Monday, October 17, 2016

Anxiety, vulnerability & courage

Mentoring  and networking often evoke three emotions/attributes: anxiety; vulnerability; and courage. I believe emotions are a strength especially when they deepen our self-awareness.

Anxiety can take many forms: insecurity; worry; feeling pressured; or simply jitters while facing a stranger (or a room full of them). It's a natural response. The idea is not to suppress anxiety but understand why it's happening. We are not defined by what we are feeling but how we choose to act on those feelings. I am anxious about a lot of things but I do not let it determine if I do /do not participate.

(Recently, there has been a lot of articles on social media around anxiety as a mental disorder. This post is not about those of us who suffer from long-term or deep anxiety - this is about the normal flutters and worries everyone has.)

Vulnerability is a necessary state for growth. By opening ourselves to others, we invite trust. Yes, it can seem counter-intuitive to attempt remaining open within a professional context. Consider that we are always told to model the behaviours we wish to see around us in our teams and communities. As mentors, or those seeking to make connection, sometimes the best way to invite others is to be inviting. Sharing experiences and ideas is not a new concept ...  nor will it ever be old.

Being vulnerable does not mean a lack of boundaries. It should never mean allowing abuse or disrespect. Vulnerability does include honesty, emotional responses and putting status aside to talk with someone as a peer and a valued contributor.

Choosing to act when anxious or remain open when uncomfortable takes courage. With a willingness to genuinely and authentically interact with others comes fears and previous experiences that cause us to hesitate. I sometimes liken my actions in building community to the ridiculous:  climbing to the top of a building, yelling "Catch me!" as I leap off and sometimes am not caught by the folks below. So I scrape myself back together and eventually go back up the elevator. Occasionally, I pick a shorter building.

Why do it? Why take the risks? Why experience it? That's the key word: "experience." Experiences are our stories that make us who we are. Understanding, feeling and not avoiding our emotions help us process these experiences and allow us to connect more profoundly with the world around us.

We can't avoid anxiety or vulnerability; let's put these emotions to good use - call it being courageous and share with the folks around us.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sympathy & advice - PB&J?

I had a few personal and professional hiccups last month. Nothing life or career threatening, but certainly upsetting / inconvenient / uncomfortable.

Going to my own mentorees and asking for their advice was like hearing a chorus of validation and anger or concern on my behalf. I felt appreciated but still had little perspective on what to do. The gang just assumed I was strong enough and smart enough to find my own way through with little but a cheering section.

Going to my mentors was a different surprise. The advice was so varied and so vague; I was not sure what was being said. One of my favourite questions to ask when mentoring is "What advice would you give me if the situation was reversed and you were me?" This time, I asked this of my mentors as well. That's where their emotions came into play "I'd tell him to stuff it!," said one.

This taught me a few things:
1 - I obviously don't ask for help a lot and it confuses people when I do.
2 - Having someone genuinely care and be angry on your behalf may not be productive but it feels good - creates a safe place from which planning can be done (and the cheerleader, having established a position of being onside, can then safely challenge plans)
3 - Telling me to not make "an emotional decision" drives me more crazy that the issue itself. Just because I'm showing emotion does Not mean my brains fell out my butt.

I'm now resolved to be a better ear for others in this regard:
  • Listen to the problem
  • Express outrage/incredulity/etc. at any unfairness
  • Question for facts within the anecdote
  • Challenge the solution to be fact-based while not requiring emotion to leave the room
  • Ensure to close the discussion with a good note, even if there is no solution at that time (sometimes folks just need to talk)
Then start over with wine and probably not get past the second bullet....


Monday, October 3, 2016

The V & W list

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "V & W":

Varmint-or:                Offers new perspective on those who drive you crazy
Vehement-or:             Moves anger to passion
Vestment-or:              Ensures formal recognition of your success
Vouchsafement-or:    Finds you answers from the top of the house

Weldment-or:             Creates lateral thinking
-or:          Adds to your confusion
Wonderment-or:         Uncovers new passions in you
Worriment-or:             Helps to unravel the sticky problems