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  • Writer's pictureThrive Inc.

Re-Entering the World with Awareness

Things are slowly beginning to transition back to life as we knew it, and as such, we need to make choices about how we want to re-enter the world. For many of us, there are things we want to take forward and things we want to leave behind following the quarantine. We’ve been working differently, and some businesses are continuing to work remotely because employees have been more productive throughout this period. But is that really the case? There is a difference between productivity and engagement and one doesn’t necessarily equal the other. Throughout this period, a lot of people have cultivated negative habits due to the circumstances in which they’ve been working. There’s a need for awareness as we re-enter the world so that these negative habits don’t wind up being the cause of burnout. Join us this week where we’ll discuss how to become more aware of your habits and behaviors so that you re-enter with a choice in how you operate. We’ll show you how to break bad habits and work in a way that is productive and conducive to yourself and how to prioritize what’s important to you.

If you want to learn how to deal with conflict more effectively, as always, we are both available for individual one on one and couples coaching. For the next couple of months, we are also offering free virtual training to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team, and your business both at work and at home during this pandemic. Get in touch with us to find out more!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Learn More:

  • Why exploring your bad habits will empower you to break them.

  • The science behind the relationship between brain chemicals and habits.

  • The difference between productivity and engagement.

  • Why acting on adrenaline can cause burnout.

  • Why it’s important to set boundaries in your work.

  • How to ensure you have a choice in the way you wish to re-enter the world.


  • Contact us: | Website | Facebook | LinkedIn

  • If you want to learn how to deal with conflict more effectively, as always, we are both available for individual one on one and couples coaching. For the next couple of months, we are also offering free virtual training to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team, and your business both at work and at home during this pandemic. Get in touch with us to find out more!

Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. Hi, I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan. We run a company called Thrive, and we specialize in conflict resolution, communication and building strong, thriving teams and relationships. Conflict shows up in our lives in so many ways. Most people, unfortunately, are not very good at handling conflict. Most people have never been taught the right tools for dealing with conflict, and then it leads to unnecessary friction, arguments, passive aggressive emails, tears, hurtful comments, stuck-ness, all kinds of things we don't want. We're on a mission to change all of that.

CrisMarie: We've spent the last 20 years teaching our clients how to handle conflict in a whole new way. We're here to show you that conflict doesn't have to be scary and overwhelming. With the right tools, you can turn a moment of conflict into a moment of reinvention. Conflict can pave the way into a beautiful new system at work, a new way of leading your team, a new way of parenting, a new chapter of your marriage where you feel more connected than ever before. Conflict can lead to beautiful things.

Today’s episode is about re-entry, and the choices that we’re faced in this re-entry process. There’s things that people have learned and sheltering in place that are really good, and they want to actually take with them even as they go out into the world more. And there’s some things that are not helpful and they want to leave them behind.

Susan: Now, some of this came up from – this conversation today came up for me. Because I have had the optimistic view that when we went back to being able to reopen and go back to business we would better be able to look at what do we want to do different in the way we do business? And what really matters, what’s important?

And I was a little alarmed when I read a New York Times article that was written about how some businesses, having been working remote, and their belief that the remote working, they wanted to keep that. Because their people worked longer, harder hours, and they got more productivity out of them.

Now, as I read through the article it kind of made me even a little more concerned because it was talking about how they were tracking them on their computers. And could keep track of whether they were productive or not productive, and that because people didn’t have to drive to the office they could be in meetings sooner and work longer. And I thought I’m not really sure this is the best way to make a decision, that this is the best choice to doing business.

CrisMarie: Well, wasn’t even the writer who was doing the article, he loaded that tracking software on his computer. And he started to trust his boss less, even though his boss was actually not looking at the data, right, isn’t that part of what it was?

Susan: Well, that was alongside this particular article, also one where – because he was a part of the same team who were looking at some of these issues. And yes, he had put this software on his thing so that he could write this article. And even though his boss had really goodwill towards him and really didn’t even want him to have it, wasn’t tracking him at all. Because his boss got all the information from the computer, he was becoming paranoid about his boss. So you just see how innate that can become.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And we want to just talk about, you know, productivity versus engagement. Because even some of the people that I have been coaching, their days have gotten longer because their work is essential, so they have carried on. So they get out of bed, maybe they start at 6:00am, and they go till 8:00pm or even later. And they have actually created a negative habit in making these days longer and longer.

Susan: I mean I do want to be clear, I have a judgment about it, that’s pretty clear, a bias that these businesses that are just saying they want their people to come back and, “Wow, look how productive they are now. We just want them to keep working like this,” are actually only looking at numbers and hours and results, and not that invested in their people. Now…

CrisMarie: That’s your story.

Susan: That was my story. So I did in my own inquiry, have the opportunity to work or talk to a few different people about this notion. And a couple of things that I did learn was that, you know, one person that I was speaking to, I said, “Do you think of yourselves as much more productive?” And yes, he was working longer hours, but he was also – he had had this exciting – their company had been assigned the responsibility – Rolls-Royce is a vehicle in Germany that – pretty well known vehicle.

CrisMarie: I think everybody knows.

Susan: Yeah, you’ve probably heard of it. But they apparently have a ventilator system inside their car, that they got tasked to be able to provide ventilators, an air stream system, I imagine. I’m not a car person so don’t take this exactly to heart. Their task was to take this and use it to create ventilators.

CrisMarie: Like for hospitals?

Susan: Yeah. He said, “What was so cool is we were working remotely, we didn’t get to work together, I thought it would be much harder. But these people, it was amazing how creative, how productive they were. They were on task. They felt empowered. They worked longer hours and we had this incredible result.” So it was an example where I was thinking, okay, you know, I can see why in that scenario you really thought there was a higher level of productivity.

CrisMarie: Well, then I think that clear purpose and streamline, you don’t have to go up through the hierarchy, which I imagine in regular Rolls-Royce terms, you might have to. And so they were kind of rallied around, and even a good purpose, like were helping people, that’s a different level of productivity. Because it’s engagement versus productivity, meaning I’ve got to be on this meeting, it’s 8 o’clock, I don’t really want to be on this meeting. I don’t even think this meeting is well run. But I am going to say yes because I’m too afraid to say no.

Susan: So I think I have my biases that most of these highly productive businesses, where they think they’re getting, is more what you just described than what Rolls-Royce described.

CrisMarie: Well, and I think the challenge is if you are somebody who’s just extended your day, eventually if you’re not in those engaged, like really excited, and even if you are, that can only last so long, because you’re running on adrenalin. And it will eventually lead to burnout because adrenalin is negative to the system, it really – the cortisol, and does not actually feed your brain and your body, your body doesn’t get to repair.

So it’s a real issue that you have to learn how to balance and set boundaries and learn how to say no and not work longer and longer. It’s meant to – I think those are spikes, like yeah, we can work longer for little spikes and then we go back to normal. But it seems to have just extended like, and maybe because people feel guilty, like, hey, at least I have a job.

Susan: And that was going to be another thing, right?

CrisMarie: Yeah.

Susan: I think in talking and interviewing people, that’s a consistent thing with people who are taking call, after call, after call, staying on hour after hour. That they have some guilt that if they don’t, like other people don’t even have a job, so I’ve got to do it.

CrisMarie: Right. But again that will lead eventually to burnout.

Susan: Yes. And I mean, you know, let’s face it, even using Rolls-Royce as the example, then building those cars, they’re a mature system in that respect. And so they have systems, processes, all sorts of things that makes it maybe not as much fun to do, you know, off road, so to speak. And so then they get called on to do the ventilator. In some respects they were operating more like a startup right then, than a mature business, which is different. I doubt they would have been able to sustain making ventilators, like.

CrisMarie: Or now you have to make this new thing, and now you have to make that new thing, eventually it would wear on them.

And I think even there was a CEO I was coaching who was actually, he was working remotely and he was actually really enjoying it. And he said, “Oh my gosh, this is the most time I have spent with my kids, the last eight weeks than I’ve spent with them their entire lives.” And he was actually teary about it, it really, he was loving this connection. And he said, “But, you know, we’re reopening so now I have no choice, I have to go back to work.” And I was reminding him, “You are the CEO, you can actually figure out.”

I think that’s the piece is like this belief that I have no choice, I have no choice to say no in my day. I’ve just got to start at six and go on, and on, and on. Or I have no choice, I’ve just got to go back to the way it was.

Susan: And I don’t know that we were going to down this road right now, but I just am inclined to go. But, you know, the whole notion of why is it so hard to say no or to make a choice? Like I imagine that CEO is faced with it, well, it’s, you know, I’ve got to go back because that’s what’s expected, that’s what I expect of my people, that’s what I expect.

You know, we have a very strong pull to belong to something, to feel like we’re the good member of the team. We’re doing the right thing. And sometimes it takes us right against a much bigger picture about what’s really important? And is it okay to do what’s important to you?

CrisMarie: I think actually there’s survival mechanisms in our chemistry and our biology that says, you know, “It’s dangerous to say no, I want to belong.” And we even seek approval, and that approval, I’m important, fires serotonin in my brain, and gives me a reward for not saying no, for saying, “Yes, I’ll stay for the meeting, I’ll be the hero.” And a lot of times people don’t want conflict, like I don’t want to upset people, so I’ll say yes when I really want to say no.

Susan: So in an interesting way I think what you might be talking about is the difference between, because I might say, “I have family values that should keep me at home.” But that’s not…

CrisMarie: Is this the CEO?

Susan: The CEO, but that’s not necessarily a reward. And so we get habituated to our rewards, you know, it’s like Pavlov’s dog, oh, I get paid well if I show up and do this, that and the other.

CrisMarie: And this is something we did want to talk about, our brain, how it fires, it wires together. So once you develop a habit of saying, “Yes, I’m going to work late, and then, oh, it’s easier to do it the next time and the next time.” And what happens is we have all these good chemicals that start to get perversed, negatively wired in a negative loop. Like the four good chemicals are like dopamine, like, ooh, I get a reward, I get a cookie, whenever we do that we get dopamine in our – fires off.

Serotonin fires when we feel important, like, “Ooh, I got on TV or I got the promotion, and aren’t I important?” The other is…

Susan: Now the stats.

CrisMarie: Yeah. Oxytocin fires when we have trusting relationships and we have that connection. So that might be with some form of the reward that the CEO is getting with his kids. And then there is endorphins which are more a matter of feeling pain, this is the runner’s high, like I push beyond what I think and all of a sudden my body does this flush of endorphins. And it’s like, ooh, I can go more, it’s a response to pain.

And then there’s the negative chemicals out of fear which are adrenalin, cortisol, all that uncertainty. And too often I find people are running on the adrenalin or a negative loop, like, “Look, see how important I am, I’m going to work longer tomorrow.” And it becomes a reinforcing habit in the brain, and it’s chemically induced. And we have to change that habit, is actually going to be hard and uncomfortable because we’ve got to rebalance those chemicals.

Susan: Right, because I was thinking of like for health reasons, that in a medical, you know, situation. Someone knows that smoking isn’t healthy for them and even then though it’s very hard to break that bad habit. But then, you know, you’d think in that scenario even that there’s enough reason, you could die if you keep doing it.

CrisMarie: That’s rational.

Susan: That’s rational. But really in some respects the same thing applies to business, like people in business get so addicted to the importance of their job or the importance to be a part of the team, to be the best player on the team. They don’t even recognize that as a bad habit. I mean sometimes talking them down and saying, “Do you realize if you don’t take care of yourself right now, you know, look at the consequences to your family. Look at the consequences to your health.” And I think it’s all the same, it’s the same kind of wiring.

CrisMarie: It is.

Susan: It makes it really difficult.

CrisMarie: You know, when you have a habit there’s triggers, and most people aren’t even aware there are triggers. And then there’s the behavior, so a trigger is my boss is upset, and so that’s the trigger. And so my behavior is I’m going to work more. And the reward is my boss gives me a little pittance of, “Good job.” I’m like, “Okay, great, I’ll do it again and again.” Or it could be I get stressed at work, I eat a cupcake and I have that sugar high. That would be another loop, or the smoking.

Susan: The thing that’s interesting about what you’re talking about is that we all had habits related to our work prior to this. Now, some of those habits, you know, like I was thinking about some of the people I’ve been coaching. And it’s like because they are now at home their habit has been as soon as I get to the office I get to work and I get busy and I don’t stop until 8 o’clock.

Well, now their office is at home so they get up at 6:00am and they just start going from one call, to the other, to the other, to the other, because that was the habit that they had. And they are kind of like; I don’t even know how to switch it. And it’s like, okay, no wonder you don’t know how to know, because you’re just on…

CrisMarie: Automatic pilot.

Susan: …automatic pilot. So what you may need to do in this case is really look at when you get up, and don’t change the habit, don’t try to change the behavior, but…

CrisMarie: Yet.

Susan: Yet. But explore so you wake-up at 6:00am and you go to your computer, what is really going on? Do you need to be there? Is this meeting critical? Do you actually think it’s important? To have more curiosity about the behavior and what is it serving now? Because at some point it may have really served a vital purpose, but there’s so many times we’ve gotten into the habit of, oh, I just have to show up at this meeting, I just have to do this, I just.

CrisMarie: And so I think what you’re suggesting is be curious, still doing the behavior, but turning up your curiosity, your awareness, noticing how you’re feeling. What are your thoughts? How does this impact you? And by doing that it’s probably easier than to be motivated to make a change when I’m aware of wow, this is really the cost.

I think this was an article I read, this woman was talking about smoking, and she – back when she started smoking she was a teenager and it was cool, so she thought, hey, I look cool when I’m smoking. Now she’s in her 40s and she’s still smoking. And so turning up the awareness and being curious of just as she’s smoking, what does it feel like? And she started to notice, wow, this actually tastes really bad, and it smells like chemicals. And so once that started to occur it was easier for her to let go of it because her brain was basically updating the connections.

Susan: So that’s I guess what we are really wanting you to explore. You know, you’ve got this opportunity, especially those of you who are still working remotely and things, to explore what is really your behavior around the work you do. And what is productive and what is habitual and possibly, even, addictive and you haven’t recognized it? Because this is a great opportunity between now and when you go back to the office, because it might be harder to explore this and figure it out.

CrisMarie: And don’t be surprised if it’s uncomfortable, because your brain chemistry is set up one way, so it wants you to keep doing to get the reward. And it takes about 45 days for your brain chemistry to kind of detox through your system. So expect it to be hard, expect it to be uncomfortable but keep being aware of what you feel in that behavior, because that’s going to be your biggest lever to make a change.

Susan: I mean I actually think in some respects, maybe people like ourselves, or people who could not just do their work the same way they’ve always done it from home. Have had a little more of a chance to explore this because it has been 45 days, been more than 45 days. And so I’ve had a lot of opportunity to look at my behaviors, and is this behavior serving me or not? And hopefully, you know if you have had the chance to do that, great. And if you’ve just been working remotely, notice what is happening with your behaviors.

CrisMarie: Yeah, because I think so often, people think I don’t have a choice, I just have to get up and I have to – my computer’s right there, I start working, and I can’t get off. And really there’s no one that has a gun to your head. You could literally not logon to your computer all day, of course there would be consequences, or you could miss one meeting, yes, there would be consequences. But I’m going to guess, you probably would not lose your job.

And I think we scare ourselves with those stories, like oh my gosh, bad things are going to happen. And that’s not really going to happen.

Susan: And really what we’re addicted to is probably one of these…

CrisMarie: Chemicals.

Susan: …chemicals, versus actual life or death, we cannot say no.

CrisMarie: Right.

Susan: Yeah, and that would be something worth exploring because then we can make more informed choices about how we want to do our work, how we want to live our lives, yeah.

CrisMarie: So just even kind of wrapping back to where we started from, we went down one trail of people working really hard, because that’s what we’ve seen a lot. But what are the behaviors you want to bring to un-shelter, re-entry? And what are the behaviors that are actually not helpful and you may have created a negative addiction to, that you want to break? And notice, if you think you have no choice, and can you actually find the place of really I do have a choice here?

Susan: Because we’ve still been asked on a broad level for our own health to wear a mask and to socially distance. And my experience is that I don’t see a lot of that occurring in my world. And it’s interesting because it doesn’t stop me from wearing my mask or being socially distanced. But I’m very tempted to have it stop me, like well no one else is doing it. So that desire to belong becomes such a great thing, you know, and I can say, “They’re making me do it.” And say “No one is making me not wear my mask,” you know, like I can wear my mask, I can keep…

CrisMarie: And you wind up getting mad at people who aren’t wearing a mask.

Susan: Well, I – no, do you know what I tend to do is then I just decide I’m not going to wear a mask or I’m not going to go out, which is really, like I give up my own what I can do. Versus, Susan, go out and wear your mask, maybe you’re the only one in town wearing it and that’s okay. But why I was thinking that’s important is that desire to belong or fit in is so great that it can totally override where I have a choice.

CrisMarie: And I think that is true in business cultures, if everybody else is online at 6:00am, so I’ve got to be online. I’m not going to be the problem person who everybody says, “Well, Joe doesn’t get online until nine,” which is when everybody used to get online.

Susan: Yeah. I mean I sometimes love talking to my sisters and families because they live in locations where everyone is wearing a mask. And so I just feel like, wow, I’m part of that group, even if I’m not part of my group, which is just crazy, you know.

CrisMarie: Well, I think actually, you know, I was thinking about the brain chemicals, and that desire to belong is the oxytocin, I would imagine, and the dopamine and the serotonin, they’re all survival based. I mean the people survived in the tribe who worked really hard, that they found the lake that would help them survive. And the connection, like I belong, so they’re not going to kick me out. So those are in our DNA and if we’re not aware of them, they will drive us.

So I think you noticing this and still making the choice to wear your mark, even though you’re the only one wearing your mask is important, that I get the peer pressure as a really strong push inside, or response inside of me.

Susan: It seems to be a pretty big one. So, you know, and we may talk more about this because I find these types of conversations fascinating, hopefully you do too. But really what we want to leave you with is be thinking about what are your habits? And are you even aware of what’s really driving them? Explore them; look at them, because you don’t have to go back to doing this the way you’ve always done it.

CrisMarie: If you do have a habit that you’re like, “Oh, I really want to break it,” turn up your curiosity about your mindfulness, your awareness of what’s happening while you’re doing it. And what are you thinking, what are you feeling, how do you experience? And then even how do you feel 15 minutes, an hour later, does it still pay off? That will give you more information about what’s going on for you.

Susan: Alright.

CrisMarie: Be aware as you re-enter

If you want to learn more about what we discussed today or how to deal with conflict more effectively, Susan and myself, CrisMarie are both available for individual one-on-one coaching. We also offer couples coaching, which now as we live and work 24/7 together, may be more important than ever.

Susan: We continue to do our team facilitation, both live and now virtually. Let’s get real, until you’ve had a tough conversation over Zoom, you may not be building the trust you need on your team. For the next couple of months we are offering free virtual trainings to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team and your business, both at work and at home during this pandemic.

CrisMarie: Right now you can find short videos on my, CrisMarie’s LinkedIn and Facebook with tips, tools and inspiration. To contact us, email, that’s

Susan: Okay, stay safe, stay healthy and remember, together we’re better and stronger.

CrisMarie: Take care.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

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