A Book, A Movie, A Gift

Thanksgiving is next week.  It’s my favorite holiday. 

I had in mind to write about non-judgment, because sometimes getting together with people we know well can make commenting on the unimportant, or the none-of-our-business, all too easy. Such as, “Bob, the seventies called and they want your pants back”; or “Maddy, your string beans are good, but just a little salty for me”; or “Liam, did you really think buying that money pit was a good idea?”

But instead, I’ve decided to “hand the mic over” to two sweet tales: the bestselling novel “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman (2018); and the movie “Lars and the Real Girl” starring Ryan Gosling (2007).

Both stories are wonderfully told, and celebrate the power and simplicity of non-judgement to build human connection. And with a cold November weekend ahead, what better way to spend it than with a good book or movie.

Then, if you’re like me, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring non-judgement as a gift to your Thanksgiving gathering. (And, don’t forget to notice the results, and enjoy the time with your people).

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Best Time To Give Advice

Okay, it’s the fifth Tuesday in October, so it’s time for a short quiz. Number 2 pencils out, eyes on your own paper, and begin…

Question:  The best time to give advice is:

a)      When a colleague has just shared a painful employee issue, and you faced a similar one once.

b)     When a friend has just clicked “send” on an angry email to her client that you never would’ve sent.

c)      When your spouse is steaming broccoli for dinner, and you think broccoli is best roasted.

d)      None of the above.

 Answer: d.

Because, of course, the best (only?) time to give others advice…is…when they ask for it.

(P.S. I need to take this quiz regularly.)


What's Wrong With You?

As a young prosecutor I once had a branch chief who bullied everyone: staff, defense attorneys, police, even judges.  One afternoon it was my turn. “Doug” stormed into my office, tossed me a file, planted both hands on my desk, and, inches from my face, screamed “What’s wrong with you?!

As it turned out, the file with the error in it wasn’t mine. And Doug moved on. But I was stunned…angry…and hurt. Weren’t we colleagues, attorneys, adults? How I could be so disrespected? I carried those feelings for a long time.

What I didn’t understand, was that Doug’s behavior was an expression of strong feelings and needs. He needed the branch to run smoothly, and to be seen as an able manager. And he desperately feared the blunder that would spin life off script and rain negative judgement down on his head.

Had I then understood this about Doug…about all of us, really…I could have released my hurt and anger. And perhaps, summoned the empathy, the calm, the compassion to address the incident candidly and constructively.

Because, after all, what happened that afternoon was not about what was “wrong” with me, but rather…what was “wrong” with Doug.

(P.S.  This post is my pre-midterm election reminder to help me breathe, be calm and see my political counterparts more humanely—with empathy for our common feelings and needs.)

OMG! You’re Right!

Mid-argument, how often have your heard someone say:

  • OMG! You’re right!

  • The way you raised your voice convinced me.

  • When you called me a selfish jerk, I knew that I was.

  • When you belittled my effort, I understood my weakness.

  • Your searing judgement of my opinions means a lot to me.

  • You get me. I feel safe.

  • Let’s work together.

Ever?  Of course not.

When we disagree, we often unleash anger and harsh judgement without regard to outcomes and relationships that are important to us. Our impact on others sits squarely in a blind spot. 

A mindful approach can help: Breathe. Smile. Park the anger. And unpack the empathy.

Everybody Here Smiles

The ethos at my first job out of law school: Get here at 7:30 am, work hard, bill 10-12 hours, leave after your boss. And, by the way, nobody here smiles.

The message: you’re on shaky ground, don’t trust us.

The ethos at my daughter’s first job out of college: Get here, work hard, put in 8 or 9 hours, use your judgment, have a life outside work. And by the way, everybody here smiles.

The message: we’re happy you’re here, do great things, we trust you.

Where could you shine?

Smile. Respect. Build trust. Help everyone do their best work.