My “Single Story” of Bias

I called a big software company yesterday for support. I had just purchased a new subscription for software and could not figure out for the life of me how to set it up.  So by the time I had a chance to speak with a real person I was frazzled and frustrated.

To make matters worse, the support person pronounced my name incorrectly so I promptly correctly him. He quickly apologized. I had a very difficult time understanding his accent as he tried to walk me through the steps to resolve my issue and get me started. I was having a hard time following his instructions. So as is natural, he started speaking louder as if I was hard of hearing.  I said, you don’t have to raise your voice, I can hear you but I don’t understand you.  As it turns out, he admitted that he was having trouble with my southern accent also.  What?

I asked the young man where he was from and he replied, “the United Kingdom”.  Then I asked again, “Where are you from originally?”.  Shyly he responded, Ghana.  The young man was from Ghana, a country in West Africa with a population of 25 million.  His name was Emmanuel.

At that moment  I was aware of our shared humanity. I call these moments “oh shit” awareness moments. I realized that we were both doing our best in a challenging situation.  And in that moment, I was reminded of a Nigerian novelest, who has written an important piece about the danger of a single story.  It is a Ted talk that is well worth your time: 

I told Emmanuel about the wonderful novelist, Chimamanda Adichie who was very funny and bright.  I suggested he listen to her talk. When I admitted that I was expressing my bias towards him, Emmanuel  softened.  He admitted that he was doing his best to help me. I told Emmanuel that I appreciated how patient he was being with me, and I was sorry that I had been difficult because I was so frustrated.

Chimamnanda translated means “God can never fail” and Emmanuel translated means “God with us”.  I am blessed by an important lesson from 2 different people from 2 very different countries in Africa. What a lovely gift that I can take with me to consider how I express my bias and how I want to change.


Coaching for Your Health

Its been well documented that our stress level can impact our health.  Now new research shows that the brain is directly connected to the immune system.   This news begs the question, “How are you managing stress and your overall emotional well-being?

One strategy is to ask for a coach’s non-judgmental perspective . A coach can listen to your concerns, keep you on track and support the behavior change you want to see for a healthy, balanced life.

If you want to read more about the emotion disease connection Gabor Mate, MD explores the topic in his article linked below.  Here is a short excerpt:

“I never get angry,” says a character in one of Woody Allen’s movies. “I grow a tumor instead.” Much more scientific truth is captured in that droll remark than many doctors would recognize. Mainstream medical practice largely ignores the role of emotions in the physiological functioning of the human organism. Yet the scientific evidence abundantly shows that people’s lifetime emotional experiences profoundly influence health and illness.

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In coaching, “creating trust and intimacy” with our clients is key to establishing a safe space to invite the dialogue that needs to take place for behavior change.  It is one of our GPCC™ (Gestalt Professional Certified Coach) and *ICF  core competencies that we must demonstrate in order to be certified.  It’s that important.

I experienced the critical nature of trust – it hit home for me this week and it taught me something new.  I realized that when trust exists in a relationship, we don’t think about it consciously. Yet, when trust doesn’t exist completely, it holds us back, keeps us up at night, and we can’t fully engage in the relationship.


*(ICF)International Coach Federation


Unconditional Love in the Workplace?

Is it realistic to expect that you will like every person you meet or have to work with though out your career? I’m thinking probably not. So I’m imagining how you are going to react when I suggest you love them. But hold on, doesn’t it all depend on what sort of love I mean here? Well, I’m referring to Agape – a selfless love expressed towards others. This selfless love is the essence of Agape, at least in my simple understanding of it.

Agape also means unconditional love. So does loving unconditionally mean letting others do whatever they want?  No, that wouldn’t work. Unconditional love requires that I act in the best interest of my fellow man or woman. That might mean saying “no” because in a given situation that is in everybody’s best interest.

I like to think about Agape as consistently behaving with care or concern for others no matter what the status of our relationship. It means we (all of us) in our daily actions keep others’ best interest at heart. If we could accomplish this even part of the time, we could have a great place to work.