Navigating Difficult Conversations With Ease & Grace

Navigating Difficult Conversations With Ease & Grace

Our lives would be so much easier if we just didn’t have to have “the talk”. Some of us have made dodging difficult conversations an art form while others dive into them like a bull in a china shop. There is no easy way of having a conversation with someone that may very well hurt their feelings, put them on the defensive, or make you feel uncomfortable. However, depending on our approach, hard conversations with others can actually lead to personal breakthroughs, mutual understandings, and can even strengthen the relationship rather than destroy it.

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Listening For Deeper Connections

Last week I attended a networking dinner like none I’ve ever attended. It was an event by Project Exponential led by Michelle Welsch. If you don’t know who she is or have never been to one of her events, I highly suggest you check her out. I was interested in attending her curated dinner events for one reason; for the chance to connect with likeminded individuals through meaningful conversations. The event did not disappoint.

Over the years, I’ve painstakingly attended networking events just for the sake of meeting people in the industry so I can ask and answer the question “what do you do?” No matter what line of work you’re in, answering this question can often feel intimidating or contrived. You wonder if the person you’re speaking to is listening intently, possibly judging you, and where this conversation is leading. The other part of the networking equation is listening to others. Oftentimes, at these sort of events, we’re so caught up in our heads thinking about the next thing we’re going to say as soon as the person finishes talking. Or maybe your attention is elsewhere as you think about what’s on the dessert table on the other side of the room or pinpointing the nearest exit in case you’ve had enough and want to ditch this whole networking thing.  In either case, you’re not being present and can possibly be missing out on making deeper connections. The person you are talking to serves a purpose for you and can quite possibly be your next client or can be the answer to your next career move. Yet, if we are not open and fully present we would have missed out on the opportunity.

The point is, networking can feel like a necessary evil sometimes. Especially when it means getting clients or the success of your career. But it doesn’t have to be. You can actually hold a meaningful conversation with someone that doesn’t have to feel fake or staged.  Here’s what I mean.

Communication is key and a vital part of communicating is Listening. Powerful listening not only allows you the opportunity to learn from the other person but also to grow by understanding the perspectives, ideas, and needs of others. By doing so, you shift from a ‘me’ perspective into a desire to connect with others. There are three distinct listening skills that you can use at a networking event or just about any social situation as a platform for building deeper relationships.

Listening Form #1: Subjective Listening

Subjective listening is very one-sided and is based on the needs of the listener. It relates everything that is being said back to the listener and is a poor way of forming meaningful conversation.

Subjective listening sounds like:

  1. Speaker: “I’m a writer and I’m so nervous about giving my first crowdfunding pitch for my book project in a few months.”
  2. Listener: “Yeah, I would be nervous too! I get nervous any time it’s my first time doing something.”

Listening Form #2: Objective Listening

Objective listening focuses completely on the speaker and there is no thoughts of how what is being said relates to the listener.  It demonstrates better listening but doesn’t quite hit the mark. However, this style of listening shifts us out of the ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality and it opens us up to truly understanding the person who is speaking.

  1. Speaker: “I’m a writer and I’m so nervous about giving my first crowdfunding pitch for my book project in a few months.”
  2. Listener: “Sounds like this is really important to you and naturally would lead to a little discomfort”.

Listening Form #3: Intuitive Listening

Intuitive listening is by far the most important and powerful form of listening. At this level the listener hears not only what the speaker is saying but feels it intuitively. The listener pays attention to what is being said in addition to the tone, energy and feelings behind the words. This style of listening enables us to hear the real message and get to the heart of what is being said.

  1. Speaker: “I’m a writer and I’m so nervous about giving my crowdfunding pitch for my book project in a few months.”
  2. Listener: “Sounds like you’ve put a lot of effort into this and it matters a great deal to you but there are some concerns you have about the outcome. Tell me more about that.

You will use all different listening skills at various times in your life but becoming more aware of your level of listening can mean all the difference in building connections within ourself and others. Learning to listen intuitively requires us to be present and completely in tune with what the person is saying. That means, no glancing at your iphone or anticipating your next response to the speaker. Begin practicing this style of listening during your next conversation with a co-worker, at a networking event, or even with a stranger.

Keep me posted on how it goes

You Are Creative. Yes YOU!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought the following:

  • I don’t consider myself creative.
  • I really don’t know how to be creative.
  • Being creative comes easy for others, not me.

Meet Faye*. Faye is a social worker and loves her job very much. She’s even gotten her Master’s degree in social work and hopes to really make a difference giving help and support to families from broken homes. Faye considers herself to be very organized and great at following the rules. In fact, she prides herself on thinking inside the box.  She says that the box was created for a reason and serves a purpose. Faye believes that working within the confines of the box keeps orderliness and control of the situation. 

According to Faye, she is not a creative person. She believes being creative is ‘thinking outside of the box and is the ability to see the grey area out of a black and white world”.

One day on the job Faye had the task of working on a particularly difficult case. Her challenge was to gather five siblings ranging in ages 8 to 16 to interview and get them to open up to her about their feelings about what was bothering them while living at home.  No small feat, as the last thing children at that age want to do is open up and talk about their feelings to an adult. Faye had to get creative; she knew that confronting the kids with her traditional interview style of questions like, ‘tell me how you feel?’ would not work this time.  Their guards would go up, they would become defensive, and completely shut down. Faye found herself trapped in the box.

What we don’t know about Faye is that Faye is an amazing cook. She finds joy in experimenting and creating new meals (according to step-by-step recipe directions of course) for herself and her family.  Their full bellies and look of satisfaction from her loved ones whenever she serves a meal simply makes her feel happy.

So returning back to Faye’s problem of getting the five kids to open up about their feelings at home. Faye decided that she would bring her love of the kitchen into her job as a social worker and asked the five kids if they had ever had apple pie before. They excitedly replied yes thinking Faye had brought them a lovely pie to eat. Faye then asked the kids, “you love apple pie, but have you ever made one before”? The kids looked at her in disbelief telling her they’ve only had store bought pie and couldn’t even conceive of an apple pie being made at home.  Faye returned to the kid’s home with a bag full of ingredients for apple pie; fresh apples, flour, cinnamon, the works! The kids looked on with excitement eager to get started in baking their apple pie. Faye helped them put together the recipe for the apple pie and in doing so; she created a perfect opportunity to engage each child casually with her interview questions that would allow them to open up and share their feelings.  And open up they did! Faye solved her problem and got out of her box by bringing her love of cooking to the job. She brought the kids a new experience, got them to open up and got answers to the questions she needed in order to do her job.

Sounds like a Faye is a pretty creative person after all, huh?

I share this story about Faye because I know there are many of us out there like Faye. We feel this sense of disconnectedness from our creativity even rejecting it all together calling ourselves ‘not creative’. We’ve created this imaginary box for ourselves that leaves little to no room for imagination and creative expansion.  It’s commonly believed that creativity is one of those things that is reserved for the select few who can wield a paint brush, sing a tune, or compose a sonnet in the blink of an eye. If those things do not come naturally for us, it creates the idea that we must not be creative.  In that context, we make creativity completely out of reach for ourselves.

Joe Mangrum of

Let’s start over by redefining how we think about Creativity.

  • Thinking outside the box starts with knowing that there is no box to begin with.
  • We are all naturally creative beings and express ourselves in unique ways.
  • Our individuality is our creativity.
  • Creativity is an expression of who we are, how we see ourselves, and the world around us.
  • Our creativity is like a wandering hungry dog, the more you feed it, the more it keeps coming back.
  • Being creative has less to do with ‘what’ you do and more about the person doing it.

What new beliefs can you adopt to open up to your creativity? Post in the comments below!

We will be continuing this discussion on Wednesday this week during our FREE weekly series In Spirit tele-circle. Join us for I’m Not Creative and other lies we tell ourselves on Wednesday, July 10th @ 8pm Eastern to learn about the stories we tell ourselves about being creative and how connecting with your creativity can align you with your career purpose. Sign up for the Free tele-circle!

If you are at a career crossroads in your life and are looking to gain greater fulfillment in your career and do work that is personally satisfying, you can schedule a free one-on-one coaching session with me here.


You can also Sign Up for my monthly newsletter! Insights and Inspiration for fulfilling your career purpose and creative passions!



*real client, name changed





3 Ways To Meditate (or commit to any practice) Daily

22 days ago, I sat down on a cushion in front of my alter space at home, closed my eyes for 10 minutes, and meditated.  I have done this every single day since then. Meditation has become part of my morning practice that is now as routine as brushing my teeth.  I feel pretty kick-ass about what I’ve accomplished in the last 22 days but what was bugging me was, how did I actually do it. I can honestly say that at the start, I did not set a goal of meditating for the next 22 days; actually I hardly gave it much thought. So after weeks of meditation, when it finally dawned on me that I had created a regular practice, I wanted to explore what helped make it such a success. Here’s what I came up with.

    1. Commit To The Moment

      As I mentioned, when I started out, I did not set a future goal of meditating daily but rather I made a choice each day to sit down at the cushion. Once I gave my mind the instruction, the rest of my body went into action. Sometimes making a future goal to do something everyday for a specified amount of time can put you in your head too much. If you’re a thinker like me, you’re more likely to begin strategizing and planning on how you’re going to succeed at the goal before you've even begun. Doing this can be a bit overwhelming and stressful because you’re so worried about the ‘how’ that you lose track of the ‘what’. If you use the present moment to make a choice and take action without thinking about the next day and the day after that, you realize that the present moment is all you really need to get it done.

        2. Know Your ‘Why’

          Why would I spend 5, 7, or even 10 minutes meditating every day? I could use that time for something else couldn’t I? I have found myself spending the same amount of time on Facebook or watching television but what I get from those experiences aren't as fulfilling to me as time spent clearing my mind and replenishing myself. Life is about experiences and how we spend them. That’s why spending quality time with good friends and family or going out for quiet walks in nature leave us feeling fueled and revitalized. The experience nourishes our soul on a deeper level. Ultimately dedicating yourself to something that has purpose and significance to you will motivate and keep you on track.

            3. Enjoy the Process

              Coming to my meditation cushion every day was a challenge but was also very fun. I learned that meditating in peace isn’t always the experience you’ll have. I can illustrate that with a quick story. One morning as I sat down to meditate, a construction worker decided to clang his equipment right outside my window. Naturally, it was distracting and made me want to end my practice short.  I got up in a huff frustrated at being inconvenienced by all the noise. Then I thought to myself, wait a second, isn’t this why I am meditating? To be at peace even amidst the chaos? I smiled to myself, let out a laugh and sat back down to continue my meditation. The construction worker soon finished what he was doing and all was quiet again. If I had allowed myself to get angry and end my practice short, that probably would’ve set the tone for the rest of my day and I would miss out on the lesson of reminding myself not to take things so seriously.

              I tell that story to remind us to learn to use every inconvenience or set back as an opportunity to laugh at ourselves, stay playful at heart, and find joy in the process.

              So remember, Commit to the Moment, Know Your ‘Why’, and Enjoy The Process.  These are my keys to sustaining a great meditation practice but really can be applied to many other tasks as well. One might use these same concepts for going meatless, paying off debt, or learning a new craft.  The possibilities are endless!

              What could you use this three step process for in your life? Share your answers in the comments!

              5 Lessons For Your Spiritual Path

              Like many of you, I’ve gone down a path of spiritual and personal growth. I still walk it today. It is probably the most revealing, life empowering journey you’ll ever have to take.  That path started for me when I came to a crossroads in my personal life and career that left me with more questions than answers, the journey of self-awareness and exploring my spirituality was started.

              I got involved in yoga, meditation, and writing all of which helped me to cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness. I read a ton of books on the subject and exposed myself to new ideas and expanded realms of thought. I welcomed in a new framework of how the world works and how my existence contributed to it. I learned about this thing called fear and how it can sneakily attached itself to our own sense of identity. I also learned about love and light and what it means to aspire to live by this daily. I also learned about peace and what true happiness feels like; I mean down to the core happiness that comes from within and not from any large sum of money. When it comes to confidence, security, passion, joy, abundance, endurance, enthusiasm; they are very much available to you in the present moment and they all come from you. Very similarly, fear, insecurity, doubt, lethargy, victimization, guilt, worry, disappointment, regret are also very available to you in the present moment. Unfortunately for most of us, our tendency by default is to fall victim to the latter feelings so much so that they cloud our ability to see the situation and ourselves clearly. 

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              The Power of Surrender

              What does it mean to surrender? Surrendering typically evokes a feeling of defeat or to give up our control over things. Similar to how a bank robber, who is surrounded by police pointing their guns, soon realizes he must surrender.

              The same way we find ourselves surrounded by our fears and doubts that often feel just as threatening as a gun to our face. Our sense of control and security is rattled and the discomfort is enslaving, as we see no other way out. We surrender to our fears, give in and give up our power. This type of surrender leave us feeling defeated and disempowered as we feel we have lost and the fears have claimed victory over us yet again.

              Fear at the basic level is when our sense of security is disrupted. Our security is created from our ability to control the situation.

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              10 Reasons To Take A Walk

               This post was inspired by an article in the February edition of THAT Mag for Women. It is amazing just how nurturing a taking a simple walk can be for your mind body and soul. We do it so often; especially us New Yorkers who pound the pavement day by day. What if we began to make walking not only a mode of transportation but an act of self-love.

              Here are my 10 Reasons To Take A Walk Today

                1. You will clear your mind of distracting thoughts.
                2. You will feel calmer and melt away stress.
                3. You will raise your awareness.

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