Sanity Notes #004: The power of meeting others where they are

Finding yourself wishing your co-founders, employees, or investors would change? Start with accepting them where they are.

Sanity Notes #004: The power of meeting others where they are

I have found myself thinking a lot lately about how tempting it is to want to change others. In my life, this often shows up around the house I share with my wife and two children. Our son is 10, and mornings with him are frequently fraught with pre-teen anxiety. Then comes the voice in my head telling me 'if only he would relax and have fun with us, this could be a great morning!'

In my time as a CEO, this frustration over how others would show up took the form of wishing my co-founders were more inspired during a tough period, or that our employees were more motivated, or that our customers were more excited.

You may have your own variations of this. Wishing your romantic partner, your child, your investor, your board member, or someone else in your life would change? If only they understood what was at stake, or if only they saw how much you needed them, they would be different!

Wishing others would change is a tough spot to start.

When I begin from a place of wishing others would change to my picture of where they ought to be, or where I wish they would be, a few things happen:

  1. I immediately become more anxious
  2. I head 'offline' (out of creativity and into fight or flight)
  3. I stop listening effectively

When I slow down, take a breath or pay attention to my breath for a moment, and ask myself what is really feeling at stake, I find that my wishing someone would show up a certain way is usually about some deeper desire.

For example, if my wife is anxious after a work day, I might be frustrated and wish she would be more present with me. What I am really longing for is connection. But when I get stuck on wishing she would change, I become part of the problem. I get in the way the connection I am longing for.
If I can accept her where she is, I can lean into curiosity about what is going on for her. I can really listen to what she is experiencing. My presence and my calm can become part of the pathway to the connection I am longing for.

The same goes for investors, employees, or customers. If your board member shows up anxious and accusatory instead of helpful and supportive, you may find it helpful to head toward curiosity instead of anxiety:

  • What is going on for her that is causing her to show up the way she is?
  • What might she need to relax and lean into the conversation from a more helpful place?

Wishing your customers were more excited about your product than they are? Get curious about what is really going on. One really helpful tool to aid your curiosity is to ask 'what' or 'how' questions:

  • What would need to change for your product to better meet their needs?
  • What do they use instead of your product?
  • How would your offering need to evolve for your customer to pay 10x your current price?

We are all human. And we all 'are where we are.' Shifts are possible when we are met with care and curiosity.

Whomever you find yourself with today, and however they show up, play with beginning by accepting them exactly where they are. Then head toward curiosity. You might find yourself arriving sooner in the place you really want to be.

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With love from LA,

Matt

A few related favorites from my archives:

How to get your leadership team to actually be a team.
An exploration in helping your leaders check their egos at the door and actually work together.
Why do we listen worst to those we love most?
Romantic partners, kids, co-founders, employees...often the more we feel is at stake the harder it is for us to really show up.
Why is it so hard to change?
Does change feel like two steps forward and two steps back? You are not alone.