felt the tears of meaning and wrote this haiku:

The journey begins
each day that I realise
the journey begins

The next day I led a Sunrise Seminar on Silence. People entered the room silently, stayed silently, and left silently. I used a chime to bring their attention to a series of flipcharts on which I had written instructions, beginning with "Be still. Find your own place and sit quietly."

Then I guided them—moving slowly and silently—through a series of silent interactions with each other, such as "Greet each other. Make funny faces. Make sad faces. Play. Dance. Argue. Make up. Wave goodbye."

They did this with different partners and then with a small group. Finally, I asked them to be still again for a few minutes.

That was all. And yet it had a powerful effect on several people and changed their experience of the workshop session later that morning.

That same day I introduced my Energy model to the people in our workshop on Human Interaction. I do this by guiding people through a series of body movements—moving slowly and silently—that enable them to experience four different ways of using energy with each other.

After they go through each body experience—moving slowly and silently—I ask them to share their sensations, emotions, and thoughts. I write these on a flipchart and then point out that all these sensations, emotions, and thoughts emerged without words and that these sensations, emotions, and thoughts confirm what I would have told them if I had given them a lecture on that particular energy.

Later on, in the T Group, I shared what I learned from Dee St. Cyr, who participated in a T Group with me about fifteen years ago. Dee is an American Indian of the Winnebago tribe. She said, “In our tribe, we also sit in circles and share ideas and feelings. But we sit silently before we speak and we sit silently after we speak.”

So, with Rosie’s help, I noticed what I learned and re-learned in Singapore: moving slowly and silently produces great learnings.

This connects to "Nobler Instincts Take Time." Carl Marziali is reporting on “Neural Correlates of Admiration and Compassion,” a study by neuroscientists led by Antonio Damasio.

Marziali quotes Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (one of the authors of the study): “For some kinds of thought, especially moral decision-making about other people’s social and psychological situations, we need to allow for adequate time and reflection.”

Damasio’s group found that: “Humans can sort information very quickly and can respond in fractions of seconds to signs of physical pain in others. Admiration and compassion—two of the social emotions that define humanity—take much longer.”

What the researchers did was to use “compelling, real-life stories to induce admiration for virtue or skill, or compassion for physical or social pain, in 13 volunteers (the emotion felt was verified through a careful protocol of pre- and post-imaging interviews). Brain imaging showed that the volunteers needed six to eight seconds to fully respond to stories of virtue or social pain. However, once awakened, the responses lasted far longer than the volunteers’ reactions to stories focused on physical pain.”

For those of us who work with people in T Groups (and in other intense learning experiences) where we see participants slowing down over several days to listen—slowly and silently—to each other’s stories, this research is not really surprising.

People often describe T Group experiences as life-changing. Now we have research to say that such experiences are actually brain-changing as well.

The research also underlines what Antonio Damasio wrote about earlier in his stunning book "The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion, and the Making of Consciousness." Damasio says that consciousness comes from our sensations and emotions, not the other way around.

So how does this connect with saying Yes, Yes, Yes to work, life, and love? Well, for me it goes back to the choice that Mary Oliver describes in "The Journey."

I’ve made many significant choices in my life. I realised this past week, as I re-read "The Journey" and as I moved slowly and silently, that I continue to make those choices. Sometimes it’s a big choice; other times it’s simply choosing once again to move slowly and silently.

One choice I made several years ago was to accept the invitation of my colleague Sue Craig. She asked if I would take on the task of revising her book "Make Your Mark" for a second edition. I was intrigued and honoured. I thought it might take me four weeks or possibly four months.

Instead, it has taken four years. Gradually, as Sue and I worked through the first few drafts, Sue got clearer about what she was saying “Yes” to in her own life and she moved into retirement.

So now I have responsibility for the book. That choice to say “Yes” has given me the chance to clarify what I have been learning and teaching about influencing skills over the past 30 years.

Saying “Yes” to the book meant an opportunity to focus on what I do—my work. That intense focus also meant saying “No” to the other parts of my life: my family, my friends, and my larger world.

Now I am choosing to regain my balance by saying Yes, Yes, Yes to all three: work, life, and love.
I am swimming on my own—moving silently and slowly to bring my body back to fitness. I am walking and talking with Rosie, admiring this wonderful woman who writes passionate political poetry. I am working with people in groups as we discover—moving silently and slowly with our bodies and minds—how to live life to the full and share our nobler instincts.

I wish the same joyful choices for you. Yes. Yes. Yes.



Maybe it’s because I’m writing a book and have got used to putting Notes at the end of each chapter. Anyway, I’d like to give you some of the sources for what I’ve been sharing with you.

Yeo Keng Choo explained the sound of 10-10-10 in more detail in an email: “Ten pronounced in Mandarin sounds like ‘sh’. The Mandarin word for ‘yes’ is also ‘sh’, although in a different tone. Mandarin (the official Chinese dialect) has 4 tones denoted as: -, /, v, . The ‘sh’ for ‘ten’ is in 2nd tone. The ‘sh’ for ‘yes’ is in 4th tone. But near enough to sound like ‘yes’.”

NTL is the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences. It was founded in 1947 in the US and now has members around the world. You can learn more at www.ntl.org

The founders of NTL created the T Group (T for Training) which has remained at the core of NTL’s work ever since. The T Group is a small group of people sitting in a circle with an experienced facilitator, who creates an open and safe atmosphere for learning and dialogue about intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group development. Participants often describe it as life-changing. You can find more information at www.ntl.org/inner.asp?id=188&category=4

The next NTL Festival of Learning will take place in both Singapore and India in November 2011. You can get more information (which we will update in the next few months) on the Festival website at www.ntlfest.sg/ or at the NTL Institute site at www.ntl.org

"Nobler Instincts Take Time" by Carl Marziali can be found at http://uscnews.usc.edu/sciencetechnology/noblerinstinctstaketime.html

Rosie found the Marziali article through a reference in "The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read, and Remember" by Nicholas Carr (Atlantic Books, 2010).

"The Journey" is one of the poems in the collection "Dream Work" by Mary Oliver (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994).

"The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion, and the Making of Consciousness" by Antonio Damasio (Vintage, 2000).

"Influencing for Results in Organisations" by Walt Hopkins and Sue Craig is due for publication by McGraw-Hill in the spring of 2011. If you want to read the penultimate draft and make last-minute suggestions for another good story, I can send you a link.

Thanks for reading all this. See you on 11-11-11.