Posts

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

I Feel Your Pain

Are you the person everyone comes to see when they need to vent?  Do you spend a lot of time comforting colleagues, friends and family members and then find yourself depressed and exhausted?

We are told that empathy is important in understanding how others feel, and yet it can drain us if we take on too many of someone else’s negative emotions.  Practicing compassion along with empathy enables us to relate to others who are suffering without becoming too distressed.  Taking actions such as avoiding blame, encouraging cooperation and giving to charitable causes helps us feel that we can make a difference and gives us strength to resist the temptation to wallow in someone else’s misery.

If you are a naturally empathetic person, I invite you to consider approaching the other person’s pain from your point of view rather than trying to mirror their feelings, and notice the impact on your mental health.

Need to have a Fierce Conversation?

In a recent webinar for the Society of Women Engineers, I had the opportunity to speak to more than 850 people about Fierce Conversations. You may be familiar with the book by Susan Scott, who defines a Fierce Conversation as one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. That means we have to be authentic and say what we mean. We have to resist the temptation to answer, “Everything is fine” when it really isn’t. We have to say what is true – in a way that others can hear it.

Often we avoid engaging someone in a conversation because we worry that they might feel hurt or get defensive. They might refuse to talk or get emotional. But Fierce Conversations can’t be dependent on how others respond. If you know something must change, then you’re the one who must change it. 

The Fierce Conversations model includes an opening statement in which you:
  1. Name the issue
  2. Provide a specific example of the behavior or situation you want to change
  3. Describe your emotions about this issue
  4. Clarify what is at stake
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve this issue
  7. Invite the other person to respond
Then you can:
  1. Listen and ensure that the other person feels understood
  2. Reach resolution and determine how to move forward
  3. Make an agreement and commit to holding each other accountable
As Susan Scott says, “Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. The quality of our lives is largely determined by the quality of the questions we ask – and the quality of our answers.”  
 
What Fierce Conversation do you need to have?