THOUGHTFULNESS CONSIDERS OTHERS BY BALANCING EMPATHY, KINDNESS, CARE AND ATTENTION, WHERE INTENTIONS ARE SINCERE AND THE DESIRED IMPACT IS POSITIVE.
We are on a mission to raise the conscious level of awareness of what thoughtfulness is in the workplace. It’s not just a nice-to-have fluffy word that makes people feel good, it is filled with power and creates connection. When we experience thoughtfulness it affects our mind, thoughts, emotions, perspectives, behaviors and experiences in life. Thoughtfulness can shift our experience in work and in our personal lives. It just depends what lens we are looking through.
Thoughtfulness is defined in dictionary.com as “showing consideration for others; being considerate.” The Oxford Learners Dictionaries defines it as “the quality of thinking about and caring for other people.”. Synonyms are consideration and kindness.
There are many levels of thoughtfulness that we will unpack over time, but today we will focus on one aspect; What happens when you show consideration for others by first being aware of how you respond and react to others. Not only does that affect other people it affects you too.
When you take time to be self-reflective you give yourself permission to look at something in a different way. When you take time to consider your interactions with others you plant a seed of thoughtfulness and you give it space to grow. You can plant a seed in the environment where you work, play, or live and over time as it grows it positively and gently affects and helps others.
Let’s consider this scenario: A Toxic Work Culture.
You find yourself in a toxic work environment, you love what you do, but the people you work with make it hard to feel engaged and excited about being at work. You are tired of hearing constant criticisms of others, back stabbing, and blame. Maybe you even find yourself sucked into the same behaviors at times, and in the quietness of your own thinking that frustrates you even more because that’s not who you are, and so you go to town on yourself with some good old fashion self-talk, and that thought just makes the whole situation worse. Your work environment is in constant change, you feel powerless as changes appear to be dictated from the powers that be, and you find yourself being pulled back and forth, constantly fire fighting, running around and ultimately arriving home exhausted at the end of the day or night (if you work shifts).
Over the course of time your frustration levels increase, you wake up frustrated, you go to bed frustrated, and when you find yourself snapping at strangers, family, and friends you realize the situation might just have tipped you over the edge. You point the finger to the people you work with, the business that employs you. You can often be found lamenting with friends that the world is going down the tubes. You feel disconnected from work, colleagues, and that spills over into your personal life.
Anything you can do to avoid the stresses or work and distract yourself by feeling good things is where you put your energy (if you have any left). Your natural instinct is to survive, and you feel like you might not even be doing that very well, so you try all sorts of things to try in an attempt to regain your balance in life and get back to how you used to feel at a different time in life when you felt better.
This is not an uncommon experience. The world over, from cities to villages, from one country to another, from developed to developing countries. This sort of disconnected experience is a pattern and it creates much anxiety, worry and frustration for those that find themselves in it.
First up, here’s what you say to yourself. “I am doing my absolute best. Despite being in a difficult situation or environment I am finding my way through.” Then you say, “I am willing to consider that there might be an alternative option for me and I just haven’t found it yet. However I am ready, I am willing to learn and grow, I am open to it, and when that next step reveals itself I trust myself that I will see it and I will know what to do.”
Here’s what you just did with those statements. You stopped giving other people your power. You reminded yourself that you are in charge of your life, you are the star of your show and you can choose which script to read and write. You gave yourself permission to choose and engage in what inspires and motivates you. Your mind just fired in a different way. It likes what you just said to yourself. Can you notice how that feels compared to when you read “The Problem”? Did you feel how heavy and life sucking that problem felt? - even if you’re not in that situation. Then, as you read the next of statements did you notice a sense of lightness gently roll in? Maybe if felt peaceful or hopeful, maybe it opened your mind up to possibility of an alternative path. Whatever it was see if you noticed a set of different feelings.
How do we know this works? Well, we know that humans have a negative thought bias, we know that we tend to think negatively more often than we do positively - and that’s important because it helps us to survive. Running in front of a car usually doesn’t end well, so we need our brains to consider all the possible risks to help stay alive. If a lion were running towards you, you would not stop to say “aw fluffy big animal, let me wait here to stroke its ears.” No! You would run for your life!
This negative bias can trip us up when we stop practicing positive thought patterns. As we get older we unlearn what children do naturally and easily - they laugh, they see the positives in things, they have a lightness in what they see, they engage in life differently because their negative bias isn’t triggered in the same way as adults. We need to remind ourselves to see the positive in a situation or in others. We can choose to judge people harshly for their behaviors and actions, we do the same to ourselves. When we react in this way our behaviors begin to change, we might experience being snappy at others, we become grumpy with ourselves and others, we lose our patience with people and situations and our interactions become difficult and complicated. Yet, we can also choose to consider there is another story that we are just not seeing - a story we have forgotten how to see.
When we begin to shift our perspective, we begin to see things differently. If you have ever bought a car, have you experienced this? - You are driving your new car around, and to your surprise you noticed how many other people not only have the same car make and model as you, but they also have the same color car too? How did you not notice before? That’s because your brain has focused in on something new, it’s created and spotted a pattern. When you are in a toxic environment your brain is constantly seeing and re-seeing the same old negative patterns and unconsciously to you these are making you respond, think, feel and react in ways that perhaps aren’t aligned to who you truly are. So you have to choose to put a pause on that way and style of thinking and be opening to putting in the work to learn and remind yourself of a more positive way of thinking to shift your perspective and outlook - which will shift how you interact with others and how they will interact with you.
Misery loves company, but it can’t survive without a buddy. So if you disengage from gossip and corridor chatter or criticizing other colleagues you are starving the gossip airways and you reduce the capacity for gossip to thrive. You will feel better for it, and so will others. You doubt your power? Oh, have you experienced a mosquito and how much of an itch that one little thing can create? You have more power than you realize. Choose to disengage from styles and habits that just don’t feel good to you.
Organization environments can change and you can be part of seeding that change. Are you leading a team, or running an organization where toxic relationships exist? Constant complaining, bickering, back stabbing? Know that there is a way to change the culture and the environment. It starts with mindset and there are proven techniques that can shift an organization from toxicity to productivity.
You can re-position your mind, and help your colleagues and employees to look at the situation differently. You can let go of being attached to others and their behaviors at work. You can learn to recognize their reactions to situations or people are their own responses - and not yours. You can choose to see your thoughts and emotions as just data points, you don’t have to be influenced by others. As a result your entire perspective shifts and you are intrinsically making a change to the culture.
Sometimes you will get back to being so aligned and in-tune with who you are and what works for you, you will realize that the work environment you’re in no longer works for you, and you will positively take the step to move. Rather than being chased or forced out. When you get to the point of saying, this place no longer suits me, I wish it well, but I am going to a new organization where people support and engage one another. Where we all value our strengths, where we have healthy boundaries, and we understand what we each bring to the table. Where we engage with one another respectfully, with kindness, compassion, and humility. Where we have healthy debates, discussions, and we know how to experience, recognize and respond to our own emotions. We don’t always get it right but we figure it out. Where egos are understood and recognized and acknowledged as part of our existence as humans, but where we help each other to let go of ego-centric behaviors that are not beneficial, and where we are continually learning and growing. When you state your desires and needs of what you DO want it’s surprising what turns up to support you.
Or you might get to the point where you say, I see the antics in this work environment, I see the criticisms, and the egos and see what undercurrents are at play here, but it no longer affects and triggers me in a way that it once did. I notice how it makes me feel when I see my colleagues shouting at each other, or when a colleague complains and criticizes others that I work with, or even me, but I remain unaffected by that because I have learned what I am aligned with and I know what’s important to me, and when that happens I have learned that when emotions pop up for me I just let them float by without hopping on board. You will be able to say with confidence and contentment:
“I have learned how to travel downstream instead of constantly and previously trying to swim upstream (which is exhausting.)”
As an organization, when you invest in the individuals in your organization in a healthy way, there is a knock-on positive effect - it will ripple into teams, into departments, and into the way your organization acts, operates, how creative, innovate and engaged it is. It will reinvigorate your culture in a new way. Your health care costs will start to come down, your retention statistics will change, you will start attracting people and clients into your business that are beyond your wildest dreams.
The thoughtfulness you found, considered, and applied on that day during the summer of 2019 will create engagement and connection that you have long craved for and you will look back and witness performance, productivity and profitability shifts.