January 4, 2022

Be the Mirror on the Wall: To Bloom and Grow

“Our trust in our own basic goodness emerges from the clear and deep mirroring of others.” ~ Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance


It’s true. There’s so much we don’t know about one another, especially right no

As news of the Omicron variant potentially disrupts the tender new shoots of our 2022 hopes and plans, so many of us are feeling – blah – unsettled – a bit anxious and uncertain – and lacking our usual joy for life.

Recently, a client asked me wistfully if there was a quick fix for the low-level, team conflict and generalized anxiety he sensed on his team. 

In fact, the answer is YES.

There are ways to gain maximum effect with minimum effort with the people in our lives. It works like watering a withered plant and watching it gracefully arch back into the light to bloom and grow once again. 

The Reaction Rut

However, in this time of extended uncertainty, many of us unconsciously take the longer route to positive change. We fall into a reaction rut, fooling ourselves that just one more piece of constructive feedback will change the course of another person’s behavior. We leap to what we imagine is a fast-fix when in fact, we’ve missed the most critical, first step.   

Even Conflict Mediation Begins with Mirroring

When I work with clients in mediation, we always begin with each person sharing three things they really appreciate about the other offending party. It’s remarkable, nearly miraculous because the other party has NO IDEA that they are also being seen for their strengths and contributions. And thus, through the clear mirroring from another, the snarl of misunderstandings begins to unravel.

The Practice of Inclusion

Mirroring is really a practice of inclusion. I recently read about the Babemba tribe of South Africa and how they address conflict through inclusion. 

[When] a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. 

Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and acts of kindness are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. In the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.”

Not what you expected, right? Implausible?

Well, an extended ceremony is probably out of the question. But we are wired to connect and right now we are drooping from the impact of pandemic isolation. 

Because whether we have introverted or extraverted preferences, we all blossom through meaningful connection and community. 

For Your Rear-View Mirror or Year in Review

So how do we weave this tall together for a meaningful and even fast-fix for our teams and frankly, everyone who is drooping in our lives? First, I invite you to reflect upon who mirrors your basic goodness? How do they do it? Does it involve extensive effort or is it sometimes just a couple of sentences where you feel exquisitely seen and heard?    

I suspect you will find that small acts of mirroring have a big impact on your well-being.

Why not begin your Year in Review, or Month in Review, with an exercise to mirror the basic goodness of each team member?

  • In advance (at least 48 hours), ask each team member to be prepared to share three things (or one if it’s a large team) that they appreciate about each team member and that have had a positive impact on them.
  • Explain that this exercise is equally as important as a dissection of what didn’t work because everything gets accomplished by working together.
  • Provide three examples in your advanced instructions – three specific behaviors that your team demonstrated that had a positive impact on you.

Yes, I know this idea might feel as implausible as the conflict management practice of the Babemba tribe.

However, you also might find the outcome as insightful and liberating as I do when facilitating conflict mediation.

To mirroring our basic goodness. May we bloom and grow better together.

Conflict Management, Feedback, Inclusion Safety
About Deene Morris
Engaging Emotional Intelligence | Team Think Generator | Psychological Safety & Inclusion | Moving Positive Change Forward