I Got it Through My Head I Just Can’t Break it to My Heart

Can’t Break it To My Heart was a hit song co-written and sung by country music star Tracy Lawrence in 1993. It tells the painful story that most of us have experienced when we fall in love with someone who does not love us back. It is difficult to accept the reality that the relationship you desperately long for is not going to work. Once you separate the thinking and feeling dynamics of the song, Lawrence’s lyrics become an excellent framework to talk about the knowing and doing gap when it comes to inclusion.

I saw this phenomenon first hand after analyzing training survey results from inclusion trainings I gave in 2012-13. When it came to knowing inclusion, students seemed to excel with comments like: (1) The training was useful; (2) The training was effective and (3) The message was communicated. Yet when asked about the doing side of inclusion, the participants seemed to retreat with comments like: (1) I did not learn any new skills and (2) I am unlikely to practice what I learned in the workplace.

How did they embrace the theoretical piece of inclusion and yet struggle with the practical side of inclusion? Simple explanation says consultant, Jim Sillery. The trainees were processing inclusion mainly on the left side of their brains. Prior to the training, this part of their brains had adopted inclusion as policies, programs and procedures. They understood that inclusion was the right thing to do and good for the organization. Unfortunately, we do inclusion on the right side of our brain, where our biases, behaviors and experiences can get in the way of doing inclusion. These learners had been bitten by the knowing and doing gap.

Motivational guru, Dan Pink forecasts that the volatile, uncertain, changing ambiguous world we live in is going to require more 21st Century right brain workers than left brain workers when it comes to creating inclusive workplaces. Employees who must move from:

• Understanding words to painting a picture.
• Hearing what is said to hearing how it was said.
• Comprehending literal meaning to comprehending metaphors.
• Seeing details to constructing the big picture.
• Analyzers to synthesizers.
• Convergent thinking to divergent thinking.
• Seeing categories to seeing relationships.

Listen at the action verbs Pink uses: (1) painting; (2) constructing; (3) synthesizing and (4) seeing relationships-all doing activities launched from the right side of our brains.

Some of us are trying to overcome the knowing and doing gap for inclusion. Unfortunately, our approach is too conservative. University of Chicago psychologists Ayelet Fishbach and Minjung Koo call this incremental methodology “to date thinking.” They claim we need to be more daring with “to do thinking:”

• From measuring how far we have come to focusing on what we need to accomplish.
• From pats on the backs for small wins to thinking boldly about next steps.
• From concentrating on past achievements to giving attention to what else needs to be done.
• From where we have been to where do we need to go.
• From starting the objective to finishing the work.

Think about all the missed opportunities when it comes to building inclusive workplaces. We fail to bring our full selves to work. We avoid difficult conversations. We fail to be curious about our colleague’s differences. We sidestep walking in the other person’s shoes.

If we could only go back in time and have a second chance at those missed inclusion possibilities. As Tracy Lawrence would say to pick up the scattered pieces and make a brand new start. We got it through our head we just can’t break it to our heart.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply