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Ep. 89: We are never not in mood with Bernard Desmidt

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Bernard Desmidt


Bernard Desmidt is an accomplished Coach, Facilitator, Speaker and Author. His first book is called; Inside Out Leadership: How to master the 4 Principles of Effective Leadership and become the Leader that others will follow. His second book is called: Team Better Together. Bernard was born in South Africa and he lived there until he was 38 and then he emigrated to Australia where he now lives with his wife and children. 


Podcast Episode Summary “Moods are the most contagious phenomenon known to humans. We are biologically, inescapably emotional beings – everything we do, is because of the mood we’re in. Each day we are called to deal with unanticipated interruptions and interferences – breakdowns to our habitual rhythm of life. Breakdowns can be both positive and negative – winning the lotto vs losing one’s job. Our resourcefulness to adapt and deal with our breakdowns, is a function of the mood we choose to live and lead from. Moods are ‘spaces of possibility’; they can predispose us to limited or infinite possibilities for action” Bernard Desmidt. 

This episode speaks to the domain of learning called Moods. 


Points made over the episode

  • Bernard starts this podcast by reminding us of his background and the Mood of life in South Africa that shaped him and then helped him appreciate the gift  & wonder of South Africa. 
  • Bernard began to appreciate the potency of moods through lived experience. 
  • Growing up in South Africa and living through Apartheid, Bernard recalls the moods of despair and anger as a “white child” living a privileged life by contrast to other children around him. 
  • 85% of Black South Africans lived in abject poverty, pain & abject cruelty. Bernard remembers his anger at the injustices and his feeling of powerless to do anything about his experience.
  • It took Bernard a while to legitimise his heritage and to come to appreciate the other side of anger & despair to appreciate the wonder of South Africa. 
  • 3 African expressions inform his way of being and working today 
  • Sibona –a Zulu word for hello, which means “I see you and by seeing you, I bring you into being. By seeing each other is this way we hold each other with respect, dignity and legitimacy– The mood is deep acceptance of who you are. 
  • Ubuntu- Means we are because you are & because you are definitely I am. This serves to affirm an others humanity, by recognising their uniqueness and their differences. This expression acknowledges our interconnectedness-The Mood of Gratitude embodies this expression. 
  • Hambi Gashi – means “Go well, gently in peace and travel safely- The Mood is of deep care and Compassion. 
  • We exist as Human Beings in 3 domains. Language, Moods & Emotions and The Body. At its essence this trinity distinguishes human beings from any other living form. 
  • Moods are fundamental to our existence yet we are mood illiterate. 
  • Daniel Goldman brought us information about Emotional Intelligence and EI at its core is about mood awareness. 
  • We are never not in mood & all moods serve us until they don’t. Example Frustration. What is frustration taking care of? What is it guiding us towards. Moods are signposts. The mood of frustration is signposting that I am not feeling heard or understood. 
  • The mood of anger is a signpost to feeling taken advantage of. Use the energy housed in frustration or anger to access what is missing. 
  • Emotions are energies that move us. 
  • The mood of anxiety is letting us know that we might come to harm. The mood of curiosity is signposting us to our openness to learn. 
  • Alan Sieler, Fernando Flores, Miriam Greenspan and for me Julio Olalla were all teachers of the distinctions of Moods. 
  • There are six moods of life & Moods manifest in language. The language act of assessments illicit moods that predispose us to action. In resentment I am preoccupied with seeking revenge. 
  • There are two linguistic acts that are fundamental to the understanding of the manifestation of moods. Assessments and Declarations. Generally when we are in assessment there are 3 categories of assessment that we make. Facticity, Possibility and Uncertainty. There are two declarations we generally make. Oppose and Accept. If we plot assessments on the horizontal axis and declarations on the vertical axis we can plot these 6 universal moods. Resentment, Acceptance, Resignation, Ambition, Anxiousness and Wonder. 
  • Bernard goes through each of these moods sharing their predispositions for action 
  • In the first category of assessment is for  facticity; we can either oppose the facticity and live in Resentment or accept the facticity and embrace acceptance. 
  • The mood of acceptance is the gateway to living a fulfilled life. It is the highest order of mood. Grief for example is refusing the facticity of death. When we move into acceptance we meet the mood of sadness for our loss. 
  • The second category of assessment is for possibility. Opposing the possibility for change leads to resignation. This is a toxic organisational mood. We are predisposed to look to whom to blame and or find reasons why things cannot happen. You cannot flourish in resignation you can only flounder. The acceptance of what is possible elicits the mood of ambition. 
  • Bernard shares the example of Pfizer and Astra Zeneca looking for a vaccine in Covid. They had to live a mood of acceptance first that the protocols they usually insisted were not available and then live a mood of ambition that a breakthrough could be found. 
  • The third category of assessment is uncertainty, in otherwards I cannot control or predict, When I do not accept the normality of uncertainty I experience the mood of anxiety. In anxiety we are minded to believe we will come to harm and we will not be able to manager or control this inevitability. The mood of anxiety is bubbling away when it comes to accepting a new cadence for work for example and it requires of us to accept the uncertainty and access the wonder of what could be. 
  • When we give permission to these moods to control us they make us unresourceful. Resentment, Resignation and Anxiety are called “selfish moods” We are preoccupied with seeking revenge, victimhood and or protection. 
  • The Moods of `acceptance, ambition and wonder are called relational moods. 
  • To flourish a team needs to access the gateways of acceptance, ambition and curiosity. 
  • I shared an example of a conversation I had the evening before this podcast where I became very frustrated with a hotel chain who with every person I spoke gave confusing and different information. I did not achieve a satisfactory outcome Bernard offered me the perspective that the mood of frustration was serving me. It was signposting me to the lack of clarity regarding the hotels policy with respect to Vouchers. He suggested the action necessary was an explicit request. 
  • Brene Brown discovered through her research that the male species or at least 80% of men could only name 3 moods-Happy, Sad, Angry. We are collectively mood illiterate. 
  • Working with Teams Bernard will share the first perspective & distinction that as humans we live in 3 domains, Language, Moods & Emotions and the Body. 
  • The second perspective Bernard will share with a team is that teams rise and fall by the quality of their relationships. There are 8 elements of effective working relationships, Respect, Trust, Concerns, Moods, Appreciation, Co-ordination, Conversation and Alignment. Mood is an important constituent part. 
  • From here a team can move into simple observation and identification answering the question “what mood am I in?” Followed by the question for what sake am I in this mood? What is this mood signposting and what is it taking care of?
  • It is important to legitimise the potency of moods and become versed in the variety available to us. 
  • Bernard shares a story with us about a team with whom he has been working for some time where the team was stuck around an issue. The team were invited to look at the issue from the lens of mood. They identified irritation, frustration and anger when this issue was surfaced. Appreciating that the team is responsible for the success of their collective efforts Bernard invited the team through a series of enquiry to be curious about the mood they needed to live to explore this issue productively. 
  • Bernard suggests we stay vigilant in mood, to identify what these moods are signposting. Too often teams want to exorcise moods from the conversation. 
  • Unfortunately for us as humans we cannot not live in mood. What is possible is to design the mood we can commit to live. 
  • When Bernard hears someone declare “I am angry” he asks who is the “I” We are not our moods we only have them. When we can recognise that “I am in a mood of anger” we create the space between ourselves and our mood, to create a subject object distinction. 
  • When we say “I am angry” we are allowing the mood to control us. What we can do instead when we say “I am in a mood of anger” we can manage the energy of that mood and the information it is sharing. Often we over identify with our moods and become fearful of them, leaving no room to manage them. 
  • Bernard shares a story of a client and the many moods that same client moved through in the course of the conversation and how Bernard became acutely aware of his own mood and how he was being “infected” until he wasn’t and allowed himself to accept the choices his client was making in the moment. 
  • Moods are contagious and Bernard had to be mindful not to take on his clients mood but instead “be with him” while he moved from anger to acceptance and through to possibility. 
  • Important to remember when faced with a team communicating multiple moods to not rush to move them. Bernard invites teams to wonder about what is happening for them in body. Moods manifest in body. You can see a mood. You cannot fake a mood. As a coach you can offer a perspective and share what you see.
  • Bernard shares his approach with a team and how he enters the conversation of mood. 
  • We have to trust and accept that human beings live in moods. What is unknown to us and often confusing to us is the understanding of moods.
  • Bernard facilitates the six moods of life with a team in an embodied practice. 
  • Some tips or nuggets to learn how to manoeuvre our moods. 
    1. Notice & Name It- Monitor your mood and ask what mood am I in? Do not judge yourself 
  • Allow & Acknowledge it 
    1. Investigate & enquire. For what sake am I in this mood? What is this mood taking care of?
  • Choose and Cultivate- So what mood could better serve me?
  • Declare and Develop that chosen mood. So what new possibility could this mood open me up to?
  • Keep a mood diary. Ask what was the assessment you were making? Then notice what that mood predisposed you to do or not to do. 
  • Use the acronym W.A.I.T – why am I talking? We talk for only two reasons to understand and to be understood. 
  • Remember we are not our moods we have them. I am in a mood of anger or I am in a mood of happiness gives us space and the opportunity for choice. 
  • Recognising that we are not our moods opens the possibility for forgiveness. 


Resources shared 


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