Attunement (defined): 1. “A bringing into harmony.” 2. “To make aware or responsive.”
From the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 20, 26-28 (from the request of James and John): But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom* for many.”
The World is Now Flat
Daniel Pink is arguably what could be considered a researcher and writer in, what we called in my master’s degree program, the field of Leadership and Organizational Behavior. Pink is also a bestselling author of several books that have topped the New York Times best seller list, of them Drive and A Whole New Mind. Pink researches and writes on human motivation. The science behind “the why” of what we do, and “the who” of what we want to be. Pink has produced some of the most fascinating material currently available since Pavlov owned a dog and Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs.
In his book, To Sell is Human, Pink argues that we are all in sales now. That with the flattening of organizations due to shifts in the economy we all have moved into a sales role within our workplace environments. Specifically, from data he has taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics he argues that now 8 in every 9 Americans performs some, if not all, functions of what has traditionally been seen as a Sales role. This comes from a time of a traditional Sales Department mindset where only 1 in 9 Americans were seen in a role officially labeled as “Sales.”
Without getting into too many specifics (and denying you the opportunity to read a great book), Pink argues that this shift came in conjunction with a shift in information. We once operated in a world of asymmetrical information between buyers and sellers and this world has been displaced by where we are now – existing largely in a world of information parity. This is a fancy way of saying that with a tool called “THE INTERNET,” the sales guy no longer knows more than you do. For Pink’s discussion, this information parity leads to a balance of power in a relationship between two people.
In addressing this shift Pink takes on the traditional stereo type of a salesman as defined by Alec Baldwin’s iconic role in the 1992 David Mamet film, Glenngarry GlenRoss. In the film Baldwin’s character defines a great many iconic moments of sales lore and who salesman are. Among them, Baldwin’s character coins “the ABC’s of selling” as Always-Be-Closing. Meaning that a salesman is always trying to close the deal. Pink argues that in the new world of selling, where archetypes from the film can no longer survive, those ABC’s have been replaced with something different: Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
Okay, well that is nice an all – and you may or may not have found that modestly interesting; but what does any of that have to Jesus Christ?
Jesus the Leader
Sure. Well let’s start with our readings from last Sunday:
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”
Paul is fairly specific here of how the Lord uses the powerless among us to “reduce to nothing” the powerful. Paul is stating clearly that man’s quest for glory is folly. That Glory is for God alone. To seek glory, or power as man defines it, should not be our aspiration.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
For anyone that doesn’t recognized this immediately, it is what is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount, and lays out what is also commonly referred to as The Beatitudes. It would ironically be folly on my part to try and take on systematically breaking down this sermon as there have been whole libraries written on these words.
It is fair to say, regardless, that here Christ also speaks of those of us who are powerless, to those of who don’t seek glory as man defines it, and to those love God with a pure heart. So looking at this scripture reading in parallel to the letter of Saint Paul, we begin to see a roadmap in how we deal with others. That the path we should all be on, is a path in which we find a way to love one another, and in doing so we respond to God’s love of us.
So now, let’s look back at our friend Daniel Pink. In his efforts to redefine the ABC’s, Pink explores this idea of Attunement. Pink defines attunement as the ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you are in.
In exploring this subject Pink leans on a recent study by a team of social scientists led by Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School Management which probed the relationship between perspective taking and power. The results of this study in perspective to Pink’s argument highlighted that High-power participants were almost three times as likely as low-powered participants to draw a self-oriented frame of reference. Put more simply by Pink, “…those who’d received even a small injection of power became less likely (and perhaps less able) to attune themselves to someone else’s point of view.”
In another experiment that Galinsky performed in the study, Pink also noted that “power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point, insufficiently adjusting to another’s perspective.”
Pink then summarizes that this points to a single conclusion on Attunement: “an inverse relationship between power and perspective taking. Power can move you off the proper position on the dial and scramble the signals you receive, distorting clear messages and obscuring more subtle ones.”
Pink finishes by pointing out a great irony. In citing research by Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkley, and others, Pink shares that research has shown “that those with lower status are keener perspective-takers. When you have fewer resources, Keltner explained in an interview, ‘you’re going to be more attuned to the context around you.’”
A Recipe for Understanding Why we Love
So now let’s take Christ’s sermon, Paul’s letter, and Pink’s assertions and associated research. Then let’s lump that in with the Greatest Commandment.
You remember the Greatest Commandment? Matthew 22, 37-39: You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
We have asked this question before, and its worthy of asking again here, “Why is the second like it?”
Perhaps it’s fair to say that as the body of Christ we respond to the Love we receive from God by loving one another as God has loved us? Why? Because God is in all of us, and by loving our neighbor we love God in response. Perhaps that is why we are called the Body of Christ. Because we exist collectively with him and through him, and he exists in us. We live as one with God.
That could be a bit of a mind blower. Therefore as a matter of practice for living, Christ gives us understanding of what we are called to do, being the simple human creatures we are, through simple instructions by which to live so that we can follow through in response to him. As Paul says, “Not many of you were wise by human standards…” Simply, instead of a philosophy or brain chemistry lesson, Christ talks to us as children. For in comparison to the Wisdom of God that is what we are.
What Pink and company have given us in relationship to this discussion is great irony and understanding of God’s designed plan for us. A glimmer of accidental insight into the greatness that is God. Like the DNA strand, the food chain, and the water cycle, what seems so very simple as a component part is but just a small piece of something far greater. Something so masterful that when we take it all in, we can only drop to our knees in prayerful obedient love.
The irony here worth pointing out is that in efforts to better understand human motivation, social scientists have discovered, through scientific observation and research, that we are mentally designed to perform at our best for God when we observe the basic fundamentals of life as he has given us through the Sermon on the Mount and the Greatest Commandment. That we operate at our best when we respond to Him as he spoke to us as children – as we are called to do. For those without power over others, those poor with few resources, those meek of modest aspirations over others – those people put themselves in position to be most attuned to one another. By being better attuned to one another we become better attuned to God. To live in awareness, in responsiveness, with each other. To bring us all together into the harmony the Body of Christ is called to be.
The opposite becomes equally obvious also through this same information. When we seek dominance over one another, when we seek Glory for our sake and not for God’s, and when we align ourselves for our own needs over the needs of others; we inherently make it harder on ourselves – by design – to love, respond, and see God. We make it harder because we inherently blind ourselves to live as called through Christ. Living with ourselves at the center of our lives, living in this fallen world of man’s glorification, we further make it harder to connect and grow in Christ through one another. We make it harder to live, as created, as one with God.
St. Teresa of Calcutta pray for us.