Created: Tuesday, 10 July 2012 19:02
Have you heard about nurses' humor? Nurses are known to make jokes that much of the rest of the population would deem unfeeling and inappropriate. It's a coping and bonding mechanism. I know about nurses' humor because I married a nurse. If I didn't know how big his heart is, I might think him heartless at times.
Nurses' humor isn't in Wikipedia, but gallows humor is. Here's what they say.
"A type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a hopeless situation. Gallows humor is made by the person affected by the dramatic situation, an aspect that is missing in the derivative called black comedy."
During the Waldo Canyon Fire Evacuation, I heard a lot of gallows humor from a number of people. One particular comment clearly didn't land well on the ears of everyone in the room. The man who made the comment apologized. I assured him,
- You get a pass. You have skin in the game.
I was glad to be able to think to say that so quickly. Trust me - the right words don't always pour from my lips on the spot. But that phrase had the effect I wanted. It acknowledged the fact that the man who spoke had good reason to believe he had lost his home, and that some others might think it inappropriate.
It was an awkward moment among many during the Waldo Canyon Fire evacuation,. But we all get a pass for anything we said or did in those days of hanging in contingency. We all had skin in the game.
Created: Monday, 09 July 2012 23:01
I laughed out loud with appreciation both times Jennifer James concluded an awesome massage by saying,
- Thanks so much for receiving so well.
It sounded backwards in ways, and yet receiving the magnificence of who someone is and how they do what they do is a gift. I was grateful that she had noticed and said something.
I had tried a couple of massage therapists who offered Living Social specials. Both were technically skilled, but both commented on tightness in my shoulders as if I'm a bundle of stress. Both missed my ability to receive and relax deeply. They saw trees and missed the forest.
Of course this is a business transaction. I pay her for her time, energy and skills. But there is so much more to providing services, and especially services as personal as massage, than business.
Sometimes I end my training sessions by thanking my audiences. Isn't that the way it should be?
Jennifer calls her practice "Mother Bear Massage Therapy". She's half my age, but I'm happy to let her be my mother bear for a little while.
Created: Friday, 22 June 2012 20:04
Arther was the CEO where Brain worked as a high level manager close to 15 years ago. Although Arther was clearly in the leadership role and Brain reported to him, Brian related to him personally on an equal footing as a friend.
They got together this week and caught up on events. It was a good and heartwarming time. But one thing didn't feel quite right to Brian. Arther told him,
"I'm proud of you".
The remark was no doubt well intended, but came across as parental approval, not the appreciation of a friend.
There is an interesting distinction between roles and importance. Leaders do have a different role than their managers. They often need to use a firm deciding voice and set the direction. But exercising a role doesn't indicate rank. or value. In a leadership role I might make a decision for a group because that's my job - not because I'm the most important person there. The phrase "I'm proud of you" has a hint of self-importance. By saying he was proud of Brian, Arther cast him in a child's role.
I'm not a word tyrant. I consider context. Penny will tell me she's proud of me times, and I don't feel like a child when she does.
But I often hear that phrase as a "tell" that reveals a rankist attitude. If you don't want to turn others into children, watch out for parental kinds of expressions. If you're impressed or in awe, say that instead. It doesn't make the conversation about you.
Created: Tuesday, 15 May 2012 13:27
When we learn of the deaths of people we care about—or the deaths of people who people we care about care about... when we discover, as another dear friend did, that someone we love lost limbs in Afghanistan, it can take a while to sift and sort and make peace with everything the experience brings up.
My friend confessed: "I'm still processing it." And I said, "There has to be a better word for it than process. It sounds so mechanical." I knew she would hear my words as honoring what she's going through rather than criticizing her word choice.
There does need to be a better word for how we move through the experience of deep loss. "Grieving" isn't big enough—there is more to moving through loss than grief. "Processing" captures some of what happens, but isn't human enough.
The perfect word may be out there. Or there may not be a perfect word. As a culture, we're moving from being mechanistic to being more organic. Perhaps the language hasn't caught up yet.
If you have a better word, I'd love to hear what it is. For lack of a better word, many of us are "processing" quite a bit these days.
Created: Thursday, 10 May 2012 02:16
We all know what "good grief" means, right? It's an ironic expression that says things aren't right. There's nothing "good" about it. But unless you grieve, you can't really love or embrace life.
I experienced some good grief today. It felt good to experience the sadness. And suddenly my writing and conversations began to flow again.
Evan Hodkins says writer's block is really an authenticity block. Once you connect with your authentic self, writing flows again. Of course, we keep outgrowing our previous selves, and we can get behind in knowing who the latest version of ourselves is. So we have to keep recalibrating.
Good grief isn't the only way to recalibrate, but it certainly is a good one.
Created: Wednesday, 02 May 2012 16:33
Decisions, decisions. Some of us are decision challenged. Why? I better understood my own hesitancy to make decisions when I discovered the word root yesterday.
Did you know that the word "decide" has the same root as the words homicide and suicide? Think about that one for a moment! What dies when you decide something? Options. Making a decision literally means you kill off options.
I'm a gentle spirit and don't like the idea of killing anything, including options—which might be why focus can be a challenge for me sometimes. However, as I'm sure you've heard before, not deciding can be a decision. Options are also killed by procrastination.
Okay, I started this post many hours ago. And I got this far and couldn't quite ...deCIDE how to end it. I made a lot of false starts. And then I identified my challenge.
I had assumed that I couldn't raise the topic without deCIDING what it all means and telling you what to do with the information. The fact that I haven't reached that point kept me from posting...
Until it occurred to me that I could post honestly. I could simply say, I don't quite know what to make of it yet. But I find it fascinating, and that's why I'm sharing it with you.
Interesting. Instead of killing off options, I discovered a new one, and that made deciding easy.
Created: Thursday, 12 April 2012 20:55
I work at the animal shelter here as a supervisor over the cats.
One problem has been irking me at work. This is allowing people to be right in situations that really matter. For example we will have a cat that is exhibiting a behavior that I am very familiar with and I want to point out what it is, a workable solution to solving it, and the end result. I even have tons of literature and videos over it. Instead of explaining and highlighting what needs to be done, I allow myself to become satisfied with the other workers' opinions whom have no experience with cat behavioral issues and they end up making it worse.
This is the one I am having the most trouble with. Right now we have a hissy-spitty cat, and I am in the process of training him not to bite. I do this by positive reinforcement which includes petting him a little more each day until he becomes comfortable with longer periods of petting and socialization. The other worker believes that smacking them on the head works when they bite, but all the research I have done backs up the theory that cats do not learn from physical punishment. How do I go about effectively tell them when they smack the cat not to do that and explain my method and technique of training the cat?
I'd love to learn from you! We watched the "My Cat From Hell" series where the coach transforms cats regularly by honoring their nature, and it can be amazing! Our cat is a sweetheart, but we did teach her to stay off the table by yelling at her. That was years ago, and some day we might have a new cat—I'd like kinder and gentler ways.
It seems to me there are two things that upset you—that you don't stand up for your own wisdom, and you don't stand up for the cats. Do you know why? When I defer to others who know less, (which still happens, although not so often), it can be self-doubt, not wanting to upset other people, not wanting to offend, not knowing what to say. It can be fear of retaliation. Something in my upbringing developed those qualities in me, and the only way I could grow out of it was just to hold my nose and dive in. Cut yourself some slack—there's a reason why you balk. There is no need to be hard on yourself. But there is also reason to extend yourself a bit more each time.
It will help if you discover why you back off. But even if you know why, there will be risk in speaking your truth. It's unfamiliar, and not a skill you've developed in this kind of scenario. When you practice a new skill, you fumble at first. That's not fun. But it is how you grow.
When I fail to SpeakStrong, I practice what I might have said out loud. It really helps. I talk to the trees when I hike, and tell them what I wish I had said to the other person. It comes out raw at first, but then gets more from the heart. The trees don't mind. ;-)
You are the expert in cat care. You are also the supervisor. You have both positional and knowledge power. What do you, in your comfortable authority sound like? For starters, a man who cares about cats and cares about people.
Your earned authority comes across loud and clear in your email to me. So look at what you wrote to me, and use that to help you figure out what to say to the offenders. If it were me, I'd say something like, "The cat is scared and defending itself. We might be able to get her to stop by smacking her, but we won't teach her love that way. My experience and my research have shown me that there really is a better way. I'm working with this cat and I see improvement, but if we worked together by teaching her to trust, she'll lose her reason to bite."
You can also say, "Yesterday, I wanted to speak up about cat care, but was afraid I'd offend you. I decided to take the risk today."
Created: Tuesday, 10 April 2012 16:11
"It was different from any wedding I've ever been to."
That was one of the more common comments people shared after Bob and I married last week. The wedding was uniquely ours. It probably helped that we haven't been to a lot of weddings. We didn't have much experience to tell us what weddings "should" be like. We just knew what we wanted one to be. Delightful.
The ceremony was my creation with Bob's and Evan's (the minister) collaborative input. Evan sent me a summarized and updated copy of the ceremony, and when we spoke, he noted,
- It would be impossible to offend me.
"That's a PowerPhrase!" I replied. And it was. It gave me permission to be completely honest, which I would have been anyway, but not with the same confidence. He then—jokingly—protested when I told him we wanted to adjust the part of the blessing that said we would never settle for the snotty privilege of always being right. We replaced snotty with easy.
Being impossible to offend is a gift
Last week I misinterpreted my friend's grief as feeling victimized. She called me to clarify that she didn't feel victimized at all—she just missed her lost love. I appreciated that she clarified without taking umbrage at what might have been an implied diminishment of her purity of heart. Instead of regretting my error due to hurt feelings, I was happy that I had communicated what I saw, because it allowed her to share the depth of her heart.
Being impossible to offend is not the same as taking crap or betraying your expertise. It's essential for true collaboration that people be able to call it as they see it. They might be missing something, but that doesn't matter. By speaking honestly and inviting honest responses, conversations become dynamic, real and transformative.
You might not be planning a wedding, but even if you're just planning a lunch with a friend, create an umbrage-free zone. Being impossible to offend will help the collaborative planning process.
So try it next time you submit anything for review. Let them know,
- It would be impossible to offend me.
You might be surprised at how much smarter both or all of you are than any one of you, in umbrage-free zones.