Curiosity and Understanding

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a Moth Mainstage event in Portland Oregon.  The Moth features everyday people who tell stories about their life without using any notes.  It’s just the speaker, a microphone, and the audience.

That night we heard from 5 different storytellers:

  1. A junior speech writer for President Obama
  2. An Australian lady helping her Hungarian boyfriend gain US citizenship
  3. A dad remembering a Halloween after the death of a beloved family pet
  4. The son of a man who died on Mt. Everest
  5. A Sudanese refugee’s journey across Africa, after fleeing from her war-torn country, that eventually led to the United States

Their stories were riveting.

As my wife and I were driving home, discussing what we’d just heard, we were both struck by how hearing someone’s story gave us an understanding as to how they thought about, felt about, and perceived their unique experience.  Even though neither of us has fled a war in our own country, we gained a slight understanding of how someone who has had that experience might feel, simply by hearing this Sudanese woman’s story.

Here’s the best part:  if we ever meet someone who is or was a refugee, we will have a better chance of understanding what concerns or fears they may be dealing with, simply because we were willing to listen to someone else’s similar experience.

I think it’s important to be curious about other people and willing to listen to them in order to gain a better perspective as to how their experiences have shaped their worldview, especially when they are different from us in culture or beliefs.

Be curious as you meet people that are different from you, and be willing to listen to them to understand how their experiences have shaped them.  It’s a great way to build connection with people you meet in the future that may have had a similar experience.

Do Not Disturb

A “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the door of a hotel room sends a very clear message.  It states to all passing by that the occupant is focused on something else (like getting some sleep) and would see interaction from you or anyone else as an unwanted intrusion; and rightfully so.  Do Not Disturb signs are like communication stop signs in that their intention is to thwart off any communication before it starts.  They are very useful when we need to focus on a task for a specific period.  In such a case, a Do Not Disturb sign sends the appropriate message at the appropriate time.

Have you ever considered that we may be unintentionally displaying Do Not Disturb messages to those closest to us?  I’m not saying we’re walking around with hotel-style Do Not Disturb  signs around our necks; that would be silly.  However, what message might we be sending to a spouse, a child, family members, or a friend who is with us when we choose to bury our faces in a smartphone, tablet, or some other object that has captured our attention?

Sure, there are occasions where an implied Do Not Disturb is necessary, but the concern is when this type of behavior becomes such a habit that we are not even aware how often we’re sending a message, through our actions, that we would rather not be disturbed or inconvenienced by the interactions of another.

In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, “you might have your Do Not Disturb Sign out” if:

  • You are with someone significant to you and you’re more concerned about responding to smartphone alerts than you are about the person you’re with.
  • You arrange an evening out with a friend or a group and find yourself more interested in “capturing the moment” for your Facebook friends than you are about building relationships with the people you invited out.
  • People often ask you if you heard what they said or if they make comments that you seem too distracted to be interested in what they’re saying.

Granted, not all Do Not Disturb signs come in the form of smartphones and social media, but that seems to be a significant culprit in light of today’s technology.

This is not a cry to eliminate social media and smartphone technology from our lives.  Far from it!  Rather, it is a reminder that our actions can often send unintended messages that we may not even be aware we’re sending.   As such, we should be mindful of what we’re doing when we interact with those closest to us.  If we need to put our focus somewhere other than the person we’re with, let’s kindly tell them that our focus is currently somewhere else and arrange to connect with them at a time when we can give them our attention.  Better yet, unless it’s an emergency or something critical, give them your attention in that moment.

Seven Tips to Keep from Losing Your Mind to Emotion

When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.”  ~Mari Smith; Social Media Thought Leader

When I heard this quote from Mari Smith on the Entreleadership Podcast, I was instantly able to recall several accounts from my own life when I’ve been in this very situation.  I cringed, because, unfortunately, those have not been some of my finest moments!

What about you?  Have you ever been in a position where you feel the emotion rising, while at the same time your intelligence waning?  It’s not a good feeling.  Historically, I haven’t realized this was occurring until after the conversation or interaction where it occurred.  By then, it’s too late to change course because common sense and better judgement have already left the station.

So what can we do to keep from losing our minds when we notice our emotions starting to heat up?  Here are 7 suggestions to keep emotions from depleting our intelligence.

  1. Know the types of interactions that cause you to become emotionally charged so that you can either avoid them or be aware of the possibility of reacting emotionally.
  2. Know how you react physically when you’re emotionally charged. Do your hands get sweaty, your face get warm, or you ears get hot?  Knowing how you react can help you identify when you’re becoming emotionally charged.
  3. Determine in advance how you will respond when you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. If we don’t know how we’ll respond in that moment, we’ll likely put ourselves on auto pilot and let emotions take over.  Usually not a good option.
  4. In the moment, take a few deep breaths. I know this sounds cliché, but it works.
  5. Put things in perspective. Ask yourself what’s at stake and determine if it’s really worth getting worked up for.
  6. Look for something positive like humor, a silver lining, or opportunities to connect with the other side on a human level.
  7. Decide not to get worked up.  This may sound hard, but we have far more control over our emotions than we realize.

There seems to be no shortage of things to spin us up and charge our emotions.  The good news is that this gives us a lot of opportunity to practice the tips above.

Being emotionally charged up and momentarily losing our intelligence does not help us to be at our best.  Decide today to be in charge of your emotions and not a follower of them.  That sounds good to me, because I can’t afford to lose any of the precious little intelligence I have!