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Like you, I’ve been thinking a lot about the events of the last 24 hours, and what it says about us as a country, a people, and about leadership and communication.

I’ve had both a sense of helplessness and a deep sadness as I saw the seat of our democratic institutions attacked by terrorists fueled by lies and mistruths — and a failure by their leaders to speak honestly about so many issues, chiefly the results of the last election. And one overriding principle keeps rising to the surface: bad things happen when you don’t speak the truth. Honesty matters. …

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“Be the reason someone feels welcomed, seen, heard, valued, loved and supported.” I saw these words posted to a neighbor’s fence recently.

I love them because they reflect what’s at the root of leadership and communication: each of us has the power to determine how we speak to and connect with others.

And because they are the ideal outcome of the reflection many of us tend to do this time of year. (And this year is a year for some serious reflecting).

2020 has been a year of real consequence for everybody I know — for some, great challenge and heartbreak, for others, incredible joy and love, and for most, a little bit of all of the above. It’s also been a once-in-a-lifetime pause from the frenetic pace we had become so accustomed to. …

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Enoughness. What does it mean to have enough? To do enough? To be enough as you are?

In this time of Thanksgiving in the US and the end of a year in which so much and so little has happened, I am thinking a lot about the concept of enoughness. For me, this time of year is about focusing on all that I do have, and not on what I don’t.

Whether from an Amazon or Facebook ad, or under the pressure to meet a year-end goal at work, we often get caught in the powerful messages and thought patterns that tell us happiness comes from accumulating more — gadgets and gifts, accolades, promotions, gold stars — and doing more. …

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Rarely if ever, in most of our lifetimes, has there been such a collective sense of anxiety and stress. A defining election following one of the most divisive campaigns ever comes to a head tomorrow. A global pandemic continues to plague all of us and our families, with businesses and industries forever changed, more countries closing down again, and more of us resigned to working remotely for the foreseeable future.

In the last several years, it’s usually been that come December people are tired, exhausted and the final sprint to the end of the year is met with a respite of the holidays. This year is different.

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This week marks six months since most of us started shelter in place. Six months ago this week we went into lockdown in San Francisco, and the world seemed to change in an instant.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on lessons I’ve learned during the last six months, and about aspects of this new way of living and working that I want to continue to bring forward.

I want to share with you because they have as much to do with how you communicate with yourself as how you lead in all aspects of your own life.

I’ve spent a lot of time working with my clients the last few months on a variety of these themes, and want to share them with…

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In 2020, talking about politics brings about a new level of angst and has, for most of us, become both more personal and more challenging than maybe ever in our lifetimes.

With the unofficial end of summer on us and the fall election season underway, it’s becoming more difficult to avoid talking about politics either online or in person — because it’s all over. With most of us socially distant and connecting via a screen rather than in person, hard conversations are even harder. It’s a uniquely difficult communications challenge.

For many of us politics have become deeply personal. It goes directly to our own sense of identity. Debates about politics aren’t just about issues — they are now almost always about character, values, and our understanding of both independence and community. In the United States, we live in deeply polarized country, and indeed the same is true in other countries around the world — so a casual debate can quickly spiral into a full fledged argument, even if both people love each other or set out to be respectful. …

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Communicating compassion from a distance can be really hard. This is especially the case with prolonged remote work and school, and when emotions and stress are running high, maybe in ways we don’t even fully realize. For most of us, emotions and work don’t often mix to begin with, and feedback is almost always emotional.

Yet consistent, compassionate feedback is exactly what this moment calls for.

As working parents start to consider school and childcare this fall, and as the Coronavirus continues to mean sheltering in place and working from home (some companies have recently extended work from home policies through summer 2021) the long-term effects — anxiety, toxic stress to name a couple — are becoming clearer and more pronounced by the day. …

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Meaningful social change starts with changing hearts and minds, usually among those we’re closest to in life.

Beyond the protests, donations, public statements ranging from bold to bland, rapid sharing and re-tweeting on social media, real, sustained change around racial injustice starts and evolves like it almost always does — at home and at work through personal conversations.

Many of us are starting to have more live conversations with relatives, family, friends, and co-workers about race in America. These conversations are often with people who hold dissimilar views to our own, and especially now by phone or video, and so they are hard.

They are hard because we have to confront our own feelings and learning as well as those of others. Disagreements can turn into arguments, conversations can turn into yelling, rational thoughts can be overcome by powerful emotions, the passion of the present moment can blind us to history. …

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The last few days have laid bare deep anger, outrage, and despair at injustice in the U.S., and the real sense of fear and indignity people of color live with every day. The voices of the black community have been silenced, and the voices of the rest of us have been silent, for too long — leading to deadly outcomes.

It’s heartening to see more people finally speaking up and speaking out about racism in the US the last several days after the brutal murder of George Floyd, the racial profiling of Christian Cooper, what many are calling the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, and the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, and the ensuing protests all over the country. …

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During difficult times, when many of us are under an immense amount of stress, one of the hardest things to do is to communicate well. It’s hard because we are under more pressure and uncertainty clouds our ability to perceive others and ourselves clearly. I’ve been hearing a lot of situations lately where communication has gone awry and left people frustrated and turned off.

In life’s hardest situations — whether with a partner or roommate, a colleague at work, or a consultant or potential employee looking for business or work…

…we tend to default to our one-way communication style: focusing on what we need and want in the moment, rather than in the context of a long term relationship — and pushing that out to the other person.

About

Andrew Blotky

Communications and culture leader, author, certified coach, lawyer, yoga teacher. www.azureleadership.com/honestlyspeakingbook

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