Connection Chat: Connecting with Heavy Hitters

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Over sushi had a chat with a friend (let's call them Turtle) who was nervous and unsure of what to do. Turtle had a business trip to meet an executive who is a heavy hitter in their field and wanted to get to know them better. Turtle had an inspired idea to ask the executive to go watch a baseball game together, but was hesitant. The usual doubts and worries surfaced. Would the executive be too busy, not interested or somehow be off put by the invitation?

I got the sense that Turtle wasn't exactly putting the executive on a pedestal, but was definitely affected by the executive’s heavy hitter status. This was making Turtle question what seemed like a fairly reasonable, low risk / high reward move.

We talked about Principle #2 of the Connection Counselor's 4 Perspective Principles - EQUALITY.

When we come across people who have a higher status than us, whether it is in our family, company or society, we have a tendency to lose perspective of an important point.

Even the most exalted among us are in the most important ways, our equals.

Pick someone you would not dare approach. They might be an athlete, a musician or a CEO. Now imagine the two of you stranded on a desert island without food or water. Or dealing with a serious illness. You quickly see that we all have the same basic wants and needs. When we have this perspective, it frees us to be more comfortable with ourselves and others.

Later that day, I received a message from Turtle. They had emailed the executive who replied they'd be happy to go to the game. At this point, Turtle wasn't even sure why they had been so nervous in the first place. That's the funny thing about perspective.

When we lose perspective and suddenly get it back, our previous struggles can seem silly.

Here's to feeling silly!


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The 4 Cardinal Rules of Empathy

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Do you ever wish you had more talent in a given area? Do you see others who seem to know what to do naturally, while you struggle mightily? Despair not. Did you know there is a tremendous upside to being terrible at something?

One area that I’ve always struggled with is being more empathetic to others. Without getting into my childhood and the patterns that shaped me, let’s just say on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is Hannibal Lecter and 10 is the Dalai Lama, I’m probably a 3 or on a generous day, a 4. That said, I believe you can learn and change. The upside to my being terrible at empathy was I could see very clearly the things that one should not be doing when trying to be more empathetic.

For your amusement and perhaps edification, below are my 4 Cardinal Rules of Empathy:

Rule #1: Never assume how another person is feeling

For example, avoid, "You must be (feeling)."

Instead, say "I imagine that might make you (feeling)."

Rule #2: Never reframe how they should feel

For example, avoid chucking optimism in their face, "At least (insert even worse situation)."

Instead say, "That seems (feeling)."

Rule #3: Never try to change how they are feeling

For example, hold off on the silver lining, "The good thing is (insert silver lining)."

Instead say, "I'm so sorry this happened."

Rule #4: Never assume that another person will react to a situation the same way you would

For example, avoid, “I totally know how you must feel.”

Instead, ask an obvious, but powerful question, “How are you feeling?”

What helps you be more empathetic? What empathy fails have you noticed yourself or others making? Please share in the comments below…

Stress Reduction Fail

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Have you ever had a bright idea that you thought would change everything for you? Maybe you even got off to a good start and saw some initial results. However, in the end, it was not sustainable or rather, you were not able to keep it up and it ended up on the trash heap of bright ideas that didn’t stick.

A little while ago I had such a bright idea for managing my stress levels. I think it’s important to write about our successes as well as our failures so wanted to share this with you. I had noticed that on days when I was stressed out, I could seemingly go hours without taking a deep breath or appreciating the good things I had in life. So I tried setting calendar reminders every 2 hours to prompt me to walk around for a few minutes or if that was not practical, at a bare minimum to take some deep breaths.

This lasted a little less than a week before I scrapped the idea. So what happened and why do I think this failed?

  1. It felt like another commitment. Sure, it was a good commitment to myself, but it felt like it added to my burden instead of relieving it.

  2. It felt like another task. There was no joy or sense of reward in it, before during or after.

  3. It felt clumsy. It just didn’t work well with the flow of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there may be something in here that works, but this particular incarnation didn’t.

If you have a process or technique that seems to work for you, I would love to hear about it. Just let me know in the comments.