How to Win the Shame Game

If a boss made you feel stupid or a clique excluded you, you know what shame feels like.  We’ve been hearing a lot about shame lately and it’s a very uncomfortable topic.  Brené Brown, PhD, and well-known shame researcher says nothing shuts down a conversation like her response to the question, “What do you do?”

All of us have experienced shame because, as Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection, it turns up in the most “familiar places, including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging, and religion. To feel shame is to be human.”

We humans are hard-wired for belonging because it was critical to the survival of our ancestors who couldn’t make it alone.  We feel shame when we believe that we don’t measure up to someone else’s standards for fitting in but we can win the shame game by cultivating resilience.  Here is how to do that:

  • Recognize the symptoms: you start down what Brown calls a shame spiral when you think, “I am a failure” instead of “I failed to deliver on my objectives this quarter.”
  • Share your story: since shame thrives in secret, talking with someone you trust takes away its power.  The #MeToo movement is a great example of this but you don’t have to go public.
  • Practice self-compassion: give yourself a break and treat yourself the way you treat other people you love and respect.

The author of A Wrinkle in Time  (now a movie starring Oprah Winfrey) wrote, “People are more than just the way they look.”  How would you complete this sentence: “I am more than…”?

How Gritty Are You?

During performance review season did you find yourself wondering why people with similar qualifications differ in what they are able to achieve?  Angela Duckworth https://angeladuckworth.com/ decided to find the answer to that question by interviewing high achievers like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.  She also conducted research at West Point and in urban college preparatory schools like YES Prep in Houston.

Duckworth concluded that the secret to outstanding achievement is a special blend of passion and persistence she calls grit, defined as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.”  The good news is that grit can be learned and improved over time.  How can you leverage grit to keep working toward your goals even when you face frustrations and setbacks?

To find out how “gritty” you are, take the test here Grit Scale.

Cake in the Car

A friend was taking a cake to a party so he drove very carefully. He accelerated slowly, made gentle turns and approached stop signs well in advance. When people started honking and yelling at him he wanted to say, “Hey! I don’t usually drive like this but I have a cake in the back seat.” He thought they would be more patient and understanding if they knew. Now when my friend sees drivers doing strange or annoying things, he tells himself there’s probably a reason — maybe they have a cake in the car or they are from out of town or they just got devastating news from the doctor.

When I heard this story I was reminded that we don’t always know what might be going on with someone in the next lane or the office down the hall. As we head into the holiday season, what would it be like if we commit to giving others the benefit of the doubt?

How Does EQ Impact the Bottom Line?

The CEO was fed up – if she got one more complaint about the VP Operations she was going to have to fire him.  It was obvious when he was in a bad mood because he yelled at people and slammed doors.  Then they were upset and distracted which affected their productivity and how they dealt with customers.  The ripple effect of his bad moods was negatively impacting the bottom line.

Human behavior is like an iceberg.  We see how people behave but we don’t always understand what drives behavior.  Using Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is like putting on your scuba gear to check out what is hidden beneath the surface.  Once you know which emotions are influencing your behavior, you can use those emotions more effectively.

In his book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman cites research indicating that leaders whose styles had a positive emotional impact on their teams generated measurably better financial results.  Teams with higher engagement have lower turnover, above average productivity, higher customer loyalty and higher profitability.

If you want to positively impact your bottom line, contact cheryl@csbryan.com today for an assessment and suggestions for improving EQ for yourself or someone on your team.

Choose Optimism!

12 days before my son’s wedding he and his fiancée were trapped in their home, surrounded by water.  My husband and I were in Austin watching news coverage of people being rescued, some by helicopter.  I was an emotional wreck – completely caught up in all of the negative possibilities.  Thankfully, they never lost power and didn’t get any water in their house, but it was close.

As the water began to recede and we plotted our route back to Houston, we started talking about the likelihood that the rehearsal dinner and the wedding could take place.  I was too quick to say, “It’s probably a long shot.”  Once I knew my family, friends and clients were safe, however, my brain was able to make a shift and I said out loud, “I choose optimism!”  The powerful stories of people all over the Houston area choosing optimism in the midst of devastation and despair continued to encourage me.

It’s one thing to talk rationally about how emotion can highjack our brains; it’s another to experience that highjacking so viscerally.  I need a lot more practice at choosing optimism at every opportunity so I can rely on that “muscle memory” when I need it most.  Rather than dwell on the negative emotions like fear of what lies ahead, anger at the bureaucratic nightmare of insurance claims or survivor guilt for those who didn’t suffer damage, let’s remind each other of the power of optimism.  #houstonstrong

Not My Monkeys

Have you heard the Polish proverb, “Not my circus; not my monkeys”?  This came to mind in a recent coaching session with a client who has a tendency to jump in and fix problems that belong to his team members.
Once he realized that jumping in means he is robbing that person of the opportunity to learn how to solve the problem on their own, we worked on recognizing what triggers him and finding another approach.  He doesn’t like it when people run around with their hair on fire so he will do just about anything to put the fire out.  Repeating “Not my circus; not my monkeys” reminds him not to get caught up in someone else’s craziness.  Then he can step back, calm down and rationally assess whether he needs to get involved – now, later or not at all.
If you tend to be a “fixer” give this a try and get that monkey off your back.