Q: How can we make conscious changes in the ways and means we communicate, in order to develop authentic connections?
VC: It comes down to core values and acquired values, and making adjustments. We need not negotiate on core values, but we can be flexible with acquired values, regardless of how strong they are.
I love what you said about communicating versus connecting. Language is much more than words. Take a look at the communicative heritage between humans and other animals. They communicate well – they exchange a few words, but it’s mostly tone of voice and how they approach, whether it’s welcoming or menacing. We have this enormous communicative power and a large part of it is nonverbal. Our presence speaks for itself.
Because of the world we live in, we often lose touch with our core values. We get on the treadmill, and we run to try to keep up. I have done that, too, in the past, but I know that I am a product of my choices. Habits are choices that are repeated. If I want to be a different product, I change my choices. I change my habits. Right now I am a product of that effort,and there is a lot of “been there, done that” in my past. Not all of it is pleasant. So I am changing the choices I make today. I focus on the end goal and on the systems in my life that support that goal. If I fail, it’s not because I’m a horrible person, it’s because the systems don’t support that goal effectively. I have learned this from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. It’s helpful to focus on the systems that support my progress.
Q: A lot of our readers are young professionals, constantly working to evolve in all aspects of life. Do you have any suggestions on how to overcome stereotypes, and how to cultivate empathy, alignment, and connection when building authentic relationships?
VC: The first thing is to develop a sense of curiosity about others and yourself.
The second thing is the suspension of judgment, which is one of the most effective skills anyone can develop, including young professionals.
What do I mean by that? When we witness a situation or have an experience with another person, so often we jump to an evaluation, largely to protect ourselves so that we know how to respond. We are constantly evaluating because our brain is constantly scanning the environment for threatening situations. Some of that is physiological and we can’t completely escape it, but we can override it by developing a healthy sense of curiosity to find out why it is happening. We can use that curiosity and test the boundaries of our own vulnerability. We are a lot stronger than we think we are. The brain is going to protect us regardless. So while trusting that it will continue to do what it does best, we can test the boundaries of our own vulnerability.
The third this is developing self-confidence, which comes from knowing what your core values are, knowing what your boundaries are, and knowing that sometimes your boundaries can be flexible and sometimes they can’t, and that’s okay.
It helps to know that people from different cultures behave, respond, react, and initiate differently, so developing curiosity without judgment is really important. At the same time, if we are going to live in the world we have to adapt to certain things like credentials, education, etc. We don’t need to reject those things, we just have to choose the life we want to live. When we suspend judgment, we don’t have to criticize, we just have to discern.
Q: Any final messages for our readers?
VC: Don’t be afraid to participate. We’re all involved in a lot of meetings and networking events, and we are sometimes tempted to say, “I’m not going to say anything. I’m just here to learn.” That’s great, but what if everyone did that? We’d all be sitting around looking at each other. An affirmation I set for myself many years ago is, “Today I choose to participate in the abundance of life.” If it resonates, you’re welcome to take it.
Today, make a conscious choice to participate in the abundance of life that is there. Whether we stay home, unable to go out, we are connected through the energy of the universe. When we recognize that, we welcome it into our lives. Participate means to show up. Be an active participant in your own life. You don’t get to judge the value of what you contribute – you just have to put it out there with a positive intention.
Q: That was incredibly inspiring, Virginia! Thank you so much for sharing that.
VC: Thank you, it’s been an absolute delight.