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

November 11, 2012

WordFood of Tolerance

My best friend Lori sent me a piece by  Ben Stein this morning which addressed the need for God and religion in our society, our schools, and in our lives. His comments had been featured on CBS on Sunday morning and been sent around the Internet, and part of his comment was that because the email was about God, it was likely not to be forwarded as much as lewd jokes or cartoons. He has a point.

In my book WordFood I talk about how it’s easy to be consumed by popular culture, by tabloids, gossip, distractions. This is what I call Junk Food. Like potato chips and other snacks, it’s addictive, fun to consume, fattening, and extremely bad for you. Ultimately it takes up precious space in the mind where more positive, nutritious information could be building us: education, professional and personal development, motivational tapes that challenge you to a higher quality of thinking. And yes, religious study, whatever that may look like to you.

Every one of us is animated by something larger, some gift, that gives us life. And I believe powerfully that while we have life, we owe a good life to the power that gave us that life. Most of us were brought up within some kind of belief system. Some of us go find something that speaks to us more personally. Some create a system by which we establish a discipline, and this is the key word here, to live, worship, and respect others’ way of being in the world. But whatever that practice may be, it involves a discipline of mind, and a humbling of oneself to a greater power, and an effort to see that good that exists in all humankind.

To the extent that we are insistent upon filling our minds with Junk Food about celebrities who are less than stellar, about sports figures who take drugs, we miss out on the everyday heroes who people our neighborhood.  There is much to study about ourselves that is valuable. To fill our minds with how to be better citizens and life students and better friends.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little Junk Food now and then. Even I know how Kim Kardashian is, if only because I stand too long in the 15 item line. It just seems to me that given the great variety and beauty of sacred texts in the world, and how they exhort us to treat each other with respect, perhaps this might be  balancing fare to the ugliness of “Survivor: The Phillipines.”

What we feed our minds informs our language. It informs how we treat each other every day. Road rage is the result of a daily diet of stress, a lack of graciousness and the need to be right no matter what. And people are dying because someone gets cut off a few inches in traffic.This isn’t us.

Whether we read a Bible, a Koran, a Torah or any other sacred text, it grounds is in what is truly important in life: respect for life, humility for our place in the vastness of all of Creation, and a hope that we can make a difference.

When it  comes to the intensely private and personal issue of what we all are guided by, this is an unknowable. But I can say this: that a change in  our WordFood Diet is a fine thing when we want to change the way we perceive, and are perceived, in the world.

October 11, 2012

Energy Enhancers: Magical WordFood

It seems that we call need a little boost once in a while, and that we can never get enough positive input from each other. The problem is that we are faced with so much negativity: bosses that are catching us doing something wrong. Parents that are criticizing us. A spouse finding this or that imperfection. Add this to how critical we already are of ourselves and boy, it can be tough getting out of bed in the morning. In a society that demands the best of us, every day, it  can be pretty defeating.

That’s why Energy Enhancers, my favorite form of WordFood, are so important. These are the compliments, the acknowledgements that we pay each other – and ourselves- every single day that keep us focused on what’s right. And there is a lot about what we do every day that is right, and good, and worthwhile.

It’s so important to begin with looking at ourselves and giving us the credit we deserve for the work we produce, for taking care of business, for caring for those we love, for doing our best. We know when we don’t. And we know when we fall short. There is no such thing as perfection. Sometimes a little pat on the back goes a long way. This isn’t about grandiosity, this is about taking credit for showing up, for being there, for caring.

The other habit is to offer compliments first. In a world where there isn’t enough acknowledgment going around, it starts with us. A kind word offered to a coworker about showing up early, or doing yeoman’s work on a project can go a long way towards making her day. A reminder to a child that you noticed he cleaned up his room means a lot. Telling a spouse how handsome he looks in that new shirt puts a glow on his face. Just noticing isn’t enough. Saying so out loud makes all the difference. When you’re willing to make someone’s day, it’s amazing how quickly this  comes back around to you in some form later on, from someone else.

WordFood Energy Enhancers leave others uplifted and energized. They make up for a rough start to the day. Long hours. Bullying at school. They can soothe hurts and take away insecure thoughts. Beginning with how we speak to ourselves in the mirror in the morning, Energy Enhancers can change the fundamental conversation with our spirit, and that flows out into the breakfast table and to work every day. The effect on those around us is stunning.

When you compliment others, you glow. You feel powerful, because you are affecting others’ state of mind. It is an incredible gift. In the WordFood Diet, if you do this 3-5 times every day, it will transform your world. Try it today and see if your mental and emotional states aren’t improved immediately. What goes around comes around!

October 2, 2012

Family WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 7:14 pm

A few hours ago I had a conversation with a friend who was beating herself up over a son who was having some challenges. This woman felt responsible for his life- although he is now thirty- and she continues to bail him out of constant problems from half a country away. She is angry at herself  because she can’t save him, because he’s a troubled person, because of a laundry list of crimes she imagines.

This internal dialogue has cost her a great deal. She has put on fifty pounds. Once a svelte size 8, she now is a size 16-18. She berates what she sees in the mirror. She has a gym membership she never uses. She has a husband who cooks food that adds to the problem. Her ex-husband and daughter rail at her for her commitment to the troubled son.

What I saw was someone who was drawing a set of circumstances to her to provide a wonderful opportunity to grow. To set boundaries. To make some powerful choices about life and love and food and family and bad habits. In her early sixties, this woman has plenty of time to make some fundamental, important changes, changes that will take time and patience, starting with how she addresses herself in the mirror every morning. Because it isn’t about the son or the family or the food or the body, it is about her relationship with herself, and how she chooses to live out her last thirty years- in slavery to the habits of a lifetime, or learning to live life for herself.

Her son needs help, but not from her. The dynamics are toxic. He can get professional help where he is. She is going to start walking. And go back to the gym. Swtich from heavy carbs to more salads. One small step at a time. But it all starts with the respect offered to the image in the mirror. A boundary set with the part that wants to criticize the image.

Family isn’t perfect. Boundaries are important. Set with loving WordFood they can save a life, put us back on track to self respect and peace.

September 25, 2012

The BallPark Diet

We all know someone who talks about one thing and one thing only. Who focuses on sports or technology, intentionally talks over our heads to let us know how smart they are (and how dumb we are). Or someone who absolutely loves shopping and shoes and can’t talk about much of anything else. While we might tolerate this, like the folks at the office who put up with March Madness every year, it gets old after a while. I call this the BallPark Diet. People who are a one-trick pony, who have a comfort zone and like to stay in a lane.

Sometimes they do this because it’s a passion of theirs. Perhaps it’s their hobby, like collecting trains or skydiving. For other people it’s because they are insecure in other areas of their lives and this is how they express their confidence by talking about the one thing they do know a lot about. Either way, it’s a narrow focus. It limits their ability to relate to the larger world, and in some cases, it annoys those who want to engage them.

When faced with these folks you can try several strategies. You can learn their language, and join in. You can stay on the fringe of the conversation and invite them to join you and talk about something that is similar but not exactly the same, and ask their opinion, thereby expanding their horizon. You can challenge their viewpoint and get them a little riled up and thinking. Ask their opinion and let them be the expert, but then guide them subtly to other areas of conversation.

However it might work to your advantage. I had a client  who worked for a large company in Illinois. They were having an event and needed a speaker. For the longest time I couldn’t get his attention about using me for his event. Then on one half hour conference call, instead of talking about my speaking program I started out by talking about Jay Culter, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher of the Bears. We spent twenty of our thirty minutes talking football. The last ten minutes he couldn’t do enough to help me speak for him.

It helps to find out what someone’s BallPark Diet is and to do your research. You can use it to your advantage.

September 11, 2012

WordFood for our Competitors

It’s football season again, and for those of us who love gridiron the preseason games have been on for weeks already. Those of us here in Denver have been particularly excited because we were able to secure Peyton Manning in the off season, and he’s been a source of excitement for us as we’ve approached opening day. While Tebow supporters, and I was among them, were sad to see the exciting young man go to the Jets, we were very enthusiastic to see the experienced four-time MVP Manning come to the Broncos and give our franchise hope for the playoffs.

What characterizes both of these players, however, is how they treat their teammates. Both of them are great leaders on and off the field. Tebow is unabashed about his faith, and supportive of everyone around him. He is loved by his teammates. He has nothing but good things to say about his competitors, helps them up off the ground and gives them encouraging words.

A little known fact about Manning is that he writes a warm letter to retiring players when they leave the NFL, thanking them for being a competitor. His courtesy and respect for those he plays against make him the consummate sportsman.

On Sunday, the Broncos won the game against the Steelers in the opening salvo. Manning immediately sought out Ben Rothlisberger, the opposing quarterback. As they hugged and shook hands, Manning said, “You were amazing on third downs tonight.”
In a game where trash talk and gang posturing has become the norm, men like Manning and Tebow continue to keep the standard high. They like and respect their opponents, and speak to them with regard. Their example is a lesson to us all.

September 4, 2012

Feeding the Family WordFood

I have a friend who has a brother who got involved with a survivalist movement a few years back. His politics are radical to say the least. He has collected a basement full of guns and ammunition, and he gives considerable funds that he can hardly afford to movements that support far right wing activities based on fear and hate.  Conversations are challenging, political discussions impossible. Yet talk they do, their connection by blood immutable, their bond unbreakable, and my friend’s commitment to his brother unshakable despite the differences.

In a divisive election year, feelings are high. In close families, family members get in terrible arguments over jobs or social programs, or they can’t agree over a candidate. Or maybe there are divisions over religious choices. No matter who we are, we all have relatives we deem either unfit or unworthy or black sheep or somehow no longer acceptable. Yet, they’re still family.

In the confines of families we can do our worst damage, yet that is where we can also do our greatest good, learn our most important lessons, and draw our greatest courage, if we choose. There is nothing more important than our blood connection, and learning to accept, forgive, support and love those we gave birth to, grew up with and must lay claim to as family. Even if that means we must ultimately distance ourselves from those who will self destruct, they still deserve our love. Compassion is a powerful thing.

Nothing is so painful as a sudden death which deprives you of the chance to say “I’m sorry or Please forgive me.”  Pride is a terrible price to pay when someone is gone, and you realize that a simple gesture could have healed a rift. 

Keep in mind that the imagination is a busy actor and it loves to fill silence with its own version of what someone else feels or thinks about us. And it is a terrible liar most of the time. The truth is that we cannot possibly know what another person thinks or feels about us. If there is a family rift, be the first one to heal it.

In my family, I have a cousin who has finally healed a 16-year long silence with her big brother. After years of angry stories about each other, they are talking, warmly, and they are a family again. Nothing can replace family.

What kind, healing WordFood do you need to say to a family member to rebuild a connection? Heal a wound? Ask for forgiveness? Even if you’re for Obama and they’re for Romney, it makes no difference. Love trumps politics. Love trumps everything.

August 20, 2012

When Our Parts are Speaking WordFood

All of us are made up of personalities, or “parts,” and they show up in different circumstances. Psychology today recognizes that this isn’t multiple personality syndrome at all, but the way we all react differently in different situations, and how we may be swept away by an emotion or state of mind.

For example, let’s say you’re a grandparent and the kids are bringing over your two year old cherubs for an afternoon visit. Unfortunately, you and your husband have gotten into a rip roaring argument about the car accident you got into the the day before. There you are in the living room screaming at each other, faces contorted and red, gesticulating, looking like the devil incarnate, when the darling kids hurtle in the door. “Grammy! Grammy!” Instantly you transform into angelic Grammy and sweep them into your arms, your face is transformed, all anger forgotten. Are you schizo? Not in the slightest. These are our parts. One part of you was arguing, the other part of you is Grammy, and they are both perfectly legitimate. They both have unique egos and personalities.

Every day we are subject to the demands of life, and we speak nutritious or toxic WordFood to each other based on which part of us is in play. At times we might think later about ourselves and think, ” What I jerk I was!” But in truth, it was just a part. It’s not the whole of us.

We can get drunk on our egos, get angry at times, and not care who gets hurt. At times like this our egotistical parts can be like an out of control bowling ball and take out everyone in the room, and the next day someone taps us on the shoulder asking for an apology. At that point we’re sober again. “Who me? But I’m not like that! I’m a nice guy!” The truth is, we are like that- a part of us anyway.

We each have within us a multitude of these parts and they write checks in our name all day long. Emotions like fear, anger, frustration, love sweep us off our feet and we end up saying all kinds of things that otherwise might be withheld. It’s the legacy of being human. What’s important is to remember that we’re all like this.

Last night I was having a conversation with a dear friend and I had a part out that wasn’t very attractive. She has been through a lot of losses and it would have served me better to do more listening than talking. But true to her nature she spent a lot of time coaching and listening. It’s instructive when we can look at our parts and see them in action, and learn from them how we interact.

A few years ago during NFL season there was an ad showing cowboys herding thousands of cats. That’s what it’s like, trying to manage our parts. They are unruly, prone to rise based on our emotional state, and we will speak all kinds of WordFood when we are in their grip. If we develop a greater awareness that we have parts that can at times speak out of turn, then we can not only be more accepting of this in others, most important we can accept in ourselves.

August 13, 2012

Spicy Words and Mayonnaise Sayings

Are you looking for ways to liven up how you speak to your loved ones? Sometimes when we’ve been in a relationship for a long time, things normalize to the point where we forget to notice what’s special. It’s easy to overlook the magic, and perhaps we forget to say things that rekindle the love that we once felt. In my book WordFood: How We Feed or Starve our Relationships, I talk about how to spice up our interactions with affectionate comments such as:
“You are the cream in my coffee.”

“I hate getting out of bed with you still in it.”
“You make me want to cuddle all day.”
“You’re the magic that puts the sparkle in my life.”
“I can’t wait to put my arms around you when I see you again.”

These are the sayings that tickle our loved one’s fancy. They are reminders that someone is special and loved. Despite the demands of the day, the laundry, the long work hours, the kids’ homework, whatever the must-dos of your world, the person you chose to spend your life with is still your life’s love. When you remind them so, it makes all the difference.

Mayonnaise phrases are words that help digest heavy information, the same way that the salad dressing makes tuna more palatable. When we’re having a tough conversation with someone it’s always helpful to have some gentle phrases handy to soothe the passage of tough stuff. For example:

“I know you’ll do this well.”
“You have the fortitude to take this on.”
“You just need to believe in yourself.”
“You’re terrific at this. You’re just a little off course.”
“You’ve got the skills to get this done.”
“You have great courage.”
“Thank you for hearing me out.”

These phrases can accompany a coaching session with a teenage son or a recalcitrant employee, a challenged friend or an unhappy athlete. Whatever the situation, choose words that uplift and guide, and draw from your own experiences to show your humanity. Share your story and how you have walked a similar path. By sharing our frailties we build connections, and by building connections we build strength.

WordFood is all about feeding each other words that uplift us every day. Choose your words carefully, and see how they can make all the difference!

August 9, 2012

Meat & Potatoes WordFood Diet

I work with several very large Fortune 500 companies that are going through major cultural changes. In some cases, this involves a shift in how people need to lead, to accommodate the younger generations. Sometimes the shift involves adapting to new technology or a new CEO’s vision. In other cases, such as with a Kraft or Tyco, it’s a huge split, and the companies are reforming themselves, people are moving to new jobs, and some are being let go.

Along the way, people are being asked to adapt. For some, this can be pretty challenging. In my book WordFood, this kind of person is called a Meat & Potatoes type, who is attached to a way of being and isn’t willing to make the shift. They’re often either afraid, or they can just be stuck in the past, or just plain stubborn. For those of us who work with such people, it can be frustrating because we need their input and skills to be focused on the new tasks at hand. When they are complaining or resisting, the rest of the world is moving forward. It can seem they are roadblocks, and causing problems with the rest of the team as well.

Many times the problem is that they feel that they are no longer useful in the company’s new iteration. They may feel left behind, forgotten. It helps to coach them on how their skills and knowledge have a viable place in the new “world order.” Help them see how their experience is useful, but perhaps in a slightly new way. For older workers in particular, you need their coaching, mentoring and expertise with younger workers. So often, it’s the feeling of not being needed any more that is driving the negative behavior.

For others, they may be actively undermining the company’s new direction and need intervention. If you have a team member who is constantly causing an uproar you need to address this head-on. It’s challenging enough that people are going through a transition- they don’t need a rabble rouser. Find out what is really going on. There’s usually a very good reason for someone’s anger or resistance. Be compassionate enough to recognize that change is rough on everyone, but when someone is taking out their issues on the team, it’s unacceptable. You may need to help them get connected with a new network of employees that supports them in their new role. They may feel isolated and lonely. A major change causes many of us to go into a cave and stop communicating, so a key strategy is to make sure your people are collaborating and connected.

Above all, create a safe environment for them to vent. They need to express their fears and their losses. Once they’ve had a chance to do this, often they can begin the healing process and move on. If not, then another level of intervention is necessary. Find roles that engage them to coach other employees, teach new skills. Keep them active and productive. The more busy they are and the more positive WordFood they get from you that they are making a difference, the less they can complain.

Finally, during any major change, educate yourself and your people about the transition process. A great source is the series of short books by Dr. William Bridges on organizational transition. They can make sense of what you are seeing on your teams, when you come face to face with a Meat & Potatoes Diet type.

August 6, 2012

WordFood for Mondays

When you come in to work on a Monday morning, how do you greet your people? Maybe you’re like me, and my Monday morning office greeting is in my bathroom mirror since I work at home. I’m facing my boss. So often we greet Mondays with a collective UGH and hunker down to work. Yet here is an opportunity, like every other day, to grow, to develop, to expand ourselves, and to become better people. It’s life, and life is our teacher.

When you walk into the office, there’s a chance to create an environment around you that is hugely positive. What kinds of words do you use to engage people? If you’re in a managerial position you have considerable influence on people’s states of mind. What you say and how you say it sets the stage for the day and the week. Considering how most people meet Mondays, try beginning your week with some heartfelt acknowledgements. It doesn’t have to be overboard. Something small, but meaningful, goes a long way.

Whether you’re a cubicle dweller or the big cheese, your words have power. Kind words and recognition change people’s feelings, and they have a huge impact on the office environment. They most certainly make you feel better. When you take the time to express a cheery good morning and compliment someone on a report they’ve done, the sales job they did, how they look today- whatever is appropriate for your office- this shifts the atmosphere. It can be catching. Mondays don’t have to be, well, Mondays.

Nutritious WordFood is all about spreading positive comments around, recognizing people for their worth. People want to be acknowledged and noticed. They want to know that the work they do has value to the larger organization. When they genuinely feel this  then coming to work gives them purpose and joy.

If you work at home like I do, then your job is to take the time to acknowledge yourself for the hard work you do. Give yourself credit.  Speak to yourself with respect and regard, whether it’s out loud or silently. We can be our worst critics. Every day, life gives us the opportunity to become something bigger and better. We don’t know what will happen today. But what we can do when we interact with others is feed them positive WordFood, which will kickstart the week, make Mondays matter, and get us all off to a great start.

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