Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

One goal of The Artist’s Way course in creativity is finding ways to silence the destructive voices that derail when we try to follow our dreams. They warn us:

1. You can’t do that.
2. You’re not good enough.
3. People will laugh/talk/judge.

I’ve completed The Artist’s Way once – and have revisited several chapters since then. And you know what? I’m still listening to those destructive voices. It takes almost a daily meditative practice to remind myself that those are old scripts that have no place in my life anymore.

Last night I had dinner with a friend of mine whom I consider brilliant, bold and powerful – a pillar of self-confidence. We began talking about how we limit our possibilities. Yes, even she struggles to silence the voices.

She brought up a common and destructive phrase that all of us have used from to time. It’s so generic and open-ended that it’s easy to call up on a moment’s notice.

“Who am I to think I can__________?” [fill in the blank]

  • Who am I to think I can be a published author?
  • Who am I to think I can learn to play the bass guitar?
  • Who am I to think I can open a successful art gallery?
  • Who am I to think I can influence my city council/state senator/Congressman/President?
  • Who am I to think I can ask for what I need in this moment?

My friend and I agreed to form a *buddy system* so that when either of us lapses into this thinking, the other can kick her butt. But since most of this destructive thinking is internal, we may be on our own to stop this futile exercise. Maybe we can all just STOP and BREATHE…and then write a different script.

What have you told yourself was impossible but you made it happen anyway? Or what have you vowed to do for yourself in the future?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's That, You Say?

Clear communication is as rare as unicorns. And it’s easy to understand why. Even when words are in black and white, we all read with a lens that is uniquely our own. That lens draws on the baggage, beliefs and assumptions we’ve accumulated over a lifetime.

Let’s take e-mails as an example:
  • Brief, to-the-point e-mails are often viewed as terse.
  • E-mails with tons of exclamation points and emoticons can be construed as over-the-top or insincere.
  • One supercharged word can alienate the reader from the get-go and the rest of the message is essentially lost.
  • Long e-mails will be scanned by busy people and the most salient point can be overlooked.

Now, extrapolate these assumptions to longer communications like personal letters, reports or even books. We all have the same 26-letter alphabet to string together words, phrases and paragraphs. Are we certain that our apology comes off as sincere or that our argument is persuasive and not snarky?

What’s that you say? People should communicate face-to-face and there wouldn’t be these problems?

Ha! And double ha, I say to you. In-person communication can be just as fraught with inaccuracies based on perceived attitudes, gestures, body language, etc. We may be so antsy waiting for our turn to speak that we completely miss nuances in the other person’s words. A person looks at his watch and we think he's not interested in what we're saying.

So, how do we become clearer in our communications? Let me know what’s worked for you – or if you have any examples of miscommunications to share.