Building Bridges

In today’s world, it’s too easy to get caught up in the polarizing debates surrounding us—from politics to climate change and everything in between. I’ve witnessed firsthand how disagreements among work colleagues or neighbors can escalate into personal disputes, dividing and fracturing a community.

It’s natural to believe that our perspectives are the “right” ones. Still, this mindset further entrenches us in our positions, closing us off to alternative viewpoints and solutions. Ultimately, this only diverts our energy away from what truly matters.

So, what can we do to combat polarization and foster a sense of unity within our communities? One simple yet powerful step is to befriend our neighbors, even if we hold different political views or opinions. Instead of focusing on our differences, let’s seek out common ground—the desire for safety, the well-being of our children, and the vibrancy of our workplace or neighborhood.

Initiating conversation can be as easy as chatting about the weather, discussing local events, or sharing a passion for sports. Through these interactions, we see each other as fellow human beings, each doing our best to navigate the complexities of life.

I’ve experienced the richness of befriending neighbors with diverse perspectives. Connecting with people at my gym and neighborhood has gained new insights, expanded my sense of community, and cultivated a more profound sense of optimism.

So, let’s commit to reaching out and connecting with our neighbors and colleagues, building bridges of understanding and compassion one conversation at a time. Together, we can create a community where everyone feels valued, respected, and included.

What is your experience of connecting with a neighbor or colleague who has different perspectives?

Learn more about how to engage in such conversations here. Infographic and chapter of OASIS Conversations:

You Matter?

A simple thing we can do to make life better for others and ourselves is to let people know they matter. How do we do this when we are busy and have a long to-do list?

We can turn our attention toward someone and really listen–even a few moments make a difference. Too often, we are distracted, perhaps on a device, and we fail to turn toward someone and give them our full attention. We can do this in person, on the phone, and even by text. Allow yourself to recall that your child, partner, colleague, vendor, shopkeeper, or neighbor matters to you. And they do. We sense the difference when someone listens.

Research shows that even giving a few moments of attention to a person we meet in our daily interactions supports them in feeling they matter, and you benefit, too.

Another way to demonstrate that someone matters is by showing appreciation. In addition to thanking a person for what they do, appreciate who they are and their unique qualities. Actually, name a quality you value in them. For example, “Thank you for getting the report to me; I appreciate your thoroughness and dependability.” When we take a moment to value a quality, we support and reinforce the person’s identity as a thorough and dependable person. We all benefit when people notice our strengths. In addition, people know what is important to you and that you notice.

Research shows that these small acts of recognition and connection are essential for a fulfilling life. Small actions matter, and we don’t have to be perfect. Make it a practice of showing that people matter to you. These small gestures can brighten someone’s day and enrich our lives, whether a simple text message, a heartfelt voice message, or a genuine compliment.

Finally, don’t hesitate to tell people that they matter to you. Many of us have been conditioned to assume people should know you care. Yet, too many people don’t know they matter these days.

I want you to know that you matter to me, my colleagues, and my friends. Thank you for being a part of my life and our connection.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

A diet that proved effective for one friend did not align with another, just as someone’s favorite show does not captivate another’s interest.

We are each unique; what resonates for one person may not necessarily do so for another. We are each shaped by diverse backgrounds and experiences. One person loves sports and being outdoors, and another prefers video games or books.

It is up to us to pay attention to what brings us joy.

Make it a practice to reflect on your day and notice what brings an inner and perhaps an outer smile. Our emotions provide valuable insights into what holds significance for us. You may have enjoyed a heartwarming conversation with a friend, a creative doodling session, or the satisfaction of solving a problem. You may value a sense of belonging, experience hope, and connect with your aliveness.

Allow yourself to enjoy these moments and add more of them to your days. I know we often feel like we don’t have time for joy or don’t deserve it and push it away. However, when we allow ourselves even small moments of joy, we connect with our inner aliveness and energy. As we expand our reservoir of joy, I believe we then have more to offer to others. Our very presence, enlivened with joy, can make a significant difference, for we are connected, and our emotions are contagious.

So, what moments of joy have you noticed today?

Embrace, savor, and share the energy of aliveness and hope.

Are You Experiencing the Benefit of Group Connection?

I have had the opportunity to participate in several groups where we have formed meaningful friendships and grown together. For example, I am in a group with coaches where we share what we are learning and call on each other for resources and even support on challenges we face. Another group is comprised of somatic coaches; we have been exploring the power of somatic coaching together for many years. Another group that began during the pandemic is focused on supporting one another with personal development.

We begin each group with a check-in where we share what is happening in our lives and our learning focus. We often have a topic for dialogue.

We have come to know each other over the years, and I appreciate our growing friendship. We can see the arc of our lives and how each is learning.

There are many ways to learn and develop these days. I encourage you to invest in yourself and support others through such groups. It is so easy to feel isolated these days; we need each other as humans.

The 20th-century French sociologist Émile Durkheim coined the term “collective effervescence,” stating that group activities excite and unify us.

Research has consistently shown that our connections are essential for creating a sense of wellbeing, resilience, and thriving.

As a coach and organization development consultant, I may be more attuned to the power of group development than some.

For the past few years, colleagues and I have been facilitating Open Stance Circles. The purpose is to come together and share how we are being open or closed. It is about connecting with others who see the power of being open. We begin these meetings with a check-in where people share their experiences, and we use a peer coaching process to focus on a specific challenge. People learn and experience the power of connection. I envision having Open Stance Circles available for many to benefit from connecting with colleagues and learning and growing together. Some are being certified to facilitate these gatherings. Ideally, we collectively positively influence our environments.

What is your experience with groups?

You are welcome to experience an Open Stance Circle. Learn more in the link

Are You Resourced?

Consider this simple yet potent exercise that I often give coaching clients: notice what enlivens you and gives you energy and what depletes you.

In the whirlwind of our daily lives, understanding these dynamics becomes an essential compass, especially in the face of a demanding work environment, the intricacies of home life, and an uncertain world.

We are each unique, and if we pay attention, we notice what fuels our energy. I’ve discovered that beginning my day with a walk, exercise, and reflective moments grounds me, fostering a connection with myself. Energy amplifies when I engage with friends, indulge in artistic pursuits, or embark on a learning journey. Being outdoors, with its expansive embrace, never fails to evoke a sense of joy within me.

Others have shared their rejuvenating rituals, from playing musical instruments to crafting. The key lies in attentive self-discovery–recognizing what supports your wellbeing. Perhaps it’s the rejuvenating power of sufficient sleep, the joy of pet companionship, or the nourishment of a wholesome home-cooked meal.

Equally crucial is identifying what drains you. Whether it’s the habit of complaining, waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes, or an overbooked day, pinpointing energy drains empowers you to reclaim control.

What drains us? A client of mine discovered that her tendency to complain about a colleague was a significant drain. With awareness, we delved into the issue, prompting positive changes in the relationship and fostering a mindset shift toward recognizing what was going well.

We all carry habitual patterns that might have once served us well. Through conscious awareness, we can deliberately choose thought patterns and actions that become sources of strength and support. The path to joy and wellbeing starts with these introspective inquiries.

So, what is on your list of resources to enhance? What is draining you that you are actively working to reduce or eliminate?

Slow Down to Hurry Up

In my OASIS Conversation courses, I consistently emphasize a paradoxical truth: we need to slow down to hurry up. The urgency of our daily lives can easily deceive us into thinking we don’t have the luxury to pause, connect with ourselves, and extend empathy to others. The perpetual race against time pushes us to expedite processes, believing we’re making things happen.

Yet, when we consciously choose to decelerate on our path to a desired outcome, we unlock the profound benefits of active listening and genuine connection–with ourselves and those around us. Our default inclination is often to sprint towards solutions. For instance, consider a team member who fails to deliver a report on the specified day. If your response is a prompt reminder without a moment to pause and listen, you might be missing the underlying reasons for the delay. Absent empathy and understanding, tension brews, potentially souring the relationship. The paradox is that while urgency insists on swift action, the oversight of not pausing and understanding can double the time required to mend a misunderstanding or address an underlying issue.

When I remind myself to slow down to hurry up, the initial step involves a deliberate deceleration, redirecting my attention and awareness toward the matter at hand. This intentional pause grants me the presence to engage with others, to listen genuinely, and to empathize. In these moments of deliberate pause, incredible insights and resolutions emerge.

I am eager to hear about your experiences of slowing down to hurry up. What do you notice?

How is Your Inner Garden of JOY?

The metaphor of an inner garden of JOYBeing–the joy of being alive–has supported me. I check in on my inner garden at various moments throughout the day to connect with the inner aliveness. I envision energy flowing from the ground where seeds of joy are planted and be with the energy of growing plants.

Somedays, my inner garden is rich and abundant with a wide range of wildflowers and fruit, and I bask in the joy of life, and all that is possible. I am grateful to be alive. Other times, I notice the soil is dry with a barren garden.

At these times, I know that I need to reconnect with my purpose, connect with others, take care of myself, and engage in activities I enjoy. Like tending to a garden, I try to incorporate regular practices like walking, being in nature, drawing, and conversing with friends to sustain my inner garden.

I hope that my flourishing inner garden will benefit those I interact with, given that emotions are contagious. I encourage you to visualize and make it a practice of tending and enjoying your inner garden of aliveness.

What kind of an inner garden are you nurturing?

What Habits Do You Want to Embody?

Researchers suggest that 95% of our behaviors are habitual patterns. We have each been conditioned by our upbringing, environment, and those we hang out with. The good news is that we have learned that we can build new neural pathways and develop new habits that serve who we are and want to be.

If we think the same thoughts and have the same emotional reactions and the same behaviors over time, it is like a road is formed in our brains. The roads are natural for us to travel and simply become the way we do things–often without thought or awareness. We all know how overtime driving becomes automatic. Of course, such pathways serve us. I know to brush my teeth when I awake and when I go to bed. I don’t have to waste valuable mental energy on remembering to do so.

Not long ago, we thought that once our baseline patterns were established, they could not be changed. Now, we know that “old dogs can learn new tricks.” We even believe that we can develop traits with repetition and awareness. While our amygdala is looking for pattern matches and oscillates the way a thermostat shifts to stay within a designated range, we can shift our baselines. This is very good news!

One area I have been working to shift is connecting more easily with a sense of joy and aliveness–what my colleague Gila Seriticioglu and I call JOYBeing. Quite frankly, I have tended to focus on making a difference and did not think I had time for joy. I didn’t think that it was something I should seek or was in the cards for me. There are so many challenges around us. However, I believe emotions are contagious and that if we can bring a little more joy and light to the world, many in our sphere of influence will benefit. My openness to joy has made quite a difference in how I live.

I have set my intention on noticing, appreciating, and expanding moments of joy. I consciously check in and pay attention to joyful moments and savor them. I can’t just think I want more joy in my life. I have tried that. Instead, I savor the sensations and fully embody the experience of joy. For example, I enjoy being with a friend, laughing at a joke with a neighbor, playing a game with family members, seeing a sunny day, walking in nature, learning something, etc. As I am aware of such moments, I choose to fully experience them and notice what it feels like to appreciate the joy of being alive. I have developed the practice of engaging in activities and interactions that inspire joy. For example, I create time to connect with friends and engage with art, beauty, and nature.

What habits are you working on developing this year?

Wishing you JOYBeing this New Year. May we each embody and share more joy and light.

Does Connection Really Matter for Productivity and Efectiveness?

John (not his real name) was referred for executive coaching because while he is brilliant and brings impressive ideas to his large corporation, there continued to be complaints about how he interacted with people. He seemed gruff and rude to people; they thought he was too dismissive and demanding. When I met John, he was not excited about participating in coaching. The problem was with the unintelligent people around him who needed to learn to execute effectively. John focused on results, and he knew what was required to make the numbers. He didn’t want to waste time on people issues.

I have worked with many leaders like John. Some were not as direct as John and would say they cared about people, but those around them did not experience connection.

A theme I continually see in my work as an executive coach and facilitator of leadership development programs is the need for real human connection. It is sad to see the energy wasted by all involved when people feel unheard. The work experience can be challenging where there is a lack of empathy, trust, and innovation. It’s hard to collaborate and create new solutions amid a climate and culture of disconnection.

Luckily, after some coaching and experimentation, John tasted the connection experience with his team and colleagues. A whole new way of being opened up for him. He learned how to take an Open Stance and to catch himself from reacting and instead choose more effective responses. He genuinely listened and felt heard himself. He created a greater sense of trust, and his team performed at a higher level with more enthusiasm. Hearing how colleagues and team members had greater respect and confidence in John and the organization was inspiring. The connection was transformative.

What has been your experience with connection in your team and organization?

Are You Judging a Book By Its Cover?

In Denmark, there are libraries where you can “borrow a person” and hear their life story for 30 minutes rather than borrowing a book. Each person has a title such as “refugee,” “bipolar”, “unemployed,” etc. Listening to a person’s life story teaches people to “not judge a book by its cover.” This project, called The Human Library, is active in over 85 countries.

Whether you can access one of these projects, make it a goal to take an Open Stance and be curious to listen and learn about another’s life. We each have a winding and interesting path that has contributed to our perspective and way of being.

I recall people I met with whom I initially assumed we would not connect or be friends, yet to my surprise, we later became close. Reflecting on these experiences has helped me to stay open to people.

It helps me recall that we each experience challenges on our life journey and that people often do what makes sense to them. We each have learned habitual patterns that likely once served us. At the same time, we are each in the process of learning and growing. Through connection with others, we create a sense of belonging and joy and can realize our potential.

Your simple act of listening without judgment but care can make a difference for others and you.

Do you recall an experience of initially judging a person by their cover and then learning more and shifting your perspective?