Listening & Empathy to Create Positive Change
Today I write with a heavy heart, full mind and jumbled words.
On Monday I spoke to my friend K. She is a black woman living a middle-class life in the panhandle of Florida. She has 3 kids and is married to an active duty military officer. His work brought them to FL.
K and I have never met in person. We are connected through Toastmasters and several years ago she reached out to me after reading an article I had published in the Toastmasters magazine. We stayed in touch ever since.
Over the last year or two our Zoom calls picked up in frequency. We are both solo business owners (she has a travel business and I organize events), constantly evolving and rebranding ourselves. And when the corona virus hit we both lost our business and income.
In the past, our conversations focused on business.
But not this week. Instead, we had a 2 hour conversation about race, the riots, the state of the world, police brutality, and yes what that means for our businesses. The most impactful part of our conversation? When K shared her personal experiences as a black woman living in a predominately white area and the fear she lives with every single day.
Fears that I, as a white woman, don’t live with.
- Will her six foot, 250 lb black husband be profiled for a crime he didn’t commit, simply because he’s walking down the street?
- Will her kids be able to play freely or get harassed for riding bikes in the neighborhood?
- Or, will she be able to access the money she needs to keep her business?
I heard her fears and experiences first hand for the first time. I witnessed her, wept for her and sat with her pain.
The conversation challenged and changed me.
How often do we sit with and witness someone’s pain before we…
- Talk about our own?
- Try to solve the problem or offer insight (you know, because we live in a “just choose happiness!” kind of world)
- Change the subject to avoid conflict or confrontation?
Empathy and listening have become lost practices.
My work is based on the core belief that everyone deserves to feel seen and heard. And in the case of Black Lives Matter, I failed.
I want to, and must, do better. Because Black Lives Matter.
Some of you reading this might want to do better, too. Below are a few resources I’m reading, listening to and watching about how to be anti-racist and an ally.
- Brene Brown podcast. Conversation with Ibram X. Kendi on how to be an anti-racist.
- Korn Ferry webinar series. Eradicating racism in the corporate world
- Movies, Books, Podcasts (for adults and teens) – Extensive list on Medium
- 5 Tips for Being An Ally (short YouTube Video – practical and with humor)
- List of Black and minority owned businesses in the Boston area.
What resources have you found useful? Please click reply and let me know.
My work is and always has been about the power of connection – to ourselves, to others, to our work. And now more than ever we need to get closer. Together we can use our voices as a force for good. To rise above the hate, hurt and negativity and create positive change.
Be well and keep shining.
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About the blog
Insights & inspiration to make human interactions like speaking, networking, facilitating less awkward & boring and more natural & engaging.
Topics include presence, getting your message across, relationship building, staying poised under pressure, running a meeting, dealing with burnout and more.
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