The Blog

You may not know how to help someone who’s grieving, but I bet you can make it worse!

Tell that person “everything happens for a reason” or “the same thing happened to a friend once” or “you should read this book about that.” You can press for juicy details that’ll make the story you share with your friends juicier. You can ask why you had to learn the news from someone else or make a reference to “God’s plan.”

If you’re on the receiving end of “help” disguised as “more pain,” my condolences! And my thanks to Glennon Doyle, author of Love Warrior, for dissecting the “I’ll give you something to cry about” crowd.

Glennon reminded me what I love most about the people I love. They listen without judgment. They draw me out with abandon. And they aren’t afraid of going to the scary places with me.

Without them to take my hand once in a while? Life would be scary, indeed.

“Stay away from negative people.” You might not believe how often my guests on the talk show offer that suggestion, or credit following it for their success. Which surprises me, because I thought successful people were able to transcend the negative.

Nope. That’s how they became successful, by protecting themselves from it. They’ve made a habit of distancing themselves.

That’s the only appropriate response to evil, I once heard, however you define it. Distance. Don’t make a scene, don’t put up a fight. Just back away slowly, back into the light.

If I was going to be a guest on someone’s talk show, I’d research the host. If she had a blog, I’d read several posts. If she was on Twitter, I’d scroll through her feed. It wouldn’t tell me everything, but I’d feel better prepared. And if something I learned was worth sharing during the program, I doubt she’d be offended.

She wouldn’t. I know. I’m the host who’s been studied up on -- Arianna Huffington comes to mind! -- and getting quoted back to myself feels lovely.

Knowing my guests might be checking this site to read up on me before our interview, I check up on myself. I read the most recent blog posts from what I hope is more of a stranger’s perspective, and I scroll through what I’ve shared on Twitter lately.

It always leaves me feeling better. Bouncier. Which is, you know, the point.

Once in a while when I’m struggling with a problem Darrell reminds me I’ve already shared what might help. “You should read your own blog,” he’ll say.

Not the worst advice! If we do say so ourselves.

physics for the blogThe other day I told a friend what I admired most about Katie besides her resilience. She’s much more comfortable with uncertainty than I was at her age. I wondered where that comes from.

Darrell’s guess was our family motto: “We’ll figure it out.” Then he teased me about being the reason we have a family motto. I probably heard the suggestion from someone else. “Yeah?” he countered. “But who actually follows through on things like that?” Pause. “Who?”

Children learn what they live. Katie grew up with parents who joke that if their business had a logo it would be fog. So you don’t know what to do next. So what? You’ll figure it out.

The extent to which Kate’s internalized our family motto inspires Darrell and me right back. And that, my friends, is the circle of life.

If what you want to be when you grow up is a parent, good move. Your children will help you grow up!

“The reason it’s difficult to learn something new is that it will change you into someone who disagrees with the person you used to be,” Seth says. “And we’re not organized for that.”

Who’s so proud of the person she used to be she wants to stick with it forever?

Learning something new is difficult, but the alternative is a death march of going through the motions. No, thanks.

I’ve known people who refuse to change, who’ve learned all they intend to learn. I’m still trying to escape their gravitational pull.

Left unattended, a friend told me once, things don’t stay the same. They get worse.

Isn’t it more fun and more practical to take charge when you can? You might be surprised by how much control you have over the weather, metaphorically speaking.

When I look back on the long list of people who’ve joined us on the talk show the thing that strikes me is how impressive they are. It’s been a treat to get to know them a little. To hear them tell it, the same. They almost always gush about how much fun it is to be on the program.

Why wouldn’t it be? “Please, tell me more” has never evoked anything bad. Think about it. Someone asks you a question, really listens to your answer, and asks you to go on. Please.

Doesn’t that feel great?

Everyone is a storyteller dying for lack of an audience.” Not on my show. Everyone has an attentive audience in me. I’m a good listener, and there’s a better-than-good chance you’ll come away from the hour with a new appreciation for yourself. Maybe it’s revelation, maybe it’s celebration. Whatever it is, taking an hour to reflect on what you’re doing right isn’t likely to make you feel anything but terrific.

You’re the new boss, with a new vision for your team. What if your people aren’t crazy about that new vision? What if they aren’t all in?

When I posed that question to leadership coach Cort Dial on the show recently I expected him to say something about finding people who were all in.

Nope.

Cort reminded me loyalty isn’t something you demand. It’s something you inspire. Do you want the truth, or do you want people telling you what they think you want to hear?

The better your people the more likely they are to have points of view that differ from yours. Isn’t that the point of having more than one person in a company? To get the work done, sure -- but to stay alert to better ways of doing it.

subway car for the blogThe subway system in New York fascinates both Darrell and me. He can’t get over how efficiently and relatively inexpensively all those people move about, and figuring out whether to take the N train or the Q is a fun puzzle. I’m endlessly entertained by the study in human behavior. I watch myself, too. It’s a peek at someone’s essence through the prism of mass transit.
 
Recently a guy offered me his seat the minute we boarded. “Are you sure?” I said, then immediately regretted it. Who offers his seat if he’s kidding? Nobody. So I quickly added, “Thank you so much.”

The most interesting thing about this is that I accepted his offer. It isn’t required. I’ve watched people decline all the time. They aren’t mean about it. They’ll toss off something like, “Oh, that’s okay. But thanks!” And that’ll be it.

Why didn’t I do that? I’m not sure. But I like the idea of accepting the occasional kindness from a stranger. It feels good to offer. If no one accepts? Well, you know. Still. I’m me. The whole time I sat there I was thinking, “Why do I get to take a load off while he’s standing? Why do I rate?” So just before he got off the train I kind of touched his arm to get his attention. “Thanks again,” I said. He beamed at me. The next thing I noticed was a gal across from us, smiling at me.

We hadn’t covered much ground and the events probably took fewer than ten minutes to unfold. They stick with me, though. My grandmother once told me how much I seem to appreciate everything, like it was just the greatest thing.

I loved the reassurance I’m still that kid.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson