December 23, 2010
It will soon be Valentine’s Day, when we take time from our busy lives to pay homage to love. Men and women alike buy romantic cards and make reservations for candlelight dinners. Sadly, basking in the soft glow of love ends all too soon. One day later everything gears back up to a production-driven day devoid of feelings. The world be a better place both at home and at the office if we could keep those rosy heart-felt connections alive and women are the ones to lead this movement of love. All we have to do is be ourselves.
Arianna Huffington advocates the “Third Metric” which places well-being as a measure of success, alongside money and power. She has hosted a number of conferences on the topic. At the first, which she held in her home, John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, reportedly talked about the need for love in the workplace. He is quoted as saying, “We can't solve the problems at the consciousness we're currently at. We need our leaders to release love. Love is in the closet”.
He continued by saying that men use language which is full of war metaphors, focused on the survival of the fittest. Those are antithetical to having love in the culture he said. Women on average have higher emotional, spiritual and social intelligence than men, “so, if love is going to come out of the corporate closet, it's going to have to be women who release it”, he concluded.
I couldn’t agree more but must start with a confession: I have been one of the worst culprits for using war metaphors. When working in a male-dominated corporate environment, trying to fit in and gain support for my ideas I regularly peppered my presentations with military language such as “secret weapon, may day, hold that line, drop dead date, strategic assets and precision execution” etc. I never even considered it an issue until a highly-evolved friend said one day, “We’ll never have a chance for peace in the world until we remove military terms from our vernacular”.
She really made me stop and take note. At first I analyzed the situation and concluded that it's not a surprise that we use military language, given how business evolved in North America. Our veterans came home from the war and were given a free university education, and from there they stepped into management positions in our expanding economy. They implemented systems and descriptive words with which they were the most familiar, and a military lexicon thereby made its way into the business world.
While these terms are well-accepted descriptors for moving projects forward their essence leaves people feeling left out and alone. Language leads thoughts and war is intense. It pits one against the other, establishing winners and losers. When we use military terms we don’t feel love, there is an underlying message of anxiety, danger and uncertainty. This zaps productivity and employee commitment.
If we want people to love coming to work and if you want to feel that way yourself it is necessary to create a loving culture, where people are truly connected. Relationship expert Brene Brown defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued. Isn’t that what we want between people, not only at home but also when working together at the office?
However, creating loving interactions in today’s “politically correct” corporate environment without being considered a ‘flake’ or sending the wrong message takes some consideration. I started by cutting the military language and replacing it with “emotional attunement” as described by authors Lowe and Stosney in their book, “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It”.
This didn’t require formal communication, it meant having my heart reach out and connect. By feeling their emotions, I validated them and they felt heard, even when we didn’t talk! All I had to do to create a more loving environment was to take some time to think something positive about each of the people I worked with each day. This created a positive energy between us and strengthened our connection.
This was extremely helpful, especially in negative situations. If I knew that a particularly vigilant reporter was on the phone I would take a moment to tune into his or her fear of missing the story. Before picking up I would stifle my reactive response to fight by sending a blessing. Only then did I say hello. That didn’t change the reporter’s outlook but it did change my demeanor. Sometimes that was all it took to improve the energy between us. I learned two things from this: you only feel love when you are loving and sometimes you must be the most loving when you least feel like it.
After using silence and feelings to create connection it is good to reinforce it with words. There is nothing like showing appreciation for another and women do this naturally. We make a ritual of praising others and these words of recognition go a long way. As Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”.
A compliment acknowledges another’s unique contribution, showing appreciation for them as an individual. For example, you can compliment a someone on their: sense of humour; ability to bring a meeting to consensus; dedication to the team, finding creative solutions or any number of things. The interesting thing is that feeling and expressing appreciation for others makes them feel good and it makes you feel better too.
That’s the wonderful thing about love. The more there is for others the more there is for all of us. It keeps growing and expanding. If women start opening their hearts by expressing love it will soon grow so large that it will burst forward from its present relegation of one day a year to be a routine part of every work day. By simply being ourselves, forming connections and expressing appreciation of others we can lead this movement. Like the two halves of the heart working together we’ll be fulfilled and the world will be the beneficiary.