“Duh’s” and “Aha’s”*

When do your best ideas come to you? Perhaps while you are walking, showering, or having a good conversation with people you trust? Or, do they come while you are studying an issue and trying to solve it based on your past experience with solving a similar problem? When faced with a difficult issue many of us try the latter and often come to an impasse or apply an ineffective solution. This happens for two … Read more…

Seeking the Great Perhaps

“I am going to seek the great perhaps.” These were Francois Rablais’ last words according to his biographer Peter Anthony Motteux. Rabelais was a French renaissance writer, physician, humanist, monk and Greek scholar.* I sincerely hope that none of us have to wait until our final words to seek the great perhaps in our conversations. To me the “great perhaps” hints at what might be possible in the future, including when we engage in “good … Read more…

Good Conversation Is An Inside Job

A good friend and colleague told me recently how reading my book, Talk Matters!, inspired him to reflect on his inner workings and how he interacts with others in his various roles as an experienced manager and member of several boards. I, of course, appreciated his taking my words to heart. It also got me to thinking that the essence of good conversation might primarily be an inside job. Despite years of teaching communication and … Read more…

Practicing What I Preach

It’s getting harder to practice what I preach these days. It seems that several times a day I want to fight or flee from what I am hearing and seeing. In a recent Op Ed piece in our local paper, the headline “My skin color is my curse in today’s America” over the face of a mustachio-sporting white man pulled my chain. I immediately turned to the next page with unkind epithets spewing in my … Read more…

Effective Conversations Are a Critical Leadership Tool

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’ve been conversing your whole life. There’s no mystery involved, right? Maybe. As a leader how do you use conversations to lead, to get stuff done? (I am distinguishing between a task-oriented meeting with four or more participants and conversations among two to three.) People often start conversations with present-day events or concerns. For example, imagine that as you walk back to your office after a meeting, you exclaim … Read more…

Why Can’t We Converse with One Another?

It’s a tough time for conversations. The toxic national political environment is infecting interactions among friends, colleagues and neighbors. We are having a harder time listening to one another and an easier time vilifying those who think differently than we do. Social media feeds the flames. Curiosity and compassion have gone AWOL. Conversations are fraught with fears about the future, anger about the past, and disbelief at how we got here. The challenge for each … Read more…

What’s at Stake

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used Senate rule # 19 to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Marco Rubio* made an important speech that seems to have gone unnoticed. In it he said, “What’s at stake here tonight…is…the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before us.” He also stated, “We are reaching a point…where we are not going to be able to solve … Read more…

“Compassion” Our Way Forward

Compassion is a verb

After the November 8 election, I sent a dear friend an email asking about what he might be feeling or thinking. He began his response with, “I really believe we can only ‘compassion’ our way forward.” After astutely turning this noun into a verb, he continued, “We have to be the ones to try and make democracy compassionate and caring.” In previous postings, building on the work of Daniel Goleman, I have described various types of … Read more…

We Are The World. Lets Start Talking.

I had been considering what to write in this first blog of 2017 when Roger James (my husband and business partner) showed me this 32-years-ago video.  It sings everything I want to say with one slight yet significant addition. In addition to giving money to the causes we care about, let’s start giving by listening deeply to each other with empathy and compassion, especially to those who differ from us in race, gender, ideology, class, … Read more…

Third Doorway to Compassion

Emotional Empathy

In the last two blogs we explored two forms of empathy: cognitive empathy (understanding another’s perspective) and empathic concern (sensing what another needs). This week we look at the third and final form of empathy identified by Daniel Goleman: emotional empathy or feeling what someone else feels.   Feeling what another feels is a natural part of being human. When babies hear another baby cry, they start crying. After about 14 months of age, not only do … Read more…