How To Open Up To Others During Hard Times
Listen to Episode 141:
Episode 141 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement, Inc. enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success, on the web at businessadvance.com. Now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. Right across from me, as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s great to be back with you again for another episode of Growth Igniters® Radio. As always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of game-changing innovation, growth, and success.
Now, Pam, there’s a lot of conversation going on right now about how much top leaders should be open with others during their hard times, their personal hard times. Now, this could include illness, family issues, any number of other tough things. A big question is whether this kind of personal sharing is a positive way of developing people and processes or whether it could be perceived as oversharing.
Pam Harper: Well, I think it depends on how it’s done. On the one hand, we just saw an article in the May 2nd, 2018 Wall Street Journal called “Now Emoting in the Corner Office: the Oversharing CEO.”
Scott Harper: Wow, what a title.
Pam Harper: Yes. On the other hand, there’s the book “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton. They tell the gut-wrenching story about the sudden death of Sheryl’s husband and how she’s been coping with the grief. Then, they combine it with Adam Grant’s research on finding strength in the face of adversity, and together they come up with guidelines for building resilience for all types of hardship.
We believe that when we have conversations that are guided by purpose and caring, it can be a way to humanize ourselves and strengthen our communities inside and outside of work.
Scott Harper: Yes, absolutely.
Pam Harper: That’s why we’re delighted to welcome back our colleague and good friend, Judith E. Glaser, who developed the concept of conversational intelligence. Judith is an organizational anthropologist and CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the chairman of the Creating We Institute. She’s the award-winning author of the bestselling books “Creating We” and “Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.”
Judith, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Judith E. Glaser: Pam and Scott, I have looked forward to talking with you again today. Every session that we do, every episode that we do, is fabulous and different. You have reached so many people, and you’re now well over 100 people that you’ve interviewed, so I’m in awe of the great idea. Because I was early with you.
Scott Harper: Yes, you were number three, our third episode.
Judith E. Glaser: There you go.
Pam Harper: And here we go. We’ve grown. What’s interesting about our conversations with you is every time, as you say, something’s going on. Now, the last time that we spoke with you, there was a story that went with this. We recorded our last podcast interview with you on January 17th, and it was a good conversation. It came as a real shock to us when we learned that you had to have emergency brain surgery less than a week later. Now, we’re not telling tales outside of what you have allowed us to share, but we’d love for you to tell us the story of that.
Judith E. Glaser: I still am in almost disbelief, but I shouldn’t say that; I have to get comfortable with what happened to me. I was actually surprised by the fact that a week after our interview, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I’ve been living for two and a half years with pancreatic cancer. This is well longer than what most of the doctors and most of the people that have studied pancreatic cancer have observed, I’m now into my second year.
When I was diagnosed with stage four, which is the highest level of pancreatic cancer anybody could have, I was in disbelief. When the doctor came in and shared that, with my kids there, I said, “So, what’re the implications for that?” and he said, “Well, that means you probably have two weeks, two months or two years to live.”
Pam Harper: Oh my goodness.
Judith E. Glaser: I’m now in my third year, so it’s really a fascinating thing to be here. But, it didn’t end so soon as that. I didn’t have to have an operation with the pancreatic tumor; we were able to do chemo that shrunk it. But stage four means it goes to your lungs as well, which is what it did for me. Then, there was the surprise, being told that I had a plum size tumor in my head.
Fortunately, it was on the right side of my brain, which was the side that is not what they call your heavy duty intellectual functions, but it’s the side that is related to intuition, connection with people, emotions, creativity. So, it’s like the right brain, left brain, you know, dialect.
Pam Harper: Right. Judith. I have to just jump in here to say that all of that was going on, and yet during our conversation on the podcast, which we’ll have a link to for people to listen, you did not sound at all like that was going on. I mean, we were totally shocked.
Scott Harper: No. We were connecting and you were great, so wow, what a shock.
Judith E. Glaser: Thank you for that, and I’m so glad. I didn’t ever feel pain or anything. There was edema around the tumor, which meant that it was trying to protect the rest of my brain from this thing.
Anyway, ultimately the exciting thing is — and this is talking about conversational intelligence in the most beautiful way — how we discovered it is the key, since I felt nothing and I didn’t notice anything changing in my speech. It turns out that during the week after you and I spoke, my husband noticed that I was acting differently. My doctor saw it, and the way he described it is, he said, “Your affect has changed.” I said, “What is affect related to?” and he said, “It has to do with your emotional connection to people.” He said, “You were always so effervescent and excited about everything when we talk, and I notice something’s shifted.”
My family had a Bar Mitzvah, so 140 something people were together who knew me when we visited my daughter where the party was. They started to notice it, and I noticed one thing. I walked over to people to join a group of people I didn’t know, and I couldn’t get in. It was as though something was separating me and them, and that was part of what the doctor noticed, and my husband noticed. Both of them, thank God, spoke up. This is the importance of sharing. I think you want to talk about being transparent?
Pam Harper: Yes. We do.
Judith E. Glaser: Had they not been transparent and talked about this, and said, “I don’t know what this means, but this is what I’m noticing,” things would have been so much worse. The two of them together, sat in the office to describe this to me. The very next day, I got my head scan, with the picture of a tumor, and then the very next day, I had my operation. That’s how fast they moved on this.
Scott Harper: Wow. The thing that’s remarkable to us, Judith, is that you are freely opening up this very, very personal story to others. You did earlier on; you wrote last December an article about how you shared your cancer experience with thousands of coaches who were studying with you and how their love just came pouring into you and really helped. The thing is that illness and other hardships sometimes makes people close down instead of opening up.
Judith E. Glaser: Scott, you’re so right. Yeah.
Scott Harper: You’ve made a different decision. What led you to that?
Judith E. Glaser: That was such a great question. It was the most poignant time in my life. I still have the picture in my brain. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 11 and a half, and she passed 10 years later. We had to cancel our wedding — It was going to be 300 people — and we ended up having a chapel wedding with our family and my best friends. She had seven cancers, and she couldn’t talk about it with her friends. So, my parents made this pact that they would just have parties and have friends over, and she’d wear her wigs and whatever else. So that there was this altered life, or second life, that they had with each other. That’s how she lived through it.
I found her crying upstairs one day. I was studying psychology, and I thought “I’ve got to help her break through this.” I said, “Mom, can we talk?” She said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” She didn’t want to share; she didn’t want to express her feelings, and I think that that caused her earlier death than what might have been. At that moment, I said to myself, “God forbid, if anything happens to me, I’m going to do it differently.” And I did. I decided that I had to share this.
I actually went to psychics and spiritual people and energetic people that do energy healing to get wisdom about this, because I didn’t have any role model that showed me how to do it. I went to one woman who said, “I’m going to share with you when it happens; I’m going to reach out to your angels.” I mean, if you hear this and think it’s crazy, It’s not “woo-woo.” These are the people that have helped me a lot. She called me at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday, and she said, “I got the word.” I said, “What do you mean the word?” She said, “Your spiritual guides told me to tell you to allow.” I said, “What does allow mean?” She said, “Allow people into your life to help support you. Allow them to care for you. Allow them to give you the energy and the belief that you’re going to be okay.”
As soon as I did that — as you said, there were 1000 people in each program that I’m doing now, with 75 countries — they all started to pray and let me know what was happening. I would then share the results of my chemo and my cancer markers. My doctor told me my cancer markers dropped faster than he had ever seen anyone with the kind of cancer that I have, or with any cancer. It went from 600 points down to normal in three months. I now have a record, a scientific record, of the impact of healthy conversations on building my immune system to fight with this, or to handle cancer in my body.
Pam Harper: That’s truly amazing. So, certainly, it impacted your healing. What else surprised you about sharing with the community? Did you have preconceived notions at all of what might happen as far as the dynamics would go?
Judith E. Glaser: No. I didn’t have preconceived notions as much as I found myself experiencing certain things that I am now putting into a new book. What I experienced is, when I was in conversation with people, my energy went up. My hope for the future expanded. My feeling good about what I was going through, and saying, “This is a learning experience, just learn what you can,” … In other words, being able to reframe stage four pancreatic cancer into lessons that were going to be valuable for me and the world, and really believing that, was so impactful.
It’s like I was in a movie. I was given these lines and this story to live through, but I was feeling great. Every time the doctor would see me, he said, “How are you?” and I said, “I’m great.” He said, “You’re the only patient that walks in and you’re always great. What are you doing? How do you do that?”
Pam Harper: Well, your purpose and caring really come through, and that’s how we started out. When you have those kinds of sharing conversations, it benefits everybody involved.
So, we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Judith E. Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communications and chairman of the Creating We Institute, about how to open up to others in hard times. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement, Inc., on the web at businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies and leaders to accelerate to their next level of game-changing innovation and growth.
Pam Harper: We’d like to welcome our many new listeners, in addition, of course, to our many friends who’ve been listening from the beginning. We’re so glad that you’re joining us. If you’re not already subscribed to our Growth Igniters community, you can get even more by signing up. You’ll get reminders of our new episodes along with a link to the new episode page where you can find all kinds of resources related to our conversation.
Scott Harper: So, go today to growthignitersradio.com and click the red ‘sign up now’ button at the top right of the page.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper — that’s me — and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Judith E. Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, about how to open up to others at work and in our other communities during hard times.
Judith, how can people find out more about you, your books and Creating We?
Judith E. Glaser: We have two websites. One is for the book, which also includes some interviews with me and other blogs and all sorts of things for people, and that’s conversationalintelligence.com. We have another site called CreatingWe.com, and that was, again, one of those great bestsellers, fortunately, that I had, and has become the backbone of everything that we do.
I invite people to visit us. If you want to sign up for our newsletters, there’s a link to do that. It’s always fun to have those kinds of chats with new strangers.
Pam Harper: Also, you can find out more in the resources section of this episode by going to growthignitersradio.com and selecting episode 141. We’ll have all the other links to Judith’s conversations with us.
Scott Harper: Now, we’ve been talking about how opening up and becoming vulnerable or transparent to others can really help us and them, but I imagine that it really matters how it’s done, how you do it. There’s a difference between sharing and oversharing, between bringing people in and dumping.
Judith E. Glaser: Yes. Exactly. Do we have time for a little story?
Pam Harper: Absolutely.
Judith E. Glaser: Okay. So, there is an exact difference. Some people use that time, where they’re sharing, to tell people their whole story, to brag about how good they are and to take up space, and it’s not a conversation. It’s not like we’re learning together. At that point, those people own that moment of time and space in the conversation. That is not what people love. We end up walking away and saying, “Oh, what an ego,” or, “What a boaster,” or things like that, right?
Pam Harper: Yes.
Judith E. Glaser: Yes. But, they may think that they’re just being transparent and fun and funny. So, the story is that when I … I work with Angela Ahrendts, who was the CEO of Burberry. Before that, she worked at many companies, like Donna Karan where we first met. I was actually her coach many times throughout each one of her company experiences. When I went to visit with her to launch the leadership program, and the opportunity for her whole leadership team, there were 129 people, or maybe 200, that came from around the world. We agreed that we were going to start the meeting with transparency. The reason is — and Angela believes this wholeheartedly — even the best leaders have challenges getting to where they have gotten.
So, with humility, she had her five people share stories, being transparent, about challenges in their life, how they had difficulties, how they almost thought they fell down — it’s kind of like a journey story — then how they recovered, and what they did, and how people helped them. So, it didn’t feel like ego. It felt like getting support from the world around you in a really wonderful way.
So, there’s a difference, a big difference, between the braggadocios side of sharing and the heart-to-heart side of sharing.
Scott Harper: How about when you’re not bragging, but you’re saying, “Oh, this is so hard for me. This is awful.” That can make people feel pretty uncomfortable too.
Judith E. Glaser: Why do you think so? What do you think is happening when people are saying it’s awful and uncomfortable and I can’t do it? What does it activate?
Scott Harper: Well, you’ve talked about framing, and I know that I’ve had the experience myself of someone in a work situation, at a higher level, saying, “This is terrible. We’re all in trouble.” Boy, it just made me shut right down.
Pam Harper: Well, it’s framing. To me, it sounds like labeling, right?
Judith E. Glaser: Yes. Again, if you’re a leader and you’re talking to your team, and all of a sudden your boss, who’s the CEO, says, “You guys have missed the mark for this year’s ROI,” and … These things were awful, so you get that horrible feeling that you’ve let your boss down, or your company down, and now you’re going in, and you’re going to beat up your people, to share that with them, and then get them to be activated to help. Lo and behold, it doesn’t work. That’s what you described.
You’ve activated cortisol for that person, right? So, their lower brain, the fear brain — the one that has to be protective of your ego — gets activated, and now your brain actually closes down; the prefrontal cortex, which is where all your innovative ideas that you were going to be able to access, disappears. They’re sitting there in a trunk, locked, right?
Pam Harper: So, there’s a scientific reason for why this happens, neuroscience.
Judith E. Glaser: Exactly.
Pam Harper: But, there’s also a cultural aspect to this whole thing. In the article in The Wall Street Journal that I was talking about in the first segment, there was one expert who was talking about how people are socialized. There is one side of thinking that says, “well, you’re giving away your power if you are letting people into this extent,” that culture of the leader is self-sufficient, “I don’t want to give away my power.”
But, that’s not the way we’d think about it. It’s not the way you think about it. Let’s just talk again about the benefits of finding the courage within ourselves to appropriately share, I’ll say appropriately share, our story and let others in.
Judith E. Glaser: Right. So, here’s another story. I was asked to be a speaker at a meeting with high network individuals. It was put on by Wells Fargo, these were their customers, and we did, onstage, three of us, about neuroscience of what’s going on for people, and the things that you and I talk about were covered.
One of the speakers, who was the most prominent speaker of any that was on the panel or on the stage, was very much like this person that was humble that you were talking about. He amazed and amused everybody in the audience because no one expected, with all his heroic things that he’d done, businesses that he started … He worked with billionaires to change the world of business, and he would talk about the story of how it didn’t work and how he tried to recover it, and in some cases didn’t, and therefore jumped to this.
So, we got the inner story of this successful person who is as humble as anybody I’ve ever heard in my life, and he knew that he didn’t want to come out as an ego guy and just rave about the things that he had done.
Pam Harper: Was he trying to inspire people? I mean, was that the purpose, do you think, of him doing that?
Judith E. Glaser: He did inspire people. I remember sitting there saying, “Oh my God. Look what I just learned from him.” I learned that there are many mountains I’m going to be climbing in my life, including the one that I’m going through with my health, and I just … Some things will work out, some won’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. That means I’m learning, and I’m learning something important that helps me get to the next mountain. So, it’s how we frame it. I think you mentioned that word. We can change our internal chemistry. We’re taking a long hike, or we can have the hike be experienced as something that I’m able to take on and give up. It’s what motivates us.
Pam Harper: Absolutely.
Judith E. Glaser: You know, how do you use those learning moments to motivate you is so important.
Pam Harper: Yes. We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Judith E. Glaser, CEO of Creating We, about immediately actionable steps you can take to find the best way to open up to others when you’re in hard times. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement, Inc. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam, we’ve been talking to Judith about the power of transparency and being vulnerable and opening up to others when we are facing hard times and crises. The hard truth is that this can bring huge benefits, but it can also be really hard, as we’ve been talking about. For many of us, it’s all too easy to hide from this truth and let it live as an elephant in the room. This can be harmful to us and the people around us.
Pam Harper: That’s right. That’s why we’re recommending that our listeners download a Harper Report we wrote on taking control of the elephant in the room. This report can spark insights and ideas about tapping into the positive power you can generate, both in your business and personal life, when you make the decision to start conversations about difficult topics.
Scott Harper: All right. So, go to growthignitersradio.com, episode 141, and request a complimentary copy of the report: “How to Take Control of Elephants in The Room.”
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with Judith E. Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, about how to open up to others in a way that’s beneficial for all.
Judith, can you remind us how people can find out more about you and your books?
Judith E. Glaser: Absolutely. We have two websites. One is called conversationalintelligence.com, with some terrific resources and blogs. The other is creatingwe.com, which talks a little bit more about our philosophy and case studies that people can really see what happens when we step into the world of conversational intelligence.
Pam Harper: It is powerful. We really encourage our listeners to visit the site and read the books. Of course, you can also access links to Judith’s episodes by visiting growthignitersradio.com, episode 141.
So, this is the segment where we talk about the immediately useful ideas where people can use to take action. In this case, it’s about how to open up to others in hard times in a way that’s beneficial to all of us. What’s an immediately useful thing to do, to make the decision to open up instead of shutting down?
Judith E. Glaser: It’s fascinating. In the world of conversational intelligence, we have learned through the research with well over 100 neuroscientists and psychologists that one of the most important things that opens up the brain for high levels of connection and caring with another human being is to be transparent about something. Once you do that, the brain picks up “I can trust this person.”
It may sound really surprising, but we are hardwired for trust, and transparency — being open, not braggadocios, but being open. When we feel this, it opens up the prefrontal cortex and heart connection, which actually helps us access the part of our brain that has wisdom, integrity, sensitivity, strategy, foresight, all the things that make us not only human, but sometimes superhuman. So, transparency is the door to trust. Once that starts, we have other things that you do when you’re building trust with people. Without transparency, people don’t believe others. They think that they’re hiding secrets.
Pam Harper: So, we make the decision; how can we actually make it easier in our minds to make that decision?
Scott Harper: Yeah. ‘Cause when you’re going through something really hard, whether it’s an illness or some other calamity, many people have the natural reaction of “I don’t want to face this, I don’t want to talk about this, I want it to go away.” So, how can we trigger ourselves to say, “nope, I’m going to make the other choice?”
Pam Harper: I’m going to be transparent.
Judith E. Glaser: Okay. I have two big things that I’m going to share, which I think will make a world of difference for everyone. First of all, you do have to make a decision, knowing that the chemistry will go with you, it’ll go with the flow. If you decide to be transparent, you have to know that it’s going to open up the ability to have trust with that person, which, if it’s an important relationship, and most of ours are … That other human beings are actually, their bodies and their minds are waiting for someone to start the ball rolling in the direction of more intimacy and more sharing.
Sharing, which is part of level three conversations, where we share and discover without judgment, is what human beings thrive on. It’s vitamins for the brain. So, if you take the first step in that direction, you’ll help activate or open up the heart connection and the brain connection that will build better trust and longstanding relationships with people. It’s not an elephant in the room, as you step into a closer relationship, because what we need in the world are friends and partners to go on this long journey of success with us. Without having people to share it, your brain is not going to be activated to achieve it.
Pam Harper: That makes a lot of sense. I think the reason for elephants is sometimes, you know, we don’t want to think that other people notice. I know that this is happening with you, something’s happening, I don’t know what it is, and we all know something’s not right, but we don’t want to talk about it. That’s the elephant.
Scott Harper: You don’t want to make it worse.
Judith E. Glaser: Yeah. Like, what happens if the person just got divorced and now we have to sit and talk about divorce and console them. Well, there is a way to change peoples’ chemistry, and I want to share this ’cause it’s so, so important. It’s how one word could change everything. I have one word, and then I have three words.
The first word is Compassion. We’ve learned that compassion for another human being is one of the most gracious things that you can do with others. Compassion means you realize that somebody’s having a challenge, that elephant in the room, you could feel it from them, but you don’t know what it is. You can say, “I can tell by the look on your face that something’s going on for you. I don’t want to pry. If you want to talk about it, then I want to let you know that I’m here for you and I’m here to support you. How can I support you?” That phrase ‘How can I support you?’ is magic. The word ‘support’, it comes from the heart of caring, and that’s going to take us into the next three words.
I have not yet met any person where I’ve used that phrase, where they haven’t taken a deep breath and said, “Thank you.” So, people are looking for someone to open the door, to talk about something that’s on their mind.
When we also talk with others, what helps people to become more transparent are three words. It’s caring; you mentioned that word I believe already. When we care, people feel it, and it’s like your best friend. You identify that person with the label, oh my God, they’re my new best friend.
So, caring, courage and candor. That’s the transparency. That’s the design of what transparency is. When we care, we have courage to speak up, and we do it with candor. Human beings feel those three words and it’s, again, like someone has changed the paradigm of my life and I can now be open and get help for the things that I haven’t been able to even ask for because I didn’t want people to think I was weak or whatever the story is. We want to hide our identity if it’s not a good one.
Pam Harper: So, there is certainly a difference between oversharing, as the article in The Wall Street Journal was talking about, and actually sharing and having a conversation that is meaningful, that is purposeful, that’s caring, all these things you’re talking about.
Judith, do you have any other final thoughts that you’d like to leave us with on this?
Judith E. Glaser: We talked about introverts and extroverts, and that extroverts sometimes can reach out more quickly and connect with others, and introverts maybe take a little bit more time, they think in their head.
I want to supersede that with something. I just came back from Yale. We have a WE University program, and I interviewed a neuroscientist who I’ve known for 12 years, and she’s studying eye contact. She said it’s the most amazing research. She was funded by China with equipment that puts a cap on someone’s head, and they have two people, subjects, looking at each other in the eyes, watching what’s changing in the brain when they’re making eye contact.
In addition to the words that you use, it’s the eye contact that expresses I care about you. Not when your eyes twitch back and forth, for sure, but when you look somebody in the eye, the chemistry that you activate is a chemistry of bonding and connection. That releases the fear that people have about speaking up. So, if people find obstacles, beside the words that we talked about, in priming yourself, it’s how do you make contact with that person before you start the conversation. That’s looking them in the eye and saying to yourself, “Boy, do I care about this person.” I want to be able to have a level three conversation, which is the open sharing and discovering without judgment, and I want to help. I want to be in support. If you combine them together, you have a way to enter the conversation in a completely different way, with a completely different result.
Pam Harper: Judith, we care about you. This has been an amazing conversation. Thank you so much.
Judith E. Glaser: You’re welcome, and I just love coming ’cause you ask such great questions.
Scott Harper: Wonderful, Judith. Well, you give such great answers; thank you so much. And thanks to all the people listening out there for joining us on Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper.
To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, read Judith’s bio or open a conversation with us, go to growthignitersradio.com and select episode 141.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper …
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to think about:
Scott Harper: How can I have conversations that are transparent and reveal more of myself as a human being in a way that’s beneficial for all of us?