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

August 26, 2012

Devil’s Food Diet: When to Back Down

Every so often we are dealt a rough hand and end up working for an unreasonable boss. Or we have to deal with a particularly unpleasant customer, someone who gets in our face about a refund or an unsatisfactory meal. Perhaps we live with someone who is demanding, blustery, out of control, my way or the highway, always demanding to be right.

I call this the Devil’s Food Diet in my book WordFood: How We Feed or Starve our Relationships. Wherever this person shows up, the words that we hear are pretty awful: “You owe me.” “You’re wrong, I’m right.” “I told you about this already, get this done.” While sometimes we can steer clear of the person, sometimes we just can’t: it’s the guy in charge, we’re the customer service rep that day, we’re the manager on call, maybe it’s our boss. Or maybe it’s us.

Life is demanding, and we call get stressed. I heard a story from a friend the other day who was on her way to the airport from a rather isolated resort Marriott in Texas. Her limo had arrived early and her two bags had already been loaded in. She walked up to the door across the car from him with her purse and her roller computer bag and got in.

A long drive later through early rush hour traffic she paid her $70 and got out, and her driver unloaded her bags. “Where’s my computer bag?” she said. It had been left on the curb at the Marriott. There ensued an angry exchange about who’s fault it was that this had happened. What was immediately apparent was that they had to go back to the hotel and retrieve it.

The driver called his boss and spoke in Arabic about what to do. My friend was angry and felt foolish, but she also realized that she hadn’t pointed out to the driver that she had the extra bag. When they got to the hotel, she found her bag, but the driver stood by the car door and said that his boss demanded payment in advance or else he wouldn’t drive her back to the airport. She laughed and said, “I guarantee I’ll pay you, let’s just make my plane, please!” This convinced the young man, and they drove off.

On the way back, she said that it wasn’t anyone’s fault- and the $140 was nothing in the course of a lifetime. “It is to my boss!” the young man laughed. She explained that in the big picture it wasn’t about the money. It was about accepting responsibility. To her, she told me later, it wasn’t worth the argument or the bad feelings trying to be right. They ended up telling tales all the way to the airport, getting back in plenty of time.

The young man gave her a discount on the trip as a courtesy, and she ended up with a funny story and a mild dent in her finances. It’s possible that the young man came away with a different way of thinking about Americans- perhaps his boss, too. Such an impression could have far-reaching impact far beyond just an afternoon airport ride.

Everyone makes a foolish error that can be costly. It can be embarrassing, like my friend’s. If you feel your blood pressure rising and hear your volume go up an octave or two, it’s a great time to challenge your ego before you get swept away. Someone is going to be a loser, and ultimately it may be you. There is nothing that compares to the feelings of graciousness when you can give way to a greater good, and come away friends.

June 13, 2012

WordFood Starvation Diet

Have you ever had someone say to you, “Talk to the hand?”

Has your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse or coworker ever turned their back on you and refused to talk for an hour, day or even weeks as punishment for something that perhaps you may not realize you’ve done?

If this has happened to you, you’ve been put on what I call in the WordFood vernacular the Starvation Diet. No matter what you do, somebody’s not responding to you. You get the cold shoulder. No eye contact. No emails, tweets, phone calls. The silence is hurting you- possibly both of you, and if this is happening at the office, productivity may be going down if it’s a critical work relationship.

Someone is hurt here, and as time goes on, the chances are both of you feel hurt and angry. Your egos get involved and tend to want to be right. It gets harder to solve the problem the longer it goes on.

At some point, someone has to offer the olive branch. Bury the hatchet. It’s important to realize that others may be affected by this Starvation Diet: people in your family, community members, others at work. Consider the importance of letting go of your attachment to being right about whatever happened or didn’t happen, and the value of the relationship.

One of the best ways to bridge the gap is simply to apologize whether or not the problem was yours to begin with. Acknowledge your part of the issue. Look at the larger picture and what’s at stake, and offer to move beyond this and work things out. Suggest a way to proceed.

The offer of an apology is often the first step towards mending a broken relationship. Gently inquire about what’s wrong. Be gracious, courteous, caring. Show your appreciation for their feelings. Make no assumptions for what’s going on inside them, for we never really know. All we can do is offer our understanding and empathy.

When we are fed a Starvation Diet, we are often dealing with hurt or anger, possibly with fear. It’s up to us to make the first step. Offer a safe place for the other person to feel validated and a way forward, and see if you can start talking again. A little time, caring and compassion go a long way.

June 5, 2012

WordFood Character Fiber

Some of the best sources of feedback we have come from our critics, and for those of us who pay people to give us this guidance, this can be very humbling.

Last year I wrote my third book, a big fat tome that I called “Exchange.” I whipped it out in a few months, very much in love with my own verbosity and eloquence, sure that this was going to be a world changer. My editor loved it too. I invested thousands in the editing and proudly handed it over to my coach, Orvel Ray Wilson.

He struggled through the first few chapters and called it a piece of crap. “Arch, arrogant, finger pointing and many more choice words,” he said. “It’s beneath you. You can do much better.”

I was deeply hurt and very offended. Or I should say, my ego was wounded. How dare he blast my masterpiece?

The truth is, he was right. I had gotten so swept away by my topic that I had failed to check in with him as I normally did to make sure my feet were square on the ground. They weren’t. Part of me knew it and the other part of me sulked.

I am regularly humbled by people smarter than I am. I’ve been wise enough to hire a few of those people to coach me. I’m not always smart enough to keep them close to my creative process so that I don’t give birth to a Frankenstein monster.

Those who offer us critiques (and possibly damage our oh-so-delicate egos) give us a chance to rethink, redirect and reconsider. As I take on the considerable task of rewriting Exchange to make it the humble, gracious book it was intended to be, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have a book coach who will tell me that what I write is junk. It is hard to hear but it is the simple truth. What he is entrusting me with is the courage to go back and do what he knows I am capable of doing: a much better job.

WordFood talks about Character Fiber, one of the key kinds of WordFood that we need from those we love every day. This is what gets us up and over the obstacles in work and life. Sometimes it can be bumpy for our self image, but those who support us and believe in us deliver the goods, and aren’t afraid to tell us the truth.

Our contributions in life demand it. Our little egos will recover. Here’s to those who provide us with the WordFood to do our best.

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