Category Archives: Vulnerability

Transparency

Nicole Christie, Director of Executive Communications at Microsoft and Friend of Simple Intentions

062917_TransparencyTransparency is a raging buzzword in the corporate world. It’s all about telling it like it is, not sugarcoating the story, sharing the whole truth. It’s sometimes half-assed or disingenuous, but as a corporate communications consultant, I appreciate the effort, especially since I’m often the one crafting the message.

Yet transparency in business is an interesting juxtaposition to how we tell our personal stories—namely on social media, where painstaking effort is made to share the highlights, shape the narrative, and filter the photos. No wonder so many of us feel we pale in comparison to what we see online. No one’s sharing the whole truth—the dirty, depressing, ugly side of life.

And don’t we need to hear that?

We all have some level of discord—and dysfunction—in our lives. And when we don’t share this with each other, we feel isolated. Whether we’re sparring with a spouse, miserable in our jobs, questioning our life decisions, feeling disenchanted with the well-touted “wonders” of pregnancy and parenthood, we all experience dissatisfaction and disillusion. And while no one wants to be an online Debbie Downer, if we don’t share the shit, we aren’t truly connecting with anyone.

Mother Teresa said, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” So let’s all lose the filter. Let’s share our messy homes, messy lives, messy brains—not to complain, but to connect. Show us your unshowered, unkempt self, working from home and wondering if you’ve become a social misfit after 11 years of this arrangement (hand raised). Show us not your shiny, happy, well-dressed baby, but the one who’s red-faced, wet-eyelashed, and finally asleep after an epic wail-a-thon. Show us the downside of the perfect job we all think you have, whether that’s boredom, volatility, or all-out stress.

This is transparency.

This is truth.

This is vulnerability—and there’s strength in being real. Or as Brene Brown reminds us, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”

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Three Steps To Internal Activism

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

Internal Activism ess051817_InternalActivismentially means being the change you wish to see in the world. It is a concept that Mahatma Gandhi became known for and a teaching that Martin Luther King Jr. carried forward.   Before one can be the change they wish to see in the world, they need to understand truly what the change is they wish to be.

Sounds logical and simple, however simple doesn’t mean easy and even the logical can become confusing when the volume of information and data becomes too much to discern.  Our world is becoming increasingly more complex and there is a common desire for many things to change (and change all at once). It’s easy to become either demoralized or paralyzed with where to best focus energy and attention to be the change you wish to see.

When feeling overwhelmed, it’s tempting to get angry at people and situations and cast blame outward.  The pull toward trying to change others behavior, to get them to act or do certain things, is a powerful one, one that can lead you to use manipulative behaviors that only compound your feelings of powerlessness.  A more powerful and impactful action is to choose to change what you can change about yourself when you are engaged in situations where you desire an alternative outcome.  It is through trusting the process of taking internal, thoughtful, individual action that lasting activism is born.

Internal Activism is a process that uses the skill of awareness to help people identify the change they wish to see in the world. When individual action is created around that change, it can transform singular effort into community or global activism and shift the environments in which we live and work.  There are 3 steps to discover your path to Internal Activism.

Define It. 

What is the change you want to see in the world? Your world can be defined as your family, your work, your community, your country or even yourself.  Where do you desire a shift, a change, a new direction? In what way would you like to see your world different?  Notice the articles you read, the shows you watch, the people you talk to. What is stirring you up and making you uncomfortable? What is it that you are avoiding or ignoring? What is it that gets under your skin?  What are you ready to stop tolerating or accepting?

If you are like most people, you’ll notice more than one thing you want to change.  Start simple and pick one issue or trigger to focus on for now.  (Don’t worry about picking the “right” thing – if you care about it, it’s right for you.) For example, you might be bothered by bullying behavior at work, issues around diversity and inclusion, or people obsessed with their devices.  The size and scale of the issue doesn’t matter – only that you care about it and wish to see a different outcome.

Discern it.

Take the trigger/issue you picked and isolate it from all the others. For right now make this your focus for action.  Consider the issue from all sides.  What is it about this issue that triggers you?  How does it make you feel?  How often do you see it and where do you see it?  How do you currently respond and show up when it occurs?  Consider the desired end state for the change you wish to see. What do you want to be different?  Now make a list of the behaviors you can take to support that outcome.  What role can you play?

For example, if you picked workplace bullying, start by creating awareness around your own behaviors to determine if any of your actions could be considered bullying by other people. Perhaps some can and you were previously unaware of it. Next, notice how often it happens, where, when, who and what meetings do bullying patterns emerge?  Finally, decide the behavior you wish to model when you witness bullying in a meeting occur.  Perhaps you have a go-to phrase, “I’m interested to learn your thoughts/feelings, however, I’m not comfortable with that language in this meeting, in the future talk like that (give example) isn’t acceptable.”

Do It.

Now the hard part – putting it in action.  It’s much easier to contemplate being the change than it is to actually do it.  Being the change means you will likely upset your world in some way. Setting a boundary or addressing unacceptable behavior will cause some discomfort and maybe even some tension at the start.  The same is true with learning to undo something that you’ve noticed is a behavior that you no longer wish to do – it’s common to feel exposed at the start of being the change.

Behavior change takes time.  It also takes courage no matter how big or small the change is you wish to see – you will likely feel vulnerable at first.  Stay with it and trust that over time, the more deeply connected you are to your action, the more confidence and empowerment you will feel each time you witness yourself being the change.

The key to successfully living a life of Internal Activism is consistency in your behavior (words and actions).  Stick with the behaviors you’ve chosen and at every opportunity, be the change – offer others an example, become the presence of the possibility until it becomes as natural as breathing. Then begin again to become the next change you wish to see in the world.

[Note: This was originally published in HuffPost]

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The Power of Care at Work

By Sameer Bhangar, Simple Intentions Awareness Consultant

hands caringI met with someone this week who spoke about how much she admired her current leader, a Vice President in a large technology company. I was curious what she admired about him. She described him as a visionary, motivator, excellent communicator, and other goodness associated with capable leaders. She genuinely meant all of them.

Then she paused, and from a more heartfelt place added, “And he genuinely cares!”

This really struck me, that what appealed to her most about the leader of her group, someone she truly admired and respected, came down to his genuine care – for the vision, the work, and most of all, for the people on his team.

In my own experience leading team workshops, I often start by sharing my experience in technology along with my transition into team culture-related roles. I always plan on saying that for me, the underlying motivation for this transition is simply that I genuinely care. I care about how we bring our so-called authentic selves to work. I care about finding greater meaning at work.

What’s interesting is that I rarely actually say this. Something in me, in the moment, totally forgets to share this aspect about genuinely caring. Instead, I stick to the bullet points on my resume. I don’t know why, but sharing how I care about people’s well-being with a bunch of people I’m meeting for the first time feels vulnerable. And yet, the occasions when I do express how much I care – about the process, people, ups and downs, outcomes, learnings, conversation, all of it – it resonates with the group and brings us closer.

Considering this for yourself, I offer two questions:

  1. Do you genuinely care about what you’re working on and with whom you work?
    None of us will care one hundred percent of the time about every aspect of our role. But somewhere underneath the details, is there a thread of genuine care?
  2. If your answer is “yes,” then have you communicated this to those you serve? Do they know what you care about? If it feels uncomfortable to share this in a genuine way, you might be on the right track. It’s often our willingness to step into this discomfort and awkwardness that pushes us to deeper connection and ultimately stronger trust.

And if your answer is, “No, I don’t really care,” then what are you doing about it?

I wonder if what the industry often describes as burn-out, disempowerment, disengagement is in many ways a reflection of how much we truly care. In any case, it might be a useful place to start: If you find you no longer care about the people, project, company, or environment you’re in, then what is the conversation you need to have to create a shift for yourself? Over time, I believe we will all go through natural cycles of genuine caring and some levels of disinterest. The question is, are you aware of this and how are you including it in your thinking and conversations?

Just like the individual I met with last week, you may touch people more deeply with how much you genuinely care than how buttoned-up you are with the details of your vision and strategy.

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Out of Place In a Place You Are Meant to Be

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

0124654ff537cab587ad1b98268b0aa099704d16a5Do you ever feel out of place in a place you’re compelled to be? Maybe you’re the sole marketer on a virtual team of PMs and developers. Maybe you’re the only woman amongst a cohort of men. Maybe you’re the sole introvert in a group of garrulous extroverts. Your first inclination may be to extract yourself from the discomfort, to just get out, no matter the consequences.

But when fleeing is not an option, how do we endure with our composure intact? How do we make the best of an uncomfortable situation? How do we rise to an occasion that at the outset looks and feels like nowhere we want to be and nothing we want to experience?

I recently had this experience during a weekend yoga retreat in the mountains, two hours from my home. Initially I planned to attend with a friend, with the intention of getting away from our daily lives for a few days of yoga and fresh mountain air. When my friend’s plans changed and she wasn’t able to go, I decided to go alone. It would still be awesome, I thought. After all, I did a week-long yoga conference 1,300 miles from home a few years back that was incredibly fulfilling.

But this time, the gates around my heart started rising the minute I walked into our mountain lodge. I was the oldest among this group of 20- and 30-somethings. While I’ve practiced yoga for years and felt confident in my strength, this appeared to be a group of expert yogis, most of them teachers, whose spirituality was far deeper than mine. They arrived in small groups, already acquaintances, if not best friends. And did I mention I was the oldest? Suddenly I felt an urgent need to color my hair and Botox my body.

But I was here. For three nights. In the mountains. Without a car and too far for my husband to come rescue me. That first night, as I lay in my creaky cot, in a large den I shared with four others, I felt terrifyingly out of place, frustrated that I’d not more carefully considered canceling, praying I’d wake up in my own bed, all of this a hilarious dream.

I woke up in that same creaky cot. Resigned, I pulled on my yoga clothes for the morning’s practice. Dear God, please no handstands or chanting. Please let there be English along with Sanskrit cues. Please don’t let me fall on my face during crow pose.

Yoga has an inexplicable way of transforming one’s mindset, of paring open a closed heart, of releasing fear, uncertainty, despair, judgement. That morning’s yoga practice was slow and gentle, offering abundant space for deep breathing and long stretching. Space, too, to consider my intention and the possibility that maybe I was there for a reason. Maybe if I paid attention these three days, I’d discover that reason, whatever it might be: A new friend? A new skill? Simply release from all my responsibilities back home? Could I even allow myself such a release?

From that morning practice, I carried with me throughout the weekend the intention to simply be open to that possibility I was indeed there for a reason. That an open and willing mindset was the only salve to those uncomfortable outsider feelings. That by clinging to despair – and fretting about my age – would only add to the misery, my own and everyone else’s.

And so I joined the group making malas. And laughed when, after two hours of laboriously tying knots and threading beads, I shredded my efforts, surrendering to the reason I buy my jewelry already made. I approached conversations with curiosity, looking for what I might learn from a younger generation, what experiences they’ve had that my own two kids will too soon have. Humbly, I learned that this generation is far wiser of the world than I was at their age.

One afternoon, while others tucked themselves under throws to nap, I pulled on my boots and set out for a walk. It was gently snowing, quietly lonely – and a little scary walking against traffic on a road where both shoulders were piled with snow. Yet it was exactly what I needed. Energizing and meditative, cold and sweaty, familiar and foreign, all at the same time. I felt safe, happy and for the first time all weekend, glad to be there.

Ultimately, my reason for being there was not dramatic or life changing, but rather simply to be reminded that with humor, curiosity and self-compassion, I can find ease in uncomfortable situations, I can connect with people outside my usual circle of friends, and I can accept experiences as truly meant to be.

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Hold Me Able

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing Manager

traveling vanThis past summer was one of great learning for me. One of the teachings that really resonated is the concept that speaks to authenticity: holding each other able.

There are two parts to this. First, I hold the people in my life capable of or “able” to voice their needs. And second, I, in turn, have committed to being honest and authentic about what I need and want in the world. Essentially, I say what I mean, and I trust that the people around me are doing the same.

Simple, right? Just be your word.

Applying this philosophy over the past five months has been almost laughably difficult. I have long struggled with expressing what I want, a block that comes from an ingrained desire to take care of others before myself, even when it is completely unnecessary. I also sometimes find I have already decided that the recipient of my request would not want do a, b or c for x, y and z reasons. In these instances I don’t even bother to ask, making the decision for them and potentially depriving them of something they would have enjoyed.

When I am able to work up the nerve to ask for what I want, I sometimes doubt that I am getting honest answers in response. I am one who has the constant desire to check in: “Are you having fun?” “Are you sure you want to do this with me?” “Do you really mean that?” It must be maddening (and I’m putting that gently) to my more resolute friends and family members.

This stems from past instances when I agreed to do something I didn’t really want to do. With this in mind, I tend to give my friends and family members numerous ways out of a plan or agreement, lest the same thing happen to them. The consequence of this is I effectively ignore both parts of the holding each other able promise, and the cycle not only continues for myself but is forced upon those around me.

Simply put, holding each other able is a hard concept to live into.

Holding ourselves and each other able requires both courage and vulnerability, which, as most of us can attest, are challenging to summon. Articulating exactly what we mean, even if it’s not what others want to hear, and trusting that those around us will do the same, does not come naturally at first.

However, if we are able to successfully hold each other able, the benefits would be stunning. It would inevitably lead to lower stress, better communication, and all the other benefits that come when you live authentically. It would eliminate the need for constant check-ins and needless caregiving, which can be detrimental. It gives the responsibility back to each of us to honestly say what we need. This would allow us to live life with more confidence, joy and simplicity. If there’s one thing I hope to master this year, it’s this:

Hold me able, and I’ll do the same.

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Who Wants to Be Vulnerable at Work?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

vulnerable“Who wants to be vulnerable at work?”

It’s a question I often ask during workshops or speaking engagements. And surprise: Very few hands go up. I understand why. We are programed to act as if we know what we are doing at work, even in moments when we have no clue.

Who wants to risk being perceived as defenseless, weak or unsure in the eyes of our superiors, employees and colleagues? Not many of us. We act instead from a shared belief that being vulnerable at work is not acceptable, that it will result in perceptions of incompetence, lack of confidence and poor reviews.

But what if we upended that belief? What if being vulnerable at work was in fact the linchpin that meaningfully shifts the way we work? Open workspaces and flex-time options are great, but they’re not game changing when it comes to HOW we show up at work.

What if — like the invention of the pen, typewriter or computer — vulnerability could radically shift the workplace in the coming decade? What if today’s children could enter the workforce with the ability to fully and authentically show up, owning their strengths as well as their uncertainties and imperfections?

Vulnerability can mean both openness and defenselessness. Not many words encompass such paradox; no wonder it’s so difficult to express, especially in the workplace. Defenselessness is driven by fear. As humans we avoid this feeling at all costs given that it used to mean death when we were all running around as cave people.

Whereas, openness captures our human desire to been seen and acknowledged, and can only happen if we are willing to put down our defenses, to acknowledge and share our fears of being wrong, failing, embarrassing ourselves, or not being good enough. When we show people who we really are in all aspects of our life, we risk being rejected or ridiculed for what we value and believe. For some, this risk feels as primal as defending ourselves from a wild beast.

But when we choose defense over openness we rob ourselves the opportunity to contribute a foundational element of team success: trust. As any business expert will assert, trust is essential to building and maintaining successful teams and companies. Avoiding vulnerability at work is avoiding the parts of the journey that galvanize effective teams.

Meaningfully shifting how we show up at work begins with being vulnerable. Think about it: Where are you open and where are you defending at work right now? What would happen if you dropped your guard? How would openness impact the people with whom you work?

The choice is yours to defend or open. What are you going to choose?

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