In celebration of the release of my book this October, I will be highlighting content from “Talk Matters: Saving the World One Word at a Time” here in my blog. I hope as you read, we will grow as colleagues because I’m looking for people who will save the world with me. Specifically, colleagues who will save the world by talking better together—together with those we must work with to get things done for our world. “Talking Better Together” is a series focusing on practices that will shift how we get things done in our communities, in our work, and in our families. I look forward to your thoughts and stories as we move ahead and save our world together. Warm regards, Mary V. Gelinas
Recently I had a diagnostic procedure that required being in a hospital. I was nervous about the procedure and what I might learn from it. (I am fine.) As the nurses and anesthetist met with me beforehand, I relaxed and felt safe in their care. By using my name, making eye contact, asking questions, and listening to my responses, they created a sense of relationship. Because of this I felt calmer and my thinking was clearer. A difficult situation became almost an enjoyable one. (As enjoyable as it can be in a hospital.)
As I waited for the procedure, I thought about how this sense of connection is equally important when we want to get things done at work or in our communities. We are more constructive and productive when we feel connected because we feel safer. Companionship is a deep and ancient need that is linked to our instinct to survive.
However, it is through this need for connecting that we also get threatened. As Toni Packer writes, “When we’re protecting ourselves in our daily interrelationships, we’re not protecting ourselves from flying stones or bomb attacks. It’s from words we’re taking cover, from gestures, from coloration of voice and innuendo.”
When people don’t have a sense of relationship, the self-protective mechanisms in the brain get tweaked making it harder to listen or speak in thoughtful ways. This is because when people feel isolated they tend to also feel sad, afraid, annoyed, or even angry. In this state, it’s easy to slip into treating others as objects.
Connecting seems like such a simple thing. However, it is easier for some than it is for others. My go-to actions to connect are using people’s names, looking at their faces, and asking questions about how they are, about what they want to get done, and about their response to what I want to get done.
Connecting with others is key to getting stuff done together. In your interactions this week, notice whether you feel connected or disconnected from others. What is the impact of feeling related to or separated from others? When you feel disconnected, what can you do to connect with those with whom you are working?
This blog is based my book Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time. Click here to purchase it.