Bring Thanksgiving Into the Workplace

CardOnce a year, we Americans come together with our family or friends to give thanks. While the deeper meaning often gets trumped by delicious food and wine, Thanksgiving provides us with one day to relax and enjoy ourselves. What if the anticipation, laughter, enjoyment and camaraderie that we find with family or friends could be experienced at work? Imagine how different the workplace would be. It might look something like this…we would:

  • Look forward to going into work every day
  • Greet co-workers with joy
  • Enjoy stimulating conversations
  • Share stories and memories
  • Laugh until our sides hurt
  • When we felt tired or cranky, we would take a nap and wake up refreshed, ready for more food and conversation!

This is an extreme picture, yet there are threads in each of these behaviors that can be done on a daily basis. What if you arrived at work every day truly thankful for your job? What it has taught you? The income it provides to you? What it allows you to do in life?

My father spent his entire “career” – more than 40 years – working in a steel mill when steel was king in America. He started work at the age of 17, before the mills were organized through the United Steel Workers of America (USW). It was hard, physical work. Even when he experienced the occasional migraine headache, he never complained or missed work. He worked hard, saved his money, and was a good provider to our family of six.

Living through the Great Depression, he knew the value of having a job, being able to buy a home, a car, food for our family and even car vacations touring America. He took his thanks to the mill every working day, remaining positive until the day he retired.

On Thanksgiving Day, he would feast like a king. He looked forward to being with family, enjoying a full plate of food (and sometimes seconds), laughing, telling stories, and even taking a nap when needed.

As you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and other activities, think of how you can bring that same contentment, happiness and thanks giving into your workplace. What a gift you would give to co-workers if you expressed your thanks on the job every day. Yes, it would be a very different world if we all did that.

A Simple, Powerful Statement

philosophyDecades ago when I tried to wrap my young mind around Philosophy 101, I struggled to understand its inherent polarities, complexities and of course the never-ending string of thought-provoking questions asked by my professor. At 19, I saw the sky as the sky and that was it. I hadn’t yet explored why the sky existed, how far it extended or if a parallel universe existed. Over the years, I have continued my fascination with the field of philosophy and the brilliant minds who have explored – and continue to explore –  inquiry, knowledge and thought.

In recent years, I have enjoyed the various 21-day meditation series created and hosted by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. They often include the Sanskrit Mantra “So Hum,”  which simply means “I am.”

Such a simple statement, yet within it lies a vast terrain for contemplation and exploration.

In my professional presentations, I often begin with an engaging kick-off activity that asks audience members to think of a word or phrase that best describes who they think they are. Then I ask them to pair up with another person in the room to describe each other with just one word or phrase, always in writing, never spoken. They do several rounds of this, with different partners, before revealing to each other how other people described them. The activity has the same result: Surprise and delight. People come away from the activity feeling validated. Often their perception of self comes close to what other people perceived. Once in a while there are some differences. The activity drives home the point that perception and reality are not always exactly the same.

People’s responses to this activity reinforce the notion that we are conditioned to believe that we must be validated by others to feel whole and complete. The human brain is designed to “name” and categorize every living being, object or experience. We create and attach labels to every thought and the brain stores that information for future retrieval (if retrieved at all).

While this activity has positive, consistent results, it reminds me that when we are truly whole and complete, there is no need to fill in the blank. We are enough as is. We simply say with immense satisfaction and fulfillment, “I am.”

Are you?

Social Change Begins With Open Dialogue

intercultural-communication-2There is a constant thread running through the daily news feed: The need for honest, open, respectful dialogue to create true social change. Whether it is a single altercation with the law or a community demonstration, too many lives are being ended abruptly and unnecessarily because what could have been a normal conversation escalated into shouts and shots.

On October 17, something miraculous happened outside the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Columbus, Ohio: Open dialogue.

A sole Christian protester (named Annie) came to the Cultural Center prepared to protest against the Islamic faith. Instead of provoking Annie, Antioch University religious scholar Micah David Naziri engaged in open dialogue. It began with a few simple questions and comments. The near 50-minute conversation, captured on videotape, was civil and peaceful. Although the two disagreed on principles and beliefs, they were able to remain engaged in a cooperative manner during the entire discussion. One Muslim, Cynthia DeBoutinkhar, approached Annie and gave her a hug. She posted her experience on Facebook. A small group of the Cultural Center’s membership walked Annie to the mosque to continue the conversation.

Social change begins with face-to-face dialogue that is respectful, non-judgmental and non-confrontational. Building on a one-on-one dialogue, we can also create a broader, open community engagement.

There is much to be learned about respectful communication and understanding. It begins with educating ourselves. While we speak up for what we believe in, we must also treat others with dignity and respect – even those whose opinions are opposite ours. We must first open up our own thinking before we can engage in open dialogue. Instead of setting aside differences, bring them into the dialogue for closer examination, understanding and resolution. Whether in your home, office or community, you possess the power to engage in a conversation that leads to greater understanding. To expand your thinking, consider these resources:

The Facebook page for Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion, a collaborative effort between UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations

The American Library Association’s Community Conversation Workbook, if you want to coordinate a community conversation

The Plum Village Conflict Resolution Guide, incorporating in its foundation both mindfulness and loving kindness

Beyond religious differences, we encounter many differences in our everyday life. Our behavior informs how we view and respond to those differences. These resources, above, provide unique perspectives on how we can see the world more holistically.