Are you expressing your gratitude?

There is so much to love about Thanksgiving—getting together with family and friends and enjoying a lavish array of comfort foods.  The anticipation, the planning and the celebration all make Thanksgiving a special gathering.  And, as I have shared what I love about the day, I hope that you can tell that I am grateful. 

You may not know that neuroscience has documented the benefits of expressing your gratitude.  “The research is amazing,” Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor has told Inc.com. Other studies show gratitude increases willpower, helps keep you calm, and can even boost employee morale.

I coach my clients to be generous and appreciative.  Together we explore opportunities to acknowledge others for the contributions they make to enhance our careers and support our personal well-being.  The art of saying thank-you—acknowledgment—is best learned through experience.  To that end, I model how to express gratitude by acknowledging my client. This simple action has a profound impact. 

My client is moved because I have said something way beyond “you are great” and acknowledged them by stating, “I am so happy that we met. I am inspired by your energy, intellect and by your example of what it means to excel in your field”. Remember that the word acknowledge means to state the truth or existence of a quality that the person has.  And above all, remember that expressing your gratitude is lightyears away from providing feedback!    

It is powerful to express your gratitude.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, think about the people that you want to acknowledge for contributing to your life. The benefits accrue to you while inspiring another.  Who will you acknowledge? 

 

See below for an abundance of inspirational quotations: 

 

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” Catherine Pulsifer

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” Gertrude Stein

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson

“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou

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Veterans: don’t be silent

Q: Proud to be veteran and to now be a relationship sales manager on Wall Street.  Here is the problem:  My colleagues are saying things like “Drop ‘America strong,’ drop the bomb.”  Senseless war mongering—they have no clue about what it means to be on the battlefield. I keep my head down and mouth shut —talk is cheap, isn’t it?

A:  First, thank you—and your family—for your service to our nation.  Second, talk is not cheap.  It can be cheapened by hypocrisy, lies, hate and bravado.  Please don’t be silenced by “cheap” speech—don’t give up your power by not speaking.  Don’t sit on the sidelines listening to what amounts to a bunch of BS when you know the reality because you have been on the field.

I know that “go along to get along” is the default behavior when you assume a new role.  As a veteran, you might find this more challenging because your military experience may convey minority status:  You may be one of a few, or the only one, with a recent military background. Your unique status is important to consider because, as a newbie, keeping your head down and mouth shut is a very effective acculturation strategy while you find your way and identity on Wall Street.

However, there is always a tipping point.  When you reach the point where the “cheap talk” smacks up against your personal integrity and your values, you will speak.  Before you do,
consider the following: 

  • Are your emotions in check? Are you angry? 
  • Is there one person who rubs you the wrong way? Do their comments seem to be directed at you personally? If yes, don’t speak and don’t make it personal.  Wait—and sort it out:  What are they really saying?  What is the real issue? 
  • Note: Are the comments “hazing”? If yes, ignore the content and deal with the boundary issues and relationships. 

Now, once you have sorted the emotional intelligence issues above, you can craft a response and have a conversation by determining:

  • Are you comfortable talking about yourself or are the details of your military experience a black hole for your colleagues? Note: If it’s a black hole, your colleagues may be saying what they say in order to draw you out.
  • Are their comments just bravado to attain status or attention? If yes, ignore them.  If not, are your colleagues truly concerned about the likelihood of war?  Are you concerned?
  • What is the relationship that you want to have with your new colleagues? What do you want to share with them about your military experience that will make them want to “watch your back”?

There’s no need to keep silent.  You can bring a unique point of view to these conversations if you approach them with care.

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VOTE!

I am shocked into disarray when people tell me that they aren’t voting.  Why, I ask?  They answer: “My vote makes no difference” and I respond with urgency–    “yes, your vote counts—people died for the right to vote”.  And, I don’t stop there, I deliver a message similar to the one below: 

Vote because every election matters. Vote because the choices you will make matter. Vote because elections aren’t simply about your representatives in Washington or who is president. Who you choose this November to lead your local and state governments — whether as your governor, mayor, city council member, or your state senator — will have a serious impact on the life of your community. When we vote for our state and local officials, we make choices that will have very direct and concrete effects on our daily lives. 

Voting matters. When voters don’t turn out to choose their local and state governments, they receive a government that doesn’t represent them.

I press on with my argument only to be stopped by the two  most powerless slang phrases in American history:  “I am not voting– it is what it iswhatever”.   I could scream. 

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Every  day we have a choice:  we can be the author of our life or choose to sit on the sidelines and be a pawn or patsy for others. When you choose the latter, you forfeit your right to whine, complain or blame others.  Now more than ever, get in the game:   Join me and  cast your vote on Tuesday, November 7!   Make certain that your friends vote, too. 

Remember the words of Mary Wright Edelman:  

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What scares you?

By Priscilla H. Douglas 

A:  I am overwhelmed by the endless stream of disasters—hurricanes, fires, shootings, bombings and hateful and disturbing rhetoric.   I worry what will happen next.  It is really scary. Any advice?

Q:  Yes, it seems that we have one distressful or disgraceful event every day—some of them natural and others man-made. And given that it is Halloween, we can’t escape to the movies—for once, what we see on the screen is even worse! Here in “real life,” watching the after effects of disasters rocks and shocks our emotions.  And, if you have an empathetic nature, you may be more emotionally vulnerable:  Their pain can become your pain. Your boundaries collapse into one constant stream of events and the emotions can spike and drop.  It’s almost impossible to disengage.

You probably have the same experience that I do: My cell buzzes and beeps with newsfeeds and tweets and, even though I say “Don’t look,” I do look and I find myself in the middle of a really scary scenario.  Yes, it is that bad.  Why? Social media amplifies our experiences and taps into our emotions.  I think the situation is made even worse for millennials and younger people who are so emotionally intelligent, caring and connected to the world.

The way to disengage and disconnect is easy:  Simply wake up, a lesson we can learn from the dream demon Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street.  To stay awake, consider the following:     

  • Are you willing to silence your devices at a designated time of day? Night? [I especially recommend that you don’t answer emails, Tweet, check FB, or post to Instagram etc. after 9:0O PM.]
  • Are you able to be in the present moment? Mindful? Note:  Enjoy being with friends and family without using a device.
  • Do you have a favorite charity? Volunteer activity?  If yes, make a connection and give back.
  • Do you have meaningful conversations –with no complaining, whining, or gossiping?

Here a few actions you can take to stop the overwhelm:

  • Don’t interrupt a conversation to Google or Tweet
  • Delete some of the news feeds
  • Make a pact with friends to not talk politics and establish a “fine” to help you stick to your word

Finally, the best way to avoid scary situations and feeling overwhelmed is to stay awake
and what ever you do:  DON’T GO DOWN INTO THE CELLAR

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I am too embarrassed to #MeToo

 

By Priscilla H. Douglas 

A:  I have been “Weinsteined” but I am too ashamed to tell my story.  My colleagues will treat me differently, right?   

Q:  I don’t think that your colleagues will treat you differently.  I think that they will listen and provide support.  As you read the “#MeToo” stories, notice the overwhelmingly positive response and support. We can thank Tarana Burke for starting the MeToo movement ten years ago and Alyssa Milano for taking it viral.  It’s possible that one of your colleagues is buoyed by the movement; it’s even possible that one, like you, has been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse.  

Women and their male allies are now contrite and disgusted that they fell prey to the workplace norm that for oh-so-many years was dismissed as “this is how it is” or “this is what it takes.”  So many of us turned a blind eye or made excuses for inappropriate touching, predatory behavior and lewd comments.  Now it seems we have passed a cultural milestone and collectively are agreeing to stop accepting excuses such as   “locker room behavior,” “she asked for it,” or “when you are a star they let you do anything.”

Now the brave actions of women and men who are ready and willing to speak are now being lauded for their courage, causing others to emerge from silence.  For example, Quentin Tarantino who collaborated with Harvey Weinstein, now wishes that he said something—did something.

Here is valuable advice and perspective from Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. She would urge you to speak out and not let embarrassment keep you silent.  Here are her words:  

What I am most interested in now is combating the shame we go through that keeps us isolated and allows for harm to continue to be done. I wish I had known that there were women in the business I could have talked to. I wish I had known that there were ears to hear me. That justice could be served. There is clearly power in numbers. I thank the women who have spoken up and given me the strength to revisit this unfortunate moment in my past. 

…. I hope we can form a community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed. That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness. …. by speaking up, speaking out and speaking together, we regain that power.

Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing. 

You voice counts.   Abusers are being fired at Nickelodeon, Fidelity Investments and Amazon Studios.  More are certain to come.

You are not alone.  You will know when you are ready to tell your story.  I hope that you find your find strength as you read the countless “me too” stories.   No need to rush.  We
will be here for you.

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Family in Puerto Rico? Don’t expect to be 100%

Q:  I am not 100% at work because my mother, father, aunts and uncles are in Puerto Rico.  My work is highly detailed and I am afraid that I am going to screw up.  What can I do?  

A:  Be kind to yourself, be patient and above all don’t expect to be 100%.  As you know, I usually ask questions and rarely give advice. However, during stressful times, it is easy to lose your way and get your priorities mixed up.  So, here is my advice:  there are two things to attend to first: yourself and your loved ones.  Remember you can’t help your family if you don’t have peace of mind, your health and financial well-being.

Now is the time to turn to your manager, colleagues and friends:

  • Do they know that your family is in Puerto Rico? If they do, have you provided specific information—no sugar coating—so that they can appreciate why you are concerned?
  • To be at your best, do you need to take time off? How much time—don’t squeeze or underestimate, OK?  If you are making travel arrangements, be sure to add time and expect delays and inconveniences.
  • Who is your back-up at work? Remember that when you successfully hand over a project to a colleague it demonstrates your management capability while providing a developmental opportunity for the other person.  

I know that the hurricanes hit your island weeks ago.  Unfortunately, it will take years to recover from the devastating impact to not only Puerto Rico but to United States Virgin Islands as well.  Prepare for the long haul and don’t expect to be 100% every day. 

Remember? Take care of yourself and your loved ones first!  And, remember that we will not forget about your beautiful homeland.  

Now, be kind and carry on. 

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Are we re-writing Columbus Day?

Q:  I just moved to Vermont and had no idea that they don’t celebrate Christopher Columbus.  I consider myself to be well informed and can’t fathom that Vermont is one of many states that do not celebrate Columbus’s arrival. Yes, we get the day off with pay, but how did I miss this one?

A:  Your question prompted me to investigate and I noticed that many cities from Minneapolis to Seattle and states from Alabama to South Dakota are choosing to celebrate native people, not Columbus. Why?  When Columbus arrived, the culture and lives of the indigenous people in the Americas were assaulted by disease, slavery and cruelty. The people of South America celebrate  Día De La Raza – day of the races – not Columbus day.

A good question to ask is, Are we trying to change history, or are we taking a broader view of actual events? Well, it depends on the perspective we take and the voices we follow. One answer can be found in the phenomenal success of Hamilton on Broadway. The performance ends with the lyrics:  “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

Native Americans are putting themselves “back into the narrative.” In 2014, CBS asked “Is it time to say goodbye to Columbus Day?” and brought to our attention that Columbus wasn’t a good guy.  We now know that he committed atrocities such as chopping off the hands of Native Americans to control and punish them. Even before this came to light, there has always been controversy around Columbus, given the disruptive effect of his arrival.  In 1977, noting the irreversible effect of Columbus’s arrival, the United Nations took up the cause of modifying his place in history:  

Indigenous Peoples Day began in 1977 at the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the America.

So, I join you in wondering why I didn’t know about this movement which has been underway since the nineteenth century.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Is history static and fixed?
  • Does it make a difference who writes and tells the history?
  • Do I change my viewpoint as I become more informed and knowledgeable?
  • Am I able to appreciate different perspectives?
  • What are the changes in “history” that have occurred in my lifetime?  Perception of LGBTQ? Single parents?
  • What change(s) seem to be “too much” or “unwarranted”?  For example, what about removing historical monuments?
  • What “voices” and “faces” seem to be missing from the history books?  Note—Consider the mathematical geniuses in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

Here is an important view to take into consideration: 

As for the reasons behind the push for change, here’s what Lakota activist Bill Means told Minnesota Public Radio back in 2014, when Minneapolis adopted Indigenous Peoples Day:

“We discovered Columbus, lost on our shores, sick, destitute, and wrapped in rags. We nourished him to health, and the rest is history,” Means told MPR. “He represents the mascot of American colonialism in the Western Hemisphere. And so, it is time that we change a myth of history.”

Finally, you don’t have to decide whether you agree or disagree with the movement underway.  I, like you, will strive to stay informed and be open and continue to ask:  Who lives, who dies, who writes the story.

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What do you do when your leader lies?

Q:  I caught my boss in a flat out lie and frankly I was so shocked that I said nothing.  When I looked up, everyone’s eyes were on me, waiting for me to say something.  What should I do?

A:  When I was a kid I believed that if I told a lie my nose would grow just like Pinocchio’s. Serial lying would result in donkey ears and a tail and I would be shipped away from my family.  A lie was a lie—no quibbling, wordsmithing, normalizing, or psychologizing—and telling a lie had serious consequences.  

Pinocchio no longer seems to serve as an effective cautionary tale.  We have seen a steady stream of prominent individuals tell boldface lies and not suffer the Pinocchio consequences.  It shouldn’t surprise us that individuals who populate organizations take their lies with them; those lies can become embedded in the corporate culture: Cigarettes do not cause lung cancer, Takada Airbag explosions are rare anomalies, the Samsung Galaxy 7 is safe.

The next level is global.  We usually call lies perpetuated by countries propaganda but, at their core, an individual or group of individuals is lying:  the Chinese melamine “milk” scandal, Rohingya displacement and genocide, South African black diamond trade, and Saudi Arabia’s current involvement in Yemen.

Robust pressure from Saudi Arabia killed similar efforts two years ago. Last year, Saudi Arabia also got its name scrubbed from an annual United Nations list of countries that kill and maim children in war. 

The latest United Nations human rights report, released in early September, found that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continued to be the “leading cause” of civilian deaths, including child deaths.

There are so many examples that I feel compelled to cite more because lies can cement and subvert group behavior.  For example, it took a village of people in collusion—coaches, players, families, and the NCAA—to engage in a complicated scheme of lies designed to make millions steering athletes to attend specific schools and to wear Adidas gear: 

After the charges were announced, Adidas said it had just learned of Gatto’s arrest. “We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more,” the company said in a statement. 

And, unfortunately, lying seems to be the most frequently selected arrow in the communications quiver of the current occupant of the White House.  No need to say more because I know that you know a lie when you hear it. Right?

A lie requires silence; when individuals remain silent the lie takes hold and can grow. Social media acts as an accelerant, allowing the lie to consume facts, truth and morality. 

Consider your tolerance for lies by answering these questions before making your next move:

  • Are you willing to allow your “silence” to be viewed as agreement? Are lies the linchpin holding your work environment together? Think subprime mortgage crisis or “the London Whale”

[Javier Martin-Artajo] the French national said he had been “instructed repeatedly” by senior management in the CIO to execute the trading strategy that caused the losses.

  • Going forward, will you be part of the problem or will you be part of the solution?
  • Will you speak or be silent?

You may think I overuse the work “lie,” but I do so deliberately. Using synonyms and euphemisms takes the sting and shame out of lying.  Don’t let liars off the hook. Call it what it is.

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Double fault conversations?

By Priscilla H. Douglas

Q:   Over the last year I thought I was having open and direct conversations with my colleague, but now I find that we are on opposite sides. I am shocked! How can I ever trust this person?

A: Now is the perfect time to examine how open and direct your communication style really is. You might ask:

  • How much time am I talking?
  • How much time do I listen?
  • Am I listening to confirm what I already know or am I listening to learn something new?
  • Do I catch myself waiting for my turn to talk? Note: If you are waiting for your turn to talk, it is like a double fault in tennis: (1) you are not open and (2) you are probably not listening.

Continuing the tennis metaphor, it’s helpful to view conversations as a tennis match: Hit the ball over the net and wait for the ball to return. Conversations should be a well-timed give and take, back and forth. And with that framework in mind, consider your conversations with your colleague: Perhaps you hit the ball over the net by expressing your views, for example, on climate change or tax reform.   And maybe you didn’t wait for your colleague to return the ball. Imagine that you kept throwing your own ball up into the air and hitting it across the net — crazy, huh?

We are facing complex issues that beg for serious dialogue and debate based on the artful appreciation of facts. Avoid trying to rush conversations to make a point if you do so you will miss the opportunity to see, hear and integrate “new” points of views. However, in our day to day rush, its easy to double fault — we lose the serve and the point — because: 

  1. Most people simply don’t listen, and
  2. We don’t allow people who have different views a “safe space” to air them.

Remember: The quickest way to build trust is to listen. 

 

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Why can’t we talk about race?

By Priscilla H. Douglas

Q:  I mentioned the Ta Nehisi Coates Atlantic article entitled “The First White President” to my colleague and she said, “Everyone is not a racist.”  What? Where did that come from?  Why can’t we talk about race?

A:  I have been left speechless by similar responses and I, too, have been struggling to find a way to talk about race.  It seems to me that race is and has been the smelly elephant in the room. And, when topics are raised and a racial motivation is part of the explanation we—Whites, Blacks, Latinos and Asians—literally do not have the language, facts and common experiences to express and convey our views.  The combination of an emotionally loaded topic and limited language usually explodes like a stink bomb—leaving people with sincere motives looking for ways to clean up after the conversation and avoid future ones.  Ugh.

We don’t talk about race because we don’t know how.

Initially reluctant, I have been trying out a few conversations with my friends because the time is ripe for authentic communications.  When I talk to my friends, I say “What I have discovered is that I as a human being I am racist” —which means that as human beings I –we—identify first with people who are like me.  Makes sense.  We do so because we are born into a family, a situation, and our racial identity is determined by that group. It is a positive and social thing to do.

Then, once we know who we are and how we belong in the world, we determine our relationship to others.  We can be our brother’s keeper or we can laud our superiority, thus falling from the neutral human condition of racial identification into the negative meaning of the word “racist”:  casting one race as inferior to another.

I am searching for answers—will you join me?  Here are a few questions that I have been thinking about and I invite you to consider:

  • In what ways does my racial identity hold me back or give me an advantage?
  • Are “other people” getting ahead at the expense of “my race”?
  • Do I see myself as a victim or the beneficiary of affirmative action?
  • Would my economic situation or professional opportunities be different if I did not have to compete with “others”—people of different races?
  • Is my social circle homogeneous or diverse?
  • What stereotypes shape who I trust? Who I think is smart? Who I think is hard working? Who I think is a free-loader?

Take a look at this extraordinary PBS series—Race the Power of An Illusion”  and try your  hand at sorting people by their appearance and then put yourself into the day to day experience of people who are not like you.

Remember that race is a concept constructed in language. I am coming to believe that our failure to talk about race is related to the fact that we have reached the limits of our language.  Collectively we are moving away from traditional “race” categories the same way that we have gender. With the help of 23andMe or Ancestry.com our DNA analysis reveals that color isn’t the sole determinant of our identity which is causing many to utter the words of Walt Whitman: 

        Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Lets take up this charge and initiate a new conversation that contradicts the current discourse.  What is the conversation that we can begin that will allow us to talk about this critically important topic?

 

 

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