New Rules of the Blame Game

When situations go awry, we search for reasons why and direct, maybe even obvious, causes feel more rewarding than interconnected and complex ones. At times, we might apply an obvious cause to a complex situation. When we do, one of the easiest causes is someone else. Human infallibility is fickle. When we decide we’re right, all others are suddenly wrong with little evidence for the contrary. All others are suddenly blameworthy.

Situation Over Character

When we point at someone else, we play the absolved. We attempt to remove ourselves from all participation so that we can’t be the problem. Unfortunately, it also means then we’re not the solution. Subscribing to this mentality can quickly turn our blame into more than what it should be as blame is a prerequisite to judgement. We extrapolate our blame from the particular situation and apply it towards the person, unfairly and disproportionately characterizing them. News flash – being at fault doesn’t equal faulty character.

Let’s say you’re on a team overloaded with projects and another team member makes a crucial error that ultimately you’ll have to resolve. What can play out in our heads is this:

“Oh no, Lucy sent the wrong list of clients to the team to request information from.
I’m already so far behind on my projects and this is just another thing I have to fix.
How could she have been so careless? She can be so lazy!”

Unfairly characterizing is a justification for your own blame. Lucy is lazy and therefore, it wouldn’t be out of character for her to mess up like this. This way, when you dole out blame, you believe it to be just and fair.

Positive Blame

You’ve heard that blaming isn’t kind and that “it’s no ones fault.” There are few circumstances where that is fact. Natural disasters for example, but at best it is a small gesture people say when something does in fact go wrong to make us feel better. In reality, across everything that could go wrong, how often is truly no one at fault? A miscommunication between co-workers leads to fire drills. A disagreement between loved ones feels like a tornado tore through the house. In both situations, there is fault to be had.

Blame though, can be productive with the proper mindset. It can actually strengthen relationships, provide teams clarity of roles, and reverse assumptions. Traditionally we think of blame as rude and demoralizing and on the receiving end, it’s belittling and upsetting. It’s tough to not feel a tinge of regret, even when you don’t care too much for the accuser. The path towards better blame is two-fold.

Division of Blame

To begin with, blame becomes manageable if it is split. I recently heard a story of a group of co-workers that had reached the boiling point on a situation where no one seemed to be listening or working to improve. It culminated in a large meeting that was honest, emotional, and necessary for them to ever move forward. While I was listening to them recount the past events, from my view, it seemed as though all of the blame was being put towards one individual. They weren’t being direct in their words, “It was Mark’s fault,” but instead it came through as should haves.

“Mark should have done this.”
“Mark should have told us earlier.”

In these situations, I find it an incredible oversight to put all the blame in one basket. The entire fallout of a team is not on the shoulders of Mark. He likely played a major role but I’d venture not 100%. What if instead we assign Mark 60% of the blame so as to ensure he remains the majority but now, there is opportunity across the whole team.

Most importantly, there is opportunity for yourself. How much is on me? 20%? 30%? We’re generally resistant to blame ourselves as we view it as an all or nothing but you’ll find it more palatable to blame yourself for only a fraction of the situation.

Party of Two

Let’s for a moment step outside of a team dynamic and apply splitting blame within a relationship of two where you’re forced to bear some blame. Keep in mind this isn’t an exercise of self-loathing but self-awareness and perception. Perceptions of just how much percentage one owns as your estimate might be very different than theirs. This example happened not too ago between my wife and I…

Normally, I handle the bills but the date slipped past. Prior to that date, while my wife was re-organizing, she moved this particular bill to another area in the house. Since I was looking in the normal location for bills, this could have attributed to my forgetfulness. During our conversation, I claimed 80% blame. My defense was the remaining was hers on account of the relocation. From my wife’s point of view or, based on her perception, she believes it should be 95/5% split.

The difference? She remembers telling me that she did in fact move the bill. I clearly forgot that tidbit as well and accepted her proposal. The other 5% that was hers? We both know I have a tendency of a one-track mind. Great for focusing, so long as I’m focusing on the right things. When she told me, I was distracted by my own task at hand. Rather than assuming I heard and understood, she could have taken the extra time to confirm.

A Cautionary Tale

A note in language. Relationships are unique and need to be handled as such. Actually conferring different percentages of blame might be too forthcoming. Between my wife and I it works. The words and actions are meaningful but the tone of percentages can be playful banter. This isn’t going to work the same in teams. The goal of assigning percentages is to create space for self-awareness meaning it can be done without saying a word.

Don’t start splitting blame if not everyone is aware of the intent. It will backfire and people will get defensive and argumentative. Having this type of candid conversation requires each person to be willing to accept and own their part and be able to view it as solutions-based conversation, not a scapegoat from their own involvement.

From Blame to Ownership

As revealing as it is to split the blame positively, the word still has its negative connotation and can feel like an attack even if it only for a small percentage. So instead of looking around the room and placing blame, let’s place ownership. Mark owned doing what he was supposed to. Mark owned telling his team earlier. How much ownership can I take for the missed bill?

Here’s the second part of better blame (ownership). The admission of it. How do we get to a place where no one has to pry ownership out of others but for each person to be forthcoming with it? As the leader of a team, it is our responsibility to create an environment where people feel safe enough to present such admissions. To show you’re serious in that effort, take the first step. How would our story of Mark been different if it were his own admission of ownership served with a side of opportunity?

“I should have done this. I’ll remember to do so going forward but I might need reminders.”
“I should have told everyone sooner. How best does everyone want this to be communicated?”

After hearing admissions like this, the team is going to feel more confident in the future knowing that there are no consequences to admitting ownership and in fact it is expected. From our story, Mark still holds majority ownership but who else at the table owned a piece? If Mark owned keeping everyone involved but missed the mark, did anyone ask? Or did everyone just assume things were happening predicated on no news is good news. Would Mark had gladly given up the information if one person posed the question?

Before you rebuttal with “It’s not my job to do his,” I understand how you feel, I’m guilty of it too, and you’re right in the broad sense. However, is it not your job to ask or speak up for the things you want and need that directly impact you? There is shared space between someone else’s responsibility and your responsibility. That space is where blame turns to ownership.

Show Up

Simon Sinek has said before “A leader should not take credit when things go right if they are not willing to accept responsibility when things go wrong.” When it comes to ownership, the same principle applies. A leader should not take ownership when things go right if they are not willing to accept ownership when things go wrong. This means being the first to openly admit it. This means guiding the team through “What could we have done better?” to better split up ownership. This means going forth and owning it.

The Path of Change

Change is unyielding and unending. Every day is unique. If you can’t think of a reason that’s true, here’s a global perspective. As the earth travels around the sun, you are 1.6 million miles from where you were yesterday. A more tangible parallel is the weather. While that can be forecasted, it cannot be determined. We can anticipate outcomes but cannot foresee them. Minute changes are easily overcome and even welcomed as monotony can be deflating. Larger changes however, feel insurmountable. We look across the deep chasm of where we are, our comfort, to where we’re headed, the unknown and different, and wonder how anyone could cross.

The Change Curve

A few years ago I was introduced to a popular concept to me called the Change Curve. This curve helps to model the journey we take when change is afoot within an organization or beyond those four walls. We’ll use a broad example of just discovering that your current role will be transitioning to a different capacity in which responsibilities will shift and new operating procedures will be put in place.

We begin on the left where what we know is all we know. Merrily content with our undisturbed work. Suddenly, a forceful gust of wind pushes us over the ledge and we begin tumbling towards an arduous rocky bottom. The announcement of impending change happens fast and is unpredictable. This part of the curve is where we know the least amount of information and where we can feel like the change is happening to us. We’ve been informed that we’re now on a path that the day prior didn’t know existed. We have so many questions and here so many of them go unanswered.

Different = Emotionally Taxing

An organization’s decision to make major changes is not without forethought. Great organizations spend time weighing different paths against remaining on the current one. When the decision is finally made, only the path is decided and some obvious risks along the way. They are unaware of every twist, every fallen tree that will have to be hurdles before the final destination. Yet when it is announced, it is our natural tendency to ask these very questions in hopes of quelling our anxiety and doubts.

Anxiety is born from too little information and no power to control. When a change is external, not brought onto yourself, like an organization’s decision to shift responsibilities you certainly feel powerless. We may not always have the chance to influence how a change is decided or put into action. Great organizations consult those that would be affected but usually select a few to speak for many. If we cannot gain power over the situation we therefore search for more information.

Managers say it, leaders follow through on it.

While leaders may not have the exact route mapped out, calling out these emotions is a comforting antidote. Bringing teams together to share initial thoughts and feelings dissipates feelings of loneliness and uncertainty and those are not only recognized but accepted. There should be commitment from leaders that as information comes down, what can be shared will be and that it is all open for discussion. Managers say it, leaders follow through on that commitment.

The Valley of Despair

Too often managers hear uncomfortable feedback surrounding change and say “Hey, don’t be upset with me, I’m not the one that decided this!” Then take a passive role in letting the change happen to the team and not with the team. If you feel like a change is happening to you and not with you, this further deepens the powerlessness you feel and as the actual change begins, we get to bottoming out in the curve in what’s aptly named the Valley of Despair.

The Valley of Despair is vast and the darkest section as we find ourselves against an upward rock face, casting looming shadows over where we stand. Here we’re being directly impacted by the decisions made. Responsibilities you’ve had are being trained out and new, confusing expectations are laid out in their place. It is at this point where going back is not an option and moving forward seems impossible. Where what was once was cannot be and what is to be is not what was. At this lowest point we are uncomfortable, tentative, and vulnerable. We feel that even budging an inch will cause catastrophe. Without an easy way out, we decide to stay, becoming grounded and most resistant. The change is no longer occurring to us, it is working against us.

Change for the Better

The toughest task of organizations going through change is being able to pull people out from the Valley of Despair and move towards Acceptance where change happens with us. We need to be cognizant that people approach this section at varying speeds. Some people, using momentum from the initial fall seem to fly over the Valley of Despair and others fall head first into it. It is crucial to understand that both responses are human and neither should be characterized or misjudged.

We can however leverage those who are already on the Acceptance trek to help those still in the valley. They cannot get out alone and the lifeline required is connection. Everyone finds acceptance in their own way and on their own time but what helps tremendously is hearing from others already there. It is these people that have begun to realize this is the section where you are powerful. Yes, new expectations are confusing so let’s define them. Yes, those familiar responsibilities are gone so let’s learn new ones. Armed with more information and now the power to affect, anxiety is left in the valley with the shadow of our former selves.

Change For Us

At the top, beyond Acceptance is Meaning. In a state of acceptance, we can still be hesitant to change. There’s a space in acceptance where one may not accept because they see the positives but because they have no energy left to oppose. When we discover the meaning, our disposition shifts from change being with us, to for us. It makes all the endeavors thus far seem worth it. “I can do more with this different position.”This will help me further my career.” In acceptance, the change is an object to be conquered. In meaning, the change is a mindset.

Finally, we reach the other side. We look back across the landscape and can appreciate the journey we took. With change complete we stand in a higher place, with knowledge and growth gained. More knowledge of our personal speed through the Valley of Despair. Deeper understanding of what we need to move from acceptance to meaning. A certain comradery with the others that supported you along the way. Most importantly, confidence that the next change will be met with less resistance and that ultimately change does not happen to us or against us, but with us and for us.

(What learnings have you uncovered during your times of change? Let me know in the comments here or on Facebook at!)

The Deceit of Communication and our Selfishness Towards It

Calling Us Out

“The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it. We have talked enough; but we have not listened.” – William H. Whyte

I could end this post there, these words reverberating with such clarity that it is worthy of both the beginning and the end. Fortunately, I hope for you and me being a purveyor of words, I wish to expound on it.

Passive Communication and Selfish Behaviors

Communication consumes a vast amount of our lives. Company culture, marketing, social media, politics, relationships, parenting, and countless other facets. The exchange of symbols or words, spoken, written, or signed, is correlated to steady and lasting marriages and companies spend millions of dollars annually ensuring they convey the right “message” to their target audience.

However grand scale communication can be, the small role we play dictates our influence over others and helps express our emotions. Unfortunately, our innate biases and assumptions, or perhaps even ego can get in the way of stellar communication. From that we can find ourselves becoming passive and selfish communicators.

Learning Assertiveness

“The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.”

We believe it has taken place where from another’s perspective, it has not. In my observations passive communication is our default. When it comes to our wants and needs, we refrain for fear of judgement or hurting one’s feelings. Instead, we dance around the primary intent by dropping cues either through body language, tone of voice, or carefully selected words.

What I also know is that at times, we, I included, are abysmal at picking up social cues. Why? Perception is a function of one’s experience. My awareness of cues or how I’m perceiving cues is influenced by my norms which differ than yours. We can not expect both parties in every interaction to have an intimate understanding of individual communication styles. We may have globally recognized social cues but the nuance lies in the intensity. How large of a cue you give is based on what you know has worked previously.

The Magic Act

Herein lies the illusion of communication. On one end, we have a passive communicator believing they’ve dealt their hand without ambiguity but all the observer sees or hears is smoke and mirrors. Furthermore, the deceit doesn’t end there. Assisting the illusionary act are deeper emotional ramifications.

Passive communication is like walking on glass holding fifty pound weights. Constantly picking words or actions to not offend not only is a burden but makes for anxious and sweaty hands. It feels as though one slip can shatter the relationship you’ve put so much energy into building so to circumvent, you say nothing going along with the majority and pretending it is ok when internally, there is shame, anger, stress, and anxiety building on the premise your voice is not being heard when you believe you’ve given all the right signs.

Becoming a more assertive communicator is aligning the internal thoughts with the spoken word. Assertive is not aggressive. Assertive is direct and honest. While social cues have their place, it is far better to not rely on them in hopes one sees through the illusion. Another transformative quote you’ll find most fitting here is Brené Brown’s “Clear is Kind.”

Selfish to Selfless

“We have talked enough; but we have not listened.”

Communication requires two. It must be received and while we might be hearing, we’re not listening. Truly listening, is a selfless act and too often we’re in a selfish state. When you’re hearing someone speak, are you hearing to respond? Beginning to form a rebuttal before they’re finished? Think you already know the perfect advice to give and don’t need to hear that unabridged version? As if you’re saying “Hurry up and finish, my words are of greater rank than yours.” You would be taken aback if someone interrupted with that but you may as well be if you’re not listening wholeheartedly.

Show Up

One of my core values underneath Showing Up is curiosity and a segment of that is staying committed to another’s thoughts and feelings. In order to do that, I try my best in allowing people center stage before I give any cue I’m ready to play a supporting role. Here’s two rules I’ve formed that support this:

Number one, before speaking, inhale through your nose and number two, only do number one in silence.

When people want to say something, there’s a tendency to inhale quickly through the mouth and the shoulders raise slightly. It’s obvious enough that the person speaking prematurely cuts themselves off allowing you to speak. Rather, inhaling through the nose does not give that indication. The secondary benefit is that because it’s not as natural and therefore must be conscious and intentional, it takes two seconds longer. In those two seconds you’ll find people continue to speak where you assumed they were finished. If they do continue, exhale and maintain selfless listening.

This is where number two comes in. Do not listen for the end of sentences to begin inhaling as they wind down. That is hearing to respond. Only after they have finished do you inhale giving the full two seconds of downtime. I know, this means there will be silence in a conversation and silence is awkward. Embrace it.

BONUS: Inhaling through your nose before speaking allows deeper breaths which helps you sound more confident as you finish out sentences with the same vigor as you started instead of squeaking out those last few words.

Digital Communication

We can be selfish listeners towards the non-verbal too. Especially in our high-speed work environments with digital communication. It is almost intoxicating to fall prey to the melodic rhythm of responding to messages.

*Type type type*, *backspace backspace*, *type type*, “Thanks”, and send…*Type type type*, *backspace backspace*, *type type*, “Thanks”, and send.

Are you responding only to empty the inbox? To get it off your list? Selfish…selfish.

Selfless listening in an electronic world entails re-reading messages multiple times for total comprehension. Embrace the silence by waiting five minutes before responding. Read the entire chain! Absolutely if you’re late to the party. There is valuable insight in the tenth email down be it supporting information or the original objective that, now on the twelfth email, has been unbelievably misconstrued as it passed different hands. Lastly, my personal plea, respond fully. If two questions are asked, answer both.

Curtain Call

I believe I’ve held my promise of expounding on those eloquent twenty-one words that began this post and in place of a traditional closing paragraph reiterating main points with witty remarks, I will double down on those same words that are truly befitting of the beginning and the end.

“The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it. We have talked enough; but we have not listened.”

You Are What You Think

Base Camp

If I were to ask you who knows you best or who you always confide in, who would you name? Would it be your significant other? Perhaps your best friend or a parent? It could be a certain four-legged member of your family with the largest listening ears. I know my mutt has heard many of my own monologues. Whoever came to mind, I can say it is incorrect.

We confide the most in the one person who we’re stuck with. Ourselves. Mostly left unsaid, our self-talk can dictate our mood and confidence and repeated self-talk, over time, becomes not just inner ramblings but how we generally view ourselves. Said differently, what our self-worth is.

For what it’s worth, pun intended, we’re all indispensable. In the physical sense, you are made of matter and therefore you matter in the metaphorical sense. Being told you matter can give us a shot of confidence for a time but for the feeling to be perpetual, you need to wholly believe it so much that when you’re on the precipice of a downward spiral, you can pull yourself back with your own self-talk.

The Climb

Did you know that the voice in your head can cruise through 600-800 words a minute? Playing out scenarios, reflecting on the past, thinking what to say next, reactionary emotions, and the back and forth of you talking to you. To have positive self-talk we need to take full advantage of as many of those words.

Negativity bias tells us negative experiences or thoughts outweigh positive ones and self-talk is no different. A single “I can do this” doesn’t net out “I can’t do it.” Research also shows us that any type of positive self-talk, even unrelatable self-talk, can combat thoughts of stress and anxiety.

The single best piece of advice I received a few years ago is this. When you’re in a moment of deprecation and you’re spiraling, take a moment and think of the person that knows you best. What would they say to you? I’m positive their words would be absent of worst-case scenarios and blaming and full of kindness and optimism.

“You did your best.”
“You’re going to get through it.”
“You can try again.”
“It wasn’t the right fit, there are others.”
“I’m grateful for you.”
“I believe in you.”
“I love you.”

Replacing your self-talk with a loved one’s voice forces the different narrative and offers us an antidote to the internal poison we’ve concocted.

The Perfect Path Doesn’t Exist

Lower self-worth can exacerbate other feelings of negativity like stress or disappointment and can lead to deeper patterns. One of those patterns can be perfectionism. Perfectionists see their outputs as a measure of success and don’t take appreciation for the inputs given like time, energy, commitment, resilience, creativity, and learnings along the way. Perfectionists hold unattainable expectations for themselves and even in times where everything goes right, there’s a feeling of inadequacy. Disappointment sounds like “I didn’t do enough,” Perfectionism says “I am not enough.”

To combat this, celebrate the victories in battle, even if the war looks bleak. Before marching on to the next battlefield, take a moment to breathe and reflect at how far you’ve come and the gains you’ve made along the way. There’s positives throughout that are well deserved and worthy of recognition unto yourself. Perhaps you learned a new skill or navigated a difficult conversation well. Perhaps it’s the sole fact that you made it.

And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

Another point here is control. Stephen Covey popularized the idea of a Circle of Control, Influence, and Concern in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The concept was developed within the business acumen but it is applicable to this subject too. In short there are three concentric circles with the smallest being control, then influence, then concern.

The circle of control being the things you can manage – your own productivity, healthy habits, behaviors, and of course self-talk. The circle of influence being things beyond your control but that you can still impact – group projects, relationships, and culture. Finally, the circle of concern is everything else beyond control or influence – weather, traffic, economy, the DMV.

Within life, we are not the only soldier. We alone cannot control every outcome and yet we tie our self-worth to it. At a point, in the words of Elsa from Frozen, we have to let it go. We then can stop and say what a great job we’ve done up until this point. Going forward, you may keep influence, but the direct correlation of self-worth stops at only what you can control.

The Summit

Much like everything else, practice is crucial. The more intentional you are with self-talk, the more it becomes an unconscious habit. Overriding the negativity with positivity will feel incredibly forced at times but over time it becomes organic and can greatly reduce those moments of looking over the edge. If you do fall in, remember to lean on the other voices in your life and separate what you can control and what you can not.

Micro Distractions: A Major Issue

I’m on the younger end of the millennial generation so I feel that I have a right to speak freely about my own people. There’s no denying that we are the generation of technology. From Windows ’95 and its eerie theme song of dial up to Google, an infinite encyclopedia at our fingertips to Apple’s release of the iPhone. With these society shifting innovations, we’re mere taps from anything we want within seconds forcing a belief that we can DO anything we want within seconds. Millennials quickly became self-proclaimed experts at multi-tasking. Unfortunately, I’ve only witnessed one singular output from it all – distraction.

The Rise of Multi-Tasking

The ability to multi-task is a fallacy. Still, some use it as a defining personality or a skill on a resume. Merriam-Webster’s definition is “The concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer.” Two things I find striking.

  1. Only it’s performance is concurrent. Not it’s accuracy, completion, or efficiency.
  2. By a computer. Yes, the original definition was used to describe the processing power of computers.

We took it from it’s technological roots and not only applied it to human behavior but praised individuals claiming mastery over it. You’ll find plenty of articles showing research that this simply is untrue. What we think of multi-tasking is really our brains rapidly switching between tasks. Computers can process dozens of signals at once, but it doesn’t work out so well for us. In fact, it takes close to twenty minutes for your brain to fully focus back on one task.

Leading With Progress Over Verbing

When I was in Boy Scouts, our patrol leader ended all his meetings with “Let’s verb.” It was a innocuous phrase that we could fill with endless possibilities. Today, if I heard a leader end their meeting with this, I’d raise not only an eyebrow but a red flag. Leaders are leaders because they give direction and purpose behind that direction. I wouldn’t find much confidence in a leader that tells their team to go do *insert work* here.

Walk the Talk…

I draw a parallel between this and the act of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is telling someone to go off and try to complete three tasks in the time of one, doesn’t matter the tasks chosen. Both these phrases lack specificity. Simply completing tasks for the sake of completion or doing them concurrently is muddy. As a leader, instead of just “verbing” we need to stop multi-tasking, make teams aware of their goals, and get everyone walking in the same direction. Only then can progress start to be seen but before you can get a team to stop the madness, the leader has to show it’s possible. Be a reflection of what’s expected.

I’ve been present with a leader with this exact challenge. They spoke well, listened intently, and cared for people around them but flew at Mach 3. At first, it sounds impressive that one could handle so many moving parts and divert attention so quickly but over time, behind the curtain, the set was on fire. Requests made to direct reports weren’t followed up on and projects started with gusto yet never made it far. The team felt they were always in react mode and began betting which requests seriously needed action. “Why should I dedicate my time and effort when they’ll forget they even asked tomorrow?” The leader spent much of their day multi-tasking and ultimately the team felt like their leader was adhering to everyone else’s agenda but theirs. They chose to verb.

What’s the one project, the one goal, that hasn’t been accomplished that would make a lasting impact? Do that, then repeat the question. Walk a straight line.


Where’s Our Focus?

The output of our multi-tasking is distraction. In an organization it could be a blockade to progress but in smaller groups distractions take us away from the present. A present I see too much of it being lost by trying to capture it over experiencing it. While they certainly exist in organizations, it’s more prevalent in our social lives. I call them micro distractions. Posting your elegant dinner takes away from relishing in it’s craftmanship and exemplary service you’re receiving. Immediate discovery through Google erases the joy of curiosity, of just being ok with not knowing. Notifications pull more attention than conversations, taking stock of Facebook outranks taking stock of nature, and more e-mails are read than non-verbal cues.

Our brains crave habits because they’re easy. They’re mental shortcuts that take less processing as the pattern is recognized and those habits are formed from connections we make with our environment. The next time you’re in a restaurant, watch the waiting area. Count the number of people who check in then sit down to wait and almost immediately look towards a phone, likely without thinking twice. It’s no better at the table either. Take a look at this photo. How many devices can you see?

The problem with some habits is that it’s a potentially damaging connection. In this case of micro distractions when we connect to a device, we disconnect from reality. No one would argue that a connection to the unrealistic is disingenuous and inauthentic and yet where we have the option, we’ll choose it almost every time. In the long run, what’s more important? That Snapchat story or a friend needing to unload a tough week? These are opportunities to form deeper relationships and stronger bonds but the moment our focus is pulled elsewhere, we’re saying “I have somewhere else to be” or “this text is more important”. Side note: On the chance one of those is true, you should be asking yourself “What lead me to be here? Was I afraid of saying no to this commitment”?

We’re the Problem and Answer

Personally, I wonder for some if it’s avoidance. That these micro distractions are a form of get out of jail free card. Go back to the waiting area at a restaurant example. Silence can be awkward and not knowing how to engage is uncomfortable. Rather than stepping into it, we hunch our shoulders, look down, and try to be small, unnoticeable. As if we’re saying “I’m looking at something else and not responsible for this.” I’ve got news, the silence is still there. The awkwardness is unbearable and you’re the cause. The door to better relationships is open. You’re choosing to close it.

Show Up

We’ve got a put an end to these micro distractions starting with ending multi-tasking. Showing Up is about being present and when you’re multi-tasking you’re not 100% there. The first step is moving from the unconscious habits to awareness. If you’re struggling to do so on your own, enlist a close friend or co-worker to call you out when they observe you multi-tasking. Social accountability is a powerful weapon.

For more specific strategies, try closing e-mails when it’s not needed. Make a rule that phones stay hidden while in restaurants, waiting areas included. Silence doesn’t have to be awkward. They’re natural breaks in conversations. Breathe in your surroundings, then spark a new topic. If you can’t think of one, prompt open-ended questions. Show up by choosing progress instead of ambiguous verbs and leave the multi-tasking to the computers.