Drop the Rope

The person you want to give a piece of your mind.

The argument you want to win.

The “I told you so” that you’ve been molding and honing until it’s perfectly crafted.

All of these responses are infused with an emotional energy that isn’t going to help.

The first step is to drop the rope.

Not because you are indifferent, but because you care. You care a lot. And whatever this thing is that you have to speak your truth about, it’s not the kind of thing that will have a right, a wrong, a winner and a loser. 

Not if it’s ultimately going to get where you’re so yearning to go. 

I’m sorry

You might have noticed that apologies don’t need to happen just once.

The first time, the words can catch in your throat. You might sound a bit defensive, even reluctant, a bit like the little kid who looks at the ground, mumbling almost unintelligibly as his parent nudges him forward to say “sorry.” What’s going on is either that you don’t fully believe your own words, or you sense that the person you’re speaking to isn’t totally ready to hear you.

The second time you apologize, you’ve gotten past the noise in your head (“I’m not the only one who did something wrong!”) and the self-congratulations (“I’m such a martyr”) and started to get in touch with real feelings. As these feelings of remorse start to be visible, you begin to build an emotional bridge between you and another person.

And the third time, well, the third time you are fully grounded in the truth of the wrong you’ve done, the hurt you’ve inflicted, the unnecessary slight, and you can match those feelings to the words you say and to how you say them. When that comes out, you can truly apologize and begin to set things right.

Of course there’s nothing special about apologies. This is the way it goes with any communication that has real, challenging emotional content, including expressions of humility, gratitude, requests for help, even communicating the joy and hopeful enthusiasm you have for a job you want, joy that is often buried beneath layers of seemingly-appropriate responses.

There are no shortcuts to expressing your emotional truth. There’s just the progressive work of discovering it, and then having the courage to reveal it.

Sorry.

Word Economy

Most emails are too long. And most emails, long or short, are either emotional deserts or they transmit the wrong emotional content.

Short is the only solution to email overload, and radical email shorthand is employed by nearly all the successful busy people I know. But it only works if you pick words that transmit feeling too.

One word shorthand for…

Friendly: Hey, hi, please, help, okay, great

Informal: yeah, yup, nah, sure, yo, …,

Aggressive: just (“it’s just that”), never mind, forget it

Dismissive: whatever (…you want), fine, c’mon

Connection: thank you, truly, warmly, visit (with), sorry

Encouraging: go for it!, absolutely, fabulous, super, yes!

“Just the facts” is a nice idea. But like it or not we’re communicating emotions, even in six words or less.

The biggest risk online

Your mind doesn’t really understand it means to be online.

For example, I’m sitting in front of a computer screen, typing something that I will post on my blog.  Am I really conceptualizing the experience of each and every real, living, thinking, influencing person out there reading this post?  Am I also keeping in mind the network of people they’re part of with whom they might share this post if it strikes them? Or recalling that the words that I’m writing will be in the pubic domain, findable and searchable, forever?

Kind of makes you stop and think for a second, doesn’t it?

I’m probably not going to be able to process all of this — it’s just too much to ask of me and my simple caveman brain.  And I think it’s too much to ask of most people, which is why typing an email or writing a Facebook status update is the online version of road rage: we forget ourselves and morph into semi-anonymous bots who act in ways we never would in the real world (unless you know lots of people who shout out, “I’m taking another nap at work!” in a permanent, globally searchable database that will live on forever).

Since you’re bound to forget this too, why not cling voraciously to common sense and good manners?

Why not ask yourself if the tweet/status update/text/IM/blog post/email you’re about to write would hold up if you had to stand and read it to a close friend or a relative or your third grade teacher or a loved one or your boss?

It’s deceptive to type away and think/hope/fear that no one is listening.  Would you act differently if you were standing in front of a room filled with everyone who might hear you and all of their friends?

I sure hope not.

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The latest in embodied cognition: can getting the cold shoulder actually make you feel cold?

Apparently it can, according to a recent article in the journal Psychological Science, as recently reported in the New York Times.  Dr. Zhong and Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, of the University of Toronto, ran two experiments:

In one, they split 65 students into two groups, instructing those in one to recall a time when they felt socially rejected, and those in the other to summon a memory of social acceptance.

Many of the students were recent immigrants and had fresh memories of being isolated in the dorms, left behind while roommates went out, Dr. Zhong said.

The researchers then had each of the participants estimate the temperature in the lab room. The students who had recalled being excluded estimated the temperature to be, on average, 5 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the others.

Pretty strong evidence that how we feel governs our state of mind and action as much as what we think.