A client came to me the other day pretty upset. She is a leading executive at a large global company and is relatively new to the organization as well as to her leadership position. We have been talking a lot about the idea of cultural fit between an organization and its employees and the tension that exists when what you value and the environment around you are at odds.
A colleague of hers, who had become a friend, had decided to resign from the organization. Within their conversation, my client reminded her to look at some specifics regarding her compensation package. As her colleague went on to address it with others, the subsequent conversations, messages left, and interpretations became like a child’s game of telephone. You remember that game of long ago – you whisper something in someone’s ear and inevitably as it goes down the line of children, the wording, meaning, tone completely change as it reaches the end of line. Her words had been completely misinterpreted and she was going to be held to what had become hearsay. What my client found so shocking was the reality of a culture that judges you as “only as good as your last transaction” and, if that transaction was misconstrued, it doesn't matter. If interpretation becomes that “last transaction”, one can be quickly kicked to the curb without a word. While my client was able to address this as soon as she found out what had been going on, she was left shaken by the experience.
The Importance of Connection
On social media this month, I have been talking a lot about connection. It is food for our souls. Without connection, we simply can’t go on. I remember a story shared by my mentor Martha Beck in one of her books, The Joy Diet. In it she describes a woman who had survived an emotionally empty childhood by holding onto a single memory of an interaction with her father’s secretary. At 4 years old, she remembered going into her father’s office. From this woman’s recollection, the secretary reacted to her in a way she had never experienced. When the secretary saw the little girl, her whole being simply lit up. As someone who simply loves all children, she bent down to eye level and looked deeply into her eyes. She had never known anyone to do that to her before. The feeling that went through her body was electric. She felt as if she had been seen for the first time in her life.
Both of these stories reflect the tragedy of what happens when our need for connection is not met. In corporate life, the culture had created an environment that, in the desire for control, had eliminated any space for vulnerability, risk-taking and trust. In the personal life, without deep connection, we are left in total isolation.
So, if deep, emotional connections are allowed to flourish, do we create a world without pain and suffering? Absolutely not! In fact, in a world of human beings, we are guaranteed wounds along the way. People can become thoughtless, cruel, self-destructive, but as long as we don’t cut ourselves off from our willingness to love, we will always come out of them with a greater capacity for joy than we went into them.
How do we build connection?
- Begin an interaction with another person from a place of stillness in yourself. Begin with your breath, letting go of any thoughts that creep in, and just be present with the person. Since your deeper self is grounded in love, this practice enables you to see the love in the other person. Try it the next time you are at the grocery store with the clerk ringing up items or bagging your food. This isn’t about words exchanged, just a deep sense of love that emanates from the interaction.
- Tell the truth to yourself when you are engaging with others. It is often as if we are having a three-way conversation between ourselves and the other person and the ideas we hold about that other person. Absolutely exhausting! Before entering a conversation, ask yourself the following Truth questions:
What am I feeling about this person?
Is there anything about this relationship that hurts?
What is the story I am telling myself about this person?
Can I be 100% sure that my story is true?
Is my story helping me feel clean, clear and free in the relationship?
Can I think of another story that might work better?
Name what you want in your relationship. Quit asking others to be mind readers! If you want something, you need to spell it out. Only you are responsible for what you want in a relationship.
- Risk being open. Does this mean going directly up to someone and stating your full heart’s content? Not necessarily. Trust that deeper place inside to give you the direction you need. There is undoubtedly the risk of vulnerability and being hurt. But, which hurts more—taking the risk that being open offers or staying closed and never having taken the chance?
You can use these tips in the office and in our homes. Yes, there is always context. But remember, we are all human beings wherever we are.
Going back to my client, she has moved forward with plans to create reward and recognition programs that demand that people be seen within her organization. Saying “thank you” takes people to a deeper place of connection and thus engagement. It recognizes their unique value. From this place, we can listen a little more deeply, engage a little more thoughtfully and risk and create little more openly.
Ask yourself as you go into what can be a stressful Thanksgiving holiday: what kind of things could happen if I go more deeply into the stillness of myself, learn where the truth is, feel my way into what I really want, and risk communicating my desire?
You’ll probably find a renewed sense of connection with those around you, and maybe more JOY in your diet!
Sending Love & Deep Gratitude for your Thanksgiving!