THE EGO, WHAT IS IT ?
We don’t want to try to give a fixed definition of the ego, we leave that to the experts. We can say that the ego is linked to self-image. It is activated when the image of oneself reflected by others differs (for the worse or even better) from the image one has of oneself. If the ego is often activated in our lives, then there is a strong probability that the self-image is not very “stable, conscious, reliable” and that the individual oscillates between arrogance (oversized ego: I, me…) and submission (non-existent ego: I have no opinion, no needs, no demands, etc.).
Don’t get me wrong: it’s good to have a good sense of self. But while the self (non-activated ego) can be our greatest resource, it can also be our darkest enemy (activated ego). On the one hand, the fundamentally human capacities of self-awareness, self-reflection and self-control are essential for achieving our goals. On the other hand, the ego has a perpetual desire to be seen in a positive light. It will do anything to absolve itself of responsibility for any negative outcome it may deserve and to shine. The ego then engenders many sophisticated self-defence mechanisms that close us down, lock us up and can end up making us inaccessible to others.
Is it possible to turn down the volume of the ego, without losing ourselves entirely, but enough so that it can listen to others as well as ourselves, in an effort to approach life with more humanity and compassion.”
Psychological researchers – Bauer and Wayment (1) – have provided an answer: “the quiet ego” is defined as “a self-identity that transcends egoism and identifies with a less defensive and more balanced stance towards oneself and others”. A balance between self-centred and other-centred values
THE FOUR CAPABILITIES OF THE QUIET EGO
The Quiet Ego model consists of four interconnected capacities, to be balanced two by two: Mindfulness & Positive Evolution and Connection & Perspective Taking. These four characteristics all contribute to an overall posture of balance and evolution towards self and others.
The complementarity of Mindfulness with Positive Evolution considers the process of experiencing oneself in an evolving system (Goldstein, 1939 & Piaget 1970). The combination of Connection and Perspective Taking promotes a balance between integration and differentiation, which encourages cooperation and calms self-protection mechanisms (Montoya & Pittinsky, 2011).
The good news: a capacity is developing (2).
Capacity #1: MINDFULNESS
People with a quiet ego are intensely attentive and aware of their environment. They focus on the immediate moment, without judgment or preconceived notions of how the moment should unfold. This non-defensive attitude towards the present moment and its evolution is associated with many positive life outcomes.
Capacity 2: POSITIVE EVOLUTION
Personal growth is understood here as the dynamic process of personal growth. The quiet ego sees each situation as an opportunity to evolve for the better, the best of each actor in the situation.
Capacity #3: CONNECTION
If your identity is inclusive, you integrate yourself into the experience – others and the environment – and you integrate the experience into yourself. You are then likely to be cooperative and caring towards others rather than working only for yourself. This opens the door to collective intelligence.
Capacity 4: PERSPECTIVE TAKING
When you step back, you detach yourself from the experience – others and the environment. You can then consider other points of view. The quiet ego then draws attention away from yourself, increasing empathy and compassion.
THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A QUIET EGO
For the individual: having a quiet ego leads overall to a greater sense of well-being, self-esteem, and meaning in one’s daily life. More specifically, to greater resilience and fewer difficult emotions (anger, cynicism, depression…). Personal Growth leads to seeking self-fulfilment through competence, autonomy and positive social relationships. The person is less defensive in his or her relationships with others, more humble, feels more compassionate, more flexible in his or her thinking, open-minded, and enjoys daily experiences.
For the collective: For teams and their leaders, the quiet ego has many important benefits. For example, these organisations are more open to different perspectives and experimentation, to taking risks and thus to finding ways that often lead to new and fruitful discoveries. Leaders are also more resilient to burnout while remaining empathetic, close, accessible: distant enough to maintain their discernment and logic, and emotionally close enough to identify with the problems, discomfort and even suffering of others, without becoming overwhelmed by taking on and identifying with the difficulty.
In addition, these work cultures show a lot of humility and are therefore more inclusive and tend to have happier employees, who in turn are more productive.
Organisational research shows us that a Quiet Ego of leaders creates a culture of effectiveness, fostering trust, collective intelligence and commitment to the common goal. These are capacities that catalyse the transformation of the organisation.
For Esséré, the organisation must develop this posture in each manager/leader in order to start, support and sustain an “in-depth” transformation of the identity and processes of a company.
For this, we have developed a unique leadership programme, based on and measuring the Quiet Ego of managers/leaders, the Psychological Safety of teams and a Supportive Organisation.
(1) Wayment, Bauer: “The quiet Ego: Motives for Self-Other balance and growth in relation to well-being” 2017
(2) Wayment, Huffman, Eiler: “a brief quiet-ego workplace intervention to reduce compassion fatigue and increase healt in hospital healthcare workers” 2019