Tag Archives: Communication

Indeed, I Do Have A Spiritual Practice!

A few years back, I was down in the San Francisco area participating in a program called Transformational Lessons. I was there with about 40 or 50 other folks. We started with introductions where we were asked to share our spiritual practices. I listened as each person spoke about either a yoga practice, a meditation/prayer, or mantra, and/or some guru or ashram where they were currently studying or regularly attending. As my turn arrived, I wondered what I was going to say.

I couldn’t really relate to the question, nor did I have any idea of an answer. At that time I was not at all interested in yoga (too tight for that) and I sort believed chanting, meditation, and ashrams were all about transcending this human experience–and I wasn’t interested in that.

However, I did consider myself a spiritual person. Finally, as my turn arrived, I spoke about the one practice that I believed transformed my life and has regularly provided me a pathway to my most spiritual experiences – connecting with other people in a deep and personal way that expands my reality. The practice involves utilizing The Haven communication model.

When I mentioned my practice, I could tell a few people did not understand how a communication model could be a spiritual practice. Since that day, I have regularly referred to The Model as a spiritual practice. These days, I practice yoga, enjoy chanting, and even regularly do some form of meditation. However, I still firmly believe the most spiritual experiences I have come from those times when I practice intimacy through open, honest, vulnerable communication – the essence of the communication model.

Almost thirty years ago I was introduced to The Model. Now after years of teaching it, practicing it and applying it in every relationship that matters to me, I still learn new things, discover deeper connections and expand my world.

Why? Because to practice The Model authentically, I have to fully own my judgments and whatever feelings I am generating. I have to take full responsibility for whatever experience I am creating or having. This requires discipline and can be hard. However, even more challenging at times, is suspending my own rightness about my views or opinions and listening with heart and curiousity to someone else. When done well there is an opening that takes me way beyond the limits of my human ego experience, providing a moment of loving that reminds me of the quote: “To love another person is to see the face of God”.

To me, that is what defines a spiritual practice, an experience that allows me to see the face of God. Something that I will likely never fully master and will continue work on as a way to open doors and bridge differences that not only transforms my life but profoundly impacts the world around me.

If you want to discover more about this model and possibly start you own practice, visit: The Haven website, www.haven.ca or better yet take any of their core programs.

Getting To Clarity & Connection

I am spending the day in the house. I woke up this morning running a fever. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am not one that likes to rest and recover, I tend to overdo.  But I really want to kick this cold/flu, or whatever it is, out of my system. So I am willing to spend a day inside. I hope CrisMarie will be willing to pick up some Rice Dream for me when she heads out. I don’t have much of an appetite but Ice (Rice) Dream sounds wonderful!

I have a book to read, papers to work on, my computer and a variety of beverages sitting on my bedside table. I am working on a newsletter article about Pat Lencioni’s book, Naked Consulting. Basically the book is all about being real and authentic—and that is why I love it. I don’t want to give away the newsletter by writing too much about the book, but I think it’s a great read. Of course the title is a bit provocative. We sent a copy to an HR friend and she said this book would be an HR nightmare. There’s no doubt Pat probably was hoping for that type of reaction. 

While the title may be potentially an HR nightmare, the subject matter really isn’t an HR issue.  HR departments have simply become the enforcers of programs, guidelines, and policies, set up to overcome longstanding prejudices and ignorance about the differences between people and power. I’ve never thought that laws and policy were a very effective solution for relational dynamics. Sometimes laws give a certain amount of comfort, defining for someone the parameters of certain types of behavior that are either bad or wrong. This can confirm a person’s opinion, but it doesn’t necessarily create a significant change in attitude. People might learn to say the right words but it is unlikely to really change their views and may even create more distance.

So what is the solution? I think the best way to create a shift in attitude and behavior is by learning to understand the impact certain behaviors have on others. Instead of counting on a policy to ensure that inappropriate language is not used in the workplace, I have to speak up whenever I see it happening.  Not just when it happens to me but, even more importantly, as an accountability measure when I see someone I work with saying or doing something to someone else that I find offensive. Not to make them wrong, but to be real and authentic and in the moment is when I believe real change can happen.

When I have done this—I have been surprised by the results. Often I have either learned something very valuable about the person I was speaking to, which in turn influenced my position. Or they were curious about my reaction and we had an dialogue that I would later discover had a positive impact on them.  Of course this does not ensure change or agreement, but when it comes to relationships, that is not really the most important outcome. The most important outcome is clarity and connection by way of authentic and real conversation.

Humble Eh!!

Generally speaking when we are bought in to work with a client the maximum  amount of consecutive time we have to work with them is two days.   It’s not easy to convince a team of executives to take two days off for work that they often assume will be fluffy and soft.  So imagine our surprise when we were invited to work with a team for five – yes five days!!  Wasn’t even our idea.  They were asking us and had already set aside the time.

So may be this was because it was a woman who was leading the company.  Though after spending four hours with her before the event she was as tough and as focused as any male executive I have talked with.  Was it because they were a Canadian headquartered company?  Not likely, their target goal was 300% growth in revenue over three to five years – so just as aggressive as any US  company.  No it seemed as leaders they  had the idea that they needed a week and were committed to making that happen.  In our four hours prep it was clear, Shelley, the President,  like all other clients,  wanted a  highly productive focus and not just A team-building experience.  So really no different then any other leader in terms of wanting meat not fluff.

We just got back from the week, and I must say I am impressed with the team.  They were amazingly willing to let us lead them through a process that wrapped team building into a very focused strategic effort.  We left and they realized they still had their work cut out for them but they were communicating better and more committed to collective results than ever before.  It was quite refreshing to work with a team that was not cynical.  They shut down their computers,  turned off their blackberries and really spent the week dealing with the hard issues and underlying dynamics that would otherwise undermine the efforts.  Were they perfect – no!  Of course there was resistance and disengagement at times, but they were willing to either hear our feedback or better yet,  give each other feedback as the week went on and refocus.

One of their core values ended up being humble.  They wrestled with the word because the dictionary definition is meek, modest, lowly in position and they were a Canadian based software company battling the giants and wanted a stronger word.  However, they decided in the end that humble did indeed fit.  Truth is for me – modest, unassuming and self-effacing not only fit but were words to be proud of in today’s business world.

I enjoyed working with this company that was aggressive, competitive  yet humble.  Sometimes I can start to get cynical myself when I am in the corporate world and listen to so many leaders avoid accountability and vulnerability by saying they don’t have time for the ‘soft stuff’ or anything touchy/feely.  The ‘soft stuff’ they are avoiding is generally giving critical feedback to a team member or admitting they don’t know something or even saying “I made a mistake”.  Not so soft really.  I would call that courageous!

We all worked hard last week.  I’d say that this team bought out the best in us as a result of their commitment and willingness.  I believe they will be successful.  Actually they already are!  and humble to boot!!

Saluting A Comrade

In just a few days we’ll be back into the thick of our work.  We have client work that fills the next two weeks.  In some ways this is a good thing.  For CrisMarie it will give her something to focus on as she continues to integrate the information that her brother is gone.  For me it’ s a way to quit thinking so much about cancer.

Tom in many ways was more of a ‘brother in arms’ to me than a brother-in-law.  I never fought in a war, but over the years I have worked with many folks who did and they often spoke of the unique relationship they had with anyone else who served.  For me, there is something similar with the folks who cross my path while dealing with cancer.  It goes way back to my own fight and the people who were in the oncology department at the same time I was.  Really, the first comrade I remember was the other woman who was in the Life, Death & Transitions workshop with me along with 90 other folks who were health-care providers for cancer patients.  The workshop was run by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who was an expert in the field on death & dying.  I went because I was told I was dying and really had no clue how to do that at 24 and thought the workshop might help.  The other woman was fighting breast cancer and  had been for a while, much like a long term, multiple-tour veteran.  She  had a very strict routine and belief system.  I don’t think she liked me very much because I was not really ‘strong’.  I wasn’t doing everything by the book.  Of course, I did not know there was a book, but she had a very clear intent and was not going to give the cancer one ounce of  negative energy.  No tears, no anger.  I was a bit more undisciplined, and I sort wished she would cry because I could feel the pain she carried under the surface.  Still, I respected her choice – how she fought.

There have been many more folks since then.  I have sat and talked, cried, screamed and raged with many comrades.  I still am a bit undisciplined in my approach to cancer.  I am not one to believe it’s all about being positive or about fighting the good fight.  I think the cancer fight is quite unique.  There is a bond we share, but there isn’t a common play book that wins the war.

Even after twenty years, as I sat with Tom and he looked to me for some sort of answers, I knew I had none.  There is no right way to deal with cancer.  Just like there isn’t a right way to deal with living through a war.  It’s a bloody fight and many people die.

There are lots of lessons learned from studying veterans.  Though each war seems different, there are the common links.  I think it is like that with cancer.  There are different types of cancer, fast growing cell types, slow growing, very invasive and more contained types.  There are many ways of fighting a war – on the ground, in the air, on the water or even gorilla style.  Same with cancer – there’s chemo, radiation, surgery, transplants and also the alternative style which may be more like gorilla style – not as organized or as obvious.  There’s a mindset that is required to fight cancer.  People are uncomfortable talking about cancer – particularly about the obvious closeness of death.  Much like wars – we don’t like to talk about the ugly reality of a war zone.

But really, for me, one of the hardest parts is when a comrade dies.  My heart aches.  I feel survivor quilt. I question my recovery and I rage against the crazy cancer process.

My war was many, many years ago and yet when I am with another cancer comrade I am right back there in the fight.  That’s why I am glad I’ll soon be back at my other job.  I don’t like the pain of reliving the past.  Of course, I will do it all again if I believe it can help one comrade in their fight against cancer.  Much like we all wish for a world without wars, I wish for a world without cancer.  Oddly, I think war and cancer are way too much alike.  Wars are simply men and women fighting each other over different beliefs and stories that are so deeply ingrained and compartmentalized that the the human connection has been lost.  Cancer is just my cells fighting against each other having lost the connecting link – communication has broken down.

Today isn’t about solving the bigger communication issue.  Though that is the very reason I do the work I do.  No, today still about saluting a comrade.  Today is also about crying for all the lives lost to this dirty, rotten war called cancer.  Tomorrow will be the day to move on and get back to work doing my little part to help improve the way people communicate.   May be someday that will make a difference by helping stop a war on any one of the many fronts we keep fighting them.

My Cardinal Rule: Own My Gossip!!

Couldn’t sleep. Lots of thoughts running through my mind and it is a full moon. I have also heard that Mercury goes to retrograde sometime very soon and even though I do not live my life dictated by star charts I do respect the fact that anything as vast and uncharted as our universe can indeed impact and breakdown communication channels. I do not know know enough about astrology to make that a subject of this post, however, I do have some thoughts about communication.

What’s foreground for me today is some crucial conversations I need to have. I like to think of myself as a fairly good communicator willing to engage in tough conversations as needed and equally willing to be vulnerable and own my part in communication breakdowns. People often tell me this is a strength of mine. However, my sleepless night tells me that I am resting on my laurels so to speak.

I know this because I am breaking one of my cardinal rules for keeping my energy clear.   The rule:   Own my gossip.  Meaning if I am saying something about someone else I want to know inside myself that I have, would or will say that same thing to them in person directly when I get the chance.

Living by this rule as been instrumental in keeping me healthy and in building better relationships.  But like anything good for me it is not always easy to live by.  I have many ways of rationalizing my need to gossip.

  • I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings
  • I need to clear this up myself first and really it is no big deal
  • I’m not gossiping I am just venting
  • Mercury is in retrograde so it’s not a good time to have this conversation

There are more I could add to this list and each of us has our own spin on the reasons we don’t clean up our gossip.  The point is, I know that when I start drawing on this list I’m walking the slippery slope down a path that leads to broken down communication, dishonest relationships and unhealthy, sleepless nights for me.

I know people have all sorts of reactions to the word gossip.  Personally I think we all do it and that gossiping isn’t the problem.  Gossiping can actually be a very good thing.  I often talk about folks who are far away with friends that are present and we laugh and get in touch with our warmth and feelings for the person we both know.  That’s one form of gossip.  In other words, of course I talk about my friends, colleagues and family ‘behind their backs’ (when they are not around)   I would hope so,  they are the most important people in my life!  The real issue is have I had the conversation I need to have directly with them.  Shared directly the good stuff andthe not so good stuff.  When I have,  gossiping is a great way to keep my heart open to those I love who I don’t always get to speak too directly.

Back to today and me:  I am not owning my  gossip.  I am saying things about someone I care about that I know I have not said and don’t really want to say directly to them.

Yes having the conversation now will be harder because I broke my rule so the job just got tougher.  Still the sooner I have the crucial conversation the better.

I am hoping by tomorrow’s post I will have cleaned up my communication channels and if not I sure hope I am not blaming Mercury.  This is my own doing.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

How to decide – to tweet or not to tweet? to join Linkin or Plaxo? Facebook or Myspace? These are the questions that are running through my mind.

Now that I am blogging, I can not help but want to take the next step and link myself further into the world, wide web. Yet I find myself overwhelmed with the choices. Plus I admit I am in fear of becoming someone who sits in front of my computer screen all day commenting, posting, tweeting and networking without ever getting out of the house.

This possibility of becoming totally connected and feeling responsible to reply or tweet whatever and wherever is intimidating.

Just a little over a year ago I moved to Montana to get away from the big city and enjoy open space, big sky and life in a ski and summer resort town. I love biking, hiking and just driving through beautiful country. My friends worried that I might become a gun carrying hunter who smokes and votes conservatively. I had no worries of anything like that. But I never thought the real concern would come from becoming too linked into to the internet.

I’m not there yet but I can feel the pull. The plugins call to me whenever I login to my dashboard in see that indeed my blog could be linked to more tags and search engines if I comment, post and tweet throughout the day.

I am a slight introvert so the pull to be able to remain here in the comfort of my own home and reach out and touch the world is tempting. But so is the sunshine and so far getting on my bike is more appealing then creating a Facebook page. But fall is coming and winters in Montana are an easy invitation to stay, sitting by the fire, plugged in to the web for contact and connection.

Yes I will have to make the leap. Tweet and post, comment and link but for now the open space of Montana still wins out over the world, wide web, face to face contact with people who’s names I recognize beats nicknames and RSS feed for communing and socializing.

But I see the day coming …. what will I decide…. to Tweet or not to tweet?