Many people describe themselves as empathetic, saying things like, "I feel other people's pain" or "people vent about their problems to me because I am a good listener." These are misguided statements; rather than being emphatic, these well-intentioned people are sympathizing. While nuanced, there are important distinctions between empathy and sympathy.
Sympathy involves feeling sorry for someone, usually pity. It's relatively automatic, effortless, and often sounds like commiserating. "That really sucks. No wonder you're so mad! I would be, too!"
Empathy is the ability to understand other people's feelings because you have a shared experience. You can console because you have walked in similar shoes. Empathy sounds like, "I hear you, I've been there before, too. What can you do to make it better?"
The difference is subtle but important. While sympathy is an appropriate response in certain cases, many times it causes collusion, validating that he or she is a victim of circumstance. This only adds to drama and negativity.
Being empathetic is more effective; it fuels connection and creates accountability to solve problems. As Amy Fortney Parks, educator and psychologist states, "Empathy is when you're down in a deep, dark pit and I climb down with you and say, "It's really dark down here. How are we going to get out of here?" That's empathy. Stepping into someone's shoes, figuring out what he or she is feeling and how to solve the problem."
Here are some tips to be more empathetic:
Don't Give Advice
We naturally want to give advice, but this usually is not what the person is looking for, nor does it help him or her step out of victim mentality. Most people just want to be heard so listen thoughtfully and offer to help develop a solution.
Workplace example: someone just got moved in a company reorg
Don't say: "If I were you, I would put my head down and work hard."
Do say: "This must be very upsetting news for you. Once you've had a chance to process it, I'll help you brainstorm a path forward."
Avoid Saying "You Poor Thing"
Most people dislike being pitied; it makes them feel small. Since empathy is about understanding and empowering, acknowledge the situation and redirect to problem-solving.
Workplace example: someone just received tough feedback from his/her manager
Don't say: "I'm so sorry. That's awful. I feel so badly for you."
Do say: "That sounds like tough feedback and it must have stung. How are you going to address it?"
It's so easy to fall into the gossip trap when there is interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Don't engage, don't collude! Complaining about a coworker behind his or her back is toxic behavior; it tears apart a culture and it not only doesn't resolve the problem, but it also makes it worse.
Workplace example: someone is in a conflict with a co-worker
Don't say: "I would be upset, too. She never pulls her weight on the team. I wish her manager would do something about it!"
Do say: "It seems that you are upset by the situation. What can you do to make the situation better? Can I facilitate a conversation between the two of you?"
Don't Paint a Silver Lining
On a different note, being empathetic isn't about minimizing or putting a sunshiny positive spin on every hard situation. Most people don't want to hear how everything is going to be just fine. Instead, acknowledge the person's feelings and help him or her determine one thing that can be done to make the situation better.
Workplace example: someone is feeling overloaded with work
Don't say: "It's going to be okay; things will slow down next month. You can make it! And at least we are busy; it's job security!"
Do say: "I can imagine you may be feeling stressed about your current workload. What can be done today to make things feel more manageable?"
Empathizing with others will make them feel more respected, connected, and supported while at the same time holding them accountable for finding a solution rather than wallowing in a pity party. It takes intentional practice to be more emphatic but doing so will make you a better coworker, manager and friend.
Thanks for reading! Please share, like and comment to spread the message!
There are many attributes and qualities that can be assigned to good managers such as being a decent listener, accountable, organized, motivating, honest, and having a positive outlook on life. While these are all important, they are the minimum requirements of good management.
So what makes a manager GREAT?
In developing my own managerial skills and helping others to do the same, I have found that accomplishing these six things will help a good manager become a GREAT manager.
1. Connect Through Regular One-on-One Meetings
The best way to build strong relationships is to have regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. Most people want to share certain aspects of their lives and appreciate when their boss takes the time to get to know them better, especially when it comes to personal and career aspirations. Use these one-on-one meetings to ask good questions, discuss professional development and performance, solve problems, and review priorities and projects. Effective one-on-one meetings will result in more effective relationships.
2. Right Seat on the Bus
It’s not enough to have talent on your team; your employees must be in the right seat on the bus to do fantastic work. Great managers recognize their employees will be at their best when their talents and strengths are in alignment with their roles. It takes time to gain meaningful insights to what makes your employees tick, but doing so will help you create, tweak, or change roles to help them do what they are best at every day. This will result in happier, more productive and engaged team members who enjoy their work.
3. Continuous Improvement
There are many ways to make an organization better and great managers are committed to always improving. They understand that the intentional pursuit of honing processes, teamwork, goal-setting, cultural issues, communication, collaboration, and quality and content of work product will reduce obstacles that frustrate employees and in turn, make the organization stronger.
4. Good Decision-Making
Leaders who make good decisions and who empower their teams to do the same are highly regarded in most organizations. Good decision-making builds trust and credibility and creates success. While your team might not always agree with your decisions, it’s hard to argue when they turn out to be good ones. Improve your decision-making skills by slowing down, listening more, and considering all possibilities. Ask questions and obtain as much input as possible. Recognize that you (and everyone else) are full of biases that cloud your judgment. The more you expose your biases, the better decisions you will make. Read my blog on bias here for more insight on better decision making.
5.Rally Teams Around the Bigger Picture by Tying it to the Daily Picture
A job is just a job (aka a paycheck) when you can’t see how it’s tied to the bigger picture. Great managers understand that most of us want to be part of something greater than ourselves and tap into that motivation by ensuring every employee understands and cares about the company strategy and vision for the future. The key is tying strategy to the work a person does each day including well thought out and communicated departmental plans, KPIs, work prioritization, and individual goals. Be transparent, talk about and get feedback on the vision and strategy often, engage more than just the usual suspects in vision and goal development, and celebrate small and big wins often. The more connected your team is to the bigger picture, the greater chance for success.
6. Radically Candid
I saved the most important for last; if you must pick only one of these points to work on, improving how you give feedback should be at the top of the list. Great managers are always candid and address performance issues directly and timely. They show they care by being honest, compassionate, and holding their team accountable to high standards. They never take the easy way out by putting off tough conversations, sugar coating bad news, or letting their desire to be liked to get in the way. They understand that every person on their team deserves to know how they are performing, what they need to do to improve, and how they are perceived within the organization. You cannot be a great boss if you are not giving regular, candid feedback. Repeat this mantra over and over. If you want to get better at giving feedback, I highly recommend reading “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott. It’s a game changer.
Mastering these six points will not only help you become a better manager, but more importantly, will help you develop good employees into great ones. And that’s the legacy all rock star managers should want to leave behind.
Thanks for reading. As always, comments, like and shares are appreciated so please do so if you are inclined.
Did you know that being kind inspires kindness in others? Numerous studies show that when someone shows you kindness, you are likely to pay it forward. Think about it…when a person holds the door for you and smiles warmly, you tend to want to reciprocate. You find that the next time you can hold a door open for someone, you do so with pleasure. It feels good to be kind.
While it seems unassuming, being kind is truly powerful. Think what we could achieve if we chose (yes, it is a choice) to be kind to everyone with whom we interact. The world would immediately be a better place for each of us. Rather than feeling judged, shamed, shunned, or ignored, we would feel seen, appreciated, accepted, and respected. Since our moods and emotions tend to be contagious, we would be spreading happiness rather than yuckiness.
Always being kind, no matter the person or situation, is a simple way to dramatically improve our world. The best thing about it is that being kind requires no rules, laws, or government regulation. It’s a way for humanity to take back…well…our humanity. We as individuals can lead by example and maybe, just maybe, those who lead our communities, organizations, and countries will follow suit, showing that in the end, all that really matters is how kind we are to each other.
Here are some easy ways to start being more kind. They take no extra investment, just a conscious mindset shift and purposeful interactions.
Smile and Make Eye Contact
Show people that you see and appreciate their humanity no matter where they come from, what their belief system is, or what the situation they find themselves in. Smile and make eye contact with everyone…your coworkers, your children, the homeless guy on the corner, the clerk at the grocery store. You’ll receive smiles in return and you’ll instantly feel better, as will the people you smile at.
Being polite is simple yet respectful. Say “yes please”, “no thank you”, and “I’m sorry” often. Let someone else go first, hold the door open for others, and acknowledge people with a smile. When conversing with another, be positive, refrain from gossiping, and for goodness sake, put your phone away.
Random Acts of Kindness
I’ll never forget one morning when I walked into my office and found a little slip of paper with the words “You Have a Nice Smile” typed upon it. This little slip of paper made my day; I had a spring in my step for weeks because of this simple, anonymous acknowledgment. It’s still taped to my monitor today. Spread joy by doing small things for the people around you. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee, leave a note of appreciation on a coworker’s keyboard, send flowers to a friend, randomly leave Hershey’s Kisses on peoples’ desks, pick up litter in your neighbor’s front yard…it’s the little things that can make a person’s day and performing a random act of kindness increases the chance that others will pay it forward, too.
Being helpful is an easy way to show kindness. Take a moment out of your busy day to give a stranger directions, aid someone in picking up the papers he dropped, make eye contact and engage when a coworker asks for your assistance, and help your spouse load the dishwasher. It only takes a few moments to be helpful and it can make a big difference in a person’s day.
Reach Out to Someone Who is in Need
We all go through tough times and it’s nice to receive kindness when you’re down in the dumps. Call a friend going through a divorce, hug a coworker who just lost a loved one, send a note to someone going through a hard time to let her know you are thinking of her, or give a tissue to a crying stranger. Don’t be afraid to reach out; just a simple acknowledgement of someone’s pain can help ease the feeling of loneliness and despair.
Send a Nice Email to Someone Everyday
It stakes 60 seconds to send an email expressing gratitude and appreciation; those 60 seconds can go a long way to spread kindness in the world. Make sending a sincerely kind email to friends, coworkers, community leaders, etc. a daily habit.
Drive with Kindness in Mind
Be a kind driver; let some enter the lane in front of you and don’t tailgate or speed up quickly behind a slower driver. Don’t get angry when someone cuts you off; instead smile and wish him a nice day. Choose to be a non-aggressive driver. You’ll not only be happier but you’ll also inspire others to be kinder drivers and you’ll improve the safety of everyone on the road.
Find Something to Appreciate About Those Who are Different Than You
I like Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” commercial; it shows how two strangers with very different views can find commonalities that unite them rather than divide them. Yes, this ad simplifies the issues causing the mass polarization of humans today, but if you pause to consider that those you dislike may not be all that different from you, you might be more inclined be kinder to everyone. And really, what life improvement comes from hating someone who believes differently than you? All it does is bring self-pain and self-suffering while the rest of us go on being who we are, not really thinking too much about why you hate us; we are too busy focusing on our own life issues such as why it’s so hard to find a good paying job, affordable housing, a loving relationship, and someone to watch our children without breaking the bank. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. We aren’t so different after all.
Science and psychology show that humans tend to mirror each other; we reflect what we see in others. This is especially true of our leaders as we tend to emulate them the most. Choose your actions and your corresponding reflections carefully as they can make a profound difference in the happiness, kindness, and generosity in others. Choose to use this wonderful superpower we all carry within us to change the world for the better.
Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate comments, likes, shares and retweets; please do so if you are inclined.
We all know that trust is the key to any successful relationship. There are many ways to build trust but I believe one of the most impactful ways is to be transparent. If you aren’t transparent, it will be much more difficult to create the kind of long lasting relationships you desire.
While transparency is important in all relationships, it’s the cornerstone of businesses who want to create a culture of happiness, engagement, high performance, and mutual respect. Employees in any organization have a deep desire to know what’s going on and why. They want to give input and be heard. They don’t want to be scared of the future and scared of change. But the only way to reduce fear and motivate them to be their best is to be transparent.
What is transparency in business? One business dictionary defines it as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
Simple enough concept to understand but how do you do it? Here are some ways to be more transparent as a leader, manager, and company:
Have a True Open Door Policy
It’s easy to say you have an open door but if you don’t have anyone walking into your office to ask hard questions, give you feedback, discuss strategy, or share concerns, your open door policy isn’t working. It’s difficult for employees to bring up issues so you have to do everything you can to make them feel comfortable doing so. Never get defensive, listen closely, ask questions, take action, follow up, and always say THANK YOU!!!! If your employees aren’t proactively coming to you, invite them in to talk. Ask easy questions at first. Say things like, “I get the feeling that there are a lot of people who aren’t speaking up about some of the issues we have here. I really need some insight so I can make things better. Can you tell me what you see?” You will probably get a softened truth as the person feels you out but this is how you start to build better relationships with your employees. If you handle yourself appropriately, take action, and be consistent, you will start to see people taking advantage of your open door policy and your organization becoming more transparent.
Get Out of Your Office
Don’t expect everyone to come to your office; take your open door policy to them. Walk around the facility and talk to employees…even those who report to other managers. Ask questions about their work, the issues they face, what they need in order to do their jobs better. Give them updates on what’s going on in your department. Share a customer story. Tell them about an issue you are dealing with and ask for their opinions. Even better, ask people to go for a walk. There is something magical about walking meetings and it’s a great way to share and learn information without the pressure of sitting in a cramped office, loud cubicle or cold conference room.
Talk (Truthfully) to Your Employees Often
At StoneAge, I hold regular Town Hall meetings to encourage questions and give my employees deeper organizational insight. A different department is scheduled each month. Every person within that department submits anonymous questions ahead of time and I answer them candidly during the meeting. Nothing is off limits. We also hold monthly company meetings where we share all major issues and wins. If a mistake is made, we publically talk about it. If we aren’t performing, we talk about it. We share financial information, give strategic updates, talk about changes we are going through, and initiatives we are planning. We are clear when something is confidential and must be kept that way; we show our employees that we trust them to use good judgement with the information provided. And we always answer questions from the floor.
Seek Organizational Feedback
There are lots of informal ways to get feedback from across the organization. All managers should be working with their teams to understand what’s going right and what’s going wrong. Whether it be one-on-one or in team meetings, you should always be asking for organizational feedback. I also recommend doing a formal, anonymous survey of employees. We recently did one at StoneAge and it was incredibly helpful. Sure, some of the feedback was painful but we were able to put together an action plan that addressed the issues brought up and our employees we incredibly grateful we asked their opinions.
Be Honest About Why People Leave
There is nothing that clouds transparency faster than misleading your employees about why someone is leaving the company. I have learned this lesson the hard way. There is a fine balance between protecting the privacy of a terminated or quitting employee and telling your employees the truth. Honesty is always the best policy. Assume they will find out the truth anyway. Plus, if you don’t tell the truth, they will make up their own stories about what happened…stories that are most likely far worse than what really went down. It may be hard for some employees to hear the truth but at least they know you are being honest and you reduce the chance that they will live in fear of “I am next.”
The only way to be transparent is to be vulnerable. Humans need to connect on a deeper level to build solid, high functioning relationships. It’s hard to connect with someone who you know very little about. I’m not saying you need to disclose your deepest, darkest fears but be willing to share some of yourself and always admit when you don’t have the answer or when you screw up. The better people know you, the more transparent you will be perceived to be.
To build a high performing organization, transparency is essential. It takes time to build trust so take it slow and be authentic. Be honest about your efforts to be more transparent. Ask your employees for feedback and to make a commitment to be more transparent themselves. Be forthright with information, keep your promises, and always tell the truth. It’s a worthy endeavor as employees who feel like they are in the loop and can voice their opinions are much more likely to be engaged, happy, and productive.
Thanks for reading! As always, I welcome comments, likes and shares. To receive my blog in your inbox, click here.
Why are we becoming so afraid of ideas and viewpoints that are not our own? This mentality of “let’s ridicule, abuse, dismiss, deport, punch, or even kill anyone who doesn’t see the world the same way I do” is leading our country (world) into a downward spiral of hate, intolerance, and flat out stupidity. And we need to stop it.
Reflecting on my own life, the periods where I have grown the most, both intellectually and emotionally, have been when I’ve taken opposing beliefs into consideration. I’ve become more compassionate for those around me when I’ve challenged my own beliefs systems. And I am proud of myself for being willing to have tough debates with people who believe differently than I do, truly taking their points of view into consideration, and being willing to change my mind when I am presented with counter evidence that my way of thinking my not be accurate. I believe that this is what the human brain is designed to do. It’s how we increase intelligence and learn new things.
Over the past two decades, humans in general but particularly Americans, have flocked together in communities where most of the residents share similar skin colors, belief systems, and viewpoints (read here for more information on this). When you only surround yourself with people who share your own views and beliefs, you begin to believe more strongly that “I am right and they are wrong.” You get sucked into groupthink and stop asking yourself, “Why do I believe this? What if I am wrong? What are other viewpoints am I not considering?” You stop challenging yourself to think about your own thoughts. The next thing you know, you find yourself disliking (or hating) anyone who believes differently than you. Maybe you make fun of them, ignore them, treat them with disrespect, or even bully them. You certainly aren’t tolerant of those idiots, morons, losers, sinners, or fill in the blank here.
This type of thinking leads us to being okay with things like the University of Houston faculty senate suggesting to professors that they shouldn’t discuss controversial or sensitive topics in their classrooms now that students can carry concealed weapons on Texas college campuses. Discussing controversial topics in college is what students are supposed to do! College professors are paid to make students think critically and challenge themselves to consider multiple viewpoints. Doing this makes us smarter. But now professors can’t talk about the hard stuff because they are afraid that students will get so pissed off at each other for holding differing beliefs that they will shoot each other? Not only can’t we discuss guns in this country but now we can't discuss anything because we fear guns. THIS IS CRAZY! How can we be alright with this?
The long term ramifications of what we are doing to ourselves will be catastrophic. Because (in general) we allow ourselves to be polarized and tend to surround ourselves with people who think, feel, and believe the same way we do, we are losing the ability to think critically and debate ideas with candor and respect. If we continue down this path we will become a species of far less intellect and filled with a lot more judgement and hate.
So what can you do?
Read and Explore Viewpoints that Differ From Yours
Social media fills our feeds with articles and links to information aligned with our likes and clicks, feeding our beliefs. Don’t fall for this trap. Purposefully seek out viewpoints that are different than yours and read or discuss it with an open mind and with the intent of learning. Travel more, introduce yourself to people who are different than you, have a healthy debate. Read this awesome book, “Persuadable”, by Al Pittampalli. You may find evidence to help change your mind.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
As Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” While it may seem like your black or white way of looking at something feels true and right, it might not be. We have a million thoughts running through our heads and it’s easy to believe that because you had a thought, it must be true. Stop and analyze your thoughts and belief systems and be willing to consider that you might be telling yourself a fictional story. Please read my blog on not believing everything you think here.
Ask Questions…A Lot of Questions
Humans are great at assuming we know what other people think, feel and believe and we are even better at making decisions and building belief systems based on those assumptions. This is a mistake. We don’t really know what others think, feel and believe. We have to ask. The deeper you dig, the more you learn. For example, I was recently in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and I was curious as to how American politics and people were viewed by my Middle Eastern clients, both ex pats and Muslims. I asked a million questions and my world view was vastly expanded. I saw more clearly how the information we are fed in the U.S. is filtered and twisted. I didn’t believe or agree with everything I was told but I can accept how they view us and it certainly made me think about things differently.
Empathize with Others
Putting yourself in other people’s shoes helps you to see a different point of view. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were this person?” Try to imagine yourself experiencing life from that person’s perspective. Ask questions to better understand where a person might be coming from. There are plenty of opportunities to practice this right now…our political landscape could greatly benefit from us being more emphatic towards each other. Perhaps something as simple as empathy could help us move out of the gridlock we find ourselves in?
Drop the Judgement
All over the world, the vast majority of people want the same basic things: to provide for their families, to connect with people in their communities, to love and be loved, and to be free to live their lives without judgement and fear. When you take the 50,000 foot view, we really aren’t that different so why dislike each other for living different flavors of these basic desires? Stop worrying so much about what other people do, think, and believe and focus on being a kind, productive person. I suggest every time you find yourself judging someone else, say this (silently or out loud), “I am not a perfect human being either and I certainly dislike being judged for my viewpoints and imperfections. Right now, I am going to focus on doing (fill in the blank) better rather than worry about what so and so is doing.” It’s amazing how well this works…if you let it.
I believe that we are at a significant crossroad in our history. Ignorance, fear, intolerance, and segregation will not advance us as a species. We must think critically and work together to solve the massive problems that lie ahead of us…in this lifetime and for future generations. I am challenging, appealing and downright begging for all of us…no matter what you believe…to stop this insanity. It starts with each of us as individuals. If we individually commit to being more tolerant, more open to ideas, and more willing to come to the table and talk, we can profoundly affect our families, companies, communities, and on a larger scale politics. Let’s not let critical thinking become a thing of the past.
Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome (and enjoy) comments, likes, and shares.
I am a positive person, an eternal optimist. I look at the glass as full, even when it’s really only half full. I love my life and (most of) the people in it. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. And I still catch myself complaining ALL THE TIME.
I want to quit complaining.
Have you ever stopped to think about all the things you complain about? I have found that most of the negative words that come out of my mouth are about topics that don’t really matter. Or about events or situations I can’t control. Or people. Ugh…I hate to admit that. Of all the things I complain about the most, people top the list. And almost never is complaining useful, helpful, or productive. It’s usually focused on venting (which can be healthy if done properly) rather than finding solutions. And since words like helpful, positive, productive, and solution-focused describe behaviors I want to always exhibit, I’ve decided that I am going to challenge myself to change.
Starting January 1st, I am going on complaining cleanse. For the entire month of January (yes, all 31 days) I am going to stop myself from complaining and keep a daily journal, logging my progress and documenting the journey on my new 31 Day "Stop Complaining" Challenge Facebook page. I have no doubt that complaints will escape my lips and when they do, I want to understand why. What causes me to complain? Do I tend to commiserate with the same people? Is there a time of day when I am more likely to complain? If it’s something that deserves to be complained about, am I focused on finding a solution rather than just venting? I am on a mission to understand it, change it, and in return, I expect that it will have a profound effect on my life…in ways that I probably can’t imagine. I’ll share what I’ve learned in a February blog post.
We could all use more positivity and support in our lives and there is no better place than to look within ourselves to find what we need to live happier, more joyful lives. And it starts with what comes out when we open our mouths. I invite you to join me in this challenge and you can share your experiences with me on this Facebook page...just click like to join. If you need some inspiration, please read my blog on choosing your attitude here.
Wishing you a fantastic, complaint-free (wouldn’t that be amazing?) 2016,
Please like and share to spread the word! Thank you!
It’s hard pick up the phone and call (or have a face-to-face meeting) when you can hide behind an email. I know from experience…I’ve typed many an email despite that nagging feeling that I should pick up the phone and call the person. My mouse anxiously hovers over the SEND button while I argue with myself...“I really should call. But emailing is so much easier. Ugh. Just hit delete and call. Ugh. Ok, take a deep breath and dial.”
I’m sure you’ve been there, too. You have to deliver bad news, receive painful feedback, talk to someone you dislike, or follow up with someone you were hoping would call you. There’s a pit in the bottom of your stomach. You tell yourself it would be so much less complicated to type up an email. You convince yourself that receiving an email would be easier on the person you have to communicate with, too. You come up with excuses as to why you HAD to write the email instead of communicating in person. You apologize for not calling (without admitting you lacked the courage, of course) and then hit send. It’s out in ether now…it’s out of your control. Whew, don’t you feel better?
The answer should be no. You shouldn’t feel better. Avoiding in-person communication, whether over the phone or face-to-face, is the easy way out. And taking the easy way out never feels good, especially in the long run because over time, it tears at your reputation and your self-esteem.
Making the call when you’d rather email takes courage and a commitment to always act with integrity. It shows that you respect the person you are communicating with. It demonstrates that you have strong character and don’t shy away from the discomfort of difficult conversations. When it comes to doing right by others, you should never take the easy way out. Just pick up the phone and call.
Oh, one more thing, making the call only to leave a voicemail doesn’t count.
If you’d like some tips on preparing for the call/meeting, please read this blog (the power of the WHY) and this blog (delivering bad news).
One of the hardest things to do is deliver bad news. I can’t imagine that there is anyone out there who enjoys it. As much as I believe in direct, honest communication, giving feedback, and working through conflict, I dislike giving bad news the most.
I recently had to deliver bad news to several people and it helped me put some things into perspective and I learned a few things along the way. Even though it was incredibly difficult, I am grateful for the experience.
So what did I learn?
I learned how important it is to simplify my message as much as possible. When getting bad news, most people shut down or go into fight or flight mode. At first, I tried to fit too much into the delivery of the news (such as all the reasons why) and it confused people. When I reduced it to one sentence, it made it so much easier. Just speak the one sentence.
Silence can be awkward and uncomfortable so we (ok, I) have a strong desire to fill it with more words. I screwed this up a few times by jamming in the WHY immediately after the message. I found I was much more effective and felt calmer when I allowed the silence to be silent. Therefore, after giving the news, I practiced letting the listener sit with it. This is so incredibly hard but so incredibly important. You need to let it sink in before going into the why of the message. And you need to take a deep breath before you continue with the WHY. Silence lets you do this.
I wrote a blog post on the importance of the WHY, so please feel free to reread it here if you would like to understand its significance. Just remember, keep the WHY simple so it’s easier to digest. Bullet point the reasons out, speak them in one or two sentences, and then give the listener space.
Back to taking a deep breath…more than ever before, I learned how important it is to stay in your body and breathe when giving bad news. I found that in anticipation of communicating the news (both in preparation and right before opening my mouth), I experienced the fight or flight rush of stress hormones. I really wanted to avoid this because it causes me to hurry…I want to get it over with as fast as possible. And I dislike the physical and emotional aftermath of adrenaline and cortisol. Before and during the delivery, I took deep breaths into my back and kidneys, paying attention to them the entire time. I can’t tell you how much this helped me keep my composure. I noticed that others matched my breathing, too, which helped them stay calm. Stay centered and just breathe.
I also gained some perspective on my need to try to fix things. I identify with being a problem solver and I found myself wanting to offer solutions when really, it wasn’t my place to do so. Understanding this before I went into my conversations helped me be okay with just delivering the message. Sometimes, you just can’t fix the problem for the person and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Throughout this process, my mantra was “compassion, grace, and gratitude.” That’s how I wanted to deliver my message, always keeping in mind the importance of treating my fellow human beings with dignity and respect, always being grateful for the experience, even when it’s uncomfortable. But I have to say, I’m glad it’s over.
Thanks for reading…writing this was very therapeutic. Now I am going to go breathe.
What if we committed to helping each other with the same amount of effort that we put into competing against each other? What could we all achieve?
I recently read a blog post by Daniel Pink and he was praising a book called “Friend and Foe” by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer. This book discusses the science behind our brain’s hardwiring to both cooperate and compete (I haven't read the book yet but I added to my ever growing reading list). This is a snippet from the blog…
“We are hardwired – in the very architecture of the human brain – to both cooperate and compete. We do both all the time, in every relationship, often unconsciously. That means that all of our relationships are characterized by the tension between being a friend and being a foe. At work, we collaborate with our colleagues to complete projects, but we compete for raises and promotions. As new parents, we cooperate to raise our infants, but compete for sleep. As siblings, we experience both “brotherly love” and “sibling rivalry.” Simply recognizing that this tension exists in every relationship can help us find the right balance between these forces and achieve better outcomes at work and at home.”
What great food for thought! This sparked the idea for a little experiment...
As I went through my work week, I intentionally paid attention to when I felt the need to cooperate and when I felt the need to compete. I then challenged myself to better define the specific emotions and drives behind each of these needs. I made a list throughout the week.
To me, this was incredibly eye opening. Looking at these black and white words describing such powerful emotions and recalling how each situation made me feel made me want to challenge myself to cooperate more and compete less. As competitive as I am, I would rather help someone else win even if it meant I lost. I would prefer to feel the joy of helping someone succeed rather than stand by and do nothing because I feel threatened. I would rather share the limelight with my team and and receive less recognition as an individual.
I am not saying that there isn’t a place for competition in the workplace or on a team. Being competitive can aid in moving things forward. It can motivate us to perform better. Competition can be energizing and helps to get the creative juices flowing. Some of the world’s greatest innovations have come from the need and desire to compete. But this little experiment helped me better recognize the potential of cooperation and the powerful effect it can have on the emotional health of individuals and the team. In my opinion, cooperating encourages leadership, builds self-esteem, creates a sense of belonging, and generally improves your health. It feels so much better to work together as a team than is does to work against each other as individuals.
I challenge each of you who read this blog post to take just 10% of the effort you put towards competing with those you work with and instead direct it towards cooperating and helping your teammates become successful. My guess is that you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more you are able to achieve and how satisfied and positive you feel.
I’ll leave you with some wise words of Franklin D Roosevelt…
“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
I welcome your thoughts, comments, and results,
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.