Category Archives: Life Skills

Monday Morning Moment – Emotional Intelligence at Work and in Life – a Story

blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

[I have written before on Emotional Intelligence here, here, and here. Below you’ll find the summaries from those pieces.]

You can probably remember an encounter with someone who was so engaging and interesting that you hoped you would meet them again, or work with them some more, or even become their friend.

Over the last few weeks, I had such an experience.

Background: Being a part of a beloved organization, engaged and working hard, we can get a passion to take it to the next level. We see both what we’re doing well and also what’s missing. For awhile, I’d been putting together an idea in my head of a particular next step. Even though it wasn’t a strength of mine to carry the ball on it, I saw such a need for it to happen that I floated it a couple of times to our leads.

It didn’t go anywhere…timing, not the right people in place…lots of variables.

Then, out of the blue, an announcement came down that we were going to run a pilot on that very idea. The woman leading the pilot was perfect for it. Enthusiastic, funny, bright, humble, and inclusive. Perfect.

I messaged her about how excited I was about the pilot and told her if I could be any help at all, just let me know.

Because of who she was (and maybe the timing…although I think it was just her), the project is humming along. Lots of others jumped in to help. I was so excited. Felt no need to push in but wanted to cheer-lead anyway possible.

Then she wrote me this brief message – surprising and lovely – full of emotional intelligence. She said at that time she didn’t need more folks on the project, BUT she commended me and expressed her gratitude for my support. Just a message. A few lines.

It was just what I needed and I didn’t even know I needed it.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” 

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Emotional Intelligence and Success – Study Wizards  – rapid read with definition and characteristics of emotional intelligence.

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Remember this distinction: there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator with and appreciator of people.  [Go back and click on that infographic – very helpful!]

Emotional Intelligence is a concept that’s been around for awhile now.  Matt Monge’s article for The Mojo Company sparked my interest some time ago. He described 6 symptoms of leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Two of Monge’s points were: 1) Leaders with low emotional intelligence say “I’m sorry you feel that way” more than “I’m sorry,” and 2) Leaders with low emotional intelligence often blame the people they hurt for the situations leading to them being hurt.

Daniel Goleman has written several books on this topic including Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. The very cool thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed. The big dilemma is whether bosses or even teammates, not bothered by their impact on others, would buy into this relational skillset. Incorporating such concepts in personnel accountability metrics might provide some incentive. I’ve added graphics below that helped me further understand emotional intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - grid - dollieslagerPhoto Credit: Dollie Slager

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - low & highPhoto Credit: The King and Queen

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Even people with strong emotional intelligence can find themselves off-balance when in conflict with someone. Leadership writer Marcel Schwantes gives counsel for this in 7 Brilliant Things Emotionally Intelligent People Do When Their Buttons Are Pushed.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Schwantes encourages us to respond rather than react in a conflict situation. His seven action points follow (read more of his article for his commentary on each one).

  1. Get perspective.
  2. Take a 6-second pause.
  3. Stay humble.
  4. Try empathy.
  5. Ask the most conflict-diffusing question. [“Are you ok?” What’s going on?”….what else would you think would diffuse the situation?]
  6. Speak from your authentic self.
  7. Be the first to reach out after conflict.

Don’t miss the brief video at the end of Schwantes’ piece on 3 Simple Questions to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Leadership - Emotional IntelligencePhoto Credit: Self Study History 

I hope you’re surrounded by emotionally intelligent people. Maybe you’re an “EI” rockstar yourself. For me, that woman above, piloting the project, had my respect from the beginning, but because she responded to me in such an honoring, genuinely considerate way, she also has my complete support and more.

Do you have any emotional intelligence stories? Please comment below. We can always use  stories of great bosses and coworkers to inspire and spur us on.

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Try These Two Smart Techniques to Help You Master Your Emotions – Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Emotional Intelligence Boosts Your Endurance – Alex Hutchinson

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Bonus: Resources for Raising Our Children to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Research Shows Reading Improves Kids’ Emotional Intelligence and Increases Empathy – Katie Priske

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

Chores Lead to Happy Children. So Why Do So Few Parents Require Them? – Annie Holmquist – OK…this doesn’t really have to do with emotional intelligence but it fits in the mix of raising kids well.

Monday Morning Moment – Micro-actions and Micro-behaviors – a Conspiracy of Small

Photo Credit: Edmund Burke, Pinterest

Micro-actions aren’t not the myriad of tasks that appear on our daily to-do lists. I’m defining micro-actions as all those brief, intentional acts we do that help us “get to goal”, “avoid mission drift”, or communicate value to those around us. Micro-actions can show up on in our daily habits (like my making the bed every morning, or Dave daily bringing me coffee). More often than not, they are  spontaneous – fitting the situation or need of the moment.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mathew Sweezey

Micro-actions can include acknowledging the creativity/good sense of a teammate, writing thank you notes, taking a parking place farther from the building, making the difficult phone call (regarding a death or serious illness), stopping by the desks of coworkers just to say hi, sharing the praise for a project well-done, ordering a pizza for a young family.

Small, positive actions…that could have gone undone and unnoticed if undone…but the impact!! The impact can be substantial for a teammate, family member, or neighbor.

Take these wise words from Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris:

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.” – Danusha Laméris

What micro-actions do you incorporate in your day, regularly or occasionally? Please comment below. Also we would love to hear your stories of a “micro-action” someone did with you in mind.

Micro-behaviors go deeper than micro-actions. They are defined as  tiny, often unconscious gestures, facial expressions, postures, words and tone of voice which can influence how included (or not included) the people around us feel.  Micro-behaviors become habitual and unconscious. They expose how we think and reveal our current worldview…our preferences, our prejudices, our bias. Our micro-behaviors send messages to others without us even being aware. A look (or look away), a tone of voice, a move toward inclusion or exclusion.

When our micro-behaviors (or those we observe in others) are positive, they are a not-so-subliminal uplifting experience – communicating affirmation, belonging, care. It’s when they are negative that we need to check them (when we become aware) and decide is that really what we want to communicate. Is that really who we have become toward certain segments of people?

Our American culture has shifted away from civility and community and more toward sarcasm and tribalism. [See Alan Weiss‘ piece on Tribalism vs. Community] These changes show up in our micro-behaviors.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior, in her book Booked, writes about satire in a way that reflects our culture’s bent toward sarcasm:

“[Jonathan] Swift helped turn my contempt for the foolishness I saw in others into compassion. While contempt leads to the case of isolation, compassion leads to a freedom found only in community…It was so easy to see [foolishness] in others, much harder to recognize it in myself. “Satire is a sort of glass,” Swift said, “wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Did I love satire only because in it I saw everyone else but me? Was I as blind to my own faults as Swift showed others to be? It seemed so.” – Karen Swallow Prior

Photo Credit: Facebook, William Curtis

Micro-actions and micro-behaviors…something to consider on a Monday. How can I take a few minutes here and there through the day to encourage or empower a colleague…or stranger, even? What am I communicating when keeping eye contact during a conversation and showing genuine interest in the other person? On the converse, what does my face fixed on my phone or computer screen, or my head down, shooting through the lobby toward my office, say to those we might have greeted but didn’t…discounting them by our behavior?

Thoughts?

How Can You Spot Really Good Leaders? They Practice These Simple 2-Minute Habits DailyMarcel Schwantes

Be a Pal, My Dudes – Erika Hall

#MicroActions on Twitter

#Microbehaviors on Twitter

Hack the Culture with Micro Changes – Marcella Bremer

Micro-actions, Fragmentation, and Influence – Peter Roy – Asian Efficiency Team

What Are Micro-behaviours and How Do They Impact Inclusive Cultures? The Little Things That Make a Big Difference – Caroline Arnold

Micro-Behaviours – What They Are and How They Impact Inclusion – Jan Hills

How Micro-Actions Can Help You Conquer Your Goals – Megan Nye

The Top 6 Micro-Actions for Entrepreneurs

5 Friday Faves – Pink Panther on Guitar, Avoiding Dehumanization, the Power of Words and Names, After School Restraint Collapse, and Using a Timer for Work

Welcome to your weekend…unless it’s not. Here are my favorite finds for this week. A couple are longer than others. Pick and choose. Hope it’s helpful.

1) Pink Panther on Guitar – In 1963, The Pink Panther comedy film debuted starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. So popular, it launched a cartoon series, followed by several sequels and a 2-film reboot in the 2000s starring Steve Martin.

YouTube Video – 15 Life Lessons from Peter Sellers – Classical Pink Panther Moments and More

The jazzy theme for Pink Panther was written by American composer Henry Mancini.

Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, has masterfully arranged and performed the theme. It brings back waves of nostalgia from those films/cartoons. All through my younger years, the Mancini theme was part of high school band performances and jazz dance concerts.

This piece is something altogether different and yet delightfully familiar, at the same time. Enjoy.

Here you go:

2) Avoiding Dehumanization – For some time, the verbal bashing of people in the news and on our own social media has been unsettling for me. Character defamation, name calling, shaming, and blame-shifting are escalating and inflaming.

When we find someone’s speech or behavior inhumane or dehumanizing, how does it help the situation if we call them out by behaving similarly? Does that not put us in a similar camp with the one we consider offensive?

Author, researcher Brené Brown speaks to this much more articulately than I:

“Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called b**ch, wh**e, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.
3. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”
3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing p*ssy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.
4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”
5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed.

There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.”  Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook – Sherri Gordon

We need to call ourselves to the same standard we expect in others… I sure don’t mean this to sound preachy. Many times, in various situations, I’ve wanted to call out someone’s words as being hurtful or disingenuous or their behavior as deceitful or self-serving. We want to do something!! Words are the cheapest action we can take. Does it change anything to verbally criticize someone on social media? I don’t think so.

Psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud, in his excellent book Necessary Endings, counsels us how to deal with three different types of people – the wise, the foolish, and the evil.

  • Wise people – Dr. Cloud points out that wise people can take feedback and use it in a helpful way. In dealing with wise people, talk to them (not about them).  Put the truth out there in non-judgmental ways. Because they can handle feedback and will most probably use it to make changes, the way to deal with people in this category is to keep talking. Bring your concerns to the table and thoughtful and respectful ways. Communicate your own willingness to work for change, by actually working for change. No blaming, nor rationalizing behavior (yours or theirs)…staying in “good faith” relationships can actually invigorate the process of changes.
  • Foolish people – “The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” Again, talking about the person rather than with her doesn’t change anything, and, in fact, can inflame the situation if done publicly and she hears of it.Dr. Cloud advises, when dealing with the foolish:  stop talking. Nagging will not improve a situation with a foolish person. Rather, set limits and, if possible, create some sort of consequence for the problem you wish you could talk to her about. Limits gave you some space and protection. That consequence alone may drive the person to look at their behavior and change it… At least, it takes the responsibility for change off of you and on to her.
  • Evil people – If the person you want to castigate on social media (or whom you want to believe news reports on her behavior) has shown herself to be evil, then don’t expect change. It can happen, but not by your behavior reflecting hers. As Dr. Cloud talks about putting limits up for yourself with foolish people, you put limits on the evil person when at all possible. He quotes the Warren Zevon song, “Lawyers, Guns and Money“. Maybe somewhat facetiously but also seriously, Cloud is warning to use what resources you have (within the law) to put distance between the evil person and you (and those you love). Antagonizing them in the news/on social media helps no one…and it dehumanizes everyone in its wake. [Guns have become a difficult and divisive subject. Guns is used here in the context of wars against evil or protecting oneself or one’s family against evil.]

Necessary Endings – Summary by Rex Williams for Actionable Books

3) The Power of Words and Names – Just as name-calling (see above) only dehumanizes us, we can use words and names as agents for giving life and honor. They can actually elevate a person, people, or situation. They can move people toward their best selves.

Words mean things.

Author, educator Karen Swallow Prior has written a fascinating book on how her voracious reading of books from childhood onward strongly and positively impacted her. To become the person she is today. The book is entitled Booked – as it should be.

Dr. Prior makes note of the power of words and names in her Booked chapter on E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In the story, a spider, Charlotte, gives her pig friend Wilbur a different understanding of who he is by the descriptors of him that she wove into her web. Powerful.

Charlotte’s Web is a metaphor for the power words have to shape us into who others see us as well as how we see ourselves.” – KS Prior

“Names are powerful words…All words are names, for all words signify something. The power of naming is a subset of the power of all language. God spoke the universe into existence and, in giving us the gift of language, He gave us a lesser, but still magnificent, creative power in the ability to name: the power to communicate, to make order out of chaos, to tell stories, and to shape our own lives and the lives of others.” –  KS Prior

I love the power of words and parallel power in names. When we lived in North Africa, names and their meanings told us about who belonged to who and what they valued in the giving of names.

How we use words and how we choose names are part of what we give to the world…and to those we love.

4) After School Restraint Collapse – When our children would come in from school grumpy and disrespectful, I would feed them. Then we always had a bit of a break before any homework or other expectation was foisted on them. Little did I know that these are prescribed interventions for something called After School Restraint Collapse.

At the first of the school year, children (and young people) are adapting to new teachers, new routines and rhythms, new expectations. They are trying to cope with all the new and keep their names “on green” or off the teacher’s watch list. By the end of the school day, they are emotionally and physically done, so to speak. Thus, the disagreeable behavior on transferring from school to home. It’s like they need to blow off steam, or get out all the pent-up energy, trying to stay well-behaved all day.

Photo Credit: Need Pix

Besides nourishment and a bit of a break, all the authors recommend that personal touch with their parents. Connecting through the day (notes in a lunch box or a book) helps. Having a no-expectations quiet affirming moment (in whatever way the child prefers receiving it) is also encouraged.

Screens only as a last resort.

After-School Restraint Collapse Is a Real Thing – Here’s How to Deal With It – Colleen Seto

After-School Restraint Collapse is Real – Here’s How to Help Your Child – Heather Marcoux

7 Ways to Help Your Child Handle “After School Restraint Collapse” – Andrea Loewen Nair

5) Using a Timer for Work – When it comes to writing, I could sit at my desk for hours on end. Sometimes, in fact, I do. However, other responsibilities clamber for attention. Using the alarm clock function has become a daily habit for me not to get lost in what is right in front of me. Just recently using a timer as well has become a great discipline. For larger tasks, I may set the timer for 30-45 minutes. For smaller tasks, and just to stay on track, I set 10 minute intervals. Before starting back up, a stretch break or checking on a teammate or a quick food or drink refreshment are all welcome.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

Sometimes, the timer works as a stop point, to move on to a meeting or another work function.  Time fairly flies anyway, so a timer has given me a sense of both urgency and intentionality. It has also helped me be aware of when I’m wasting time or it’s being wasted by someone else (of course, that bears some gentleness in dealing with either situation). Photo Credit: Facebook, Jason Morehead

A timer has helped not just with writing and other work day responsibilities but also with cleaning house. It has added a sense of reward seeing how much can be done in short spurts of time.

Clean House Fast and Efficiently Using a Timer – Ashley

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Thanks for reading. I hope you were able to pick and choose. A lot of words this week. Blessings on the rest of your weekend!

Bonuses:

The Why Behind the Picture – Dani Fairbairn

Rory Feek – This Life I Live – Documentary

Why Slack Employees Don’t Get Distracted by Slack – Damon Brown

12 Idols We Might Wrongly Follow – Chuck Lawless

Many Beautiful Things – a Documentary on the Life of Lilias Trotter, starring Michelle Dockery

Change the World RVA

Photo Credit: Facebook, Jeanne Barney

5 Friday Faves – Minecraft Guitar Cover, Culture Care, Marriage Advice, Women & Alcohol, and First Responders

Friday Faves – lightning-fast – go!

1) Minecraft Guitar Cover – Since 2011, Minecraft is a video game that’s been played by millions. It is considered one of the most successful games ever designed. The players can build and create pretty much anything they want in the sand-box type game. The ambient theme music was brilliantly composed by Daniel Rosenfeld (aka C418). It is beautiful, as you’ll discover in listening to Nathan‘s arrangement and performance on classical guitar. Check it out:

2) Culture Care– Instead of culture wars, Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura focuses on culture care. He is an arts advocate and is known internationally as a culture influencer. He defines culture care as “a philosophy that offers the creation and conservation of beauty as antidote to cultural brokenness…The thesis of Culture Care affirms that beauty is vital to ‘soul care’, offering a vision of the power of artistic generosity to inspire, edify, and heal the church and culture…Culture Care is a thesis for thoughtful stewardship of culture.”

Photo Credit: Makoto Fujimura, Joseph Sunde

Writer Andy Crouch further describes culture care as a worldview of abundance: “that decision to choose abundance, to assume that grace is indeed infinite—that we can still choose to speak against our fears despite the world of scarcity we experience every day… The world we live in—and, even more critically for us, our church culture—seem driven by fear: to choose to fight culture wars instead of caring for and loving our culture. As a result, we display the face of fear instead of love; project hatred instead of joy; reveal anxiousness instead of peace; exhibit judgmentalism instead of forbearance; build walls with jealous exclusion instead of kindness; invite bitterness instead of goodness; celebrate celebrity instead of faithfulness; invoke rage instead of self-control. Can there be an alternative?”

I am intrigued by the idea of culture care. It embodies the call to “love God and love others as ourselves” (Matthew 22:34-40). There is so much beauty in that.

Makoto Fujimura on Cultivating the Imagination – Joseph Sunde [gives steps to moving toward culture care]

YouTube Video – A Conversation with Makoto Fujimura

3) Marriage Advice – In the car for long stretches this week allowed for listening to TED Talks and the like. Couples counselor Susan L. Adler gives a funny, practical, empowering talk entitled “Secrets of a Couples Counselor: 3 Steps to Happier Relationships”. She lays out 3 tools in how to work through a conflict; steps that can actually move the relationship into a more positive, stronger place. These steps are:

  • Anything but anger– “When you find yourself feeling angry, sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what an I really feeling under all this anger?’ Expressing just about anything other than frustration or anger can bring you closer.” She goes on… good stuff.
  • Raising the bar– challenge yourself to be better. “Whatever is happening, you take the high road. You can make a different choice…Challenge yourself to be helpful, patient, caring, and kind.” Again, she continues. Watch the TED talk.
  • Use “I would love it if…” statements, instead of blaming or criticizing one another. Rather than “You never wash the dishes!” Say “I would really love it if you could wash the dishes next round.” Keep these statements “positive and future-focused”.

4) Women & Alcohol – [No judging here. My own struggle with using food as self-medicating makes me hugely sympathetic.] Another in-car TED talk listen was Ann Dowsett Johnston‘s “Drinking and How It Changed My Life”. She is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. In the TED Talk, she tells a riveting story of growing up with an alcoholic mom and becoming a high-functioning alcoholic herself.

Her story is one of caution. She talks as much about the growing incidence of drinking in women, in general, as she does about her own issues. The “pinking” of alcohol is a concern for her as she sees alcohol being marketed specifically to women, including to teen-aged girls. As has been done with cigarette smoking and illicit drug use, she presses for us to use our collective power to confront alcohol manufacturing and marketing companies.

Drinking in and of itself is not a problem necessarily…it becomes a problem when we drink to excess and that can be different, one woman to the next.

Photo Credit: NIAAA

[Added in regards to above image: Today, the beer is often a pint (16oz) at 6-8% alcohol.]

Becoming alcohol-free may be the choice of some. It has been for me. Does it affect relationships? It can…but the healthiest relationships will remain.

Jolene Park‘s TED Talk can help you identify whether alcohol is a problem for you or not. Her talk is both scientific and fascinating.

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Gray Area Drinking – Jolene Park

Women and Alcohol – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Brochures and Fact Sheets

Alcohol Consumption Among Women Is on the Rise – Jennifer Clopton

The Reason Why Women Are Drinking More Than They Ever Have – Ginny Graves

5) First Responders – With the devastation to the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian last week, and the commemoration of the 9/11 bombings this week, we are grateful for first responders. Those who move into danger instead of away from it. Risking their lives for the sake of others. In the dreadful wake of this storm Dorian. men and women specially prepared for disaster response left their daily lives and traveled down to Florida. Even getting over to the Bahamas has been complicated with all the destruction on the islands, but first responders are doing what they can, partnering with local churches and agencies, to reach out to the many who have lost loved ones and homes.Photo Credit: Go BGR

Photo Credit: BP News

Bonuses:

Come From Away: Tiny Desk Concert – Commemorating 9/11 and 9/12

2 Ways Your Phone Is Reducing Your Brain Power

25 Ways to Screw Up Your Kids

Photo Credit: Facebook, Enneagram & Coffee

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marianne Wink

Monday Morning Moment – Friends, Family, and Fellows at Work in the Digital Age

Photo Credit: The Art of Social Media” (CC BY 2.0) by  mkhmarketing 

My mom was an excellent communicator. She wrote emails like they were letters. Long and newsy, full of the details of her day, and her specific encouragements on the trials of life. Of course, this came out of her only daughter and family taking off to live overseas. With three of Mom’s grandchildren! I will never forget how she bought her first and only computer to be able to communicate regularly with us. She died before the advent of smart phones and social media. Believe me: she would have figured those out as well – to communicate with those she loved.

Dave works in a setting which requires much of his communication to be electronic. He talks about how it has been world-changing in terms of being able to have real-time communication with colleagues. Even time zones away. Email, conference calls, and a myriad of smart phone applications make work practices easier. Especially that of inclusion and having the right people at the decision-making table.

The challenge is when electronic communication is almost but not quite communication. A quick texting conversation or series of emails do not substitute for a face-to-face meeting where nuance and clarification are more easily secured.

I have a friend and one-time colleague who calls me regularly on her way to or from work. Those conversations are so rich. We haven’t lived in the same city for 25 years, but I know her…her take on things, her challenges, and the wealth of her wisdom for my own stuff. We text occasionally, but she has excellent command of the phone-conversation-catch-up-with-friends skill.

The article linked below came to my attention this week. It got me thinking on this topic more. We want to be good at friendship, “family-ing”, working well with our colleagues, right? At least we don’t want to do harm with relationships as we focus on others at the moment. This article is so packed with good stuff, I’m leaving it right here for you to read yourself:

How to Be a Better Friend in the Digital Age by Amy Maclin and Molly Simms

In thinking about our relationships and communication in the digital age, here are my notes to self:

1) Stay in the present. – When in the company of friends or family, or in a work meeting, put electronic devices away if at all possible. In your purse or pocket or another room. Cell phones always with us (at meeting or dinner tables) smack of self-importance, really. I struggle here, so preaching to self. Remember the days when we wrote the things we wanted to remember on pads of paper or a napkin? Maybe you’re not distractible but once I pull out my phone to make a note or take a picture of the food, say, it becomes an uninvited guest at the table…drawing my attention away.Photo Credit: Pexels

You may not have this problem of distractability. We can always make an electronic record later of what we wrote down. We cannot reconstruct conversation we missed while fiddling with our phones. Nor can we recoup that sense of full attention for those in front of us, lost while we were on our phones or tablets.

2) Be proactive in communication. – This may be a challenge for most of us. I am grateful for updates from bosses who want their employees in the loop. Also, how wonderful to get birthday and anniversary cards in the mail (?!)…from proactive loved ones.

Letting friends and family know news, plans, and other details (of special interest between you) sooner than later sends a message. They matter to you, and their time matters as well. If these same people don’t hear from you, in time, they will come after you…better to be proactive, loving in this way.

3) Be quick and appropriate in responding. – [Outside of situation #1] Take the call when possible instead of letting it go to voicemail. Text back even a quick response, with a more complete communication to follow. [Because of their disruptive nature, some texts seem now to be treated as emails to be answered later and in a clump. I get that. Unless the texts become emails that also go unanswered. Just saying.]

Consider the best way to respond. A text may require an email response to be effective. An email may require a phone call in followup. If positive communication is the goal, we go after the medium that best suits.

4) Our social media presence communicates different things to different people. We all know this intuitively. Something to think about if we’re using it for work or to maintain contact with friends/family. Social media, in general, is not a personal vehicle for communication. Definitely broadcasting. Unless you engineer it to be personal. I get how some have elected to go more private, more narrowcasting (see link below). We must remember with this medium: we think because we’ve communicated to some, we have communicated to all. A caution if we care.

Networking: Broadcast or Narrowcast?Genna Rodriguez

5) Avoid the fallout of negative or neglectful communication. – It always seems to have a greater impact than we intended. Or, should I say, a worse outcome. The “unfollow” or “blocking” or social media rant can be not only hurtful but relationship-altering. Not answering phone calls, texts, or emails will eventually stop those from happening…at a cost. Whenever a crucial or hard conversation needs to happen, a face-to-face meetup is best. Even if, because of geographic distance, it has to be via an electronic device (Facetime, etc).

We Have to Talk: A Step-by-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations – Judy Ringer

Also related to social media:  we often fall to being more consumers rather than creators. Our communication gets more passive, even lazy (it happens to me, for sure)…if we don’t take steps to practice being proactive in communication.

Having electronic communication – even at its impersonal worst – is better than no communication…but maybe not forever.

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Did I miss something? Please comment below.

In closing, I just want to give a salute to those in our lives who get all this. My friend who calls, a boss who doesn’t forget to followup, a family member who regularly checks in, that one who uses texts in a fun and familiar ways to touch base, and the people in our lives who practice kind and intelligent reason on social media posts.

I have a younger brother who has a non-stop work day. Long hours, leaving for work before I even wake up, and therefore getting to bed much earlier in the evening than most. We haven’t always been super close, but in these years of getting older and losing loved ones, we are now the next two oldest in our family. We are also much closer friends now than before…part of that is his initiation of calling on his long drive home from work. With hands-free technology to keep driving safe, it has become a sweet occasion between us.

Lastly, social media itself has been more a blessing to me than a curse. I have learned much from folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Through Facebook of all things, some once-close college friends and I were able to reconnect. What a gift!

So with all its challenges, the digital age has brought us more good than bad. If we are willing, we can hopefully keep it that way.

P.S. Communication at any level is colored by culture. My husband and I had the privilege of chauffeuring some Egyptian friends to their wedding reception. Our car was decked out in fresh flowers and streamers. Driving through the crazy Cairo night, Dave’s job was to get our friends safely to their destination, but that wasn’t all. Leading a small and festive parade, we were to let it be known to all those on the streets and in apartments above the streets, that a bride and groom were coming through. Traditionally, the driver periodically is to toot his horn in a rhythmic manner signaling those around us of an oncoming wedding party. DA-DA-dadada, DA-DA-dadada. That was the signal. Photo Credit: The Cairo Scene

Everyone knew it and what it meant. Dave was an excellent Cairo driver, BUT he was timid in doing this small duty of horn-blowing. He would only do the first “phrase” of the announcement and not the obligatory second one. It was so not right. After a couple of times of my failed cajoling, he did it one more time with just the first horn toot phrase. A huge packed Cairo city bus passed by us, and its driver finished the phrase! I LOVED IT! We all did. Dave got the idea finally and we joyfully trumpeted to all those around us from that point on with just the right and understood alert!

Ah, true communication!

5 Friday Faves – Gladiator on Guitar, Documentaries, Our Faces, Toni Morrison, and Families Sorting Out Trauma Together

It’s been a week! Babies and birthdays, neighborhood gatherings and sweet homecomings, diner dates and conversations in a late summer garden, walking with friends and working in solitude…life shared. Here we go with this week’s 5 favorite finds.

1) Gladiator on Guitar – I remember the only time I watched the film Gladiator. It was in a theater in Cairo with an Egyptian girlfriend. We both covered our eyes for more of the film than we watched. There is a scene where the military general turned slave turned gladiator (Russell Crowe) came into the arena. He bowed to the warriors selected to kill him, and then he killed them all. Bloody and horrific. Then he called out to the ruler and commoner audience, “Are you not entertained?!” Underneath his imploring, you can faintly hear the orchestral theme – composer Hans Zimmer‘s gripping theme “Now We Are Free” . Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, this song is so exquisite on classical guitar. Watch it here.

2) Documentaries – Film gives us the opportunity to engage with a story. Documentaries offer us a look into a real world we might never engage without a bit of a push or pull. 16 Bars is one of those films. It is the story of what happens when hip-hop artist Todd “Speech” Thomas spends 10 days in the Richmond, Virginia jail, giving voice to the inmates.

Photo Credit: Richmond

This effort was part of a recovery program to help those in jail not to become re-incarcerated after release. Thomas taught some of the men how to write and perform music (a 16 bar rap). What came out of that was both painful and hopeful. Beautiful. I am working on seeing the full film, but here is the trailer.

16 Bars – REAL LIFE

Do you have a favorite documentary? Three of mine are below along with one I’m looking forward to, still in production.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls – documentary on the global sex trade

The Long Goodbye – Kara Tippetts Documentary – Jay Lyons

Bono & Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – Fourth Line Films

The Funeral Home [Now entitled The Passing On] – Teaser – Fourth Line Films – The Passing On Movie website

3) Our Faces – What do people around us see in our faces? What do we see in others? In T. S. Eliot‘s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, there is a line about preparing our faces for the faces we meet. As in the phrase “putting on a face/mask”.

T. S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – Brandon Colas

We want to be real with each other, right? To be the real persons we are all the time, not to mask our faces differently depending on whom we have in front of us.

Is it the performance rather than the person with which we interact? We can default to vilifying the person when it’s really the performance that offends…or the opposite: placing people on pedestals…and we don’t really know them.

I don’t want to wear a mask; nor do I want to profile a person based on a mask. It is a discipline to keep from doing both.

I was so touched by a video I saw this week…wondering if it was truly authentic – it seemed to be – and the masks were off.

Two huge TV personalities Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper  talk together in a 20-minute interview on loss, faith, and humanity (shorter section of same interview). I don’t usually watch them, but a man I respect posted this on his Twitter feed and I was mesmerized by it…the honesty, the tenderness, and the understanding of shared experience.

Are They Seeing the Face of God in You? – Lisa Brenninkmeyer

4) Toni Morrison – On August 5, author Toni Morrison died at 88 years old. I thought she was younger.

Confession: I’ve never read any of her books. Now, I am reading what others write about her and know I need to at least hear something of her heart…and her wisdom.

The Wit and Wisdom of Toni Morrison

What have you read by this author of many books?

Here’s what Toni Morrison taught Brené Brown about parenting:

When a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up? When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”Brené Brown

5) Families Sorting Out Trauma Together – We don’t watch R-rated movies at our house…so when I chose Rachel Getting Married, I knew it was risky. [FYI: This film has foul language and tortured emotional conversations throughout.] The story centers on a family wedding. One sister is marrying and another sister came home from a drug rehab program for the weekend’s events. The sweet moments feel guarded as fights break out regularly over the sister’s addiction and its impact on the family…and there’s the grief revolving around a younger brother who died in a car accident caused by his older sister high on drugs… Over and over, each in her/his own way, the wedding party (sisters, groom-to-be, parents, friends) deals with the undercurrent of anger and grief.Photo Credit: Roger Ebert

Why do I mention this film? It resonated with my own experience of family at times. We children, even into adulthood, could have doozies of disagreements. We rarely came to blows, but thankfully we didn’t have alcohol or drugs as part of our growing up. Like in this film, that would have caused a worse, more volatile situation.

The film was fictitious, I imagine, but the hurt in my heart, watching it, came from recognizing familiar signs of a family in trauma.

That old adage “Hurt people hurt people” comes to mind. In real life, we are wise to look past what offends our sensibilities, and reach out to those hurting in front of us. To listen, encourage, pray, understand. This film family sorted out their trauma together… without benefit of faith in God…but with a love for each other, broken but stronger together.

7 Ways to Help a Loved One Who Has Experienced Trauma by Elizabeth Clayton Lee

[By the way, our family as we have gotten older don’t have those fights anymore. Thankfully. So thankful to God, and parents who loved us through their own hard, and siblings who refused to give up on each other.]

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That’s it for this week. Would love for you to share any of your favorites of the week in the Comments below. Blessings always.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Goodbye Nursing Homes! The New Trend is Co-Housing with Friends – and Richmond CoHousing

Photo Credit: Victory Today, Facebook

I Want to Age Like Sea Glass – Bernadette Noll

Photo Credit: Bernadette Noll, Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Facebook, Vicky Appleton Eaton

Butterfly Breakfast Buffet

Monday Morning Moment – Leaders We Want to Imitate – 10 “I” Adjective Descriptors (All)Iterated

Photo Credit: Boom Positive

From the time we were small children, we learn by imitating. We master both our mindsets and our capacities and competencies by learning from others…by imitating those we see doing well or doing good. We imitate until it becomes our own, and then amazingly sometimes others imitate us as well.

That is both sobering and challenging for us as leaders. It also gives pause in our choice of whom we imitate. We may sometime have to go out of our way to find excellent leaders to learn from. It does not take away necessity of following the direction of our bosses. We become like those we spend time with. The warning here is if we struggle with appreciating our leaders we may still default to become like them.

So we keep people in our lives worthy of imitating.

[I wanted to write about a much heavier topic this morning as our country is reeling from two mass shootings this weekend leaving at least 30 dead. So utterly devastating. I hope to write on this another day but today the words fail. Please, if you pray, pray for our country and especially for those grieving the loss of their loved ones.]

What characterizes a person we would profit by imitating? In a 12-minute teaching, author theologian John Piper emphasizes the importance of both the passion and the practice of the one we would seek to imitate. Both “the feeling and the living” for the sake of others rather than one’s own ambition.

Photo Credit: Desiring God; John Piper

I’ve said before that I love the grammar device of alliteration, and in writing today, it was easy to pull 10 distinctives together all beginning with “i” to describe a leader to imitate:

1) Inclusive – This leader would open the circle of leadership to include content experts, team leaders/coaches, and a sampling of those most affected by decisions being made. She/he is not threatened by a wider circle of influence.

2) Intelligent – I do not know how intelligent I am but have benefited from the thinking of others. Intelligence includes good judgment and sound reasoning.

3) Interested – You have probably experienced the difference when one is feigning interest vs. one who is genuinely interested in the person(s) right in front of him. She/he genuinely cares what others think and how they are affected by the direction of the organization.

4) Impassioned – It is easy to get behind someone who loves what they are doing and care about the outcomes (and their impact on people). When the cause is right or just, we can understand how the impassioned one is unflagging in his commitment. Adding the “i’s” above to “impassioned” moves folks forward in positive ways.

5) Involved – By involved, I don’t mean a micro-manager nor the opposite of an armchair quarterback . Involved is taking responsibility for the part that belongs to the leader and doing what he/she can to help the others on the team to do their part. With leaders like this, we don’t have to search for them. They’re close by.

6) Inspiring/Inspired –We are fueled to imitate someone when we see that what he/she is about matters. Even when the task is hard and the goal is beyond our view, this type person will encourage us to keep persevering.

7) Innovative/Imaginative – I’m an idea person who would be throwing ideas out and throwing ideas out until everyone left the room. Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity through the years to work with people who know how to take good ideas and turn them into great products/services. I’ve learned through the years by imitating these teammates – of going through the steps of taking an idea through to the innovation. So grateful for leaders who allowed me…welcomed me…to stay in the conversation.

8) Indefatigable – It’s easy to get tired and give up. People worthy of imitating are those who keep at it…who don’t stop until “it’s” done.

9) Intrepid – Along with indefatigable is intrepid – that characteristic of one who is not afraid of what could happen or what could be stirred up in the doing. She/he takes risks, values the adventure we are on, doesn’t mind the messy.

10) Irreproachable – Finally, character. Consistent, dependable character. We know we are safe to imitate this person because he/she is not going to surprise us with moral failure or self-serving or indifference or favoritism. Again, I’m so thankful for men and women who have given me space at their tables through the years…who continue to be the same sorts of people now as they were decades ago. Just more of whom I want to be like as I get older.

So there’s my list. It’s sort of like a “perfect leader person”, right? Or maybe you are thinking other characteristics more appropriate to the person you would hope to imitate. Please comment below – they don’t have to start with an “i”.

Philippians 3:17 – the Kind of Person You Should Imitate – John Piper

Monday Morning Moment – The 3 I’s of Leaders Who Get Things Done and Loyalty Won

Photo Credit: ITD Assessments

Happy Monday Morning! Let’s talk about leadership. It’s one of my favorite learning curves. Not so I can tell others how to lead (a terrible temptation – like it’s my job…sheesh) but more to celebrate those who lead well. Leading well doesn’t necessarily come with the job description…more, it comes with the three “I’s” in this piece. Leading well is learned and developed through life for all of us. So no discouragement here. I am thankful for those who lead (me and others) well, for sure. So here we go, and here’s what inspired this post.

Earlier this morning, while working at my desk, I could hear the excited tones of a phone conversation. You could tell by the rise and fall of the voice that his office door was open and he was walking around. It was fortunately impossible to hear the content of the conversation – muffled by physical distance – but the intensity of the conversation was clear. Positive, urgent, engaging intensity!

While I was passively aware of the happy drone of the above conversation, a piece by writer, pastor Eric Geiger popped up on my Twitter feed. He shared the 2 Qualities in All Great Leaders. His focus was intensity and intentionality.

It inspired my thinking and stirred me to add a third “I” to his characteristics – inclusivity. [I love alliteration – happy it worked.]

Intensity – Geiger emphasized: “The passion of the team will rarely rise above the passion of the leader.” As leaders, we need intensity in our direction in the execution of our vision. This is a high-burn characteristic and can, over time and tension, lose the heat and edge necessary for razor focus. Intensity can give way to a sense of “We all know what needs to be done” or “Keep doing what you’re doing”… without the urgency that keeps us from mission drift in our work. Intensity is a heart issue – with a high sense of personal responsibility. We lead like the future depends on it…as well as today. To keep intensity in our leadership requires intentionality and inclusivity.

Intentionality – Geiger’s take on intentionality is brilliant: “Leadership without intentionality results in chaos for the people on the team and for those being served…Intentionality means having a clear understanding of your mission, your culture, and where you are headed. Great leaders fight the drift away from intentionality and toward a plethora of competing directions.”

Intentionality is not just an ongoing earnestness to serve a team or organizational vision. It is the dogged determination of a leader, fixed on the goal, to bring every resource to bear on reaching it. This is less task-orientation and more a resource-orientation. Less an “urgent need” focus (although urgent needs matter as well) and more a big picture focus. A daily plan for execution…or we too easily veer into the ditch.

Inclusivity is what I add to Geiger’s excellent qualities for great leaders. By “inclusivity”, I mean a leader’s openness to bringing varying opinions and expertise to the table and providing a vehicle to do this on a regular basis.  It is the messier, less controllable aspect of leadership. A proverb comes to mind when thinking of workplace inclusion or inclusivity:

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of oxen.” – Proverbs 14:4

Writer pastor Jason Jackson‘s brief commentary on the proverb above supports inclusivity:

“Oxen are the tools for an abundant harvest. Their cost and inconvenience does not compare with their productivity.

Solomon is not simply giving a lesson in agriculture. Here are two principles:

  1. get the right tools [people] for the job you need to do, and
  2. the cost [to the leader] of the right tool is worth it.”

Leading Through Inclusion: Traits to Help Us Be Better Leaders – Maja Egnell

Inclusivity reminds us of the great lessons on leadership we have from Jim Collins. He has written extensively on great companies and great leaders. Collins urges leaders to not only get the right people on the bus, but also the right persons in the right seat.

Leaders of Great Companies Ask: First Who, Then What? – Wendy Maynard

Inclusivity is a lot of work for the leader but it creates a much more empowering and impactful workplace and a better outcome in the end. When decisions are being made or products/services are being developed, who needs to be at the table? Same folks each time may not get us where we hope to go. It definitely will not urge a team toward the goal, or the vision, or an engaged sense of belonging.

Photo Credit: John C. Maxwell, Brainy Quote

Here’s to intensity, intentionality, and inclusivity in our leaders. Thanks, Eric Geiger, for your inspiration this morning…as well as that guy on the phone down the hall.

2 Qualities in All Great Leaders Eric Geiger

6 Questions That Reveal If You Are an Inclusive Leader – Ryan Jenkins

6 Reasons to Be an Inclusive Leader – Ryan Jenkins

3 I’s of Effective Leadership (Integrity, Influence, Impact) – Naphtali Hoff

The Three I’s of a Great Leader (Initiative, Inspiration, Intuition) – Joy Ruhmann

5 Friday Faves – Best Of’s – Building a Great Organizational Culture, Naming Our Grief, Habits of Mentally Strong People, Book of Opposites, and the Story of God for Postmoderns

[Not much time this week for discovering or writing – here are some of my favorite faves, going  back a ways.]

1) Building a Great Organizational Culture – a Podcast – 5 Leadership Questions about Building a Great Organizational Culture – This is a great conversation between Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger on organizational culture. They define culture as “shared values beneath the surface that drive behavior”. Aspirational values (what takes place on the wall) are distinguished from actual values (what takes place in the hall). What is your workplace culture? “We don’t treat people like that here”. Like what? What culture do you have or hope to build?Blog - Organizational Culture - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Also see Organizational Culture and Climate – SlideShare.

2) Naming our Grief – Grief always has a name and naming our grief helps us to heal. Having lived overseas for many years, we understand “Hellos-Goodbyes-Hellos” – both the sorrows and the joys of them. As the years go by, we experience job changes, relocations of friends and family, and deaths of loved ones. This November will be the 17th anniversary of my Mom’s Homegoing, and every day I still think of her. That grief definitely has a name. Sometimes grief feels more vague, like a sadness with a cloudy source.

When I found this piece Because Grief Has a Name by Abby Alleman, it touched my heart. She says it well:

“Naming grief is our heart acknowledging its significance and place in our lives. In this way, grief is a friend, like Sadness from the movie Inside Out. Photo Credit: Aepadillablog

It teaches us the shape of our own unique story and guides us to tastes of the ‘fullness of joy’ found in God’s presence. Acknowledging and entering grief also guards our hearts from the calcifying effects of the denial of pain, hurt or loss. Instead of resentment, bitterness or hatred, we get healing, strength and hope. We also become those who grieve well with others. This is a true gift.” – Abby Alleman

3) Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People Travis Bradberry published a super helpful article on mental toughness. He lists 15 critical habits of mentally strong people. Take a minute to go to this article for some quick, clear counsel on building up your mental muscle. – not just for work, also for anything where mental toughness (not hardness) would help.Blog - Friday Faves - Habits of Mentally Strong People - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

4) Book of Opposites Jennifer Kahnweiler has written a fascinating book on Introversion-Extroversion. The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. My  husband is a  introvert  and I am an extrovert. We have been married 35 years and have worked together many of those years. We have learned a lot of Kahnweiler’s wisdom on our own…and after quite a few years of struggle. This book is very helpful and empowering for any partnership between introverts and extroverts.

Blog - Friday Faves - Genius of Opposites

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Skip Pritchard wrote a great review here.Genius-card-front-1Photo Credit: SkipPritchard.com

5) The Story of God for Postmoderns – How would you answer the question, “What is the Bible all about?” If you were to prepare an answer of this question for a Post-modern, you might be disappointed. A true post-modern is probably not going to ask you that question. However, what if our friends could get hold of the idea that the Bible is not just a grand story that Christians have concocted? The Bible, in truth, is a winsomely unified story God actually tells about Himself from the first page to the last. Dr. David Teague, in the article, The Biblical Metanarrative, lays out the clearest explanation I’ve ever read of the Story of God – of how the Bible is God’s own revelation of Himself to His people. Don’t miss this gem.Blog - Friday faves - Peanuts & Postmoderns

Photo Credit: Peanuts, ParkingSpace23.com

Bonus: Phenomenal Classical Guitarist – This guy. Nathan Mills – related to us? Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

Yes. I get to be Mom to this amazing young man… Because we are related and it’s not always comfortable for him how effusive I am about his music…I restrain myself. Unsuccessfully. Right now, he’s fairly new to that larger world of music, but he’s playing, teaching, arranging, and composing. One day, you will know him if you don’t already… Mark it down.

A video from his early days with Nathan Mills Guitar:

…and his latest arrangement (June 2019) on his Beyond the Guitar YouTube channel:

 

Monday Morning Moment – a ‘Mean Girl’ Culture – Modeling Inclusion and Resilience for our Daughters

Photo Credit: Mean Girls Film, The Daily Targum

When we think mean girls, the 2004 film Mean Girls probably comes to mind. Such a classic story of teen drama, it has also been adapted to the stage as a Broadway play. The expression mean girls brings to mind girls, in middle school and through college, who will do whatever it takes to be most popular in their school or circle.

I’m not sure girls intend to be mean…it just happens in the climb to the top. Others get pushed down in the process.

Growing up, my experience with mean girls was fairly limited. We had a neighbor girl who for a season chose me to be her bullying target. We never came to blows (the one fight I decided to finish – she would have laid me out if it had happened – was aborted when my mom providentially came home from work early that day. In high school, she and I (Gail was her name) actually became good friends.

I do remember early in middle school getting in trouble for talking in class. One of the really popular girls had asked me about an assignment, but the teacher only saw me answering her. In an attempt to use me as an example, the teacher shamed me in front of the class. The girl who triggered the situation just sat there and smiled as others snickered. It was on me that I talked…and it taught me a big lesson.

In high school, I was fairly nerdy. A few of us outsiders hung together happily for those four years. The exclusivity and cliquishness of the really popular girls didn’t really affect me…until Senior year. At that time, I was dating one of the football players which drew me into the popular girl circles…superficially. I was voted to be secretary of the Senior class as well as being chosen as my class representative to the Homecoming court. Later I would find out these two things came my way because one of the uber-popular girls had campaigned for me so that another popular girl she was at odds with wouldn’t get those honors. Sigh… A little story from my high school years. It worked well for me…but it gave me a view inside a mean girls world.

Our daughter saw the Mean Girls movie while she was in college. She was that girl new to American culture having grown up in Africa. Fortunately, she like her mama didn’t personally experience much of that exclusive girls’ clique shtick.

As moms, we can help our daughters (and sons) to overcome the sort of insecurity and identity politic that goes into becoming mean girls/guys. On the flip side, we can also guide them through the experience of being hurt by such a tribal situation. Lastly, we can model and mentor our children to be includers rather than excluders.

Photo Credit: LibQuotes

This week I discovered a 2-part piece on raising includers. Written by therapist Lisa McCrohan, the coaching article was helpful in confronting the whole mean girl phenomenon.

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” (Part 1) – Lisa McCrohan

I Was That New Kid Sitting Alone at the Lunch Table (Part 2) – Lisa McCrohan

Photo Credit: Lisa McCrohan

In brief, here is a summary of her counsel:

I want to talk straight with you. It’s time now to make a difference in your child’s life, in your community, and in our world.  We can create a more compassionate world – starting within our homes.

Here are six ways we can help our children rise with resilience, feel connected, and believe that they matter — and prevent bullying:

1. Get off our phones.

2.  Be present.

3.  Keep reflecting our children’s light and their goodness. – “We are the ones who have to send them the message that they belong, they matter, and they are loved. Always.”

4.  Teach our children responsibility. 

5.  Teach our children to be the one who risks kindness. – “We can model this. In your family, make this a motto: be the first one to be kind… The ‘first one to be kind’ is the leader. A strong, effective leader. Others will follow suit. Let’s teach our children the skills of empathy and courage to stand up for what is right.”

6.  We have to own our stuff to heal. – Lisa McCrohan

McCrohan gives much more commentary in her articles so read them in full when you have the time.

Her point #6 reminded me of a time when our children were in a small American school overseas. Our youngest has some learning issues as did the daughter of another mom in the school. One day I was subbing in her daughter’s class, and the mom just happened to come to the door during a math quiz. I had just walked away from her daughter’s desk after helping her get back on track with a complicated problem, and when the mom showed up, her daughter had begun to cry. For years after that, her mom and I had a strained relationship. She had made an assumption that I had left her daughter without the help she needed…which was not true. Our children struggled with some of the same learning issues, and we could have been such a support to each other, but…it wasn’t meant to be. Somewhere along the way, that mom had her own “stuff to heal”. It still bothers me today. That we couldn’t be friends because of a misunderstanding.

Was that mean girl stuff? No,but I do think those of us who tend to wall ourselves off from others or who have to be “the best, most popular” have some sort of wound that needs healing…before we pass it along to our children.

Anyway, ’nuff said. Our kids have been raised to be inclusive almost to a fault. Are they inclusive? No…not always, but neither am I. Still, understanding the value of “drawing circles” that welcome others in is a strong foundation on which we build relationships.

[If you have mean girls stories, either on the receiving end or that of being the one bullying, I’d love for you to share your experiences, counsel, etc. in Comments below.]

YouTube Video – Mean Girls – Best Scenes (Warning: some language)

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills