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…

Second Doorway to Compassion

Empathic Concern

Last week we looked at how cognitive empathy (understanding another’s perspective) can help you navigate difficult conversations during the holiday season. This week we explore another kind of empathy to help you through gnarly holiday gatherings: sensing what others need or what Daniel Goleman calls  “empathic concern.” This second doorway gets us one step closer to compassion. If you understand what others are saying with cognitive empathy, you can then sense what they might need. … Read more…

Doorways to Compassion

Cognitive Empathy

As you gather with your family and attend holiday parties, empathy and compassion can help you navigate the difficult conversations that are bound to occur in the aftermath of the year’s destructively contentious election season.  (Even if everyone agrees to avoid talking about politics, fear and anger can be easily rekindled.) To open the doorway to compassion with our family, friends and coworkers, we need, at the very least, to understand people’s perspectives or have … Read more…

Listening and Questioning Tied to Empathy and Compassion

Listening and questioning, which we have been examining for the last five weeks, are actions we can take which are tied to empathy and compassion.  Both empathy and compassion seem appropriate for the season, so we wanted to delve in again with our post from November 11, 2015. Tina Turner’s 1984 Grammy Song of the Year asks “What’s love got to do with it?” It turns out that compassion—an element of love—has everything to do … Read more…

Focus on Listening by Clarifying

listening by clarifying

Today is the fourth and last in a series of posts examining the skill of listening and its importance to meaningful work in groups.  I originally discussed listening in a post about a year ago which you can find here. The first week I wrote that listening requires us to quiet our minds. The second week I offered physical postures that support and convey an attitude of attentive listening. The third week I suggested ways to test … Read more…