I gotta admit, not every day is easy. Yesterday was day six of containment, and it was rough one for me. So I keep turning (again and again and again) to what I know works to sustain and lift me up: Gratitude, structure, deep breaths, feeling my feelings, banishing multitasking, giggling, and lots of Love – for myself and for others.
What’s working for you?
Fear takes us out of the present moment and drops us somewhere down the road of an uncertain, unclear future. I find my way back to the comfort of “now” by placing my feet firmly on the Earth and taking a deep breath. Welcome home.
During the latter years of my corporate career, I sat squarely in the midst of some of the most significant crisis issues our company ever faced. These were complex, high-profile problems that left the Fortune 500 multinational heavily exposed to financial and reputational risk. The issues seemed impossible to contain – every day they appeared to grow bigger and affect more and more people and aspects of the company.
Today, we’re all crisis managers. We’re navigating the extraordinary and constantly changing circumstances of living with a pandemic, crashing financial markets, strained health systems, increasing job insecurity, and countless other issues. Life today can seem incredibly stressful, exhausting, and overwhelming.
Here are a few lessons I learned as a Corporate Crisis Communicator that might help.
1. It’s All About You. In order to hang in there through a crisis – any crisis – you have to take care of yourself. That’s why the airlines always remind us, “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.” For me, that meant daily meditation and journaling and yoga classes when I could. Even though my schedule was just insane, I always had time to do what every human can do: Breathe. The practice of breathing long and deep rewires the brain to move you from fight-or-flight mode into creative thinking. There is no crisis management without first calming your own nervous system. Deep breaths offer the quickest, easiest path to that state.
2. Know Your Facts. In order to be clear about what’s actually happening, it’s vital to hone your understanding of the difference between facts and opinions. Facts are grounded in data; they're provable. Opinions are judgments. Even if an opinion is stated forcefully, that will not make it a fact. It’s natural to feel fear in these uncertain times, but fear is also not a fact. (So, um, no, you probably don’t need all that toilet paper.)
3. Know That You Don’t Know – and That’s OK. There is so much information circulating right now, and this is a constantly developing situation. Stay curious, and stay humble. You don’t need to know everything. You only need to know what will allow you to make good decisions for you, your family, your team, your company. Trying to know everything will add to the overwhelm. Be disciplined and stay focused on what’s really important to you and the role you’re playing. As one of my colleagues used to say, Swim in your own lane. It will contribute to your peace of mind.
4. Go to the Source. Identify reliable sources for the information you need. Just as a reminder, reliable sources are not memes on social media. In a world of fake news and alternative facts, please do yourself the favor of getting your information from a source that you can name. If you receive unattributed information (i.e., there is no credible name attached to it), you would be wise to question its veracity. If you doubt whether the media or politicians will provide unvarnished facts, go to the original source. For example, if you want to know more about the pandemic, you can go to the World Health Organization. For more info on the vicissitudes of the stock market, you can call you broker. If you’re worried about food, you can write to your supermarket chain’s head office, or, as my Mom recently did, take a personal approach and ask to talk to the store manager.
5. Engage the Right Support. Have conversations about who can do what. In a crisis it can be very tempting to want to move quickly to action, which often means trying to do everything yourself. The action will be less stress-inducing and more effective if it accesses a broad talent base. That might mean getting a colleague to review your work-from-home plan, or it might mean asking your elder child to help the younger kid learn to wash her hands well. We’re all in this together, and making requests helps us stayed connected – which also builds resilience at a time when we need it most.
6. Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor. I had wonderful corporate colleagues who, no matter what tempest was raging, managed to make me laugh. One of them had a Weimaraner, and he knew I loved those dogs. In the midst of a crisis, he would tell me a story about some crazy thing she had done or send me a picture of the dog, and it would leave me giggly and refreshed to get on with the gazillion tasks at hand. Laughter is remarkable medicine. Even in the midst of a crisis, there is always something to be grateful for and something to laugh at, and someone to laugh with.
Here’s a little joke to get you started: Knock, knock. Who’s there? Hatch. Hatch who? I sure hope you did that into your elbow!
7. Remember, It Won’t Always Be Like This. These wise words came to me from a dear friend when I was in the worst of the crisis mess. They calmed my heart and gave me space to recognize that I did have options – and that this, too, would pass.
What the world needs now is Love, sweet Love. It's the only thing there's just too little of...
As my friend @presidentaustinshowlove says, “Don’t forget to show love!”
The new coronavirus is a very real health threat. As it continues its march across the globe, stock markets are toppling, and basic systems like health, financial, industrial, education, and food risk collapse. This is global disruption the likes of which we haven’t seen at least since the global recession of 2008, and people everywhere are scared.
I am certainly not immune to the fear. But what really frightens me about this ever-changing situation is that it seems to foster isolation.
The coronavirus is highly contagious. To keep ourselves safe, instinct and, in some cases, governments, tell us we should stay away from other people – disconnect and take care of ourselves and our own.
But there’s an unspoken byproduct of distancing ourselves from others: Separation compromises our resilience, precisely when we need it the most.
Resilience is the tendency and ability to bounce back from any curve ball that life throws at us – whether that’s the loss of a job, moving to a new city, or finding ourselves in the midst of today’s global panic. And resilience is nurtured by, among other things, our connections with other human beings.
Every relationship flourishes or flounders depending on its quality of communication. In a time when our relationships are so vital to our resilience and overall wellbeing, they need special attention. They need to be fostered with conscious, authentic communication
Here are some thoughts on how you can use communication to nurture relationships and boost your resilience even in a time of crisis:
The new coronavirus and the multitude of related issues are real, and they are stoking fear in people all over the world. We need to boost the immune systems in our bodies, and we also need to boost our emotional immune systems. The most effective way to do this is to privilege relationships to enhance our resilience. Now is not the moment to turn away from each other, but to lean in. To foster our connections with other human beings is to create a shield against the vicissitudes of the world – no matter how dramatic.
Oh, baby, it’s tough out there. Time for extra doses of Love all around. Be gentle with yourself and kind to others. It won’t always be like this. The Love will get us through.
For those of us in the United States, Thanksgiving is around the corner. And I have one word for you: Impeachment.
Large gatherings of family and friends are meant to be joyful times for connection and fun. But with a widening political divide here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, you may find your turkey (or tofurkey) served with a side of discord, disagreement and discomfort.
I'd like to offer some ideas that can help you navigate even the most difficult holiday encounters and make this Thanksgiving a day for which you're truly grateful.
Check out my Facebook Live video about "Keeping the Peace." You'll find a bunch of communication tips that are based on my work in Authentic Communication, and you can put them into practice right away.
Click here for the video. I hope the ideas I share will help you experience more ease, connection, peace and true joy during this time with family and friends.
And I hope you'll share your stories with me. I'd love to learn how you put these tips to use and how they might support you.
Wishing you a truly Happy Thanksgiving.
What I know for sure is that teams, organizations and businesses are based on relationships, and relationships are nourished (or depleted) by communication.
I know for sure that when you improve your communication, your relationships – with colleagues, customers, partners, suppliers and others – will flourish, and business outcomes will follow suit.
For better communication that makes a tangible and lasting difference, broaden your view of what “communication” really means.
One way to do that is by exploring the three principles of Authentic Communication.
Apply those three principles and let me know how your team grows and changes.
(I recently participated in a panel discussion on “Team Dynamics and Growing Companies.” The final question was a riff on Oprah Winfrey’s, “What do you know for sure?” This is more or less how I responded.)
Leave it to the Rabbis to say more in three simple words than most of us can say in 3,000.
In this micro-sentence – "Words create worlds"* – they affirm as an ancient truth the notion that language is much more than a code whose primary purpose is to describe, transmit or coordinate. Language is, in fact, a force – an energy that generates reality and manifests possibilities.
And that makes communication a superpower – one that’s available to each and every one of us. One we can use to nourish our relationships, or deplete them. One we can use to sow peace or fuel the flame of fury. One we can use to build bridges or burn them.
If the Rabbis were right (and I do believe they were), and our words do create worlds, that means their message is even more than a mind-blowing theory about communication as a superpower. It also serves as an admonition to us all: Along with the tremendous possibility we have to generate reality through language comes a profound responsibility to choose our words well.
With communication that is wise, conscious and authentic, we can foster connection. We can reclaim our dignity, offer respect to others, and mend the fabric of the human family. We can move toward each other rather than away. We can find a way forward together to solve the immense issues that face our planet, our country, and our families – because, really, isn't the only way forward together?
Learning to wield the superpower of language is possible for anyone, but it requires dedication and attention. It means being honest enough to see where current behaviors aren’t working, humble enough to unlearn the old patterns, and patient enough to practice new ones. It means embracing communication as an act of Love.
Don’t we owe it to ourselves, our families, our communities, our businesses, our countries and our planet to engage in this process so we can use our superpower of communication for good?
With the ability to create worlds – worlds! – at the tips of our tongues and our fingertips, isn’t it right for us to pause and consider what kind of reality we want, and how our everyday communication – tweets and all – can contribute to achieving (or eroding) that future?
* This sentence is attributed to “The Rabbis” – a term used to refer to authoritative Jewish scholars over the centuries. It came to me via the wonderful “On Being with Krista Tippett” podcast in which Krista was interviewing the poet Gregory Orr.
Here you'll find some of my thoughts about communication, contemplation, yoga, life and various other topics. Thanks for giving them a read.