I Can Tell My Mom Anything

I heard my son utter this comment to his friend recently, and it brought tears of joy to my eyes. 

I can't think of a better compliment. 

I always wanted to be the kind of parent who provided emotional safety. 

I don't need to be the "cool" parent, or the "best friend" parent... just someone who my kids can trust to be calm under pressure, and who will not lose it when I hear any news that I am not looking forward to. 

And trust me, I've had plenty of opportunities to lose it!

  • What do you mean you broke that statue that I love when you were skateboarding through the house?
  • What do you mean you used the emergency credit card to buy a $30 pair of socks? 
  • How can your car be broken down in San Jose, when you are supposed to be at class right now in Santa Cruz? 
  • (And these are just a few of the very mild examples…)
  • (And yes, I have definitely lost it at times!)

But if we are going to be TRUSTWORTHY, one of the most important qualities we can cultivate is to be calm under pressure, and un-reactive when we hear any news that we don't want to hear. 

In fact, we need to take it one step further and cultivate our ability to be curious in these very moments, because these critical incidents set the stage for whether a person will feel safe sharing the REAL STORY, and also bringing us more "bad news" later. 

This is the bedrock of psychologically safe relationships, and one of the KEY skills that I teach in my new course called, "Building a High-Trust Workplace," which will be released on video in the next couple of weeks.

It's hard to describe the power of this particular practice. Think about it... 

  • If I knew that my co-worker could be un-reactive, or even curious about MY perspective, I would be much more likely to go directly to that person to have a conversation about something hard or to give important feedback, rather than to gossip, or go to my manager to solve the problem or report them to HR. 
  • If I knew that my boss would be un-reactive, or even curious about MY perspective, I wouldn't hide my mistakes, and I'd offer up more innovative ideas for how we could do things differently which might create new energy and better processes for all. 
  • If I knew that my neighbor or friend would be un-reactive, or even curious about MY perspective, then I might speak up about a different point of view when a discussion about politics breaks out, and perhaps we could actually find new and better solutions - instead of recoiling from the conversation or devolving into a diatribe of point/counter-point. 
  • If I knew that my partner or spouse would be un-reactive, or even curious about MY perspective, I might give some constructive feedback about how they could improve their interactions with our kids or with other family members that could bring our family even closer together. 

Our ability to stay calm and get curious opens up deeper levels of conversation. It demonstrates that we can SEE others, and UNDERSTAND them, which is like an invitation to connect.

Often, we REACT with anger, frustration, indignation, or judgment which shuts down connection and stalls any REAL conversation. 

Think about a time when YOU needed to share "difficult" news. How did the other person react? 

  • If they reacted with calm and curiosity, then soak that in and think about how it impacted your relationship. 
  • If they reacted harshly, think about what that created for YOU, and how you would have liked it to go instead.

But let's be honest- this can be tough. Especially when our lives move fast and we are under pressure. 

But it is NOT impossible. 

Give yourself some breathing room, and make a commitment to listening to understand. Then, pay attention to the good stuff that emerges!


Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/Yui5vfKHuzs)


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