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Understanding differences and connecting authentically

Right now, many of us, including myself, are feeling triggered and charged up. 2020 has been a year that is testing our resolve, our grit, our self-image, and our ability to grow. For some, this is a time to check in with our biases, and for others it is a time to have painful and difficult conversations, to educate and to be educated, to listen and be heard. While I am sad and worried, I am also incredibly hopeful. I genuinely believe that as a society, we will have the potential to thrive and use this painful moment to grow.

I have been spending the past few weeks, exposing myself to new perspectives, putting myself into the shoes of my black friends, speaking to my children about race and equality, and listening to opinions and e

xperiences from varying perspectives. My eyes have been opened in new ways, and also some of my core fundamental beliefs have been strengthened.

 I left Wall Street and became a leadership coach because I am passionate about helping people connect deeply with their team, clients, and peers, to achieve the success that is aligned with their values and to help people build emotional intelligence.

One of my most significant and powerful beliefs is that if we fully harness our ability to see other people's perspectives and feel empathy for others, we can connect authentically. True connection will lead to breaking down systemic racism one person at a time.

Recently, I was asked by an organization to mediate between two leaders who couldn't get along. They were wreaking havoc on their respective team cultures, and they had destroyed trust (they had over ten years of history working together). I finally saw a breakthrough in their contentious relationship after both parties worked hard to understand each other. They had to take action to initiate learning and compassion. They had to listen to each other and work through their anger to learn to trust again.

The steps these leaders took to mediate their broken relationship were:

  1. They recognized and agreed that making an effort was worth it

  2. They accepted their part in contributing to the problem

  3. They disrupted their prior behavior with new behaviors that fed positive connection (ex. speak more frequently, share what each appreciates about the other person and consider each other's "pain points") 

I encourage you to try this in your relationships with conflict or with social groups that you have chosen to judge without truly knowing them. 

Empathy and curiosity for others are what we as a society and individuals need right now. We need to work to truly understand each other, be willing to listen, and be brave enough to see what we can do to drive change.

It may feel insanely vulnerable to speak on this topic and tempting to stay silent - but neither silence nor violence is the solution here.  Openness and a desire for deep connection with those we don't understand are!

A friend of mine (@melaniecnyc) recently wrote, "Hate and judgment

 are easy. Love and compassion require vulnerability but are so much more powerful. " Let's be powerful!


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