What my Husband and I NEVER Do: Uncommon Skills for Women On Their Leading Edge
It all started with Mariah Carey, who helped me see a very dangerous habit we humans engage in. A habit that kills our ability to take risks, achieve our dreams, and break new ground.
It had nothing to do with food, smoking, or alcohol abuse, but it totally impacts our health, happiness, impact on the world, and life satisfaction. It has everything to do with how we talk about other humans, their creativity, and their stories.
It lead to a powerful new commitment in my marriage, and an exciting new tool I’m about to share with you.
First, me and Mariah:
Last winter I had major knee surgery, then spent months going to physical therapy 2-3 times a week. The PT office is open and looks like a very mellow gym, with therapy equipment and massage tables.
One day I brought my son to the afternoon appointment. He twirled around on the swivel chair, talking with my therapist as she took me through my exercises. The office speakers were tuned to the radio, and a Mariah Carey song began to play.
Within moments, therapists and patients started to talk about Mariah and her recent New Year’s Eve performance. Comments and judgements started to flow:
“She looked ok – but that outfit!?”
“Her voice isn’t what it used to be.”
“Was she as good as last time? She seems past her peak.”
What happened next shocked me:
I sat up, made my voice loud and clear, and said to the entire room of 10+ people:
“Mariah Carey may not be your cup of tea, but she has a better voice than anyone here will ever have. She’s a pro performer, and just by getting up on that stage makes herself the target of a lot of hate and judgement – how many of us are that brave!?”
I instantly felt the discomfort in the room. (My inner Bitch Brain immediately shouted at me: why the hell did you just say that – and why so loudly??)
It became clear why I made such a fuss after I said it:
My son, a young, creative, artist-in-the-making, was there.
He was listening. And watching.
When we pick apart artists, writers, creators, or anyone trying something new or daring, we make it unsafe for any of us to try. Ourselves, our children, our friends, and everyone else.
This kind of scenario is so normal, it probably happens in your life at home, at work, or with friends. We have a culture of judgement and superiority that is truly damaging to all of us.
(I think most of the judgement comes from a deep desire to be creative risk-takers ourselves, but we haven’t yet been brave enough to put ourselves out there the way Mariah has. Do you spend more time critiquing other people’s words and work than creating your own? How much time and energy does it drain from you to focus on them instead of doing your own work?)
When we perpetuate a culture that puts down the risk takers, rule breakers, and changemakers, we stay stuck in our old box. We don’t feel invited or safe to experiment.
And if it’s never safe to try, and inevitably fail as we improve, then we become shut down, tight, closed off, anxious, stressed, and toxic.
I brought this conversation home to my husband, Bob. We pride ourselves on creating an artistic home filled with possibility. Bob’s guitars and my ukulele hang on the living room wall so that we can play any time. My son’s desk is covered with robots he makes out of cardboard and old electronics. My watercolors are framed throughout the apartment.
But were we creating the psychological safety needed to take creative risks?
Psychological safety is a shared belief that it’s safe to take risks. It’s about feeling safe to share your ideas and express yourself without fear of negative consequences to your self-image or status. Think about it:
- How safe would you feel to share a poem with friends who just tore down a singer?
- How brave can you be with nitpicking family members?
- Do you feel secure in being respected when you pitch the new proposal to a hostile team?
- Can you trust hostile critics you work with to invite them to an open mic you want to try out?
- Are you afraid to bring a gluten-free, dairy-free dessert to the next holiday potluck?
Right then and there, Bob and I agreed to stop negatively judging other people’s expression. Both out loud, and in our thoughts.
We decided we can still be discerning, that knowing of what was to our own personal liking, but we would do our level best to stop nitpicking, judging, and tone policing other people.
(See, it’s not just about artists, it’s also about writers and speakers who share their ideas as well as performers. Tone policing is saying something like “If only they weren’t so angry, I could hear their ideas better,” which is often a racist weapon used against people of color from fully being seen, respected, and heard.)
Doing the right thing is how we show up and act authentically true to our values.
Bob and I have been co-writing a book called Getting To Hell Yes, which will launch in September, and we want to feel safe with each other, and out in the world, as we talk about our creation and ideas.
If we get hung up on worrying about other people putting down our writing and ideas, it will sap energy away from our ability to show up and teach what we’ve created at conferences, on podcasts, and to our clients.
So we made a family pact: we will not bitch about, judge, tone police, or nitpick other people’s ideas and creative expression. More than that, we will notice it when our friends and family do it, and speak up about it.
We do it for ourselves, our inner artists, our son’s creative future, and all the people around us who we serve as mentors and coaches.
It allows us the space to breath, as individuals, connected through love. It acknowledges that as people, we will grow and change as we age. And that we are open to committing to each other, again and again, as we change.
This is one of the Uncommon Skills I’ve noticed in the women around me who are driven to lead, create, and have a positive impact on the world. These women are aware of the impact of their words, and have the generosity of spirit to make safe spaces for all voices to be heard.
It’s not some pie-in-the-sky, hippie-dippie, woo-woo stuff. Think about Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, or any of the truly successful women you know: do they nitpick, judge, or tone police other people’s creative expression? NO. They applaud! They invite people to share themselves fully, and they show up as willing to try, thereby inspiring the rest of us.
If you’re a driven, successful woman, you know – you feel it in your bones – that standing up for the not-normal, complaint-free culture is a leading edge of growth for you.
I invite you to take this pledge with me and take up this commitment:
- Stop putting down other risk takers for their “mistakes.”
- Hold admiration in your heart for those who show up and try
- Make it safe in your family and circle to experiment
- Be discerning, but commit to being a respectful audience
When we make a stand for others, we begin to feel stronger about taking a stand for ourselves. Sometimes it has to start with us, but often when we support someone else, we prove how strong we are for us.
Did this speak to you?
Are you in to take up this commitment with us?
Share how this culture of judgment impacts your body, health, dreams, and work. Share with me your commitment.