“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.
Reflection is especially potent when that deeper pause and contemplation lead us to speak and act in a way that’s more in tune with who we really are and what we aspire to be.
When I think about reflection, I think not only about what I see in the mirror, but also the meaning of reflection that is said to have first surfaced in the 1640s: a remark or an action made after turning one’s thought on some subject.
The reflection we do as leaders and communicators is especially important because it helps us make sense of hard times, of dissonant experiences, of competing demands, and to see clearly the habits and thought loops we tend to get stuck in and the expectations we hold on to. And then to choose.
When we look back on 2020, a question many of us will be asking is some variation of, “How did you show up during the pandemic?” Employees will ask of future employers, “What did you do to help your employees during the pandemic?”
This question can easily and best be answered by that sign in my neighborhood: how I connected with others in a most disconnected time.
For me, reflecting on this year has meant evolving in a few ways: I can do with less, focus more on what truly brings me joy, and let go of everything else. I have enjoyed the time to slow down and pause, and to notice my surroundings and the more nuanced things like the slight smile my dog brings to a stranger’s face while on our daily walks. It’s meant learning to be far more forgiving of people, whether the exciting potential client that promises but doesn’t deliver, the talented, handsome man I started to date and really like, after he grew silent and became involved with someone else early in the pandemic, my friends and my family. And to be far more forgiving of myself. It’s meant reflecting on the kind of work that is most rewarding to me, who I want to be doing that work with, where I want to do it, and what career success really means for me. It’s meant a conscious choice not to take for granted any aspect of my health. It’s meant learning to be far more purposeful and intentional about who I will gather with and how after the pandemic is over (thanks Priya Parker for some inspiration here).
When times were hard, stressful, different, challenging, unknown, how did you show up? How did you support or acknowledge others?
This practice of reflection is needed now so we can show up better and more powerfully as we look to 2021.
Self Reflection Questions
- In the beginning of the pandemic in late March, on social media I posed 10 questions meant to spur some self-reflection at the beginning of lockdown. I re-posted the 10 questions on my blog. I recently revisited these questions. When I did, I found them even more helpful to answer now than then.
- In Honestly Speaking, I devote the entire second chapter to the importance of self-reflection for anyone communicating about just about anything. Here are 3 easy practices I included.