communication, community

Wonder: Breaking Bread – the title of my new podcast

Sharing a meal with someone—it’s one of the oldest traditions in the world. And that’s why it’s so important to me to have a home where I can host people for dinner and why I want to include sharing a meal in my podcast to get passionate conversations flowing.

My friend, Carolyn, sent me an article from PsyBlog entitled The Right Food Can Promote Trust And Closeness Between People about the value of eating the same food with another person. It brings us closer. It helps us to listen and attempt to understand one another, especially when dealing with issues that mean a lot to us. Meals are an act of communion and community. Meals together matter, and I’m excited to begin orchestrating them on my new podcast that will be appropriately named Breaking Bread.

Would you like to be a guest on the show? Know someone who would be a good guest? Let’s gather around the table and see (and hear) what happens.

communication, relationships

This just in: Why speaking your mind is so difficult

Speak your mind
Speak your mind

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” ~Anaïs Nin

I was recently having a conversation with someone I really care about. I decided to ask him about something that was really troubling me, and that led to a very honest discussion that was uncomfortable and caused me to lose more than a little sleep. Despite that, we were, eventually, both glad to have had the conversation.

The difficult part about speaking our mind and wanting to talk about tough issues is that we also put ourselves in the position of someone shining a light into our own blind spots. All of a sudden we stop seeing the world through tunnel vision and it dawns on us that Anaïs Nin was spot on. We don’t see the world, or a person or a situation, as it is. We see everything and everyone as we are. Compassion and empathy are part of a process that requires constant tending and adjustment. It’s difficult work, but on the other side of that work is either an enormous lesson or a tremendous reward. Keep going.

action, communication, community, community service

This just in: Congressman Elijah Cummings protests for peace

Congressman Elijah Cummings in Baltimore shaking a State Trooper's hand after the riots
Congressman Elijah Cummings in Baltimore shaking a State Trooper’s hand after the riots

On the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral, Congressman Elijah Cummings led thousands of people in peaceful protests. These peaceful protesters are the people who are generating change by being the change. They’re cleaning up neighborhoods. They’re creating bridges where there are serious gaps. Their strength and courage inspires me. Love drives out hate. Light drives out darkness.

Violence and sensationalism is what sells, but it’s not what generates progress. Elijah Cummings and all the people who joined him are the hope and light of Baltimore. In time, they are the ones who will close the divides in their community. They’re already doing it. They’re the ones who need our support. We need to band together for our own good and the good of our neighbors.

blogging, communication, creative, creativity, design, health, innovation, media, product development, stress, technology, work, writer, writing

Inspired: Check out my magazines on Flipboard for travel, stress-busting, product design, and office design

Check out my Flipboard profile:’m now on Flipboard as @christanyc and created 4 magazines to curate content in travel, product design, workspace design, and stress reduction. I hope you’ll stop by and check them out:
Travel on Purpose – use your travels and vacations to build a better world

Insanely Cool New Products – the coolest new product innovations and the awesome people who make them

Crazy Creative Workspaces – interior design inspirations for the places where we work

Stress Sucks – the science of stress and how to bust it

communication, community, yoga

Leap: If You Listen, People Will Tell You What They Need

From Pinterest

“What comes from the heart, goes to the heart.” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I’ve been teaching a seniors yoga class for a few weeks and the enrollment is full. One woman in the class recently told me that she has been having terrible insomnia. I asked if she knew why and she told me that her son, her only child, was murdered 2 months ago and so far the investigation hasn’t turned up any leads. My heart broke, and yet I knew I had to be strong for her.

In that moment, I decided to change my class on a dime. I created the class, posture by posture, word by word, for her. By the end of the class, I could feel everyone moving a bit closer to healing. As my teacher, Cheri, always says, we are all healing from something.

I used to think that being a yoga teacher meant to create a sequence of postures, breath work, and meditation techniques. Now I know that my job is to show up, listen, and give the students what they need to be whole. What I give from my heart, goes straight to theirs.

communication, encouragement

Leap: Keep Feedback in Perspective

Feedback is everywhere. Everyone will offer up their advice, unsolicited or otherwise, on every aspect of your life. It can be incredibly helpful to collect these critiques and opinions. It can also be downright dangerous and soul-crushing. So what’s a thoughtful, sensitive, eager-to-always-improve person to do with all these opinions? Keep what bolsters you up and throw away the rest.

This doesn’t mean that we should ignore feedback that gives us ideas for places we can improve; it just means we should only take feedback that’s clear and constructive. Recently I got feedback that praised my enthusiasm, then in the next breath said I should consider being less enthusiastic so I appear more grounded, and then in the next breath said I was really grounded. Huh?! I thanked the person for their feedback and then left it right there where I found it.

I’m all for feedback because I’m such a huge fan of continuous improvement. However, the only feedback that helps us improve is feedback that’s clear, concise, and given with a sense of support. If those 3 criteria aren’t met, do yourself a favor – accept it with grace, push it aside, and move on. Focus your energies on doing the work you’re meant to do with all the magnificence that is you.

books, business, communication

Beginning: Book Review – The Language of Trust

“Are you really listening or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?” ~ Robert Montgomery

Do you remember a time when trust was where a relationship started? I have trouble remembering those times. I’m sure there was a time when trust was the norm, in the same way that our legal system once started with “innocent until proven guilty.” Now, we are a society of skeptics and cynics, but can you blame us? We feel cheated and lied to by companies, by our government, by our employers or former employers. The recession exposed a very sad and dangerous truth – we participated in an economy and a way of doing business that really was too good to be true. Double-digit positive returns are tough to sustain. We knew that, but we went along for the ride. In Margaret Heffernan’s words, we willed ourselves into blindness. We feel let don and disappointed and we have no one to blame but ourselves, which is too much to bear so we blame everyone else.

Enter Michael Masloansky, Scott West, Gary DeMoss, and David Saylor with the book The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics. In all of our economics mayhem, we forgot how to talk to people in an authentic way. We forgot how to put others first. We’ve been so busy making excuses that we forgot to take responsibility. This book is meant to help us get back on track in the post-trust era (PTE).

It’s got some tough advice for us that is not going to be easy to hear, though not as hard to act upon as we might think. It gives us language guidelines under the very simple yet priceless principle that people believe what they understand. In other words, “Don’t be a wonk.” Drop the jargon and communicate in real language, not language that you think gives you some kind of desired image. And no one is interested in why you did something that was not in their best interest so drop that game altogether; it’s a battle that’s lost before it’s even started. Take responsibility and do better going forward.

The book lays out real world examples of communication gone right (Jetblue and Conservation International) and communications gone wrong (Toyota). It breaks down what worked so beautifully in the successful examples and how the unsuccessful examples can be improved. These examples give marketers (and that includes all of us who work on our own personal brand as well) a way to compare our current communication tactics against these examples, essentially creating a map for us to communicate more authentically with our audience.

This book should be well-worn after continuous consultation by marketers of all stripes. We’re living in a new age where trust must be earned at every moment. It’s a world of missteps from well-intentioned actions. In some ways, we may feel like we can’t win in this world of skeptics. Don’t throw in the towel. You can win – it’s just going to take a whole lot more work that it did prior to the PTE. The Language of Trust can help. Available in bookstores starting today.

communication, design, learning, nature, science, society, technology

Beginning: A Lesson from Biomimicry – Looking Around and Get Your Knees Dirty

I went to an incredible panel yesterday about biomimicry and its implications for the design of technology projects. The talk was put together by several key personalities in this space. If you are curious about bioIogy or design or both, I highly recommend taking a look at and Representatives of both organizations were represented on the panel.

At the end of the panel Holly Harlan of E4S and Michael Dungan of Beedance said two very profound points that have stuck with me since the panel and I think they hold very important pieces of advice for living, particularly for people passionate about technology. Holly said that if we’re really curious about design, really interested in learning from nature then we need to dig around in the dirt. It’s all well and good to read and research and ask questions of others. It’s necessary, though the greatest learning is found through our own personal exploration of the physical world. Michael encouraged us to put down our devices, unplug, and look around. Really see what’s happening in our natural environment. It sounds so simple and yet the world is whizzing by us at a dizzying pace while we remain glued to our glowing screens.

I found these two pieces of info particularly poignant last night at the Foursquare party. I was with some friends from work and we were having a great time dancing and enjoying a really beautiful and balmy Texas evening. As I took a look around, I was blown over by the number of people who were with other people but not present. Every 30 seconds they were on their mobiles, half listening to the people talking to them, lost in some digital experience of some kind. It made me wonder and start to worry about what all of these devices are really doing to our personal awareness. Despite constantly being in the know, constantly being “connected”, flooded with information on every conceivable subject, we seem to be in a fog of our own design. Existing, though not living. We really may be entirely disconnected from our own intuition and from others.

I’ll be the first to say I love technology and its potential for good. I love piles of information. I love design. I also love, in equal if not greater proportion, the trees, the grass, and the sky. I have yet to come across any piece of technology that wows me more than something that the natural world has created from its own immense intelligence and experience. To design as nature designs is the ideal, is the genius we’re all so desperately looking for. To take in its teachings requires dirty knees and a clear mind. I’m making a vow to unplug more often, get out into the world with more compassion than ever before, and live. I hope you’ll join me.

clarity, communication, courage, feelings

Step 239: The Ease of Stepping Out and Up

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, American Author

There was some little snap inside me this week. I’m not sure what it is – could be that the heat has just gotten to me. (After this blistering summer heat, I truly can’t wait for sweater weather!) It might have to do with some shifting tides at work – all good and different. Brian would probably say that finally, finally, finally I am trusting my gut enough to let it have its own voice. Or he might say that the prana really loves me and therefore uses me every chance it gets. Whatever the reason, this week, for the first time in a long time, I was unmistakably me. My friend, Col, also realized this trend and wrote about it on her blog this week.

I have what some people have termed as a bold personality. Though for the past few months I’ve tempered that, particularly in public forums. My friend, Blair, gave me the nickname “Scrappy” (yes, as is “Scrappy Doo”) some years ago. Lately, I’ve lost a bit of that spiciness. This week it came shining through on several important occasions.

On Wednesday morning I had a meeting about a new initiative that I’m particularly passionate about. A lot of people gathered around a table to offer up feeble, same-old same-old opinions. So rather than tuning out and going to my happy place as I often do in meetings with people who have fancy titles and not much to support them, I spoke up. There were some arched eyebrows around the table, a few sheepish looks, and while I certainly remained professional and courteous, I pointed out that doing what we’ve always done just isn’t working and we should do x, y, and z instead. And then I produced the data to back up my opinions. I think a few people left the room at the end of the meeting saying, “and who was that woman and what part of the company does she work in?” in a positive way. I do like to encourage curiosity and push people’s boundaries.

The funny side to my boldness is that I’m also a pleaser. I do like people to like me. I like to be helpful, to strangers and friends alike. And I’m good at sharing, listening, and empathizing. I paid attention in kindergarten and got a good foundation of social skills. But pleasers have a rather dangerous lot in life – as pleasers, it’s easy to lose ourselves.

There’s a balance between boldness and pleasing, to be sure, and in the past I have often veered too far to one side of the spectrum or the other. This week, I got that balance right, dead on. While I did want some new audiences to like me, I also made it a point, without even trying, to also have some tough conversations with those parties, not for the sake of being tough but for the sake of really helping them and making our interaction a valuable use of their time. It was easier than I thought it would be, certainly easier than it’s been before. I cared less about being liked by them, and more about helping them think more clearly and contribute in a more meaningful way.

Brian told me that adolescence actually lasts into our early 30’s. Now at the start of my mid-30’s it’s no surprise to him that I’m beginning to rise up in every area of my life – personally and professionally. I do feel that after so much work of laying the foundations of my life, I’m now building castles in the air – exactly the opposite of the order that Thoreau discusses in his quote above. After this week I’m now wondering whether a good foundation naturally supports and builds a castle on its own simply because that’s what a foundation is meant to do. And by comparison, if we spend so much time working on who we are at our very core, all of a sudden do we step into the light just because that’s where we’re now ready to be?

China, communication, culture

Step 47: Chicken Talks to Duck

I recently took a spin through Chinatown with my friend, Michael. He and his lovely wife, Min, have been schooling me on Chinese culture. My friend, Allan, is grateful for the help. Being from Beijing, Allan has been showing me the ways of the Chinese for almost 5 years now. With my endless questions, Allan can use all the reinforcements he can get!

Allan, Min, and Michael have shown me so many incredible aspects of Chinese culture, a culture we so sadly know precious little about in the U.S. P.F. Chang’s and electronics do not a culture make. Chinese manufacturing is largely responsible for our lifestyle in this country, and yet we have not taken to their literature or philosophy as readily as we should. It’s a shame, really. Their wisdom has so much to offer us as we make our way down the road to enlightenment.

One aspect of Chinese culture that I adore are the proverbs. In a handful of words, they encompass so much learning. Michael hit me with one the other day that’s been on my mind ever since. “Ji tong ya jiang” – in English it literally translates to “chicken talks to duck.” Both birds, found in the same geographies, and no matter what, they can’t understand each other. How many times a day do we have this same conundrum with others? You say something to me, I say something back, sometimes in the same language, and neither of us have a clue what the other said.

So how do we get beyond chicken talks to duck? In other words, can we learn empathy and understanding? Yes, I believe we can. It’s not easy, and if we aren’t born with an innate sense of empathy, I think it always remains a challenge. Not impossible, but indeed challenging.

Here are 6 ways to get some empathy and gain a better sense of understanding of others:
1.) Volunteer – spending time on a project with others, and particularly helping others who are struggling, instills us with a remarkable sense of understanding. It forces us to walk in another’s shoes.

2.) Travel and seek out the locals. I can’t stand resorts and fancy digs on vacation. They create such an unnatural barrier between tourists and locals. They impede understanding. So whenever I’m traveling, I get out, way out, of my comfort zone.

3.) Read literature, listen to music, eat food, and see art that’s entirely foreign to you. A peoples’ culture comes alive in their art. It tells their history, their trials and tribulations. Give it a whirl and you’ll discover things about others and about yourself that you never even imagined.

4.) Learn a new language. Inexpensive language classes and conversation groups exist in almost every major U.S. city. You really want to understand another culture? Literally try to speak with their words and you’ll learn and earn their hearts.

5.) Take up the sport, exercise, or meditation of another culture. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, karate, cricket. A nation’s pastime is an enjoyable way to more deeply understand their culture.

6.) Stop in at the church, synagogue, temple, ashram, or mosque of another culture. I’m not saying you have to believe in what’s being preached. Just listen. Culture the world over is deeply rooted in religions. Learn how a culture prays, where they turn to when times are tough, and understanding their daily lives becomes easier.

The image above is not my own. It can be found here.