AC4P with Dr. Scott Geller 015 | Personality, States vs. Traits Part 2

We are back talking about personality and states vs. traits, but Dr. Geller will expand on this and bring it into a social context. How does an old dog learn new tricks? Can we influence pro-social and cultural changes that will ultimately influence personalities? Is our current culture of independence going to sustain or must we switch to a culture of interdependence? There are so many considerations when talking about how our behavior influences others, but shouldn't we be trying to make this a better world for all (instead of just for ourselves)?


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Shauna Costello (00:22):

Well, and it connects to, you know, what we previously talked about, about positive psychology and the PERMA episode and the power of emotional intelligence and things along those lines as well. And I'm pretty sure, I remember asking you can old dogs learn new tricks, and I think my belief is the answer is yes. But that also kind of plays into something else that you wanted to talk about with interdependence and synergy. And today, when you talked about, and you talk about this in your 50 lessons book as well, when you talk about a win-win versus a win-lose situation, and I could see these personality traits playing into this win-win mentality and, you know, creating a different synergy within different environments as well?

Dr. Scott Geller (01:29):

Yes, let's, let's get back to your family situation. Let's talk about nurture. Let's talk about as a child, you were dependent on someone to take care of you and that's the dependent. Then you became a teenager and perhaps your personality influences what you wanted to be independent. I can do it myself. Can I help? No, I can do this. And in our culture, independence is pretty much reinforced. We want to be independent, but the mature individual, the mature organization understands the third step is interdependent. The realization that we're all in this together, we can't do it ourselves. You heard like it takes a village to raise a child. So in fact, moving from dependent, independent, don't get stuck there, move to interdependence. And of course, it's an interesting question as to whether there's a connection between personality and this situation. But now we're talking about situations and we're talking about nurture and so interdependent.

Dr. Scott Geller (02:43):

Now, when we talk about interdependent and people working together to get the whole greater than the sum of its parts, by the way, that's called synergy. When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that's synergy. Now here's one for you, the more different, the parts, the more divergent, the parts, the greater the synergy. That's powerful and the more divergent the parts, the more difficult it is to get interdependency, to get synergy. But when you get it, when you take the time, when you take the time to realize that we got to use different skills, different personalities, different dimensions, different dispositions, we reach synergy. So that's a powerful one. Now that really leads to a win-win. Interdependency reflects, win, win, as opposed to win, lose and these days I think our culture is dealing with too much win, lose I'm right and you're wrong.

Dr. Scott Geller (04:02):

And of course, that's back to independence. You know, another word that relates to all this self-serving. Are you here for you? or are we here for others? Do we recognize that we're a system of people working interdependently together to make a difference? That would be ideal but unfortunately has, was shown recently in Washington DC, win, lose. Win, lose, rather than trying to reach a compromise to work together we want to make a stand and this is me and you, I'm right and you're wrong. Self-Serving doesn't work in the long run. We have to get top of Maslow's hierarchy, self-Transcendence going beyond ourselves for somebody else.

Shauna Costello (04:59):

And then another thing that I thought was really interesting is I'm going to quote, how can we know activate appreciation for those divergent or different perspectives, build the consensus and achieve that synergy. So a couple of those are direct, you know, are direct quotes from your 50 lessons book while I was reading through it. And I think this is one of the biggest things that with more experienced me personally, I've gotten better at this, but it's still something that at least for me it's a constant goal is to, this is not, I have to win, you have to lose situation. Even if it's in, you know a personal conversation or a situation, not just a work conversation.

Dr. Scott Geller (05:58):

And, you know, I might tell you that here at the university, it is so much win-lose. It is so much win-lose. Every professor, we have our own little silo, our own little research group, you know, and we do not interact enough with other research groups. And so we end up losing opportunities to really grow through interdependency, through interaction, the provost at our university, maybe most universities, they want interdisciplinary research and teaching. Interdisciplinary that means connect with others. But again, you have tenure situation. Only a few people can get tenure. I mean, the system is set up for competition. And in fact, I'm on the review committee of our faculty and it's competition only so many people can get this prize can get this grant can get. So we have a culture that promotes independent win-lose when in fact the irony is we'd be so better off if we were interdependent. For example, in our department, in our department of psychology, we call on people from other universities and we pay them to come in and give a colloquium address. Instead of having our own faculty give colloquium addresses. I don't know I'm embarrassed to say, I don't know what most of my faculty are doing today for their research. I don't know. I can look at their vitae, but I don't know. We actually stifle opportunities to interact on a professional level. We might go to parties and do that kind of talk. But the professional talk, I've got my own little thing, I published in my own journals here and there and so forth. So really this notion about interdependency, it's easier said than done.

New Speaker (07:58):

And it's bigger than we could imagine how much we could learn if we connected more with other people and the big word, Shauna, I think the big word that we lack is empathy. When it comes to individual conversations and understanding, we want to get my point across. I want to tell you what I think and what I know rather than what do you know, where are you coming from? It's not easy because we live in a culture. Our culture is more independent than many other cultures. Other cultures are really more interdependent. And by the way, back to the pandemic, some cultures were able to handle the pandemic easier than in our culture. Oh, we had people I'm not going to wear a mask and fighting about their independence to not wear a mask wherein other cultures, the top dog says, we all wear masks for interdependency and they do.

Shauna Costello (09:02):

And one thing I saw too relating to that is it was in Thailand. I believe it was in Thailand. And one thing that they're doing is they created a phone app that allows farmers and just everyday people to take pictures of plants, wildlife, or their farm animals or things like that. And the reason they're doing this is for that interdependence, they're doing it for the masses because of how certain diseases can be spread from animal to human. And they want to look out for that. And the person who is talking, says we can't train everybody to be an expert in plants or in like medicine for animals or how animals should look wildlife and, you know, domestic more domesticated animals. We can't train everybody to do that, but we can give everybody the tools to be the eyes and the ears and to try to track that as early as possible.

Shauna Costello (10:16):

So yeah, they, anybody can just take a picture of something and they can send it right in, and then the experts will analyze it. And I was like, that is phenomenal. And I think that comes back to bringing behavioral science into, the language that we use. Language is a big thing is because a lot of fields use different language and we think that our language is better than their language and things along those lines. But a lot of times we're all talking about the same thing here. And so like you've been doing, and this is one thing why I was very excited to get to work with you is to help create these bridges into these other fields of study and try to get other people to try to teach others that just because we may be taught as behavioral scientists, as OBMers, to talk about things a certain way, that it may be more effective to talk about it a different way to become more approachable to other fields of study.

Dr. Scott Geller (11:32):

Brilliant. That's exactly what happened with applied behavior analysis that instead of connecting with the APA, the psychology, they started their own organization independence. And in fact, now the language applied behavior analysis, I've been fighting that term for years. I mean, let's understand it. Analysis is a turnoff to the public. "You're going to analyze me" And besides we do more than analyze, we intervene, we help. And science! Science is a part far more positive word to the culture. So you're so right, Shauna, our language might be holding us back and we want to hold on to our technology, our language rather than let's share it. And let's speak about it in such a way that other people will respect us and appreciate what we do. You're so right. I mean, if we could just become more interdependent like you mentioned Taiwan, some other cultures where they're more recognizing that we're all in this together and we can fight this together.

Dr. Scott Geller (12:48):

So I will wear a mask, even though I don't love it because I want to set the right example. I want to set the right example for others. And it is about others, serving others. Imagine if we had just accepted the fact that we're all in this together, let's keep our distance, let's wear a mask. Imagine let's not have these parties, or we want to scream and shout and have these parties. And whether it's a sporting event or a political event, what if we just recognize interdependency caring for others? But again, maybe our disposition held us back. Maybe our independence, our self-serving perspective, by the way, that that can be at a personality state or trait. Also, the state of being self-serving or being other-directed, are you self-directed or other-directed?

Shauna Costello (13:50):

Well, and that kind of brings me back to connecting this, you know, before we end connecting this, win-win, win-lose, the interdependence, you know, back to these personality traits or states as well. And even back to some previous talks that we've had about, you know, I'm however old now, and I'm stuck in my ways, I'm not going to change. No, I mean, it's one thing I always like to mention is that there are ways to teach old dogs new tricks, and it may not be easy because the longer you've been doing something a certain way, it's going to be harder to change it. But there are options you can do, self-management time management things along those lines as well. So that's one thing I just want to reiterate is that this is something that is going to take a lot of work for a lot of people. And I think that there are a lot of resources out there that can help as well. And I mean, are there any trainings that, you know, you've come across that you personally like off the top of your head that might be helpful to some of this, to some of these related items we've talked about?

Dr. Scott Geller (15:20):

Well, when you were talking, I'm thinking of self-talk, I'm thinking of becoming more mindful of these concepts that we're talking about, internalize them, talk to yourself about them, evaluate your behavior. Are you being too independent? Are you self-serving? So again, self-talk and go a long way. It's the word I like to think it's not a habit it's mindful fluency. You know, habits are reflexive. Habits are things we just do habitually without thinking. And I think the big deal here is we need to think as radical behaviorists, we accept thinking and its mindful fluency. We needed to be thinking of what are we doing? And by the way, what example are we setting for others by what we do? That's back to the other lesson on observational learning. We set an example. And again, we've seen this situation with the pandemic. Many people have set the wrong example and that wrong example spreads and all of a sudden we're not doing the right thing. And it is about talking to ourselves and saying, I know the right thing, and I want to set the right example and I want interdependency. And I haven't always been that way I can learn. So it's a disposition that can be influenced and I can influence others to be more interdependent, to be more win-win in their everyday operations, everyday lives.

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