What Happens in a Community Banter?

“Tell us your name, where you are living and a movie that scared you when you were young.”

That is the icebreaker we used for the first Hey, Boomer Banter. We had people joining us from New Hampshire, Connecticut, Georgia, South Carolina, California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida. And the scary movies?

  • The Blog
  • The Birds
  • The Exorcist
  • House of 13 Ghosts
  • Last House on the Left
  • Dracula
  • Halloween (the first one)
  • The Wizard of Oz (the flying monkeys)
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Psycho
  • Chainsaw Massacre

These folks knew their scary movies!


A banter is a playful and friendly exchange, and we certainly had that. We also expanded the definition a bit to include a place to build community and share some ideas. There was laughter, there was reflection, there was connection, and there was listening and encouragement.

The question about scary movies was not just a random question. It got people thinking about things that are scary, which led us into our topic of

Bravery vs Fear (False Evidence Appearing Real)

What does it mean to be brave? What does it mean to Face a Fear? Are they the same thing or different? This was the discussion members of the Banter took into their breakout rooms to think about.

We all agreed that these two ideas are related. Some of the other nuances were:

  • True bravery exists when you overcome a genuine fear and do it anyway.
  • Do we put as much thought into a brave action, as we do when we face a fear?
  • Some thought that facing a fear was more cognitive. You know there is something you want to do that will help you, but you are not comfortable with it (like cold calling or public speaking), so you make a choice to overcome the fear or to work through it.
  • Time element involved. For instance, running into a burning building to save someone would happen very quickly. Mulling over an action to face your fear may even get in your way of taking the action.
  • Facing a fear takes us through an analytical process. What are the risks, benefits, rewards of acting? Bravery is more of an impulsive act. You just do it before taking time to analyze potential outcomes.

With this knowledge, members were next asked to think about what advice they would give to their younger self about facing a fear they might have had. People were really willing to play along with this question. Here are some of the answers.

  • Don’t worry so much about what other people think.
  • Fear and anxiety feel exactly the same in your body as excitement feels. Reframe fear to excitement.
  • Have confidence. Believe in myself. Study music
  • Take more risks, try new things, worry less.
  • If you do what you fear, you’ll gain confidence.
  • Fear is ok, it should not be thought of as bad.
  • Find my voice and speak it loudly with confidence.

Let me leave you with this thought. The things you would tell your younger self, it is not too late to take action on these things now. Baby step actions to build confidence. We are here to support you.

With that in mind, what advice would you give your younger self?


Next month the Banter will be on Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 6:30-7:30pm. In February we will talk about friendships. Past friendships, making new friendships, what it takes to be a friend, what you want from a friend.

Join us as we banter about strategies that have worked, and some that have not, when it comes to friendship. Use this link to join.

Battle of Heart and Head

What does boxing have to do with your head and your heart? This is an allegory about the battle I was having between my head and my heart.

Unlike most of you who were busy making plans for Christmas, I was planning on all the organizing I was going to do in my office, and making plans for Hey, Boomer for the coming year. I was excited about all that I was going to get done because I was not having company for the holiday, and I had very few obligations. I could picture the clean desk I would sit down at, and it filled me with joy.

I also realized that over the past several months, I have been neglecting my connections because I have been so busy working. This realization is what led me to choose Connect as my word of the year.

This is where the “fight” started.

Picture this…

There is a boxing ring.  The announcer begins to speak.

“In this corner is the Focused Boomer! She is dressed in the orange and tans of the Hey, Boomer brand. Her strategy is to go through folders and decide what to keep and what to let go of. Next she plans to conquer all the upstairs paperwork, writings and papers from her parents. Finally, in her corner are her accountability partners, looking for her to present the Hey, Boomer goals for next year.”

“In the other corner is the Compassionate Connector, looking nervous but secure. The strategy on this side is to prioritize family time, friend time, and new connection time. The action required is to step away from the work to make time to connect. The intention is to also connect professionally and to look for ways to collaborate.  The Compassionate Connector’s sparing partner is constantly throwing in jabs of work to distract her from connecting.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is an epic battle between head and heart.”

“Focused Boomer is the dominant fighter in this battle today. She has a vision of where she wants to go and a strong desire to turn that vision into a reality. She also has the fortitude to stay focused. She is a planner, believing that without a plan there would be sheer chaos and overwhelm. This reliance on planning is where Focused Boomer is vulnerable, because when something disrupts/interrupts her plan, she falls into overwhelm.”

“Compassionate Connector was stronger a few years ago … before Covid. She could work a room, speak with anyone. She was President of her Rotary Club two times, where she met people regularly and enjoyed the connections. During these years, Compassionate Connector was very strong. But since Covid, she has stopped practicing. Well, not completely. Occasionally she would connect using Zoom, but over time she found that work was filling the void of lost connections. Her heart was growing weaker.”

“There’s the bell, and the opponents are moving to the center of the ring.

Connector moves in with a smile, hand out. Boomer pushes her aside and walks away as though on a mission. Connector tries to move in again, a bit more timidly. Again, Boomer barely sees her. Just keeps moving with intention around the ring. Connector begins to walk next to Boomer. She starts to sing a walking song. She just wants Boomer to slow down and notice her. It seems to be working. The pace of the walk is slowing down. Boomer looks over at Connector with some sense of recognition. Slowly, Focused Boomer realizes that at one time Compassionate Connector was a friend. They balanced each other out.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this fight is over. Focused Boomer and Compassionate Connector have agreed to provide balance for each other. 

Focused Boomer knows that at times her bullying side may come out. She does not mean to hurt Compassionate Connector. Now that she is aware of this, she is going to work on appreciating what Compassionate Connector brings to the table. 

And Compassionate Connector realizes that at times she can be too comfortable being by herself. She is going to work with Focused Boomer to get out more and feel the heart connections with friends and family. She will also work with Focused Boomer to do the network schmooze when it makes sense.”

I wish I could end this by saying, “they all lived happily ever after.” We all know that is not true. We will always have competing sides of our personality battling with each other.  I hope when these come up for you, you can find ways to appreciate what each part of you brings to the whole.

Live with passion, live with courage and live with relevance.

Unveiling my Word for 2023

What is Your Word for 2023. Here is my review of my words from last year and the word I have chosen for 2023.

I have been thinking about how I did “living” the words I chose for 2022. I posted the words on my bulletin board so I would be regularly reminded of them.

Mastery

MASTERY was one of my words. This is what I wrote about what I wanted to accomplish with Mastery.

I am working to master the art and business of podcasting and broadcasting, as well as the social media platforms that will help me grow and market the business.

I would give myself a C on this. I am working to master the art and business of podcasting, but I have by no means mastered it. I have made significant progress and it is a learning journey that really has no end. There will always be something to learn. Although Mastery will not be my word for 2023, I will continue to work on this.

As far as mastering the social media platforms, I am still working on that. I feel pretty good about my Facebook posts. I am changing up my strategy on LinkedIn and I continue to learn about Instagram. This is possibly an area where I could use some help. It takes a lot of time. The challenge is finding someone who can write in my voice for posts (not long form messages) and who would be loyal to the Hey, Boomer brand.

Acceptance

My other word for 2022 was ACCEPTANCE. This is what I wrote about what I wanted to do with Acceptance.

As part of my growth for this year, I will practice accepting people (friends and family) where they are (not judging) and not try to change them.

That is a tough one for me to say “out loud” to all of you. My role as a coach is not to change my clients. My role as a coach is to help the client find their own answers and believe that they know what is best for them. The truth is, I can do this very well with my clients. I can practice “detached involvement,” which means that I can empathize and encourage and present thoughtful questions without becoming attached to the outcome.

This is more challenging with personal relationships, which is why I chose the word ACCEPTANCE for 2022. I was hyper aware of this word all year and whenever I found myself not being accepting, I would reflect on what had happened and how I could do better next time. I think I have done pretty good on my practice of acceptance. I also think this will be an ongoing journey of growth for me. Probably means looking at myself some more too and asking where I may not be accepting myself. HMMM???

2023 – CONNECTION

Which brings me to 2023.

For the past 2 ½ years I have been working in isolation. This started with Covid and all of us were living in isolation. I am the kind of person who digs in and will spend hours trying to learn new technology and new skills. What that means is that I also probably spend more time than necessary figuring things out, when it would be more efficient to work with others and ask for help.

I also am the kind of person who can entertain myself pretty well. I like my alone time. Therefore, I tend to isolate myself rather than intentionally building friendships and supportive networks.

Does that surprise you? I am what I would call an extroverted introvert. I can go out and socialize and create connections just about anywhere I go. I recharge by staying in. I do recognize the need for supportive relationships and a supportive community, so part of what I will be doing this year is planning time with friends or family, at least once a week.

The one word I have chosen that will incorporate working with others more and spending time building my supportive network is CONNECT.

Here is a link to help you think about what word you will choose for 2023.

I hope you will support me in building connections this year.

Share your word with us so that we can also help to support you in living your word.

Word for 2023

Fred Rogers and Transitions

There is a fabulous 13-episode podcast called “Finding Fred.” It tells the story behind the story of the beloved Fred Rogers. The sometimes-radical ideas he presented to Congress, the barriers he broke when he shared a towel with Officer Clemmons, a black policeman on his show. He talked to kids about the war, about disabilities, about being their best self. And all of this he did with such genuine kindness. Check out the podcast if you get a chance.

I bring this up, because I came across a Fred Rogers quote that I wanted to share with you today.

“Often, when you think you are at the end of something you are at the beginning of something else.”

Endings and beginnings are a part of life. 2021 ended and we transitioned into 2022. Christmas decorations went up, and then they came down. Betty White passed away, and new babies were born. It is a continuous cycle.

Life transitions happen at all ages, but somehow in our 50’s and beyond, they can seem to pile on. Our careers end, our children move out, we may have a health crisis, or we may become caregivers. These challenge us to find the new beginnings.

Three stages of transitions

One of my favorite books on this is Transitions, by William Bridges. In this book he talks about the stages we go through. There is a new book out by Bruce Feiler, Life is in the Transitions, that defines very similar stages.

William Bridges calls the first stage Endings. There is grief from loss associated with this stage, even if you wanted the ending to happen. Let’s talk about the end of a full-time job. If your job was terminated due to downsizing or the pandemic, you are understandably feeling a sense of loss. A loss of control over the timing can be unsettling. If you have planned for your retirement, you have the big going away party, and you wake up the following Monday with no office to go to. That may feel wonderful but over time you recognize the loss of routine, the loss of friendships, the loss of structure and the loss of a paycheck. Bruce Feiler refers to the Endings as The Long Goodbye.

Once you move through the Endings stage, you move into what Bridges calls The Neutral Zone. Feiler refers to this as The Messy Middle. This is a time of uncertainty. A time of introspection. You are questioning what has worked for you, trying on new ideas and new habits. It can be uncomfortable because it is a time of reinvention for many people. The time in the Neutral Zone can be short, but it should not be rushed. There is a richness in “being in the wilderness” and giving yourself the time to explore the new thoughts and opportunities that are showing up.

Eventually you will come to a New Beginning, as both Bridges and Feiler call it. “Genuine beginnings depend upon inner realignment rather than on external shifts, for it is when we are aligned with deep longings that we become powerfully motivated.” That is a quote from the Bridges book. Being in alignment with deep longings comes with giving yourself time in The Neutral Zone or the Messy Middle to look inside, explore and try out new ideas.

Life is in the Messy Middle

As Fred Rogers said, “Often, when you think you are at the end of something you are at the beginning of something else.” Life is in the Messy Middle, in the Neutral Zone, where we redefine who and what and why we are. We are in unprecedented times with the pandemic and the wild weather and the political infighting. It may seem outside of our control. Focus on what you can control, make your voice heard. Build the life you want to live. It is ok to be in the Messy Middle until you get some clarity.

Want more?

If you want to talk more about the stages of Transition and would like some help navigating your own personal transition, I lead a 6-week group workshop called “What’s Next?” that will help you identify your own desires and the dreams you may have left behind and begin to visualize your new beginning.  It will begin on Jan. 11 and we will meet from 4:00-5:30, for 6-weeks. I am limiting the group to 6 individuals so that we can all have time to participate and form bonds. You will get a copy of the book, Transitions, by William Bridges, along with a new chapter of exercises and ideas each week. The full cost is $650, and if you register by January 5, it will only be $600 for the full 6-week program. Why not schedule a 20-minute discovery call to see if this program might be for you?

A Perfect Day

No alarm clock jarring me out of sleep. As I roll over, my cat is waiting for me to wake up. She wants her breakfast. The sun is starting to peak out, and the day is supposed to be beautiful. I am a morning person, and I slide into my slippers, make my way to the kitchen, turn on the coffee maker and get the cat her breakfast. 

Once the coffee is ready, I snuggle into the couch for my first sip and pick up the book I am reading. The morning is my time. I glance at my phone to see if any important texts or emails came in while I was sleeping, but the truth is, most emails and texts can wait until I am ready to read and/or respond to them. I am no longer working for a company, so I am in charge of my time.

After about an hour, I put on my workout clothes and head to the gym. I always do something aerobic, 20-30 minutes on the elliptical. Today I will also focus on some upper body work. I like listening to Pandora music while I work out. I tried listening to podcasts, but the music gets me going and I feel happier.

Home for a shower and breakfast. Now I can check my email and social media sites.

Wow, where did the time go? I guess I went down a Facebook rabbit hole and it is already lunch time. I tried calling a couple of friends, but they were either busy or did not answer. I am just going to run to the store and grab some sushi for lunch.

This afternoon is my spa time. I am going to get a mani/pedi and a massage. Oh, how I love my massages. I feel so relaxed after all this pampering. Nothing like coming home from a long day at work. This retirement stuff is good.

But it is only 3:00. What am I going to do with the rest of my day? Maybe I’ll reorganize my pantry or clean out some junk drawers. Oh yea, I did that yesterday.

I could read. That is what I will do. I will take myself to Barnes and Noble, grab a coffee and read for a bit.

Fortunately, I did make plans with some girlfriends to meet for dinner. I was getting kind of bored with all this me time.

Home by 9:00. I think I will curl up with my cat and watch a show before bedtime.

I thought this sounded like a perfect day, but would it be perfect if it repeated like this for 20 years … or more?

Now the Truth – Retirement is Evolving

My phone alarm goes off at 5:30. Without that I would not get up in time to have my coffee time and still go to the gym. Since we are talking truth, sometimes I get caught up going through my emails and suddenly I do not have time to read the book I want to read. (Why do I keep doing that?) Tomorrow I will do better.

I check the weather. It is rainy and cold, and dark. Ugh, do I really want to go to the gym at 6:30, just so I can get back and start getting ready for the Hey, Boomer show? It is a struggle most mornings. I am proud of myself when I go, but it does not always happen. Part of evolving is developing a plan, a system, that will get me the exercise I need to live healthy into my 80’s, 90’s or beyond.

It is true that I do 20-30 minutes on the elliptical when I am there and do some weight training each time. Pandora music does make the time at the gym more pleasurable.

Show day is one of my most favorite days. I’m putting it out to the universe that I have 100’s of listeners and lots of chatter going on. I am also doing the work to make this happen. Podcast downloads are picking up. My mission is to inspire and support people in the next act of life to find new beginnings, and confront endings and transitions, and evolve into who they want to be. That mission is the fuel that keeps me motivated and keeps me going.

Along with my mission for the show, I also feel that part of my purpose is to be involved in voter issues and the democratic process. Because of the passion I feel around that, I am grateful to have the opportunity to participate in voter registration drives, to participate in legislative actions that I am made aware of, and to stay informed. When I am able to be involved, I feel like I am trying to make a difference and that is important to me.

Maybe that is what my purpose really is. To make a difference. I hope I do that with the show. I feel like I do that through my volunteer work with voter issues. I hope that I show that through the love I share with my family and friends. Making a difference in their lives by letting them know they are important to me, and they are loved.

I do try to get together with girlfriends, but not often enough. I am busy, and busy with things that I find important. All of this is part of my evolution to life after corporate work. It is not always easy. It is sometimes overwhelming. And it is evolving. That is the beautiful thing about living my Truth. It does not have to be Perfect to be Meaningful.

The day in the life of a Poll Worker

I kept seeing notices on social media and in emails that there was a shortage of poll workers and that some polling places may not be able to open if they did not get enough people signed up. Eventually, I decided it was my civic duty to participate in this election cycle as a poll worker.

I really had no idea what to expect, except that it would be a VERY LONG DAY.

To become a poll worker in South Carolina, you first submit your application to the SC Election Commission. You must be a registered voter in South Carolina to be a poll manager (which is what they call poll workers). Teens over 16 can apply to be poll assistants, and at the precinct where I was working, we did have a teen working alongside us.

Once your application is accepted, you will receive an email with a username and password to use to take the online training. The online training takes between 5-10 hours to complete. It covers everything from setting up the precinct, checking people in, what to do when circumstances come up like someone is at the wrong precinct, or someone’s address has changed. There are detailed procedures for shutting down at the end of the day. Once you complete your online training, the county holds an in-person training. In Greenville County that training was a review of what was covered on-line, we received our Poll Manager handbook, had our questions answered and took the Poll Manager Oath.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been appointed, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States. So help me God.” (Article III, Section 26, S.C. Constitution)

“We do solemnly swear that we will conduct this election according to law and will allow no person to vote who is not entitled by law to vote in this election, and we will not unlawfully assist any voter to prepare his ballot and will not advise any voter as to how he should vote at this election.” (SC Code §7-13-100)

Polls open at 7:00am, and we had to be at the assigned precinct no later that 6:00am. Once you are there, you cannot leave until the polls close, and everything is shut down and reconciled. We left around 8:15pm.

What were some of my concerns about performing this job?

  • With so much anger being reported by the media, I was concerned that we might have some trouble at the poll. This did not happen where I was working. Most people were pleasant, and some even thanked us for the work we were doing.
  • Hunger was a concern for me. I like to eat intermittently during the day and always have something nearby to drink. What could I pack for all day that would be easy to eat during a lull and that would maintain my energy and blood sugar levels? I decided on a couple of hard-boiled eggs, hummus with crackers and sliced peppers, an apple, grapes, a couple of protein bars and a tuna sandwich. Also a couple of bottles of water (which were not enough). We did have someone’s mom bring us some additional water and coffee.
  • I was concerned that I would not remember all the procedures. The clerk at our precinct was great. She had us rotate positions so we got to experience all of the roles, but during the rush, the more experienced people handled check ins. I started as a greeter, letting people know to have their ID’s out and their phones on mute and in their pockets. I learned that it is a FELONY in South Carolina to use your phone while you are voting. You can bring in a printed ballot, but you cannot refer to the ballot on your phone.

What impressed me about the day?

  • Voting was steady so although the hours were long, it did not get boring.
  • I was impressed by the teen that worked with us. The young voters are our future and seeing her involvement and talking with her inspired me.
  • We had quite a few first-time voters, which was also inspiring.
  • At closing, I had a lot of questions about how the votes get transmitted and I want to share that with you.  It almost seems impossible that the voting machines could be tampered with. 

Closing process:

First of all, the check-in devices are the only devices connected to a private wifi. This is where you check the voters ID to verify that they are a registered voter and that their address is correct.

When someone completes their ballot, they take this ballot to a scanning device that is not connected to any type of external service. The ballot is scanned in and counted, and the data is stored on a drive in the scanning device.

During shutdown, the Poll Clerk unlocks the scanning device, while being observed by at least two other poll workers. She checks the number on the locks, records them and then removes the box containing any paper ballots that were submitted. Why might we have paper ballots? Some people that are unable to come inside are allowed to vote curbside and they complete a paper ballot. If for some reason the check-in device is not working correctly and we cannot generate the machine ballot, the voter is given a paper ballot. That did happen first thing in the morning, but we got the check-in devices up and running by 7:30. And occasionally someone may be given what is called a provisional ballot which is also a paper ballot.

The scanner will generate 3 copies of the count at the end of the day, on a long paper tape. One copy is posted in the window of the polling place. One copy is transmitted by the clerk, along with the thumb drive with the results, to the election board. The third copy is secured with other voting materials. All copies must be signed by all poll workers.

We also have to reconcile the count. We look at how many ballots we received, how many were used and how many remain. This number has to balance.

I felt good about the process. I felt that it was secure. I did not necessarily like the results of the voting, but that is what happens in free and fair elections. The voters make their choices. As long as we participate and accept the outcomes we are participating in democracy.

You are not dead yet!

I attended a funeral the other day, for the wife of a friend. Her daughter gave the most beautiful eulogy. She shared stories with humor and love. She shared gratitude for what she had learned from her mother and for the time they spent together. There was certainly a sense of loss and a sense of recognition for all her mother had given to her family and her community. The family focused on the good in the life of their mother and wife, more than on the grief.

It reminded me of another lesson about loss that I learned from a young boy who lived down the street from me.

“I have so many friends,” my new 8-year-old friend told me.  “Because my Dad died.”

What?  I wasn’t sure I heard him right at first.  I knew his father had died a couple of years ago from ALS.  Many people had stepped up to help him and his mother and through that support he made new friends. And here was this 8-year-old sage, embracing all the friendship that came into his life through his father’s death.  

All of this got me thinking about what people might say about me after I am gone. Of course, I would not know what was said, so why did this question come up in my thoughts? I think it is because I want to feel like the time I have spent here has been valuable to others.

Alfred Nobel

There is a story about Alfred Nobel, who was the inventor of dynamite. One morning he was reading the paper and to his surprise, he saw his obituary. It turns out that his brother had died, and the newspaper mistakenly listed him as the one who had died. The obituary read, “the merchant of death is dead. Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster, died yesterday.”

You can imagine his dismay, not only to see his mistaken obituary, but also to think that the world would remember his as the “merchant of death.” The story goes on to say that this experience motivated him to set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Foundation and create the Nobel Prizes.

End of life regrets

Bronnie Ware, a hospice nurse in Australia wrote a book titled, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. She collected this information from conversations she had with her end-of-life patients by asking them if they had any regrets. Turns out that there was a common theme. The top five regrets were:

    1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life where I was true to myself, and not just lived up to other people’s expectations.”
    2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
    3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
    4. “I wish I’d stayed in better touch with my friends.”
    5. “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”

    The themes reflect how letting life happen to us, rather than choosing how we want to live life showed up as regret.

    Writing your own obituary or your own eulogy

    This is where the exercise of writing your own obituary or eulogy could be useful. You may at first think this is a morbid thought, or a vain thought. But in actuality it could be a wonderful exercise of reflection on what your life has been like so far, and an opportunity to put some intent behind what you still have left to do.

    Two of the regrets at end-of-life have to do with courage. Courage to be who you really are meant to be and courage to express your feelings. How would it feel to write in your obituary, “she found her voice and inspired others to find their own?” Or “having always wanting to be a writer, late in life he sat down and wrote his memoir as a gift to the family?”

    Writing your own obituary or eulogy gives you the opportunity to see the future you, in a way that you may have been resisting because of fear. If you always wanted to be a writer, artist, small business owner, closer to your family, involved in civic organizations, or _________, now is your time to take that step.

    Have you lost touch with friends? Would you want to be remembered as a good friend and what does being a good friend mean to you? As you think about what you might say about friendship in your obituary, you might make your connections a more important part of your life.

    There are templates on Google to help you get started, and you might find those helpful. Check out https://www.legacy.com/advice/how-to-write-your-own-obituary/

    Writing your own obituary or your own eulogy is not just about listing your accomplishments. It is about what has brought you joy. It is about what has given you a sense of fulfillment. It is about sharing your history with your family and friends. It is about sharing lessons learned that you hope will inspire others. It is a time to share some of your most memorable moments.

    Writing your obituary or your eulogy will give you the opportunity to reflect on whether you are happy with your life’s direction and the legacy you are leaving. If not, you can start to take some steps to be the person you want to be remembered as.

    You are not dead yet.  Follow the sage advice of an 8-year-old boy.  Find the gifts in your life, like the friends he found, and think about the gifts you still have to share with others.

    Four ways to handle news-induced anxiety

    I remember once being introduced to two sisters. Their mother said, “this is the smart one and this is the pretty one.” Both girls were in their early 20’s. These girls had to live up to the images they had been assigned.

    I have been struggling to write this blog for the past couple of weeks. I believe I have to live up to my image as the positive one, the one who seems to “have it all together.” My persona is encouraging, sharing inspiring stories and encouragement on the Hey, Boomer show, but lately I have found myself feeling more anxious.

    I have been concerned about the rising prices of everything, especially being on a fixed income; the angry and non-factual rhetoric that is such a virulent part of this election season; the threat to women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and the rise of antisemitism; the lies about the result of the 2020 election.

    There is recent news about the new variants or mutations of the Corona virus and how it seems to be finding ways to avoid our immune systems and does not respond to the monoclonal antibody treatment that is currently used to fight the virus.

    Or we could talk about climate change, sexual abuse, hunger, banning books in schools and libraries, the unprovoked war in Ukraine and the threat of tactical nuclear warfare? It is no wonder that worry and fear seems to interrupt us at almost every turn.

    Before you run for your Xanax or a tall glass of wine, let’s refocus on what we can do to restore or maintain a sense of well-being. This is what I do when I find myself becoming overwhelmed by all the bad news.

    1. Take a deep breath. When we are stressed, we generally forget to breathe. Not literally, but we draw in short, shallow breaths which increase our sense of anxiety. Try to inhale deeply into your belly and exhale with an open mouth sigh. Three to four deep, cleansing breaths can begin to ease some of the tension you are experiencing. Notice if your shoulders are raised up near your ears. Relax your shoulders with each breath. Also notice if your jaw is clenched. Breathing out through your mouth will help you release the tightness in your jaw. Take a deep breath.
    2. Find what calms you. I find that if I turn on music it helps me relax. I can work with music on, but some people cannot. Taking a walk may be your way of releasing tension. Even short walks can be helpful. Play is another way to put worries or fears away. Play golf or pickleball. Play solitaire. Play time with young children is almost always a good break. Creativity can also be relaxing. I have rediscovered embroidery. Maybe for your it is painting or writing or cooking or gardening. Find what calms you.
    3. Do something that helps you feel more in control. When you look at all the issues today that are bombarding us with Warnings and Danger signs, which one or two really speak to you? Feeling a sense of empowerment, rather than a sense of uselessness is so important to our mental health. Right now, for me, it is voting that has become top of mind. I have been working with the League of Women Voters to register new voters and help voters who have moved to update their address before time ran out. I have been sending postcards to voters with lists and scripts provided by Activate America. And this morning I completed my training to be a poll worker. As Omkari Williams said on the Hey, Boomer show, “doing nothing will create regrets. If the outcome of your efforts is not what you hoped for, at least you will know that you did everything you could to get another outcome.” Small, incremental steps matter. Do something that helps you feel more in control.
    4. Put things in perspective. History goes in cycles. We have had very dark times in our history and then we have had very good times. We see this in our own lives as well. Things may be running along smoothly and then something happens. We lose a job, a relationship ends, we encounter a health challenge. Generally, we recover from these challenges and things return to equilibrium. Someone reminded me the other day that challenges are also opportunities. It is a matter of reframing how we look at them. What can we learn, how can we grow, what opportunities are presented to us by this “challenge?” Put things in perspective.

    I am sure those girls are not always the smart one or the pretty one.  I am not always the positive, encouraging, one who has it all together. We all experience a wide range of feelings. It is what we do with them that matters.

    You are all amazing and you all have a lot to offer.

    Please Vote!

    How I Became an Advocate

    First for my children, then for women, then for older adults

    Parental Advocacy

    We lived in Woodstock, GA. when my daughter, who was in the 8th grade, brought home papers to review for her science test. I started going through the questions

    Me: Neanderthal man is a humanoid with rickets? WHAT?

    Sondra: That is what the teacher said.

    Me: The earth is only 5000 years old. If it were older, it would be covered in solar dust. WHAT?!

    Sondra: That is what the teacher had on the overhead, Mom.

    Me (as I am meeting with the principal): Have you ever heard of the Scopes Monkey Trial? The teacher (science teacher!) is teaching evolution. Of course you know that is illegal.

    The Principal & Science teacher: Well, that unit is over. We just won’t count that test grade.

    WHAT?!?

    When my children were young, my advocacy was on making sure they got a balanced, and expansive education. From the above story, you can see why I felt the need to be involved and an advocate for them.

    Boomer Advocacy

    Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I was raised to be socially conscious. I had been involved in anti-Vietnam war protests. I was young during most of the civil rights protests, but I was very aware of what was going on. I had been active in election politics and the Women’s movement. My children even attended rallies with me. I always felt that we had a responsibility to be involved in advocating for protecting people’s rights.

    But when did I start to recognize the bias against older people? I was surrounded by highly competent older people, in my Rotary Clubs, with my parents and their friends. I did not see older people as lacking opportunities or as less than.

    It was not until a few years ago when, at the age of 64, I was laid off as the Director of Training due to a merger and acquisition. I was also asked to train my replacement.

    I looked around for a year or so for a comparable position. There were not many places that even wanted to talk to me because I either had too much experience, or my salary requirements would be too much. Those were generally the stated reasons.

    One can only guess at the unstated reasons. Would an older worker fit into the environment? Would they be technically capable? Would they leave after a short amount of time?

     I finally settled on a position with a Sylvan Learning Center. Once the pandemic hit, Sylvan shut down and I was unemployed again. At that moment I had to ask myself, “how did I want to feel?” I wanted to feel relevant. I wanted to feel that what I did mattered. I wanted to still make a difference.  I started Hey, Boomer as a vehicle to make a difference in the lives of other older adults who listened to the show. It was my new advocacy platform.

    Advocacy Resources

    Advocacy does not come easy. In my opinion, angry advocacy tends to alienate the people we are hoping to win over. I believe we have to engage in conversation and find common ground. The Stanford Social Innovation Program has done a lot of research and work around reframing the way we think, speak and act about aging. In focus groups, researchers found that participants, no matter their age, never identified as “older people.” They always thought of older people as “them” not “us.”

    Frameworks Institute teamed with the John A. Hartford Foundation on reframing the metaphor about aging. They found that “comparing aging to a process of “building momentum” changes how people understand aging and helps them see how the force of experience and wisdom enables older people to improve their communities. By casting aging as a dynamic and forward-moving process and emphasizing the accumulation of “force” and “energy”—the momentum we gain as we age—we can help people see aging in a more positive light.”

    How we frame issues matter.  Live Life in Crescendo, the last book by Stephen R. Covey and his daughter Cynthia Covey Haller, is another reframe of aging. The premise is that our most important work is always ahead of us.

    Changing the Narrative, led by Janine Vanderburg, has an abundance of resources to help us reframe aging, along with cards to help us celebrate aging with positivity rather than degradation.

    I am on a mission to support and inspire older adults. This is one of the areas I am advocating for at this time. We are learning and sharing stories and finding new beginnings and confronting endings and transitions. We are evolving rather than retiring. We are defining what this next stage of our lives will be like.

    Where is your advocacy taking you?

    The Elder in the Room

    I was doing some training for a large company this week on time management. The people I was training were in very high stress jobs, and they felt that they had no control over their time because of the demands of the company. I could completely relate to their experience, having been in similar environments myself. During the training, I was able to share some of my experiences and help them have a more wholistic outlook on time. What could they manage at work, and what could they manage outside of work? Could they find 5 minutes in their day to take a short walk and breathe? Could they take 30 minutes in the morning to gently prepare for their day rather then adding to their stress by rushing through the morning. They were open and receptive to the ideas and expressed gratitude to have had a chance to be heard and validated.

    I think 20 years ago, I would not have had the wisdom or the confidence to present these ideas to them in the way that I did. It was nice to be the Elder in the room!

    Sometimes I hear that older adults feel like they have been moved to the side, they’ve become invisible. And it’s not because they have nothing left to contribute. It’s because the invitations to participate seem to dry up. It is also because some of us buy into society’s notion that we are no longer relevant.

    I would suggest that what we need to do is look at our own internal ageism. We got our ideas of aging from our parents and grandparents. If the older people around us lived beyond their 60’s, they generally were declining, they appeared to be in poor health. For many of us, there was nothing appealing about the image of aging that we saw. Now the idea of aging as decline is reinforced by many of the images we see on TV. The older adult is portrayed as technically incompetent, there are jokes about forgetfulness, and so many commercials are about anti-aging products. Without this awareness, we will still make comments like, “aging is not for sisses” or “that must have been a senior moment,” of “you look good for your age.” Those types of comments reinforce our own beliefs that aging means decline.

    Today I listened to a program about friendship on My Future Purpose, a program developed by my friends Joyce Cohen and Vicki Thomas. Thelma Reese, one of my favorite role models for aging, was one of their guests. Thelma is in her 90th year, which as she explained, means that she is still 89. As she spoke about friendships, she spoke of the loss of many of the people who had been lifelong friends. She spoke about the loss of her siblings. She summed this up by saying, “the adjustment to being old is different from aging well.” In this new stage of “being old” Thelma is still finding the good in life and is still developing.

    It made me realize that aging has stages also, just like the stages of childhood. Most of the people I talk to and encourage are in the early stages of aging. We are in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. There is another stage, the stage of old age. This is the stage that Thelma is in. This is the stage that my mother is in. She is 92 and she is still interested and involved in whatever ways she can be.

    We are creating new role models for aging, not just for the younger people, but for ourselves as well. Recognizing the lives that many of the older people around us are living takes the sting out of the term ‘old age.’ Thelma and my mother, and people like them, still have a sense of purpose, they still feel useful, and I think that is essential to living a meaningful, healthy life.

    On the show next week, we will be talking about Celebrating Aging. Janine Vanderburg, founder of Changing the Narrative, is working to change the way people think, talk and act about aging and ageism. It will take all of us to be aware, to be willing to speak out and to recognize our ability to evolve and develop and grow.

    I have to amend my comment about being the Elder in the room. After listening to Thelma today, I realize I am an Elder in Training. I am so grateful to have role models in my life like Thelma and my mother.

    Learning to be a Grandparent

    When I first spoke to Dr. Bob Saul in February of this year, I was very curious about his messages about raising good citizens. My interest expanded after conversations with my teenage grandchildren. In their young lives, they have experienced the pandemic, gun violence in schools, the insurrection on the Capital, and the proliferation of hate and bullying on social media. They were expressing fears about their future.

    As you may recall from the show I did with Dr. Saul, he is the author of several books including, My Children’s Children: Raising Young Children in the Age of Columbine and Conscious Parenting: Using the Parental Awareness Threshold.

    As Boomers and grandparents, we grew up with traumatic experiences that rocked our sense of safety also, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the riots of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War protests.

    As grandparents, we can share some compassion with our grandchildren around what they are experiencing. It is not the same, and yet we can relate to their threatened sense of security in some ways.

    In 2020, Dr. Saul released Conscious Parenting. Having been a pediatrician for 40+ years, as well as a parent and grandparent, he had developed a lot of insight into parenting and wanted to share that with others.

    He talks about a representative line he calls the Parental Awareness Threshold. When you’re above the line, you’re conscious, you’re open your receptive, you’re ready to learn. When you’re below the line, you’re unconscious, you’re closed, you’re defensive, you’re always right. The point is, as parents or grandparents, we will be above and below the line all the time. Because we’re humans. We’re going to be open. We’re going to be closed.

    As a parent, I know that sometimes I would come home after a long day at work, and I was not open or receptive. I just wanted to get dinner on the table, get the kids bathed and get them to bed. There were also wonderful times of snuggling up to read a book, or baking cookies together or going for walks to the park. As a parent of teens, I wanted to listen, to be engaged, but as we all know, engagement is more on their terms when they are teens. I learned it was my job to create a safe environment for conversation when they were ready. And to be a good role model as much as possible.

    But as a grandparent, is it my role to also teach and guide and model, or is it my role to just love? It is a fine line. Dr. Saul suggested that as grandparents we can teach and role model, but we have to be careful not to meddle, not to offer unsolicited advice.

    granddaughter and grandfather holding hands

    I learned a lot about parenting as a parent. I am learning a lot about grandparenting as a grandparent. And I am learning about the balance of being a parent of adult children and being the grandparent to their children. There are times when it makes the most sense to take that deep breath and not say anything. Assess the situation and choose. And if you choose the wrong way, give yourself grace. Apologize to your adult child if necessary and see this as a learning opportunity.

    Your role as a grandparent is also not to discipline, but it can be to teach. The root word for discipline is disciple, which means to teach. As a grandparent we can provide nurturing corrections to bad behavior, rather than punitive or judgmental corrections. But even these can be seen as interfering, if done when the parent is also in the room. Learning when to say something and when to be quiet is part of learning to be a grandparent, in my opinion.  The important thing is to establish yourself as a safe, stable nurturing person in the lives of your adult children and your grandchildren.

    Listening to hear, to empathize, to make eye contact is part of creating that safe, stable, nurturing environment.

    I remember my daughter used to come into my bedroom at night after I turned off the light, and I was just about falling asleep. That’s when she would want to talk. So, I would sit myself up and start paying attention. I guess with the darkness and the quiet time in the evening she felt that was her safe time to talk. You have to meet them where they are. I am learning with my oldest granddaughter, the best way to communicate with her on a regular basis is through Instagram messaging. She always responds to my Instagram messages.

    How do you grandparent? Are you grandchildren nearby or are you a long-distance grandparent? Have you blundered into saying something that was not received in the way you meant it? Have you apologized?

    Something magical happens when we become grandparents. Happy Grandparent’s Day to all of you grandparents. (it was last Sunday)

    Me with two of my grandchildren

    The Gift of Difficult Conversations

    The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “as a Buddhist, I view death as a normal process, a reality that I accept will occur as long as I remain in this earthly existence, knowing that I cannot escape it. I see no point in worrying about it. I tend to think of death as being like changing your clothes when they’re old or worn out rather than as some final end. Yet death is unpredictable. We do not know when or how it will take place. So, it is only sensible to take precautions before it actually happens.”

    I want to repeat that. It is only sensible to take precautions before it actually happens. But many of us aren’t comfortable talking about death. Have you had that conversation with your significant other, with your children or your parents, or with friends or relatives if you’re a solo ager?  There are the practical things, like a DNR, living will, do you want cremation or burial, all that kind of stuff. But then there’s the other stuff, the deeper stuff, like, how do you want to be remembered? What’s your legacy? Are you afraid of dying? What do you want your final days to be like? Those are deeper conversations, and if you don’t have them, you leave your loved ones guessing as to what you might want.

    Michael Hebb is the founder of Deathoverdinner.org which helps you host a facilitated dinner conversation with the important people in your life … about death.

    Michael said “we’ve stopped viewing the table as a place where we come together to share ideas. We really don’t know how to eat together anymore.”

    The ancient Greeks were great at gathering around a table and sharing ideas and knowing how to really take the most advantage of that time. Those conversations over dinner were called symposiums when they were official. You might have found Plato or Socrates or Aristophanes or Aeschylus or any of those principal players in the creation of Western civilization at a dinner table, talking about the nature of love or death or a relationship to the gods. And these conversations helped develop the ideas for democracy and our justice system. There’s a lot of power in gathering and talking over the table.

    We are also deeply isolated, and we aren’t given a lot of tools for deep interpersonal connection. “We go to our therapist, we go on retreats, we do a lot of things that are not within our actual friend group that don’t strengthen the bonds within our family or our friend group. What I realized was that the most difficult conversations are the ones that we avoid, the ones that have the most potential for human connection, deep bonds, and to give us an opportunity to transform our perspective and live differently,” Michael stated.

    Death is something that we all share and it’s something that many of us avoid and we consider the topic taboo.

    Michael explained, “For me, it was deeply personal. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was in second grade, and he died when I was 13. His death had a huge impact on our family. It was the type of illness and death that actually fractured our whole family structure and our whole family tree, nuclear and extended. And still we’re trying to heal that. But a lot of blame and shame and miscommunication and misunderstanding happened.”

    He saw the worst of it when a family doesn’t have the tools and doesn’t take the time to talk about terminal illness, eventual death, how to honor somebody, and what to do with their stuff.

    Michael believes that one of the reasons our health care system is bankrupt is because we don’t talk about death. “We spend something like 70% of health care expense in the last two years of life. It’s the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, the end-of-life expense for a loved one. So, it’s bankrupting us. It’s bankrupting the system. And it’s avoidable. We can have a conversation about how we want to be taken care of in our final days.”

    Getting people gathered to talk about end of life can be uncomfortable and challenging. The people you want to gather are the people who are most important to you. Your spouse, your parents, your children, maybe your best friend.

    Explain to them that it would mean a lot to you to have this conversation with them. You love them and you want to make sure that they understand how you want to be cared for at the end of your life, and you want to know how they would want to be cared for also. And realize that ultimately, it is a gift to your family to have these conversations.

    Michael stated, “It has always been the case that turning to face our mortality is the thing that gives us the most clarity, vitality, sense of purpose. I think Confucius said it best when he said, in each life there are two lives. And the second one begins when you realize you only have one.”

    Some of the takeaways from my conversation with Michael Hebb, founder of DeathOverDinner.org include

    • Don’t be discouraged when your loved ones give you resistance to a conversation about death or really any difficult conversation, but especially about death.
    • End of life medical care can bankrupt you. Being prepared for how you want to be cared for can help prevent this type of bankruptcy.
    • The most difficult conversations are the ones that we avoid, the ones that have the most potential for human connection, deep bonds, and to give us an opportunity to transform our perspective and live differently.

    If you are interested in the full show with Michael Hebb,

    Listen on Apple podcast or Spotify or watch on YouTube.

    Evolving through retirement

    I loved Serena Williams explanation of how she sees her next act. Williams indicated her intention to retire in a Vogue article in early August, saying she was “evolving away from tennis.”

    Retirement coaches and the media have been struggling with what to call the new retirement. Longevity of 20+ years post career has made the idea of retirement outdated. Terms like “unretired,” “rewired,” “next act,” “third act,” have all been suggested.

    Evolving is such a beautiful way to look at the life we are living after we step away from our full-time careers. That is what my clients are doing as part of the What’s Next coaching program. In each cohort you can almost feel the relief when they realize that they can let go of their “shoulds” and the preconceived ideas of what retirement is supposed to be like. Retirement is a time of transition, a time of reflection. It is an opportunity to evolve into the person you want to be, maybe for the first time in your life.

    The Wall Street Journal published an article on Wed. 8/31, written by Veronica Dagher titled “Retirement Planning Means More Than Saving in Your 401(k).” In it she talks about how retirees struggle with the loss of structure and routine. Friends that used to be part of our work environment disappear. We struggle to find fulfillment in golf or watching the grandkids, without other interests or purpose in our lives.

    We spent our early years following the path of school, choosing a career, buying a house, raising a family. If we lost a job, we generally did not take a lot of time to ask ourselves if the next opportunity was something we really wanted to do. We just took it. We developed life skills and career skills, but we did not develop the skill of managing unstructured time. We may have put an interest or passion on the back burner and now we don’t know how to reignite it.

    To evolve means to develop over a period of time into something different and usually more advanced. There is a period of transition that takes place after we leave our full-time careers. Ideally, we will allow ourselves time in the Neutral Zone. This is where the evolution happens. We may feel like we are wandering in a wilderness of unknowns. Who am I now? Who do I want to be? What is my purpose? I am not ready to be “old.” How much time do I have left? Slowly, over a period of time, we begin to discover, evolve, into newer versions of ourselves. Versions that are fulfilling, versions that contribute to our communities and our families, versions that recognize the importance of self-care.

    Let’s look at Carla’s story. She thought she was ready to retire. Financially her house was in order. Her parents had recently moved into a senior living facility, and she knew she would need some time to support them emotionally. She does not have children, so the pull of grandchildren was not there. She had been a solopreneur for many years and was hesitant to give up her practice. But she did want to slow down and spend more time with her husband. She also thought she wanted more adventure in her life, maybe travel to exotic locations to do volunteer work. When she actually stepped back long enough to really exam how she wanted to evolve, she realized that adventure travel was not really for her, and there was a part of her work that really excited her. She wanted to continue that work.

    Carla is evolving and accepting who she is completely. She is building more time into her life for healthy activities and time with her husband. She is continuing to stay energized with some of her work but has let some of the other pieces of her practice go. It is an evolution, and her life will continue to evolve as she decides she wants it to.

    That is the beauty of this stage of life. We have choices to live life with passion, live life with relevance and live life with courage. We get to evolve.

    In what ways are you evolving?


    For information on WHAT’S NEXT coaching go to

    heyboomer.biz/coaching

    How do you feel about aging?

    What do you think about aging? It’s better than the alternative, right?

    I started listening to Dr. Becca Levy’s new book, “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Well and How Long You Live.”  She is a leading researcher on the psychology of successful aging. Her research shows the connection between our beliefs about aging and our health and well-being as we age. Negative age beliefs impact our longevity by as much as 7 ½ years.

    You know that I am all about positive aging and I share this with you through my show and my posts. But I thought it might be helpful to raise your awareness to all the negative, ageist remarks and behaviors that are prevalent and accepted in our culture. Awareness is the first step to change. It is one thing to say that we have a positive outlook about aging. It is another thing to recognize when we might buy into or ignore a negative ageist stereotype.

    So here goes…

    Have you ever said this to someone, or had it said to you?

    • “You look good for your age.”
    • “Getting older is not for sissies.”
    • “That was a senior moment.”

    Have you noticed the amount of anti-aging products that are hawked in the media? Aging comes with wrinkles. Aging comes with changing hair color and texture.

    When I turned 40, my co-workers decorated my cubicle with black balloons, over-the-hill signs, Depends. I did not think that was funny then and I do not think it is funny now. Why do we associate milestone birthdays with jokes about decline and incontinence and forgetfulness?

    I hear people say, “60 is the new 40.” I say NO, 60 is the new 60.  70 is the new 70! Why not embrace the age we are? We have gained life experience. We have learned to overcome obstacles. We are more active than our parents or certainly than our grandparents were at our age.  There is an Instagram page where people are posting a picture and claiming their age. They are including a short writeup about themselves. Check it out @sayyourage_loudandproud and post your picture.

    How is ageism different from some of the other isms? It affects everyone. No matter your race or gender or religion or sexual preference, everyone ages. Yet it is the least spoken about and it is hidden in plain sight.

    Everyone is getting older; from the moment we are born we are getting older. If we continue to ignore the “old” jokes and stereotypes, young and old people will internalize the message that getting old is bad. Negative beliefs about aging have been shown to have negative consequences on our mental and physical health.

    Doris Roberts, who portrayed Raymond’s mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond” ad this to say about how older people were portrayed on TV. “[Seniors] do not see themselves portrayed and when they do, it’s in a demeaning manner. They’re referred to as “over the hill,” “old goats” and “old farts.” “Ugly ways of talking about us.”

    This coming week, I challenge you to recognize the negative aging beliefs and stereotypes you see and hear and say to yourself. You will be surprised at how often these occur.

    Who is Listening?

    In 1977 NASA launched Voyager I and Voyager II to fly by Saturn and Jupiter, collecting data that has increased scientists’ knowledge of those planets and our solar system. In 2012, Voyager I reached interstellar space, making it the most distant human-made object in existence. Both spacecraft carry a “time-capsule” called The Golden Record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the story of our world to extraterrestrials. (source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

    Various labs and universities have transmitted messages into space over the years. Other scientists have setup huge arrays of antennas to listen for transmissions from space. At this point, we do not know if anyone is listening to us. Our antennas have picked up signals from space, but whether these sounds are being intentionally transmitted has not been determined.

    But I don’t want to talk about space communication.

    Devices and Pets Listen

    Sometimes the best listeners in our lives are our pets and our smart devices. We ask Siri about the weather, for directions, for movie suggestions. We ask Google to find a nearby restaurant or entertainment venue. We ask Alexa to play music or add something to our shopping list. And these devices always respond. They listen to our questions or requests, and they respond. Some may say they are listening too much.

    Our pets may not respond to our requests, especially if the pet is a cat, but they generally let us know that they love us and are happy we are there.

    Listening professionally

    Listening professionally is what I do. When interviewing guests, I am always listening to what they say so I can keep the conversation going and ask thought provoking questions. When I am coaching clients, I listen for what they say and for what they may not be saying, to help them gain insights into what is holding them back or causing them unease.

    My training as a coach taught me to practice active listening, ask powerful questions and acknowledge and validate what is being said and felt.

    Non-conversations

    It seems that the art of conversation is being lost. How many times have you been to a restaurant and watched groups of people sitting together, but no one is talking. They are all on their devices. Even the children are on their devices. No one is talking and no one is listening. If you do get involved in dinner conversation, is there really listening going on? Is everyone talking at once? Or maybe the conversation goes something like this.

    Ted: “My boss is such a jerk. Last week he called me out in front of my co-workers.”

    Bob: “My boss never gives me any feedback. I don’t know if he is happy with my work or not.”

    Ted: “I am going to start looking for another job. I don’t need to be treated like this.”

    Bob: “My clients seem happy with my work, I am hitting my numbers. I am just going to keep doing what I am doing.”

    Does it sound like they were responding to each other or were they each having their own conversation? Yes, they were both talking about work, but there was no acknowledgment of what the other person said.

    Another familiar conversation could sound like this.

    Ann: “I went to the gym today. Managed to do 30 minutes on the treadmill and worked arms and abs for another 30 minutes.”

    Lynn: “Oh, well, I am doing 30 minutes of elliptical training every day, with high resistance, and then I do an hour yoga class twice a week.”

    Again, same subject, but this time, Lynn is one-upping Ann. No acknowledgement of the accomplishment that Ann obviously feels good about.

    The truth is most people don’t know how to listen. They listen while thinking about their response. The don’t listen to hear.

    Acknowledge and validate

    This is one of the most important lessons we learned in coach training. It is not as simple as it sounds, but it is a powerful way of letting someone know they have been heard.

    Let’s go back to the conversations above.

    Ted said his boss was a jerk for calling him out in front of co-workers.

    Acknowledgement and validation would sound like, “Wow, that must have felt awful. I can see why you are upset with your boss.”

    This simple statement gives the person permission to continue with their story because they feel heard. It can help them process what happened and then move on.

    In the other conversation, Ann talks about her accomplishments at the gym.

    Acknowledgement and validation would sound like “Good for you. Sounds like you are feeling good about pushing yourself to get to the gym and complete your workout.”

    How much better do you think that would feel for Ann to hear that response rather than having you tell them how much more you do?

    Many times, acknowledging and validating is all that person needs to feel like you are hearing them. They don’t need you to fix them. They don’t need you to one-up them. They don’t need you to tell your version of a similar story. They simply need to be heard. Once they feel heard, it is your turn to share.

    Listening is a skill that can be learned, and when you listen you are building intimacy and relationship. This week, why don’t you see how often you can acknowledge and validate when talking with a friend or family member. You may be surprised at how different the interchange feels. You will be giving the other person the gift of being heard.