A few weeks ago, I wrote a pair of blogs that, for me, were pretty emotionally loaded: Grit & Resilience in the Time of Dysfunction and Why Empathy and Understanding are Dysfunction’s Kryptonite. I laid it all out there and shined a light on some things that I could have left untouched. But there’s power in vulnerability and in speaking hard truths. Thanks for joining me in that. I hope those posts gave you some good food for thought.
Now, if you’re like me, you might still be hankering for some next steps, some action items, some roadmap for how to be better and do better on this Pale Blue Dot we call home.
As a follow-up to the posts I mentioned above, I’d like to point you to some resources I’ve found helpful. Think of this as an “invitation to the party,” not a manual. This sort of internal (and external) work is not an exact science. But in the spirit of continual improvement, here are some things I’ve come across that might help you in starting that work.
Say (and Spell) Their Names Right
Want to be culturally sensitive? Start by saying my name right by Ranjana Srivastava is fantastic. Her article for The Guardian echoes a Dale Carnegie sentiment that I’ve loved for years: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
When we talk about culture and appropriateness, names — and their proper pronunciation and spelling — are a great way to drive the point home. None of us like having our name mispronounced or misspelled. It amazes me to this day how often people will spell my name with a PH instead of V (Stephen instead of Steven), often while replying to an email from me with this signature at the bottom:
STEVEN FULMER, Inc.
Speaker | Trainer | Coach | Author
D r e a m ~ B e l i e v e ~ B e c o m e
SUBSCRIBE: Leadership Lessons 4 Life
2021-22 President, NSA Oregon
My name is mentioned five times in my signature block alone. And yet, people still misspell my name.
If we can start with cultural respect at this level — honoring a person’s name — we can make powerful connections and foster a surprising degree of empathy, camaraderie, and goodwill.
To that end, check out this fabulous example of Hasan Minhaj trying to teach Ellen DeGeneres how to pronounce his name.
In a separate video, he teaches us how to pronounce other difficult names like Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan (go watch her SNL Opening Monologue if you haven’t already), and Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks, and it’s poignant).
For more on the subject, check out this piece from The Washington Post about the power of using a name.
Be a Trauma-Informed Organization
This Harvard Business Review piece from Katherine Manning makes a strong case for why We Need Trauma-Informed Workplaces. Organizations play an outsized role in respecting people and groups and setting the tone for how we treat one another, professionally but also personally. If you think you might be less than well-informed about concepts like trauma, institutional betrayal, and psychological safety, this article is a great place to start.
As Katherine Manning so eloquently puts it, “If we fail to respond appropriately in our work with those experiencing trauma, we can add a second injury to the first. But if we respond well, we build trust and connection. Either way, the manner in which we support each other in times of crisis will reverberate in our organizations for many years to come.”
Consider Your Privilege
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “check your privilege.” And while the term can elicit a knee-jerk reaction from some of us, I’d invite you to reconsider that reaction.
This video from As/Is, entitled What Is Privilege, is a great starting point. It offers a concrete, tangible, visual representation of the ways in which you or I might have more privilege than others we know and care about and work with — and shows that much of that privilege cannot be earned by any amount of hard work.
It takes the whole notion of “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and turns it on its head.
If you want to be more aware of the challenges and struggles your neighbors may be facing, if you truly want to have empathy for other people’s lived experience, I highly recommend you start with this video. And don’t stop there.
Start Where You Are
I hope these resources have given you some things to ponder in your own life and work. You can start today, right where you are, and begin to make a positive impact on those around you simply by being more informed. It’s so important to be aware of issues like these. Awareness is the first step. The rest will come with time and a bit of good old-fashioned effort. So keep reading, keep listening, keep asking the hard questions.
I’d also like to invite you into the curiosity of seeking out such understanding and perspective. Try to lay aside any judgements of right and wrong, and simply seek to understand for understanding’s sake, not for agreement.
I’ll see you in Rumi’s field.
Side note — If you find this post helpful, you’ll probably like this one, too: 5 of My Favorite Resources for Becoming a Better Leader.