WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

February 26, 2014

Noticing What’s Right

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 10:06 am

My mother was a perfectionist, and as such, my brother and I were constantly subjected to her observations of what was wrong with us. Whether it was a curl out of place or a pants leg too long, a public behavior that was unseemly or an unwanted comment at the dinner table, it seemed that we were simply flawed beyond repair. If you’ve grown up with such a parent, live with a partner or a boss like this, you know how this feels. And chances are, this behavior may well be cascading through you to others. It’s often tough to see ourselves doing it. We can justify it by claiming that we “want the best out of others,” or some other lame excuse for simply being over critical. The real truth is that it’s easier to look for what’s wrong around us than what’s right.

Looking to find what’s wrong sets up expectations for discomfort and blame. Kids, friends, family members, coworkers find us hard to be around when our critical eye lasers over them, searching for flaws. AHA! There, see it? You need to fix that! We turn in a paper that took us three weeks to complete. Our best work. The boss picks it up and in seconds takes out the red pen and starts to pick it apart. Not a word about how long we’ve been at it, nothing. We’re deflated, defeated. We can often feel like, what’s the point?

In personal relationships it’s the same thing. After the glow has worn off a marriage, we come home to a litany of household issues. Perhaps we walk in the door and bypass our husband who has, for once, dressed up for us after taking care of the kids and the house and making sure the place is in perfect shape. We complain about the day. We find things to nitpick about the kitchen. We don’t notice anything he’s done to make the house look great for us. How do you think he feels? Defeated. Deflated. We miss the candles, the flowers on the table.  All we do is complain.

We’d all love for people to do things for us- and maybe they already do. But do we notice? By noticing what people do right, complimenting those things, small to large, we highlight what’s good in others. What they’re proud of, what they did well. Their kindnesses. their goodness. We’re full of flaws and failings and things we’re not very proud of, and who needs to be reminded of those?
We already aware of them. But we do need to be noticed doing things right.

When you take the time to notice what’s right, people shine. Bloom. Glow. Smile. Their confidence builds. Be it a kid, a coworker, a granddad, a neighbor, man on the street, a lover. The most delightful part of this is that when you do this, it graces you, too. It’s a two way street. This is nutritious WordFood of the highest order, the kind that brings us together.

Save the criticisms, say the compliments. You’ll find yourself in the habit of finding what’s right all around you in no time.

February 17, 2014

WordFood on the Road

The SUV was pulling onto the main road heading north from the parking lot just to my right, just after I’d already done the same thing, just to his south. No traffic was coming, so I paused, gave him a quick beep, and waited until he finished pulling out onto the road and got going. Then he did something that surprised the heck out of me.

He waved in thanks.

Now that’s surprising only because I haven’t seen anyone do that in a long time. I try to make a habit out of traffic courtesies and by all means to acknowledge them with a wave. We’ve all seen the opposite end of the spectrum as road manners have devolved. I’ve gotten the one-finger salute even when I’ve tried to be polite. What delighted me was to get waved at myself. Made my tummy warm. And got me thinking about how we use WordFood- both nutritious and toxic- on the road.

Those of us who’ve lived in the country, who’ve gotten to know our neighbors, are all familiar with the waves or the simple gestures we use when we pass by those we know: familiar vehicles, faces, folks in the yard planting flowers. In some remote areas there’s a shared sign, like a single forefinger raise that everyone in a valley uses to say “Howdy.” This connects us, reminds us that we’re part of a neighborhood. I’m part of a generation who also used to raise a hand to firemen and policemen- and still do- because that’s how my folks raised me.  Mountain or farm, desert or forest, the hand on the wheel has a way of including you in the “family.”

At some point when getting somewhere fast, and certainly faster than the other guy became paramount, our ability to be courteous took a detour and a variety of other, less friendly gestures came into vogue. Language added spice and soon we were seeing road rage and guns and deaths, all of which have subsided because now we have smart phones and texting and televisions in our cars in addition to putting on makeup, shaving, eating, and all the other things we do instead of drive. Not only are many of us not looking at each other, we’re not driving either.

In other countries, we communicate by headlights, in some ways similar to what we do in the US. However there are some startling differences. Whereas in the US if someone coming at you flashes you, it could be a warning about a speed trap or an accident. In a country such as Vietnam, where I just spent a month, it could be something entirely different. They might be telling you that they are about to enter your lane, head on. So move over. I’m not making this up. You then have to flash your lights, and beep your horn, which the oncoming driver is doing as well, and both of you end up making way for each other by going off the road.

Now you must understand that there’s a good reason for this. Most roads in Vietnam are too narrow for two vehicles. So coming at each other head on around corners is common. Another factor to add to the fun are the millions upon millions of motorcycles that everyone drives, far more than cars. Cars and motorbikes are always trying to pass each other around blind corners in the mountains, especially if there are big slow trucks . This is happening both uphill and downhill.

That’s not all. Add to this the men and women who are walking their water buffalo and cattle on the road, the way they’ve done for millenia, long before there was a road there. They see no reason to move over. Then  there are the people walking with their carts, kids, grandmothers and crates for market, the way they’ve done for milennnia. They don’t see any reason to move over. Add to this all the cyclists, many of which are carrying massive loads so big the rider can barely see. This proliferation on the side of the road forces vehicle traffic into the middle of the road, so all the cars and semis end up playing chicken on the middle line. They flash their lights, beep their horns, and  hundreds of motorcycles weave in and out of the maelstrom. Yet it all seems to work.

They’re watching where they’re going, and watching out for each other.

WordFood is as much about the little courtesies that require no words- but are just as eloquent: “please, you first” for example, and the wonderfully unexpected kind wave given in return. These things bring us into community. Remind us that we care about each other- on the road as well as anywhere else. It says: ” I’m looking out for you. You matter.”

February 3, 2014

WordFood in a Public Forum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:11 pm

Last Thursday I landed in Denver after a one month trip to Vietnam. It was one of those remarkable journeys full of discoveries and learning, surprising insights and flashes of empathy from places you can’t anticipate. Like the day I was hiking through a particularly tough bit of primitive Central Vietnamese jungle during a wet, cold day, stuck in the mud, struggling with creepers,  whacking my head on fallen trees. In that moment it suddenly dawned on me that these – and far, far worse- were some of the conditions that my fellow veterans had to deal with forty years ago during the war. Along with booby traps and jungle rot and so very much more. But the fleeting insight into that world was priceless. I was hiking back to a hostel. They didn’t. Most of us won’t see that jungle up close and personal, and for me it was a paid adventure. I’m a Vietnam-era vet, never been there before.

The warm welcome I received, the kindness, their laughter at my attempts to speak their language, well, let’s just say it was a cathartic experience.

While I travel I write on various forums. My style is to find the funniest things that happen and relay them along with observations about the country and its beauty.

It happened that on one occasion I had paid for an excursion which required that I give up the use of my own gear and use the company’s equipment, which was not very good, and that, along with very cold water and mud, caused me to take some pretty good falls. We crossed about eighteen streams both coming and going. By the time all was said and done, I’d thrown my back out twice and fallen on my knees on some nasty rocks three times, using shoes that had no tread and that were a size too big. My shoes are excellent hikers, good gear in any condition. I hadn’t expected so many stream crossings, and I should have asked about it beforehand, because I have gear up to the task. Good head’s up for next time.

The couple who were along on this trip were impatient when I couldn’t keep up with the very fast pace set by our guide and their kindness turned to condescension as they increasingly got tired of having to wait for me to catch up. The next day they left early. The guide, whose job it is to keep the group together, didn’t argue. This had consequences for us all. At 2:30, right on the nose when we were supposed to get our ride, my guide, two porters and I came out of the jungle onto the road, which was totally empty- no ride. The couple had taken it. It was cold, windy, wet, no cell signal, and a five hour trek back to town. We started hiking back.

When I did get back to town about two and a half hours later (a van finally did pick us up) I had found my funny again. I wrote my version of the story. I didn’t make a big deal of the dangers of being left in the middle of nowhere without adequate supplies or much else. But I had been angry. So I had a little fun at the expense of the other couple. Who ended up reading my post.

The woman’s response was probably the most bilious, angry, vicious character assassination I’ve ever read. It also went a long way towards proving every point I’d made in the post. She also pointed out that I’d have it removed. Of course not. The post was so extreme it was funny in its own right. However there were some good lessons to come of it.

The reason is three fold. It was an excellent reminder that those posts are public, and if I’m of a mind to poke fun, I need to be uber careful about how I do it. It’s fine if I do it to myself. But not to others. I did apologize. And I took the lesson to heart.

Second, if someone wants to put bile online, it speaks far more about their character than it does about their target’s. There are ways to disagree, ways to take issue, and ways to take someone to task. There are as many versions of a story as there are people involved including the butler. No right or wrong.

Third, it is a lesson in how important it is to sit on your words before you publish them.  This is like that angry email you write and should hold off on for 24 hours until you cool off. Had I taken a day to cool off about being abandoned by the roadside in the rain, the post would have read differently. By the same token, had she sat on her response for a day, she might have seen the contradictions in her angry claims.

Once we hit “publish” there’s no going back. Public forums can be entertaining and they can also be highly revealing in ways we really don’t care for them to be. Toxic WordFood has no place in social media. And I am most grateful for this excellent reminder.

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