On November 15th, twenty-eight women from a variety of races, nations and religions gathered together for a Conversation Safari. The plan was to dive into divisive current events and the fears that drive our emotions, our behaviors and our results.
Our topic had been planned for months based on several private conversations:
- I’d had with a Muslim neighbor
- And several different conversations I’d had with ladies that will always have a better tan than I do
In each of those private conversations we shared fears, we felt each other’s pain, and considered new perspectives.
(The date of our event had been chosen because of some scheduling conflicts, not because of a master strategy. But when November 9th rolled around and the election results from the U.S. hit the airwaves – fear in across the world and in the expat sandbox grew. Our topic could not have been more perfectly timed.)
- One of the women I had met with during the summer shared what was happening at the University that her son attends in the U.S.
- Other neighbors were posting deep concern for their safety in the world
- While other friends in the U.S. were sharing deep concerns about racism and bigotry
Imagine learning that a very obstinate peer is going to become your new boss. Yes – the opinionated one that is like a dog with a bone and just won’t drop a subject, and almost always opposes your point of view.
To say you are concerned is an understatement! That overwhelming dread you are feeling is fueled by RAW FEAR.
Have you got a list of values that you hold so dearly, that they actually define who you are?
And I used to really struggle with those that didn’t share those values.
As a child, I would passionately argue my convictions and not listen to those that did not share my opinions. (Because they were simply wrong!)
As a young professional, I thought it was horribly rude for people to roll their eyes in disagreement – but the shaking of my head as others spoke – screamed how wrong they were. (And how unwilling I was to listen.)
Hi! My name is Chery, and I am a recovering opinionista! (…Emphasis on recovering.) Somewhere along the way, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw.
So I began to listen more and talk less. (Not because I didn’t have opinions, but because I didn’t know how to share them and really listen.)
Along the way I heard personal stories from people who had opposing views about some of the values that I hold most dear. And I began to really consider what it was like to walk in their shoes and even wonder if I’d experienced what they had, if I would hold those same views.
In most cases, my convictions did not change, but my understanding, compassion and creativity increased:
Have you ever struggled to figure out how to leverage a strength that is coming across as a weakness?
If you’ve ever watched popcorn pop, you’ll understand one of mine.
One little kernel heats up, flies into the air and explodes into light fluffy happiness. POP!
Then a couple more kernels join the fun! POP! POP!
Then a few more! POP! POP! POP! POP! POP!
Soon the party is in full swing, as the noise, chaos, and joy increase rapidly! POP! Pop! POP! Pop! POP! POP!!! POP!!!!
That’s me and…
For many years I sat in meetings:
- Excited by the challenge of problem solving.
- Fueled by the opportunity to be creative and to collaborate.
And frustrated because I could not clearly articulate what was happening inside my brain.
Have you ever had someone that works for you ask you for a meeting? …Try to share a concern with you? …Or passionately try to share an idea?
How do you react when that happens?
Have you ever considered that they are bringing you a gift?
- The person that is coming has chosen to take a risk and invest in you and in the organization.
- No matter what their title is – they have knowledge and experiences that you don’t have.
- No matter what their role is – they see things in your organization that you don’t see.
~ Thank them for their courage.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. ~Winston Churchill