We say we want to be strong.
And by strong, we usually mean strong alone.
We can also be strong together.
And by being strong together,
I don’t mean helping others become strong alone.
Nor do I mean getting help so we can become strong alone.
I mean being strong by virtue of being together.
To be strong together is to be dependent, even for a moment.
Dependent is a dirty word with which nobody wants to be associated .
Yet, there are things we must depend on others to achieve.
Survival is one such thing.
Few things are more rewarding than knowing that we are needed.
Few things are more deadly than thinking we are not.
Perceiving people merely in their roles makes it easy for us to take them for granted in that moment.
You’re my mother, of course you cook for me.
You’re my child, of course you obey my orders.
You’re my employer, of course you pay me.
You’re my employee, of course you work hard for me.
You’re a doctor, of course you cure my ill.
You’re my patient, of course you do what I tell you.
The more we strip away the roles and see eye-to-eye, as human beings, the easier it is to appreciate each other.
The less appreciated we feel, the more resentment we let build in our relationship.
The more resentment we let build in our relationship, the more difficult it is to perceive beyond the roles.
Thus forms a vicious cycle.
We say we have given.
Be it our care, time, or money, …
Yet, we sometimes hold on to the _memory_ of having given.
Then perhaps we have lent, not given.
Lending creates expectations.
Expectations create tension.
The bigger the amount lent, the more tension it creates.
To give is to let go.
To let go is not easy.
Yet, letting go creates space in our mind.
Perhaps the most scarce resource we have as leaders.
Space in our mind.
Even more scarce than time.
Let us reclaim our space of mind.
A trap we often fall into is “either/or” thinking.
Someone professes their pain, we think they mean our pain is less. Not necessarily.
Someone says their achievement is great, we think they mean our achievement is less. Not necessarily.
Someone says something they have is worth much, we think they mean something we have is worth less. Not necessarily.
As the saying goes, it’s easy to judge others by their behaviors while judging ourselves by our intentions.
It can be difficult to realize our empathy so as to understand what others intend to mean over what we think they mean.
Yet, this can save us a ton of time and energy in the end.
We often say “People don’t change.”
What we mean is people don’t change the way we want them to change.
People change the way they are motivated to change.
One of the quickest ways to feel frustrated is to coerce other people to change based on our own value system.
One of the most effective ways of sustaining that frustration is to rationalize why our own value system should be universal.
I once told my mother, “You’ve lived a life of sacrifice. It’s time you lived for yourself.” She tells me this was a gift: a gift of permission.
As leaders, we often feel pressured to do things for others. It’s our way of being good, caring leaders.
We may also feel that unless we fulfill others’ expectations, we’re not good or good enough.
But what if these pressures and expectations are self-imposed?
Self-imposed notions of “good” or “caring” may be unappreciated—even resented—by others. Thus, “live for yourself” is an invitation, not to be selfish, but to be relieved of the pressure to satisfy false or unrealistic expectations. It is to make room in our relationship for realizing empathy.
Looking to exchange gifts with your co-founder (or spouse)?
Here’s an idea.
Each day, write down one thing they did—that day or long ago—you genuinely appreciated. (Especially if it’s embarrassing to admit.)
On Christmas day,
People have a need to feel appreciated for what they want to be appreciated in the way they want. Merely being appreciated for what we appreciate in the way we want to show appreciation can leave them unfulfilled.
So end by asking, “What one thing do you wish I’d appreciate about what you do and how do you want me to show it?”
May we design our interactions for fulfillment.
Most diversity and inclusion programs are primarily concerned with biases. They attempt to change someone’s behavior by telling them they’re biased. This could be effective if people were merely unaware of their biases.
In all other cases, it’s important to recognize that biases may also be either directly or indirectly fulfilling a basic human need. If letting go of a bias means depriving ourselves of our needs, we’ll experience tension. Now it’s no longer just a matter of awareness. It’s also a matter of fulfilling our needs and relieving our tension. That’s much harder.
If we’re serious about diversity and inclusion, we have to also help people discover or create an alternative way of fulfilling their needs.
Computer literacy is all the rage these days.
It’s certainly nice to be computer literate. Important, even.
What about human literacy?
How to love.
How to grieve.
How to be be confident.
How to understand yourself.
How to manage your emotions.
How to fulfill each other’s needs.
How to be different with each other.
How to be honest despite fear of vulnerability.
We rarely pay attention to these. It’s as if we’re expected to just know how to do these things without training.
It’s often only after we have lost something precious (i.e. health, money, marriage) that we begin to pay attention to them.
By then it may be too late.
We need to start human literacy much sooner.