My coaching class has been discussing two interesting topics recently: joining and meaning.
When I think about the word ‘joining’ my first thought is to equate it with empathy. Joining, as defined in class, is the act of inhabiting a client’s universe and getting into his/her shoes. Empathy, likewise, is being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes in order to understand more fully what that person is experiencing; to identify with and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives.
Joining is being present in your interactions or encounters with people or clients. This means giving full focus to the conversation at hand, not flipping through a magazine while someone else talks to you about something important to them or not checking your email while on the phone with a friend or family member.
I know how hard this can be, especially when our society has been more focused on multi-tasking than single tasking. I’ve been working on this issue myself for a year. I know how I feel when I talk to someone on the phone and they are not giving me their full attention. (You know the signs: their voice drifts, perhaps they take longer to respond to a question…and not because they are thinking of an answer, that type of pause seems different.) When this happens to me I might get annoyed at first but then I think of how many times I’ve done this to someone else.
Remember that which we dislike in someone else is often because it is something we dislike in ourselves.
Sometimes it is easiest to experience joining with another person when you share similar interests or past experiences. You immediately engage the person, you swap stories, you relate to them. Joining is harder when the person is the complete opposite of you; different interests, different politics, different background. I know they say ‘opposites attract’ and that may be true on some level. But think of someone who, well, irks the crap out of you. How can you join or be present with them on your next encounter?
On the other hand, you also have the option of not joining with someone when all they do is complain, speak negatively, or just seem generally down on everything. Perhaps you have to leave these people behind. If this isn’t an option, try non-reaction. Just listen, maybe say ‘um-hmm’ periodically, but don’t feed into their complaints or negative attitude.
When have you experienced joining?
Meaning goes deeper and asks us to think about what constitutes a meaningful project or activity. Instead of asking “What interests me?” or “What would I like to work on?” thinking about a meaningful project or activity requires us to ask what we are passionate about or what do we feel deeply about. Can you sense the difference?
Compare these two questions: “What would I like to work on?” versus “What passionate work would I like to do?” Which one sounds more interesting and fun? Which one is potentially more challenging and opens us to our vulnerability?
I wonder if that is why we have trouble finding meaning in our lives. To be passionate about something makes us vulnerable. And who wants to be vulnerable if that means they could be hurt or ridiculed?
As an artist it took me a while to learn that I need to make my art for me. I remember creating different products because someone suggested it; that it might be a good selling item. And what happened? They were usually poor sellers. I now believe this happened because these were items I wasn’t completely passionate about making.
This isn’t to say I’ve completely gotten over this tendency. I still struggle with this with my spirit messengers. And I believe that is because I have certain things I’m afraid to let go of. I’m afraid of being vulnerable and expressing myself through those creations I truly enjoy making and which I feel passionate about. The fear is slowly being chipped away; it does take time.
Where do you find meaning in your art?
A Shift in Thinking
I’m sure we’re all pretty tired of hearing and reading about the economy. Yet as often as I try to avoid reading or listening to the “dire situation” I couldn’t help but notice my own response to the question “How is business?” My response was “It’s slow” which was usually followed by some negative statement or something supporting the economic climate. In other words, though I claimed to be avoiding the news, I was still reinforcing it with my response.
As Christine Kane has mentioned, when the world wants us to shrink, sometimes we shrink along with it.
However, I finally had an a-ha moment regarding my answer earlier this week. I asked myself why I was telling everyone business was slow instead of telling them what I was really doing. My inner voice simply responded “I don’t know.” (No lightening bolts there.) I then thought “well, no wonder business is slow. You keep putting it out there and guess what you’re getting in return?”
Yep, slow business.
This is when the ‘a-ha’ moment happened. I asked myself how I could answer the “How’s business” question with a positive statement. And that is when I decided to shift my thinking and reply “I’m busy. I’m preparing for two shows and working on two new web sites. I’m selling my art and expanding into new stores and galleries. I’m creating new designs and putting together my first e-newsletter.”
Sounds much more positive doesn’t it?
Postscript: It took me most of this week to put this post together. That is what happens when you’re busy.