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

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!

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.

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.

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.

July 23, 2012

WordFood Starvation Diet

Today I went to my chiropractor to get a laser treatment on my knee. The technician who was administering the service asked me what I did for a living and I told her about my book and the idea of WordFood, and how we all put each other on “diets.”

“Well I just stop talking when I get mad,” she proclaimed. “I shut down and clam up.” I told her that this was what I described as the Starvation Diet, where others had to talk to her hand, and she wasn’t forthcoming about what they had done wrong.

As it related to her significant other, I asked her how she expected him to figure out where he had gone wrong or offended her. “He should be able to figure that out!” she exclaimed.

“Well, people can’t read minds,” I said gently. “One of you has to open the door. Either you have to take 100% responsibility for your end and let him know what he did wrong and let him clean it up, or on his end, he can apologize in general and say let’s at least open the door to a conversation here.”

She laughed. “I’d love it if he’d apologize,” she said.

Chances are he goes along in their relationship having no idea he’s done anything wrong in the first place while this lovely woman is fuming, I thought as she labored over my knee.

The Starvation Diet costs both parties with its silence. Someone has to step up to the plate and offer the peace branch. You’re both 100% responsible. Primarily the one holding the silence- because that person alone truly knows what the issue is.

If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to be a bit more forthcoming in your communication. Let others know if they have hurt you. You may fear confrontation or conflict as this technician does, but the promise of a more honest and open exchange awaits if you the let sun shine on what’s troubling you. You give up nothing by talking but you may give up everything over time by withholding communication.

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