How we name or articulate something defines how we see it. We often get lazy and use words in the wrong way (ever heard someone say “mute” instead of “moot” point?). But that can have a profound impact on how effectively we connect with each other.
If someone says they “love” you, it should mean something, Yet, I throw around the word “love” all the time whether I’m talking about my son, TV shows or tacos.
Words have power. They can inspire, provoke, oppress, terrorize, mislead, persuade, or comfort. (TWEET THIS!)
We have to get better at intentionally choosing our words and not taking for granted that we know what we’re both talking about .
Speaking of love, the feminist writer and cultiural icon bell hooks wrote in All About Love: New Visions (Love Song to the Nation Book 1): “imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet all the most astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we use it as a verb.”
One person I follow on LinkedIn and who will shortly be on The Empathy Edge podcast is Suzanne Werhtheim, Ph.D. She talks about inclusive language and posts great content about different words and phrases related to inclusion and how you can say something better to be more inclusive of others.
When it comes to your message, don’t take words for granted. Have empathy for your audience so they can receive your message with open arms and take action. Words are nuanced. Words evoke emotion, depending on the lived experience of your target audience. Choose wisely.
I never thought I’d own my own business. But here I am, just celebrating 14 years of Red Slice.
Whoa. It’s the longest job I’ve ever had!
My corporate career was very successful and I was on a good trajectory. I liked getting regular paychecks, benefits, clear goals and metrics (most of the time!). I thrived on working in teams.
For those who want to know the nuts and bolts of how Red Slice came to be, check out this 3-part Behind the Scenes series from a while ago. In it, I shared a lot of very specific lessons at each phase.
In general, here are 3 lessons for entrepreneurs – hard-won advice from this self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur!
Define Your Goal, Purpose, and Definition of Success. You cannot skip this step. YOu might roll your eyes at this advice, but let me tell you. I did not quite hammer this out – as I said, my entrepreneurial journey was not quite super mapped out. I did have a vague idea of what I wanted Red Slice to be – and ended up changing that vision 2 years later. You can always adapt and pivot. But start off with some kind of map of where you’re going and MORE IMPORTANTLY, why are you doing it? What is your motivator? This will steady you through some storms as you move forward. And never let anyone else define success for you. What does success look like for you? For me, it was creating more freedom in my life. It wasn’t about building a huge global agency. I was very clear on this from the beginning! In that respect, I have achieved immense success!
Don’t Go It Alone: No one is an expert at everything. Starting out, it’s super important to have a good bookkeeper/accountant and lawyer. Set things up the right way to save yourself headaches later. Sure, you have to be scrappy at first. I didn’t hire my first virtual assistant until years into my business. And I paid the price in wasting a lot of time and doing things inefficiently. Know when it’s time to pay someone else for their expertise so you can operate in your own zone of genius. Don’t try to be a hero. When you need help, connections, referrals, advice – ASK! No smart business person will think any less of you.
Be Open to Change: What’s that they say about change being the only constant?! Don’t get so set in your plan that you miss out on opportunities – or that you make yourself miserable trying to make something work that just isn’t. I adapted my business a few years in and was so glad I did. It was a risk, but it was a smart one and it paid off. If I’d held on too tightly to my original picture of what I thought my work would look like, I’d be super miserable and not half as successful as I have been. Never say never!
Entrepreneurship is hard, but it is such a journey of self-discovery. You get to know yourself, push your limits, and achieve your goals! (TWEET THIS!)
As we close out on another year of a global pandemic, I’m struck by how much we’ve all learned about ourselves. How we rediscovered resilience, got creative, and finally started to live authentically. And by authentically, I mean getting real about issues ranging from racial inequity to mental health to standing stronger in our own political beliefs and convictions.
Can you relate?
As we kick off a new year, you will no doubt be inundated by the blogs, emails, and social media memes telling you, once again, how to live your best life. How to make your new year spectacular! How to reach your goals! How to have a kickass 2022!
I’m not going to do that to you.
What I am going to do is share 3 wise pieces of advice and encouragement with you. Golden nuggets that you can do with what you choose: Either pick up your shield and sword and run headlong into the fray, on a mission to MAKE S%&T HAPPEN!!!
Or, glide gently into a new year, still a bit shaken from the last two years, but with hopeful expectations and optimism.
However you choose to enter 2022, or any new year, is the right way for you (TWEET THIS!)
3 Encouraging Pieces of Advice for the New Year
Define Success on your Terms: We hear this all the time but in these times, it matters more than ever. Some of us want 7 figure businesses while others simply want to enjoy watching their kids grow up. Design the life you want, according to no one else but you. Be clear about your values and use them to determine where you will focus your time, money, and energy this year. Defining our values for the year matters more than a laundry list of resolutions we will most likely break by January 15!
Prioritize your Mental Health: This is less a piece of advice and more of a plea. Especially after hearing of the tragic sucide of one of my friend’s son’s college classmates. It’s okay not to be okay. We are fragile humans, regardless of our socio-economic status, where we live, what we do for a living. We have been through a lot. Thankfully, the stigma around mental health is slowly disappearing. It’s actually hard to get a therapist these days! But there are apps you can use, or modalities like yoga, acupuncture or meditation you can try. More your body. Take a break. Call a friend and cry on their shoulder. Reach out for help and support and do whatever you need to do. Make your mental health as much a priority as charging up your phone.
Love Your Loves: This gem is attributed to the amazing Diane Easley. She is an entrepreneur, coach, and friend who unexpectedly lost her husband several years ago and has been preaching this concept ever since. Take the time to discern who is worth your time and energy and hold those people close. Make them a priority. Tell them what they mean to you, every chance you get. Relationships are what matter in the end. We intellectually know this, but think we’ll never run out of time. We will. So make the moments you have count.
This year, I turned 49. That means, if I’m lucky, I will likely only get 40 or 50 more new years to celebrate. Think about that. 40 or 50 more new years, summer vacations, Christmases.
What is your number? And are you going to make this next one count in all the ways that actually matter?
If we hold fast to these guideposts, then our year will surely be full of joy, success, and delight, come what may. Happy New Year!
When was the last time you eagerly dived into a task you didn’t connect with, believe in or understand?
If I told you to spend hours creating a complex spreadsheet but never told you why, or where your efforts would lead, how inclined would you be to do it?
Yet every day, employees are asked to produce deliverables, attend meetings, or spend time away from their families on work that means nothing to them – or work they can’t connect to how it makes customers’ lives better.
As humans, we all need purpose to keep us motivated and engaged. Otherwise, work is just drudgery. (Tweet This!)
I could cite thousands of books, surveys and studies here to back up my point. Like this. Or this. Or even this.
But we all inherently know this to be true! Employees who understand where their efforts lead, who can see a correlation between their efforts and external effects feel more satisfied, motivated, and positive about the work they do every day.
Who among you doesn’t have a story about getting “in the zone” and tackling a task where, at the end, you were rewarded with real impact and meaning?
And who among you doesn’t have a story about how miserable you were being a cog in the wheel, without any understanding of how the hours you spent led to something that really mattered to colleagues, customers, or community?
We want to matter. We want a destination to drive toward. When we find meaning, we are more engaged. And we also want a say in what that destination looks like and how we can get there. We crave autonomy.
And when we get it? Look out. Your employees will unleash massive potential the likes of which you’ve never seen.
So before you roll your eyes at launching a “Purpose Project ” or decide that all that feel-good stuff is a waste of time, think about what your organization’s goals, financial or otherwise. Would you rather spend a bit of time working together to define a purpose everyone can rally around, and thus operate at maximum capacity – increasing retention, innovation, and loyalty? Or would you rather limp along by cracking the whip and naively expecting soul-drained individuals to work at their best for you (which they won’t)?
Make the time. Articulate your purpose. Gather input. Share it. Live it. Think of this work as a fuel-boosting additive to make your company engine run better!
Does your organization need help aligning on and articulating your purpose, brand story and values? I have wrangled the most feisty teams to success with my unique and efficient process. Let’s chat.
Empathy seems like such an outward, selfless act. And in many ways, it is. You must focus on another person, make space for them, and get out of how you see the situation through your own eyes and hold space as well for they see it.
This all sounds very noble. Until a very broken person attempts to be empathetic. That’s like trying to help others put on their oxygen masks when you are about to pass out from lack of oxygen yourself.
As the Dalai Lama says:
If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able to develop compassion for others. An open heart is an open mind.
Empathy requires presence. It requires self-confidence to be able to make space and see someone’s point of view – without defensiveness or judgement. If you are so caught up in your own insecurities, fears, doubts, and negative emotions, you will never be able to make space for another person’s point of view. You will never have the stable foundation needed to truly connect with another person and just be with them.
Empathy for others starts with empathy for yourself. (Tweet This!)
As I like to say, you have to have your own house in order before you can truly be empathetic to another person. Think about the most unempathetic bosses you ever had. Were they bullies? Insecure? Ego-driven? Just angry at life? Yep. You can bet their own “houses” were a hot mess.
It’s truly hard to see that in the moment when those people are abusing you, but it requires us to have empathy for them as well.
You may very well have great intentions. You want to build a winning culture. You want to be an inspiring boss. You want to reap all the benefits of an empathetic brand and organization so you can succeed.
And I love that you’re here for it.
When people ask me where they can start building a culture of empathy, I always tell them the first step is to look inward. Practice presence and get really honest with yourself:
Why do you resist self-compassion?
Do you have empathy for your own imperfections?
Do you support yourself with self-care? True self-care, not just massages every now and then but care that nourishes your body, mind, heart, and soul?
Do you forgive yourself for your faults?
Do you need to bolster your self-confidence so you can be less defensive in the face of disagreement or conflict?
To show empathy to others, first start by showing empathy to yourself.
If you love this topic, please tune in and subscribe to The Empathy Edge podcast. In August, I’ll be chatting with Jamie Greenwood, life and leadership coach, about this very topic!
Have you had to deliver this yet? That once-in-a-lifetime speech.
You know the kind of speech I’m referring to: the pivotal presentation that defines a person, cause or culture — that crucial communications moment your audience members will remember for weeks afterward.
This could be a TEDx talk, like one I recently did for TEDx CWRU, or your first all-hands meeting as CEO, or your plea to the United Nations for funding, or your crucial VC meeting where the entire future of your dream and company are riding on a YES.
The best speeches are those where the stakes are high to inspire and convince (TWEET THIS!)
“First words matter. Make them better,” communications catalyst Dia Bondi reminds us. Bondi helps women ask for more in their careers and lives and has helped executives, humanitarians and government officials prepare compelling speeches. She knows the deal.
Dia understands how to bring crucial communications moments into stark relief: “Your time on stage will be defined by the first words you utter into the mic,” she says. “Starting strong tells us what the rest of your time will be like, who you are and what you’ll be expecting of us as you move through your content.”
Dia advises: “You’ll know how best to start if you write your first words last. Get your story out on paper, speak it through once or twice and then ask yourself, What is the most compelling verbal entry point for your time on stage? A metaphor? A personal story? An image on the screen that provokes?”
2. Use emotion and logic to motivate.
We are humans. And even the most tech-driven B2B companies re now learnding that you hav to appeal to emotion as much, if not more than, you appeal to logic if you want to persuade people.
When you’re delivering a high-stakes speech, your No. 1 goal is always to get someone, somewhere to act differently. Never lose sight of this goal.
Ghostwriter and editor (and my fabulous writing partner!) Sally McGraw warns you to not mistake persuasion purely as presenting data and facts.
McGraw has helped authors around the world craft compelling proposals and pitch letters to successfully secure deals. “In my experience,” she says, “persuasion is more about the heart than the mind. If you want to sway someone to your side, you need to convince them emotionally as well as logically.”
Authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath heavily researched the best ways to convince people to make a change. They use the metaphor of the Elephant and the Rider. Every human in your audience has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. To move them to act differently, you’ve got to address both sides.
3. Succeed at being you.
When I was prepping my TEDx talk, I asked successful speaker, activist and entrepreneur Taylor Conroy, “How can I avoid delivering a cliche ‘TEDX TALK’, to avoid being a parody of them all??” He smiled and replied, “Be yourself. That’s how you avoid being a ‘typical’ TEDx cliche. No one else presents like you.” Wise words! Get your head in the game, prepare, leave yourself time, practie presence and then just go in there and BE YOU.
Structure your talk like a story and remember that the audience is there specifically to be inspired, to be persuaded. They want you to succeed just as much as you do. They don’t want to waste their time listening to a failed speech, either. You are both after the same goal.
Giving the speech of a lifetime is an amazing opportunity. While it might feel like intense pressure, know that if you are well prepared, the odds are good you’ll hit it out of the park. Take these tips with you. The next time you step up to speak, you’ll deliver a speech that gets things moving.
Do you need a dynamic speaker that can knock it out of the park for your next workshop, conference, or corporate event? Let’s inspire and ignite your audience! Discover what I can offer you as an empathy speaker, brand speaker or motivational speaker. Would love to chat!
50 EPISODES! I’ve now recorded 50 episodes of The Empathy Edge Podcast and have learned so much from these inspiring leaders, changemakers, and rockstars.
This podcast was a way for me to continue my research and my own learnings about empathy in action after I was done writing the book. And man, I’m so glad I am doing this! If you’ve been listening, you’ve heard from CEO’s, CMO’s, communications experts, and even social entrepreneurs about how they are puytting empathy to work in their business models and reaping the rewards.
Here are 3 inspiring lessons that my guests have shared with us about empathy’s role in our work and society (Tweet This!)
Innovation can’t happen without optimism: The need for optimism is vital to social change but also innovation and advancement. I’ve spoken with leaders toiling away at redefining success in our workplaces and broader culture – and taking a long term view. It would be so easy to say they are dreaming or “It will never happen” but they are committed to seeing it through. They are hacking away at it and succeeding – and that is what it takes to ignite change.
People-First leadership is not a passing fad: So many inspiring stories with real ROI and business success. We are no longer lacking models – we just have to elevate the people doing this and having success so this can quickly become the norm. Most management models are outdated and actually hinder success in the modern era.
We can all do more: If anything, the guests I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing inspire me and my listeners to find their niche and DO MORE. Whether they are launching social enterprises, mdoeling empathy in their own organizations, or tackling systemic racism, they are taking steps. There’s enough work to be done to close the empathy gap. Find your passion and attack it from there.
If you haven’t yet, you’re invited to check out The Empathy Edge podcast!
Soak up the insights and inspiration while you work out, fold laundry, or take a daily walk. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google. (And kindly leave an honest review if you’re able!)
People often assume that sharing similar experiences with someone is empathy. Not quite. Empathy is more about listening and sitting with someone to see things from their point of view. Unless asked, it’s not about you hijacking the conversation and making it about you.
You know you’re doing this if you ever tell someone: “I know how you feel, when this happened to me, I…..”
I say this with love, because I think we all (myself included) do this in an effort to show people we understand them. It’s our way of active listening and our intention is to make others not feel so alone. So I get it.
During my long recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm, and even today, as I struggle with life-long cognitive impairments as a result, well-intentioned people do this all the time:
“You have to write everything down? Oh my gosh, I forget things all the time, too. You’re just getting older like the rest of us!”
“Wow, now you know how I feel, not remembering dates and faces.”
“I have bad short-term memory too – it must just be mommy brain!”
All of these are well-intentioned attempts to connect. But all this does is diminish another person’s pain and experience. For me, when someone says this, it negates everything I went through, all the therapy, education, and struggle, as if it’s no big deal.
Somewhere along the line, we mistakenly learned that sharing your own similar experience was empathy. It’s not. (Tweet This!)
Empathy is about perspective taking, information gathering, and actively listening. It’s about acknowledging another person’s experience. Yes, where appropriate one can share lessons learned or how they got through something, but the initial sharing is not the time. Just be patient. Give the person room to process and share first before you dive in with wisdom or advice.
Your response is about you, not the other person. You want to feel more comfortable, or “fix” things for the other person. That is not what they need. They need to feel heard.
You can understand someone without hijacking the conversation.
Sharon also shared this gem in her LinkedIn course: “Patience means slowing down your response to judgement. Without patience, there is no empathy” (Tweet This!)
When someone is sharing their experiences, here are 4 things you can say instead:
Tell me more…
Wow, that must have been a lot to go through. How does it make you feel?
What I hear you saying is…..is that right or do you want to share more? I’d love to understand more.
How can I help?/What support do you think you might need?
Setting boundaries is key to getting more done. When you know who you are, and what needs doing, you can focus. And that means saying no to the wrong opportunities, clients, relationships that don’t serve your purpose.
Setting boundaries enables you to go after the life you want.
But….we also can’t let boundaries box us in!
Setting a boundary that cars can’t cross the double yellow lines in traffic saves lives.
But, setting a boundary that you can’t go talk to that VP you really admire because that’s just not the way we do things around here helps no one.
To make change, invent, or ignite, we have to question certain boundaries. We have to cross them and see what’s on the other side. It could be better. If boundaries exist around people, or your work, or heck, your dreams – you owe it to yourself to step through.
How do we reconcile setting boundaries with smashing them?
We must ask: Is it a healthy boundary? If I set my schedule to get offline at 4 pm so I can pick up my son from school and spend time with him, that serves me. That is something that energizes me, gives me quality family time, and enables me to come back stronger and recharhed for my clients the next day.
But if I put up a boundary around becoming friends with my clients, who does that serve? I want to work with people I enjoy, and people I enjoy often become friends. You can dance the line between work and personal if you’re just open and honest. This also is true for corporate types. Some say, “Keep your personal life out of your work.” Which is true, to some extent, but it doesn’t mean we have to keep your humanity out of your work! You don’t park it at the door.
Get to know your work colleagues. Understand their lives. Check in. Then, when it comes time to collaborate, innovate, or invent, there is trust there. There is mutual understanding of each other’s lives outside of work. You can understand where someone is coming from, and build from there. It doesn’t serve you to set this boundary because it stops you from collaborating and effectively with and trusting each other.
When I was in corporate, I did my best work with a team of people I was close to. People I would work with all day and then go out for drinks with at night. We trusted each other. We could brainstorm crazy ideas without fear and create amazing marketing campaigns. We could adapt quickly when things went wrong during a global roadshow and trust each other to get someone to the airport on a moment’s notice. We had each other’s backs. We got each other through and delivered amazing work.
When you are pulled into creating a boundary, be sure it’s one that serves you. (Tweet This!)