Absolutely excellent article on the value of compartmentalization from Loren Schofield of FO Magazine.
Foreign Internal Defense Tips: Developing Rapport & Compartmentalization
Former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier Loren Schofield continues his series on building rapport with strangers. You can read his last article here.
To illustrate the problems of misunderstanding culture in foreign lands, I like to use the example of democracy in the Middle East — it is a foolish notion and one destined for failure. We can’t expect whatever form of democracy other people choose to be exactly like ours. You have to find a middle ground that takes into account that countries history, culture and social norms.
Combat creates a bond, a brotherhood that is hard to break. When you live, work, and fight shoulder to shoulder with people of a separate culture, it’s easy to become emotionally involved. It’s easy, especially when these people are honorable and likable. You find yourself assimilating with them. As I wrote in my last article, Rapport Building 101, the best advice I ever received is to never go more than 49% native. My first team sergeant understood rapport, but also the dangers that could come with developing it. It’s a fine line to walk, as is everything dealing with Foreign Internal Defense (FID), especially during combat.
Many soldiers learn quickly to compartmentalize, and Special Operations Forces are experts at it. But from my experience Special Forces are able to do it better than most. Compartmentalized minds have diversified personalities which enable them to behave differently and appropriately in a variety of situations such that they can behave like a boss or worker on the job, a parent and/or spouse and/or grown child at home, or a teammate in a sport. To be competent in each area, they are said to be good at “having boundaries” such that one role does not blur into another.
One of the challenges, however, of being highly compartmentalized is that over time, people may lean more and more into those compartments where they feel most competent, capable and confident. That can cause other compartments to either atrophy from disuse or in some cases never develop in the first place. Over time these people can appear to be more like “human doings” that don’t feel particularly present, even as they appear quite competent in a particular function. Think of information technology instead of human resources.