Rebounding from values conversations gone wrong

You wanted to do the right thing. You went out on a limb. You floated a conversation about values, or it got sprung upon you. It flopped. Badly. Now all you want to do is take it back so you can hide back into your shell. Pretend nothing happened. Pretend you didn’t just hear and see what you heard and saw. It doesn’t quite work that way.
I have been bruised more times than I can count. Sometimes I learned things about time and place to have these conversations, and I fine-tuned my approach going forward (it takes two…). On some occasions, I cut people out of my life as a result (I don’t do this lightly. But just as a reminder, this is a valid move).
Sometimes a conversation flopped spectacularly in the here and now. And then a few years later I got feedback by either that person, or people from that orbit, how much of a difference it made, and how that was a massively powerful intervention (sometimes you influence an organization more by leaving than you could by staying). And sometimes the content was right but the form and delivery might have been off on my part, which, too, is a learning opportunity.
Here are a few pointers to get yourself back together if needed.
Rebound qualities matter
On some occasions, your values in all their strength and delicate beauty will get crushed or people will start using this against you. If this happens, take the invitation to take a closer look, don’t ignore the pointers. This is where the stuff happens that truly matters. This can make you stronger in the long run.
Values matter, so when you get hurt, it will hurt more and deeper as it will matter on a whole different level. This work will lead you to bigger questions and decisions and they might be disruptive in the short-term. I have lost money and career opportunities over this and some emotional bruises took a long time to recover from. Looking back on 20+ years in the business world, the regrets I have are usually about not being radical enough and waiting too long, the regrets were NOT about speaking up (although arguably the form of speaking up could occasionally have done with an upgrade, I do have regrets around some of that). Try to look at this through a longer-term lens (values help with that, too).
Acknowledge the pain and use it as reinforcement that this matters.
So, remind yourself of your values, what they are and why they matter. And how they contribute to the kind of world you want to see. For yourself and for everyone else. This is the foundation. This is the anchor.
I still remember a few messy conversations down to where I stood and what I was wearing. One situation stood our in particular for how utterly bizarre it was. In my youthful zeal at 22, I had been pretty outspoken about values and pointing out intercultural biases and privilege, which earned me the reputation with my then boss to be a “friend of humanity” (he meant that as an insult ?!?!). Assignments and communication deteriorated rapidly as that moniker increased in usage and the delivery of the moniker got more and more acrimonious. If you are looking for pointers on cultural fit – that was one.
My slightly more grown up self would have handled this situation differently. I’m a lot more radical now and at the same time a bit more skilled in raising issues if there are any that need raising. I wear “friend of humanity” as the badge of honor it really is (in my books – and I hope, in yours). And hopefully I am getting slightly more attuned to what people call “cultural fit”. That place and I clearly weren’t, and I moved on soon after.
And sometimes you might have to heal first, it is OK to withdraw, lick your wounds and do whatever you need to do to get yourself back together. This is crucial stuff. This is, so to speak, open heart injury recovery. Look after yourself (and allow others to help you). Do what you need to do. Also, depending on what happened, this might require seeking professional help like counseling or a lawyer. Do whatever it takes. This too is self-care.
Find surroundings where you are welcome
In the long-run (reminder: this is your life, this is the long run) you will be better off in an environment that embraces you for who and how you are and where your values flourish. And where you can have the conversations you want and need. The deeper you get into this, the more the bar will shift for what good leadership and a helpful organizational culture looks like. For yourself as your own ongoing practice, and for the people you want to surround yourself with. That is a good thing. This will make you more outspoken where you are (this might or might not be welcome).
Your planning horizon becomes more long-term. You will no longer get lukewarm reactions as people will either gravitate towards you, or you will exit each other’s orbits. That is not a bad thing. You both become more humble/compassionate and more fierce/radical at the same time, and in this tension discover strength and radiance second to none. And you will find more places where you are truly welcome. You might transform where you are, or you might find new horizons and groups of people.
Preparation for next time can help
Some of the conversations can be anticipated, so you can prepare at least a bit. Ask yourself:

What is the quality I want to bring to this conversation?

Which one of my top 5 values needs to be particularly present to make this happen?

How does this value show up in a conversation? When it is there, what does the conversation feel, sound, look like? What words would I use? What sort of setting would that have to be? How would I set up the encounter?

How might this look like for the other person? What might they be bringing and what would that combination look like? What can you do to keep grounding and reminding yourself of the value you want to bring – regardless of how the conversation goes or how the other person is approaching you?

Paving the way for others

Wherever you are, don’t underestimate the amount of reach and radiance a person has with clear values, who stand up for them and for others when they get violated. That is what leaders do – regardless of your job title. Your wingspan is bigger than you think, and you will reach and inspire people even though you might never hear about it. Trust that.
Thanking those who did this for you
A note on that: When somebody does that for you, tell them what difference they made. This can be a tough fight and bring on some of the deepest moments of loneliness in the midst of it, as a lot of the crucial conversations are private or in small groups (and often rightfully so). Knowing something you did made a difference for someone else out there is so important to keep the strength to keep going. As a bonus, when you do reach out, these might well be some of the best apprenticeship/mentoring type of conversations you will ever have. Go for it!
——————
Want to explore your values more?

Identifying your values: Time, money, energy

Values are what underpins a lot of our behaviour. Often, this is unconscious, so looking at what we actually do can help us identify what matters to us underneath.

So, let’s play detective. Let’s look at the patterns that drive what we do.

What do you spend your time on?

When you have a choice, that is. Look at holidays, weekends, things you schedule for yourself, things you can’t wait to do more of. What do these have in common? How do you spend your work week? What sort of activities do you love the most? What are you constantly trying to avoid or to get out of?

What do you spend your money on?

I am not talking basics like food, rent, transportation. Again, look for patterns in your decision making and for interesting outliers. Do you emphasize craftsmanship? Novelty or innovation? Comfort? Learning? Stimulation? High-tech? Exclusivity or brand image? Do you support others (people, causes) and what do they mean to you?

All of these are useful indicators what matters, and how you are already integrating this into your daily life. These are also levers you have to live your values out loud more.

It’s the little actions, the day-to-day decisions that often matter a lot more than the big swooping gesture. The little things are what build a life, a legacy over time. They are also immediately available to change. If you find there is a value that is a bit underserved, try finding ways to bake it into your life a bit more.

Let me know how this goes!



Check out the values worksheet here.
Or
go deeper and get the book.
Or
ping me about how coaching might help. 

 

On consequences

Cause and effect. Whatever you do, there will be consequences. Sorry if that is a bit of a turnoff, but it is how things are for adults that don’t have people constantly mopping up after them.

You are likely going to find once you start sticking your neck out, speaking up about values, culture, politics -whatever it is you care about, there will be reactions. Not all of them will be positive. And often, the reactions will say more about the people doing the reacting than they say about you. Still, they will land, and some of them might hurt.

Or, you might find you need to make changes in your surroundings. Leave that toxic relationship, that soulless job, that energy-sapping organizational culture. Again, not everyone will applaud. And that pay cut you took when changing industries is going to be real. Things will change. You might not “get your old life back”. And there are likely going to be things you won’t enjoy about that change. This is not a pick-and-mix.

And once the reshuffling slows down a bit and somewhat stabilizes in a new(ish) form, you might actually find you like it better, and that the trade-offs were worth it. Or that you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams with your new calling. Or that you don’t miss your former capitalist trappings one bit. Or some mix somewhere in between that feels a bit different each day depending on your general mood (this is how it plays out for most people).

Values and purpose can sustain you emotionally, making shifts, standing strong in something that feels more true, more like yourself. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be ups and downs. And while exploring your calling and making decisions that are true to your values might not automatically guarantee everlasting and ongoing happiness, NOT doing it is likely not going to lead to the same level of fulfillment. The struggle is worth it.

Also true: Everyone has that, whether they are doing this consciously or not. If you are not doing this consciously, taking those pauses to look inside yourself and then realign what needs realigning, you might find yourself slapped round the head with a formidable midlife crisis at some point. Don’t let people’s instagram feeds fool you. This is never smooth, this is never all roses and unicorns. This is your life. This is not a dress rehearsal. Live it like it matters. Because it does.


Want to go deeper? Ping me for coaching.
Check out the values worksheet here. 
Or get the whole book 🙂

On approval (you’re OK)

Looking to make change can be a bit scary. What if the new thing is not in fact better? What will the others think? Will I lose respect? Will they (still) be proud of me? They were so happy when I got XYZ, what if I now want something else?

Meeting people after an absence can be a challenging time for that (as I’m updating this blog post, we are all working on who gets to see whom when and how in the UK as things slowly start reopening in spring 2021). A lot has changed, in many ways, and we are often not in the loop with what changed. We might also need to catch up with ourselves in this emerging new life, if we’re honest.

If you are looking to make changes in your life, conversations can feel like minefields. We are adults (I assume). And yet, on some level, we want others to like us, to respect us, to understand us and to support us in our being-in-becoming.

Your parents might not understand what you are looking to do next, or why you are unhappy and unfulfilled; and they might not need to. What is or was right for them might not be right for you. They might be supportive and just want you to be happy. If that is the case, you are truly blessed. A lot of people are not that lucky, and have to face more resistance our outright attack in their personal surroundings. Especially when the current gig is going so well on the outside. And all the “but I thought you wanted to be a xxx”, “but all the money you invested in setting yourself up as…”, but but but. And every one of these another thing you feel you have to carry on top of everything else.

Your life is yours, and you want to fill it with things that have meaning for you. This is what we came here for. Yes, this involves other people and adult responsibilities etc. But people evolve, priorities shift and things are not static, so it is OK for things to shift and for you to want your outer life to catch up with the changes you are hatching out in your heart.

Where I grew up in Germany people would always wish “stay just the way you are” on somebody’s birthday. To my growing (slightly antagonistic ambitious teenage) self this always sounded like a curse more than a blessing. Growth and development never stops, and it is never too late to have a more fulfilled life that is in line with your values, aspirations, purpose. Being able to articulate clearly what is important to you, what might have shifted and what you are going to do about it makes it a lot easier to rope others into your journey. Even that one person whose opinion you are dreading. They might find it scary (it might remind them of their dreams long-buried and they might resent you for giving it a go – that is their story, you live yours). Or they might find it inspiring. And if they don’t, your little niece might once she is old enough to understand.


Check out the values worksheet here.
Or
go deeper and get the book.
Or
ping me about how coaching might help. 

(Original post from early 2018, updated spring 2021)

On perfection (stop that)

When making changes, we often make the mistake of comparing our old established, well-rehearsed old life with something new we haven’t even built yet. It is completely unfair to expect that level of perfection. Unfair to the new thing, and unfair to ourselves as well. This is not how new things materialize. We get scared of the new thing not being perfect, sometimes before we even start. Perfection or bust.

Really? Ask yourself, is that really true? (assuming your “new thing” is not recreational neurosurgery or something along these lines)

Don’t let the quest for perfection prevent you from taking action. Stop gilding the lily and start getting your hands dirty.


Want to go deeper? Get in touch. The shop is open.