Sunday, March 21, 2010

Are You Beastly?

Week of March 21, 2010

One of the advantages of having teenagers is having the opportunity to learn a pop culture language of adolescent dialects and colloquialisms. This was my experience today when my son said of his sister’s three 1st place swim championship victories: “She is beastly!”

“What?!” “Beastly?” After I got over my instant visual of my daughter as a fur-covered Chewbacca, I was “Don’t-worry-mommed.” They explained that beastly is synonymous with: awesome, great, pro, amazing, etc… So it got me to thinking about two things: 1) What if we were considered “beastly” in our interpersonal and professional relationships? 2) How might we pre-pave the way for others to talk about, and share our beastliness?

Assuming that we would want to be considered favorably by others, as successful and empathic people, one way to be perceived as beastly is to cultivate the relationships we share – all of them. While many believe that work is work, and personal time is personal, the lines today are definitely blurred. Your interchanges with Rafael, the bagger at the grocery checkout, and with your posts to your facebook pals, are equally as important as the conversation you have with your boss, your manager, your co-worker.

Why? Because in creating beastliness, you are the same. You do not change who you are. You are consistent across all roles, all personal branding lines, and all relationships – even the ones you may have viewed as competitive. While you engage with different personalities, you may need to adapt your communication to best fit with the person with whom you are engaging. I call this adaptation: filtering.

When we are with someone whom we perceive as sensitive, we need to filter and perhaps communicate in a gentle manner. Yesterday, while timing the swim meet, I heard one of the swim officials said to a shivering 89 pound-11-year old girl, who was getting out of the pool: “You’re disqualified.” Ouch. No sugarcoating there. While it is a coach’s job to tell his swimmer what she did to get DQ’ed, a sensitive official might have added an “I’m sorry.” (My former connotation of beast prevailed in this scenario.)

Being mindful and sensitive to the people with whom we interact is the first step in creating our way to beastliness. The stats are there: 93% of how we communicate is non-verbal. Only 7% accounts for the actual words that come out of our mouths; this contrast is too large to ignore, yet, many of us do. We need to sharpen our observational skills every day. Look at the person with whom you are speaking: Are her hands relaxed? Is his jaw tight? Does he occupy himself with something else while engaging with you? Does she look down? Up? All of these are excellent clues to a person’s state of being. If there is a bodily tightening anywhere, can you drop whatever was on your mind and become completely and mindfully, other-focused? Could you say: “Thanks, Rafael! I appreciate the way you organize the cold things together in the grocery bag.” “As a boss, I appreciate the heartfelt attention and time you give to each of your employees; that’s one of the ways in which you are a strong leader.”

Virtually, our behavior is the same. When one of your friends posts an article she wrote on facebook, take the time to acknowledge her by a repost that says: “One of the best sources for social media, by my colleague (and ‘Social Media Beast (!)’, Gretchen Miller.” On twitter, retweeting (RT) is akin to a verbal testimonial to someone’s beastliness. We RT their expertise – their exceptional work, their successes, their thoughtful commentary. The RT is the way we virtually acknowledge and validate someone else, including competitors. This seems counterintuitive, yet it is essential in creating mindful beastliness!

Star Wars’ Chewy, is not far off the mark: he is described as a loyal and strong warrior. When we bring our filters to acknowledge and validate everyone with whom we engage, we broaden our scope of interconnectivity. When we interconnect – either in person or virtually – we mindfully pave the way for others to follow suit. This cyclical pattern is the way in which we brand ourselves and develop into a beast – an empathic pro, a great leader, an amazing person, a loyal and strong warrior.

Mindfully Yours,


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