Who Me? A Softie?

January 1, 2016

When I was in 5th grade my mother was asked to share with the teacher my strengths and weaknesses. She wrote down that I needed to work on ‘building empathy.’ I caught a glimpse of her note and have remembered Mom’s comment ever since.

I don’t disagree. My mom knew me well. I cared about people…but I wanted them to do it my way. I still have high expectations for us all, but I am also more self-aware (with a long way to go) that my “J” way (from the Myers-Briggs personality test) isn’t everyone’s way of doing things.

So in a quest for finding my voice around what mattered and speaking in a kinder way, I wrote myself a workbook, Having Hard Conversations. And I continually work on being more humane and growth producing in my interactions. Last year I continued my hard conversations journey by intentionally opening up to receiving feedback even more consistently. It ain’t easy. I am a bit ‘pink and raw,’ and as I have continued to bring my heart to the surface and ‘thaw out’ a bit, I am finding myself more sensitive in a good way. It’s easier breath by breath to feel integrated and whole.

In the last month, I saw a shirt that said, “Do no harm, but take no shit.” And just last week colleagues sent me an article about an author who is working on ‘radical candor.’ She was semi-endorsing happy hours in which folks drank and told the truth. (Insert grimace and gulp here.)

I find myself going the other way…into myself, into quiet, into compassion. Who me? A softie? I am molting. What happened to my tough skin? I am the one who speaks up. I am the Warrior, the advocate, the big sister. I fight. I battle. Now all my metaphors need to change. Argh.

This year is starting with humility. With compassion. With

  • Hard Conversations Unpacked: the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs out January 18th in which we do an even deeper dive into being more skillful and humane in our interactions.
  • A Women’s Leadership Conference on the docket for November – location TBD – where we will find our voice no matter the tone or volume – and there will be…
  • Full body hugs for all – no side hugs.
  • A commitment to staying centered as the 2016 US Presidential election year really begins. Deep breaths, everyone.
  • A more consistent meditation practice (which will help with the bullet above)

How can I stand strong in what I believe and engage others with kindness? It is not an either-or, but a yes-and. I can be strong and sensitive. It can be done. Mom would be proud. Here’s to 2016.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to call me, 650-868-1916 and we can Face Time, Skype me at jenniferabrams, or email me at jennifer@jenniferabrams.com and we can set up a time to talk voice to voice. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cool Resources

Beautiful start to the year with Parker Palmer’s My Five New Year’s Revolutions from his
“On Being” column. Palmer writes, “I want to write about my resolve to commit to a few of the revolutions we need if we’re going to regain our humanity in 2016.” Here’s to a little resolve ourselves!

Emotions and the Art of Negotiation from Harvard Business Review Alison Woods Brooks writes, “We all have the ability to regulate how we experience emotions, and specific strategies can help us improve tremendously in that regard.” Don’t think you can ‘stop yourself’? Yes, you can.

Honored to be included in the Ed Week blog, 16 Books Educators Should Consider Reading in 2016. DeWitt writes, “If you have the time in your busy days ahead in 2016, you should consider reading some of these books because they are worth the time it takes to read them. I promise that you will need to take notes on your laptop, in your notebook, or on the book itself, because these books will inspire you to think differently.”

Haven’t gotten to it yet, but Presence is out. Amy Cuddy, my ‘Wonder Woman Pose’ go-to researcher, has put out a book. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. By accessing our personal power, we can achieve “presence,” the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves.” Need to stop worrying about what you fear others think of you? Might be your next read.

About Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.

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“Jennifer has so squarely hit the mark with our teacher-leaders that she is one of the few presenters that they are always requesting when professional development is the question. Here at the University of Chicago, this acclaim and recognition does not come easily! Jennifer has a way of presenting information that gets quickly to the heart of the matter. Her ability to read the true needs of the group, regardless of the original focus, has made her a favorite among the faculty here at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.”

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University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago, IL