There has been so much groundbreaking progress covered in the news the past month, but the event I can’t stop thinking about – and for me, has not received enough attention, was the arraignment of the Charleston Church Shooter. Just days after the tragedy, family members of each the nine victims stood before the judge, and the shooter, and one-by-one, shared something so remarkable:
As I first watched this on TV, I remember everything slowing down and just being in awe of these people. And then feeling – I could never do that. How can they feel that? But with these words, it felt like they were changing the world.
For me, both personally & professionally, I really am trying to understand people; how we relate, the barriers we put up, and what it takes to tear them down. I have devoted my career to this, and I am trying to practice” everything I preach, even when it doesn’t come naturally to me. And yet the more I think I got this, something happens that reminds me how much I struggle. And how hard this stuff really is.
I remember doing a workshop about three years ago, and towards the end, the most senior leader in the room, stood up and declared, “We train people how to treat us.”
And at the time, I felt like I got the meaning. I thought I understood it. But watching these family members do what they did, this idea that we can train people how to treat us, was brought to a much deeper level. I don’t share that because I feel I’m an expert at this. My wiring had always been to react (often over reaction), to fight (especially when I feel someone has done me wrong), hell, it’s never been easy for me to apologize, let alone forgive. These things are really difficult even in seemingly benign situations.
But there’s a danger here in just observing these really big experiences. We become bystanders. It would be easy to chalk this up to something that is way too unattainable because the circumstance is so completely unimaginable for most of us to comprehend. I can’t fathom having to deal with what these families are going through, therefore it’s difficult trying to apply the lesson here into my everyday life. It can easily become this esoteric, abstract thing. I guess the best we can do is to relate the meaning of the experience back to things that happen in our lives, everyday.
For me, I remember having a back and forth with one of my daughters, and there I am yelling at her “Stop yelling!” And it was a like a domino affect, yelling begot more yelling, a viscous cycle. Only later to pause and say to her, “I’m sorry for yelling.” And in return hearing, “Me too.”
It’s as if the world is constantly holding up a mirror to our behaviors. And it shows up everyday in every aspect of our lives. I think about it in how we approach selling:
When we interrogate others, others interrogate us back. When we don’t reveal ourselves, others don’t reveal themselves. When we have all the answers, others have all the answers. When we put on the armor, others put on the armor. And we don’t connect.
But through experiences like this one, I’m reminded there is a different way.
When we open ourselves up, others feel they can open up. When we share the experiences that make us tick, others can share what makes them tick. And mostly, when we share our imperfections, others are granted permission to openly share theirs in return.
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