- Mahatma Ghandi
Emotions are running high across the country and around the world.
Most notably, people are in the streets to demonstrate outrage for the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and systemic racism. The police system across the United States needs to be reformed to increase accountability and stop police brutality particularly against black people who are 2.5 times* more likely to be killed by police than white people.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. You may be feeling a range of emotions right now: sadness, anger, fear and more. All of these feelings are appropriate. And yet, as we discuss in LARASAH we need to process them. Why? Until we are able to express the needs and desires that are beneath the emotions, we can't influence CHANGE. It's so easy to look outside and want to fix what we see isn't working. But first we must listen to what these emotions are telling us to clarify what is the appropriate action? Not doing so leads us to inauthentic action that results in no change, or makes the situation worse!
What do I mean? Well, on a more practical note, a couple of days ago I noticed that someone I care about is at a high risk for burnout. This is excruciatingly painful for me to witness. I'm passionate about overcoming and preventing burnout so naturally I want to help. But first, I needed to look inside myself. I had to understand the motivations behind the feelings of concern.
If I just told them “I’m concerned”, it could feel like I don't trust them to take care of themselves. Instead, I had to process the emotions beneath that concern: the fear of them getting really sick. I care about them and I don’t want to lose them or that valuable emotional connection. I was also fearful of the subsequent consequences of burnout on their livelihood and other relationships that could end up compounding their stress.
This processing revealed the motivations and vulnerability beneath the fear. By verbalizing my feelings around what I was observing I was able to connect more authentically with them before offering any assistance. This allowed for a more receptive response from my friend and opened the door towards change.
The other key component is listening. When we practice listening to our own underlying needs through this emotional processing, we are more receptive to listening to other’s perspectives, feelings and needs. Challenging conversations are best navigated with twice as much listening as speaking!
How does this relate to the situation on the streets and in our society today? As rapper and entertainer Killer Mike said on WSB-TV in Atlanta last weekend regarding the protests, we need to plan, strategize, organize and mobilize to make a change.
Have you noticed that when we bring our raw emotions to our conversations in our relationships, we rarely effect change? They become arguments littered with insults and "that's not what I said!" because the two parties are just feeling each other's emotions without being able to listen to the needs and desires behind the words. It may feel good in the moment to get our emotions off our chest, but without the processing, our audience sees or feels the emotion and can't hear the message.
To effect the change we deeply crave, we need to listen to the message behind the emotion. From there we can prepare for action that can be heard, understood and therefore acted on. Let's speak clearly and effect change.
Let’s create lives, homes, businesses, communities and societies that align with a vision of greater peace, joy, love and justice for all. P.S. For more insight on how to move through our emotions, check out the recorded workshop Emotionally Fluent Leadership *Reference