#021—How do words impact your relationships?

Hi everyone! Thank you sooo much for responding to my ask last week for feedback. I received way more than I expected (so grateful!) and I’m working on putting that feedback to use this month. Soon, you’ll see the sections of this email evolve as I continue working hard to make this weekly tradition valuable for each of you.

For now, let’s continue with some thoughts. Last week, I wrote about how easy it is for words to cause misunderstandings between people and within ourselves. And one of you replied asking for some action steps on how to avoid those kinds of misunderstandings during important conversations. So, this week, I’ll be answering that question in Final Thoughts!

But for now, on to the resources 🎉


💼  CAREERS AND MEANINGFUL WORK

When it comes to stories about terrible work-life balance, the worst examples are usually from entrepreneurs who completely merge their lives with their business. But this isn’t unique to folks managing their own companies. It also happens to people with regular jobs who are just as susceptible to letting work dictate their identity. Usually, this happens to “intrapreneurs”—people at a company with a lot of autonomy (and responsibility) over the work. 

When I had Justin Welsh on my podcast, he talked about how his identity became tethered to his job while he was in sales at ZocDoc and later at PatientPop. Basically, when you’re trusted with a lot of responsibility, it can begin to feel like a failure at work is a personal failure. Like somehow you personally are a failure if you don’t succeed in this instance. 

But you have to remember that your title is not your identity. If the company were to fold tomorrow, that title would be gone in an instant. But you’d still be here. So how can your entire existence be dependent on one aspect of your life? 

I’m not someone who preaches “work-life balance” in the traditional sense. I believe in blending, so for me, every hour of my life is “used” intentionally. If I need to be focused on self-care, or time with family, that’s what I’m prioritizing. If I need to be supporting my team, or getting creative work done to move my mission forward, then that’s where my time will be invested. But this blending, if not done intentionally, can lead to your work/career becoming your entire life. 

And if you’re working in a traditional environment where your time investment is dictated by a manager, healthy blending can be even harder to master. 

  • I was curious to hear about Justin’s experience, as someone who joined a company as an employee and built it from 0 to $50million ARR, and what he did when he found his identity tethered to his work. Listen to our conversation here.

  • If you’re looking for your next role, General Assembly is hosting an open mic night for job seekers on October 21st to ask different coaches any questions.

  • Want to hear how other folks are handling remote working? Join this conversation on the remote revolution and ask questions to help get yourself set up remotely in the best way for you.


👋 SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL HANGOUTS

  • Mental Health Week: Get Moving

October 19th, 6:00 p.m. PDT

Kick off the week with an hour of movement to get your blood flowing, endorphins pumping and energy levels rising ahead of the week! More details here.

  • How She Got There: Women in UX

October 22nd, 9:00 p.m. PDT

We have invited a panel of outstanding women from different backgrounds to discuss their paths to UX, how it's changed their lives, and how you can benefit from it too. Engage with your fellow UX designers and talk about experiences, both positive and negative, and get the support and inspiration that your are looking for. More details here.

  • Lessons from the Design Community

October 26th, 4:00 p.m. PDT

Young leaders will share how they're leveraging their superpower - their diverse backgrounds - to create a new narrative in design. Four presenters will provide a glimpse into their own personal and professional journeys and how their diverse backgrounds have helped shape them into the designers they are today. More details here.

  • Product Management: Lessons from the Product Community

October 27th, 3:00 p.m. PDT

Product managers aren’t just continuously learning new things and need to improve within their product, they are also learning how to do this for themselves in their daily roles. The role of a product manager is ever-evolving and it takes effort and energy to keep up with those changes. Join General Assembly and our seasoned product managers to learn the valuable lessons they learned along the way in their role. They will delve into their most valuable tips, tricks, and best kept secrets of the product community. We hope you can join us! More details here.


⭐ FINAL THOUGHTS

Last week, I shared tips on how to become more aware of your words and the definitions you assume to prevent them from limiting your beliefs. This week, let’s talk about how you can prevent miscommunication with others based on the words being used.

Similarly, to communicate effectively, you have to be aware of the words you’re using and the connotations they hold for you, as well as the person sitting across from you. 

It really comes down to having a clear intention for your communication, making that intention clear to the other person, and checking in consistently during the conversation, especially when you notice tension or sense some dissonance in your conversation.

I do this with my husband Raaid all the time when we’re having a discussion. 

Early in our relationship, we realized that our communication needed work. We come from such different backgrounds, that even our understanding of certain words would be totally different. Plus, we both had our own style of communicating and it didn’t always vibe with the other person. We didn’t recognize this at first, so we’d have so many disagreements even though we were both saying the same time, simply because we weren’t using the right words or talking at the right time. Words, and our lack of awareness, can get us in quite a bit of trouble… 

So Raaid and I started implementing a communication framework overtime. We called it intention-based communication.

First, we found that simply telling the other person what our intentions were for the conversation made a huge difference. We start by making sure we’re on the same page. What’s the intention of this conversation? What are we talking about and what do we hope to accomplish?

  • If I’m approaching Raaid to discuss something, I’ll start with “Hey babe, I have some feedback to share about our workout session together this morning. Is this the right time?” This ensures that we’re both prepared for the type of conversation we’re about to have, and know what to possibly expect. 

  • Another example of stating an intention is, “Hey, I want to give our contractor a final answer by the end of the day on the budget. I want to do an opportunity cost analysis with you that I think will only take 15 minutes or so, and then come to a final decision together that I can communicate to the contractor.” Again, I clearly state what I want to achieve by the end of our communication. 

If we proceed with the conversation, we both commit to being present and ensuring the communication goes effectively. This means (and we figured this out over time) that each of us looks out for any signs of confusion or dissonance. Facial expressions, body language, etc. We also have committed to simply confusion when we feel it and being proactive, instead of trying to figure it out in our heads while the other person keeps talking.

  • For example, anytime one of us notices confusion, we pause and ask “shall we pause and re-center? What do you hear me saying? Here’s what I hear you saying--is this correct?”

  • We make sure to pay special attention to our understanding of words. For example, I’ll say something like “I keep saying that this requires investment. Here’s how I define investment in this context. Do you see it the same way?”

Lastly, at the end of every conversation, we articulate our takeaways and action steps, if any, and ensure we’re aligned.

This may seem time-consuming initially but overtime, it becomes second-nature. Plus, miscommunication and misunderstandings lead to a ridiculous amount of hours, if not days or weeks, wasted. Not to mention, they often lead to hurt feelings and compromised relationships. 

You can also do this for the conversations you have with yourself! When you’re running through a scenario or idea in your head, make an intentional effort to examine the words you’re using and how they may affect your perspective. Last week, I mentioned that my mom had been conflating “prudent” with “frugal” when it comes to spending money because that’s what had been modeled for her. Once she saw that there were different ways to be prudent with money, she expanded her own thinking on the subject. And we all do similar things with certain words and phrases. 

For instance, the next time you hear someone called “successful,” check in with yourself about how that word is being used. 

Was it used to describe someone at the top of their field, or was it simply being used in place of “wealthy”? The issue there is that when we hear “successful” used as a replacement for “wealthy” over and over, we begin to think that wealth equals success and, even worse, that you can’t be successful unless you’re wealthy.

Words are funny and language by nature is exclusionary. So when I say a certain word, I’m essentially saying that it can’t be anything else. “The sky is blue” so it’s not anything else. Having such language inevitably leads to excluding potential definitions and understandings, even though connotations give rise to multiple meanings. So simply being aware and intentional about your communication (with others and yourself) can go a long way.

Let me know what you think, and if there are any other frameworks you’ve put in practice to communicate better.

And as always, if you have any feedback, thoughts, or just want to say hi, you can simply reply to this email. Feel free to also pass it on to anyone you think can benefit from it!

Enjoy life,

Shireen