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November 2016
Communication at Work

EdgesPatti Lind

Let's talk about edges. Edges are those times when we are either approaching a change or in the middle of a change. We get drawn into edges when our world of stability is feeling threatened. Edges emerge when we get wind of a potential lay-off, or someone close to us receives a diagnosis. We find ourselves on edge when our leader announces they are leaving and again when the new leader arrives. Like it or not, as much as we strive for a sense of stability and normalcy there will always be edges moving in and out of our lives.

I was introduced to the idea of edges by a colleague of mine back in September. Her name is Karen Jandorf (see resource tip) and she posed two critical questions about being on an edge:
  • Who do you become?
  • How do you relate to those closest to you?

Since hearing those two questions, I have had many opportunities to ponder my answers. Initially I was in the middle of a vacation with my husband trying to drive around countries where we didn't know the languages and couldn't read nor decipher the road signs. Every day was an "on the edge" experience and we could feel the strain. Another, more significant edge rose up as soon as we returned home when my beloved mother-in-law's health became seriously at risk. A new and different type of strain started to reveal itself. I came back to clients whose relationships were being twisted around as unexpected changes entered their world. Finally, last week our nation entered an unimaginable edge for millions of Americans.

Over and over again, I have found myself asking — Who do I need to become in this situation and how do I need to relate to those who are closest to me and need me? Every time I asked those questions it helped me turn away from my fears and aimed me towards being a mature, capable adult whom others could rely on. Consistently, my answer was "I need to be strong and helpful." What I learned in all this is that my communication with others absolutely followed the decision of who I needed to become. Without that key decision, I could be snappy or short with people, closed off, judgmental, withdrawn and even incapacitated. I know I am not alone. One of my clients has a job that routinely has him telling clients information that plunges them off an edge they were not expecting. Another client has been living through a serious personal edge and in that process is pulling her colleagues along with her. An organization that I work with has had an extremely challenging autumn where unexpected events have occurred one after another. Their emotions have been rolling from shock, to sadness, to fear and then back again to shock.

This is an excellent time to take a moment to think about who you become when faced with an edge. Do any of these words resonate? Defensive, skeptical, anxious, angry, critical, resistant, closed off, helpless, sad, stunned, frustrated, annoyed, blaming, unable to focus. When you go there, what are you creating with the people around you? Do you snap back? Is "no" your first response? Do you cluster in groups and talk badly about others? Do you pull away? Do you lose empathy and start correcting other people instead of yourself? If you would like to choose a different path, here are some ideas that have been supporting me through my edges.
  • Recognize when your world is shifting and you are "on edge".
  • Share your feelings of anxiety.
  • Ask yourself the question, "Who do I need to become?"
  • Ask yourself, "How do I need to communicate right now so that my relationships are sustained through this change?"
  • Associate with people who leave you feeling capable and up for the challenge. Be cautious of individuals and information sources that create more alarm and anxiety than they do a pathway forward.
  • If you can, focus on the work right in front of you. That alone has saved many people through their darkest hours.
  • Be mindful. What else is going on around me that is still a constant? Take a walk; see the fall leaves; feel the stability of the ground beneath your feet; take comfort in the light in children's eyes.

By doing these things, I noticed that I became more skillful in the edges. While I still felt anxiety and shock, I was able to reduce my level of stress by moving more intentionally into the future. I also noticed that I was able to help others feel calmer and more assured. This is a practice I definitely plan on keeping not only for myself but also for all those who are depending on me.

November is always a good reminder to encourage your team to share what they are thankful for. They can post their comments on the staff white board, write down their thoughts on paper leaves which are hung from a branch in the waiting area or share appreciations during your monthly meetings. If you have a super creative person on your team, this is a good opportunity to tap into that talent for the benefit of all.

Every day I receive a quote and a practice tip from Karen Jandorf (Peace on the Inside). I have followed her for years and she frequently inspires me as a person and in my work. This newsletter topic came from one of those inspirations. Here is a compilation of her daily blogs and you can subscribe by opening up one of them and clicking subscribe. There is no cost … this is Karen's gift to the world.
Peace on the Inside - Blog

My book, Communication At Work, is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, and eBook formats, and may be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell Bookstore and Inkwater Press.
Communication at Work

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