How we engage others

“You’ll be one of the best next year,” offered my son. Unprompted.  He is eleven.  We were in the kitchen.  It was Sunday three weeks ago.  I’d just decided to not participate in a sprint triathlon, an event for which I’d been training for months.   A quirky injury sidelined me.  I was crushed.    In the grand scheme of things this was minor – hardly a blip.   If I was still pre-transition, I would have simply gone on that day and not said a word about it to anyone.  Instead, my transition inspired me to give voice to my disappointment.  I was struck by my son’s humanity and emotional intelligence.  Our typical exchanges are single words conveyed over an electronic device.   His pivot made me reflect on how much of myself I can bring to interactions with others.   It is my choice just like it was his.  I can mimic the sentiment of his single word responses or his deft comment.  How much of my voice do I choose to engage?

Facilitating A Conversation. Photo by Meri Bond.

A presentation about voice & transition. Photo by Meri Bond.

My awareness of this choice emerged from my work in transition.  Have you ever reflected upon this choice?  Or better, its impact on you?

Pre-transition I filtered a fair amount of who I was from my communication with others.   I was always aware of where I was;  the office, the playground, the family gathering.  What I let show reflected my beliefs about that environment and what I needed to do in order to be successful there.  The net of it was that who I was differed depending upon the environment.

Transitioning has taught me to bring more of who I am to everything I do.   I bring more of me – what holds value to me – forward.


No filters.

Is this really possible?

Last week I stumbled through the opposite situation and it reminded my of the importance of voice & engagement.

Before I go on I’d like to anchor on a definition for emotional intelligence (EI).  It  is a popularly cited phrase that is used widely – from corporate America to public school curriculum.  It was championed in the 1990’s by Daniel Goleman, a former NY Times columnist who authored a book, Emotional Intelligence.  By definition EI is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and the ability to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.

My surprise last week centered on a moment where I was momentarily unable to call upon my voice and my absolute fury with myself over the situation.

I met three people for breakfast, all men, to discuss a company that we are all involved with.   When we sat down we tossed around some lighthearted stories before getting down to business.  Amidst this banter one gentleman who hadn’t seen me for many years said, “You’ve really changed.”  His remark was directed at my physical appearance.   While not entirely Trump-esque, I was still dumbstruck.  In my head I said to myself almost immediately, “he didn’t just say that!!?”

The effect of his remark was powerful.  I fell silent. I didn’t ever rejoin the conversation in any meaningful way.

Was this the result he sought?  To silence me?

I don’t think he was smart enough to architect this.  I would instead hold him in the clueless category – at best.

I am still furious with myself for my lack of reaction.  I am not championing verbal conflict. I am however advocating for reflection on how we engage and on how others engage us.

Thoughtless and surprise acts can and will occur repeatedly.  So will interactions like the one with my son.

When my voice is silent I stand to miss the richness and benefit I derived from my conversation with my son.  It is a simple example of how voice can take us in an unexpected direction.

Transitioning has brought my awareness of the importance of giving voice to what holds value and meaning  to us.  Whether it involves a negotiation with a spouse or child or a corporate take-over or an unnamed desire to change what you are doing – it all centers on one thing.  Bringing more of who you are to the things you choose to do.

Last week in NYC a woman asked me a question in the final moments of a speaking engagement. “Do you parent differently after your work in transition?”

I got some blank stares when I responded that “yes, I bring voice to everything. ”  This single decision – this choice – has brought a richness to my interactions with others that I find energizing and important and full of possibilities.

When you have a quiet moment bring your awareness to voice & how you engage others.  You may be surprised at what awaits you there.

Two post-scripts:

#1: Thank you for staying with Novofemina!  My goal is to write weekly.  That schedule has fallen back to monthly since my book & not-for-profit launched!  I am working on getting back to weekly.  I’d love to hear from you.  Let me know what is on your mind!

#2: A Conversation about Voice!

If geography allows, please join me to play with your voice at 7 pm on 10/18/2016 at the Arlington, MA Community Education event, Women & Transition.  We will explore voice in an interactive session designed to empower women to engage more of who they are in the things that they chose to do.  Tickets $15.  All proceeds go to the Arlington Community Education.

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