How do you feel when someone does not thank you for a dinner party? Does not react to an article or tip you sent them? Did not respond to your request or invitation? Walked right by you without acknowledgement? We are all guilty of that at one time or another and personally, I don’t feel good about it.
This is the time of year when many people are acknowledged for their work, their friendships, their achievements, their inspirations and their encouragement. Living as a foreigner in International circles, this month is about our children losing friends who are moving away, farewell dinners for Ambassadors being posted elsewhere, appreciation lunches at school, clients reaching goals, employees being evaluated and many “thank yous” to people who help us facilitate and nurture our everyday lives.
The other day I heard the garbage truck coming onto our road and quickly rushed outside to get my bins out. The two unfamiliar garbage men swept my containers in the air, emptying them within seconds and slid them back towards me. I thanked them for their work and they both looked very surprised and smiled back flashing their gold plated teeth. How many people thank them personally for their work I wondered. Such easy words to say and the outcome is powerful.
Acknowledgement is not only about recognition, it is also about awareness and reaction. I continue to be surprised at the amount of professionals who simply do not even react to an email, how professional is that we ask ourselves? Yes, everyone is busy, but which result is stronger:
“Thank you for your email and I/we will respond to you within the week.”
No reaction at all.
What is the impact you want to have on others and on yourself?
Two weeks ago, my husband and I took the opportunity to sign up for an Indian meal cooked by a travelling Indian chef, who was in Budapest for a few days. Hmmm…looked good, something different, we are curious. We both arrived to the venue, from different locations and plunged into a very cool indoor covered courtyard with long tables, dim lights, hanging heaters and 2 long tables. The dinner was seated and we found our places across from each other surrounded by new faces. Within minutes, the first course arrived and we were each having conversations with our neighbours. We talked left of us, right, across and diagonally and everyone was asking questions. There was lots of laughter and exchanges of cards, including some business leads. A stimulating dinner.
Last week, I had another opportunity to return to the same venue with the same set-up but a Literary Dinner with two authors/journalists from Moscow invited to talk about “Where is Russia going?” Being of Russian origin and having lived and worked in Moscow for most of the 90’s, I was really looking forward to hearing their views and I did not want to miss this event at all.
The two authors began by each reading a passage from their recently published books, both on Russia and Putin. A couple of questions were asked and we were told that a moderated discussion would take place after dinner. To my surprise, they both took their seats across from me and I felt honoured to have an opportunity for a more intimate conversation before they returned to the podium.
I chose to speak English, as my neighbours on either side of me did not speak Russian. I began asking the Russians some questions, and little reaction from either. Immediately I was aware that my neighbours turned to their other neighbours. I asked again some questions and little reaction. Odd, I thought to myself. Maybe they are tired but then again, this is their job and this event was arranged through their Publisher. So once more, I engaged in conversation, shared with them that I lived in Moscow, thought I would switch into Russian, mentioned that my cousin, a well known journalist, was shot dead in Moscow in 2004…hardly a blink from them. Not a stimulating dinner.
Curiosity is what made the difference between my two dinners. The Indian dinner was filled with curious minds, questions, exchanging thoughts, laughs and sharing opinions, which lead to a fun, animated dinner. The Russian dinner was monotone, little expressions or emotions, limited questions, little reactions, which led to zero interest from any of my neighbours and discreet dismissals from the table, including myself.
How did I feel? At first disappointed as I had expectations, then frustrated that I was not getting anywhere in the conversation and finally calm, as I knew that my curiosity and I did not miss an opportunity.
Curiosity is a talent, like intuition and listening. Not everyone has that gift, however, through awareness and practice, curiosity can grow, both at home and at work.
How do you value curiosity? What impact does curiosity or lack of curiosity have on you?
Yesterday I was invited to speak on “Living and Thinking Out of the Box”, one of the foundations of Life Coaching. It is fair to say that most of us have a box or boxes that we choose to live in, retreat in, create in. It can vary from a house space, to an office space, to a mental space.
In Life Coaching, we use a lot of visualisation. I asked all the participants to take a moment and to visualise their box and to describe a feeling, in one word. Mixed reactions; “safe, happy, familiar, prison, mine, limiting, boring, peaceful, predictable, grounding, suffocating.” I then asked to describe the feeling of stepping out of the comfort zone and the reactions were also mixed; “freedom, risk, uncomfortable, adventure, inexperience, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, scary, butterflies in stomach, unknown.”
Leaving one’s comfort zone is not always easy and for some it simply is daunting and a huge challenge. Others, may not even be aware they are in a box. How many colleagues do you know who seem stagnate or stuck and have difficulties moving forward at work? How can you encourage them? Sometimes that is simply what they need, encouragement, another foundation in Life Coaching.
Five Tips to Empower Your Colleagues:
Curiosity: visualisation is a great tool to understand emotions and thoughts, become curious about their box and listen to their reactions.
Transparency: by sharing with them the big picture and goals, you provide encouragement and energy for them to take the first steps out.
Practice Risk: instead of them focusing on the outcomes, highlight their awareness of working in THIS moment, now.
Creativity: allow your colleagues to be creative and find new ways of solving problems. This will give them a sense of ownership, confidence and they will feel value.
Authenticity: set the example by doing it, not just saying it. Be yourself.
Ask yourself, what is it to be encouraging?
Here I am sitting in my modest bedroom in what previously used to be a monk’s cell, in a seventeenth century Carmelite Monastery, in Western Hungary. For once I am not coaching but moderating a retreat and have a couple of hours to rest before dinner. It is quiet, the room is small, there is no phone, TV or Internet and I take a pen and paper and begin drafting this blog.
Solitude seems to be a recurring theme for me in the last 24 hours, as is awareness. Last night, I found myself alone in a part of a terminal, in the UK, after a 6 hour delay, boarding at midnight. As frustrating as the delay was, I somehow enjoyed the silence and being alone. My 1 hour airport WiFi was up and instead of re-registering, I opted for finishing some thoughts, preparing the retreat, reflecting on the week, reading some coaching material and enjoying my own company. On the plane, I disappeared into a Chopin world and woke up in Budapest. At 3.00am, I walked towards my car and drove off, no one in sight. Budapest was quiet, empty and beautiful. I felt totally alone as I snaked around the city streets. It was such a nice sensation that I rolled down my window and just soaked this feeling in. Two hours later, I had to wake, again in silence and solitude.
I recognised that being alone is a value that my husband and I share. We are socially quite active, another common value, but solitude is important to us and we wish that our children learn to appreciate that, as well. At home, we encourage the limited use of technology and keep the living room and bedrooms device free. We want our children to continue being creative with their hands and minds, to continue making conversations, to continue expressing their emotions in person and be comfortable with solitude and embrace it, not escape it towards technology, which they work with everyday at school. Technology is taking over lives and more and more people rather text than speak, type an emotion rather than express it physically, use diminutives rather than sentences and chat rather than talk. There is also fear in being alone for many people, and technology makes good company.
How do you value solitude? Is it a challenge for you to be alone and what do you do when you are alone? Notice how many hours a week you choose to use social media over solitude? What is your perspective on that?
Sherry Turkle presents a very good TED talk precisely on this topic titled “Connected but Alone”, well worth the watch! In Coaching, we often look at values and which values clients honour. Need to reconnect with yours? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
After my coaching session yesterday, I drove my children to a Halloween party, at the school, along the usual dark 2 lane road, busy with 17.30 traffic. A tailgater unnecessarily overtook me. I had to brake, so that he could squeeze in, without causing a serious accident ahead. He overtook the next car and my daughter asked “what is he doing? Is is worth it?” Traffic slowed down due to a bus, and the tailgater was just 2 cars ahead of me. He signaled left, to turn into the school parking lot. Having depicted children’s silhouettes, we wondered who this parent was, but left it at that.
Still in my coaching mindset, my curiosity turned to speed and is it worth the risk? With speed and risk, we get things done, we build, we achieve, we fail and we learn. We feel adrenaline, excitement, anxiety, confidence and fear and with this, we seem to gain even more speed and want more, just like this driver.
As we speed from one thing to the next, how much are we living “in the moment?” How can slowing down influence our lives, our health, our careers, our relationships and our risks? Most times, we don’t even realise how many opportunities we missed or how many people we have hurt unintentionally because we are speeding. Doing, doing, doing, and what about being, being NOW? Awareness, laughing, smiling, breathing, listening, noticing, sharing, loving, crying, smelling.
Imagine your life just 10% slower, what would that look like? Now imagine your life 50% slower.
What keeps you from slowing down and what is the risk to you?
I challenge you to “be in the moment” for 20 minutes and watch one of my favourite TED talks by Carl Honore’s “In Praise of Slowness.” A good reminder for us all and a goal to aim for.
(c) 2017 Anna Jankovich, all rights reserved.