Sitting in the Seat of Judgment

I was sitting in my first class seat coming back from travels in Sioux Falls. I had the pleasure of getting upgraded due to my recent status on the airline. I’ve walked past the first class passengers many times, sometimes questioning and curious “who these people were” sitting up here–where the service is constant and the bathroom is private!

I sat down in my seat of 1D, which quickly became a seat of judgment for me. The woman next to me was chatting on the phone with a work colleague. Her tone was contempt, direct, bossy, and not at all what I’d consider compassionate. I couldn’t help but wonder, is this woman getting any results at all from this person she’s speaking to this way? Sheesh! 

The conversation seemed to drag on. Since we were the first on the plane, I sat through quite a bit of the conversation while everyone passed us to get back to the economy seats. Now, I’m sure the judgment turned on me as people walked by. What’s this pregnant lady, dressed in super-casual clothing doing up here? I bet she’s a snob! 

I saw with my face down reading Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me – But It Isn’t book. As much as I wanted to read it and comprehend the words on the page, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to the conversation that was taking place next to me.

Immediately, my thoughts turned to judgment. This woman, I had determined, was one of those “high-power-leader-types-that-uses-force-to-get-what-she-wants.” She probably bought her first class seat too! I doubt she’ll even look at me the entire flight. How did I get stuck next to this person? I contemplated changing seats. There was still an open first class seat in 2B. Should I switch??

Then, something inside of me told me to stay put. I was seated here for a reason. Okay, what lesson should I be learning today? 

The boarding was almost complete and this woman’s conversation progressed. I quickly began to see that what she was talking about was making her very uncomfortable. I could see she was troubled. Her hands were a bit shaky, and they hadn’t been before. Her voice had a tremble.

The door to the plane closed. The flight attendant announced that all electronic devices needed to be turned off.

“Okay, I’ve got to go, my plane is taking off,” said the woman. She hung up her phone and powered done. Then, she grabbed the InFlight magazine and started turning the pages at a rapid pace. I knew it wasn’t a normal way to look at a magazine, and then she stopped. I knew that feeling– looking like you are reading something, but what’s really happening is a full on conversation in your head. Words on the page are there to take up space so you aren’t staring into the ether.

I struggled internally for quite a few moments about what to do. Do I say something or do I let this be? She could totally snub me? What if she tells me to mind my own business? What if I’ve then got 90 minutes next to someone who is pissed off at me? Ugh…Andrea you are about connection–get it together. 

And then it came out, “Is everything okay?” I asked.

She looked at me and in the moment we just connected. Our eyes locked and tears swelled in her eyes. At first she said, “Yeah, it’s okay.” But, I reached out to her rubbing her shoulder and patting her, and there she poured open her heart, tears flowing, and the words too. It was her boss. He had it out for her. She felt she was on her way out. A job she loved and had worked hard to create. I cried with her. I saw her pain. Felt her distress.

It was in that moment I got the lesson for myself.

Judgments are rarely, if ever true. They are simply made up stories we tell ourselves about other people, especially the people who are exhibiting behavior that we’ve deemed as bad, inappropriate, mean or otherwise. We separate ourselves from others by assessing people’s behaviors and words without really knowing what’s going on behind them.

Come to find out, this woman did get an upgrade to first class, was a total connector herself, and was simply having a conversation from a place of fear where she was using her defenses to save her job.

We talked the whole 90 minute flight. We held hands for at least 30 minutes of that time.

If I had never said anything or risked opening up myself, I would have sat there sitting in the seat of judgment that entire time, completely missing an opportunity to create a human connection. I would have left in my world of assumptions about a person I didn’t know, but instead I got insight into my own thinking and a reiterated lesson that things aren’t always what they seem.

Have you ever made judgments or assumptions about someone only to be proved wrong? Share your stories below. 

CommUnity Talk TV: Dolls for Daughters (Episode 9)

CoHere’s the latest CommUnity Talk TV episode with a Movers, Shakers & Difference Makers spotlight featuring Jessica Bachus, the Founder of Dolls for Daughters.


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We’d love to hear your thoughts on what Jessica has created with Dolls for Daughters. She’s someone who took a tragedy and turned it into a legacy.

Leave your comments below.

We Have Much to Learn From People Around the World

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by cultural differences. Everything from what people believe to how we behave in public is influenced by our culture.

I volunteer regularly with refugees from Burma, and they encourage us to just walk in the house, don’t knock, roam around the house as we need–even help ourselves to stuff in the kitchen. For an American, this is tough. They jokingly commented on our need for knocking at the front door. I love the behavior though, that everyone is welcome, even though that’s not the standard here in the U.S. and something many of us would be frightened of… We’d whisper “Did they just WALK in!!???”

As you likely know, I’m just over six months pregnant now. We will be expecting our little arrival in early October. The pressures of what to do and not do has been a pervasive thought over these last several months. Even parenting styles, breastfeeding and having a “natural” birth have all been conversations I’d never thought I’d have, but here I am. Because I know we can easily slide down the slippery slope of consuming thoughts and buy into group-think on topics like these, I haven’t read any pregnancy  books. I’ve been boycotting them in a way, wanting to trust my intuition and go with what I know feels right.

However, one book did catch my eye and I couldn’t help but speed through it. It’s called Bringing Up BeBe, written by Pamela Drucker. In this book, Drucker compares the differences between American parenting (mostly mother’s) and French parenting. What I read had me laughing out loud about our cultural nuances. All the while reading it, I kept thinking to myself…

“I’m not crazy, I’m just American!”

It made me realize just how much of what we do, say, think, and believe is impacted by our cultural surroundings. And, it’s put me on a quest to understand the cultures of other countries EVEN MORE. Imagine if we all had a clear understanding of all the differences from so many countries from around the world. I’d like to think that people would feel a whole lot less crazy if they realized that much of what they are thinking and believing has been influenced by their environment. Simply having this awareness allows us the freedom to choose different ways of believing and behaving.

So, now I know more about French parenting, but I’d love to know even more about countries from all over the world. In my grandest vision, I see a “SuperCountry” coming together, much like today’s pop SuperGroups with great artist collaborating, where we take the best of many things and bring them together.

Here are some of my quick takeaways about French parenting (just so you know, but I do recommend reading the book – pregnant or not!):

  • French kids eat four-course meals for dinner and can sit at a restaurant for that long with no problems
  • French kids don’t snack (their mom’s purses aren’t filled with Cheerios and Cheetos to tie them over)
  • Most babies in France “do their nights” by six weeks old – meaning they are sleeping a solid 8 hours every night
  • Breastfeeding isn’t forced and you aren’t looked down upon if you don’t do it
  • Most moms still keep their careers and don’t feel guilty about it, putting your kid in daycare isn’t a bad thing, it’s  part of life
  • The families life doesn’t revolve around the child, the child gets integrated into the family
  • They don’t call a birth without an epidural natural, they call it “without drugs” (Hence, no pressure to do it “without drugs”)
  • They have, what the author called, the “pause” – where parents don’t respond to their children right away, giving them time to solve problems on their own
  • Children are strongly encouraged to play on their own and explore, so they can generate more self-awareness

There are many more, but these are just the things I can think of now that really stood out. This list may not even seem that different until you really look at the comparisons of what parenting has become here in the U.S. Neither is right or wrong or good or bad, it’s just different. It’s in that difference that we get to choose what works best for us, if we know there is another way, we can explore that for ourselves.

Just like when I was in Thailand this year, I learned there that:

  • People eat together and share food from the same bowls
  • Spiritual and religious practice is a dominant part of the culture
  • Shoes are not allowed to be worn in any home or sacred building
  • You bow to greet people, with your hands in a prayer position

Those are just a few of the things I learned about Thai culture. There were many, many more!

Tell me, what have you learned in your travels and interactions with people from other cultures?

CommUnity Talk TV: Episode 8 – You Matter!

CoThis week’s episode is a tip on building community by believing that each and every person matters. It’s a simple message, but it has a profound impact if you can implement in your life and with the people around you.

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Here’s what one person said after hearing my talk where I shared the importance of ensuring that everyone knows they matter:

“I wanted to send you a quick note to let you know your message is working! Don’t stop spreading your message that people matter. It’s been my new mantra. Here is my little story. the next day after your talk at PFL CN, I went into the new salon I’m working in now, and I’ve become friends with the other massage therapist, she was there and had a gap in her day. I ask if she could work on  my neck for a little bit. During this session she told me that the other day was her birthday and it was awful, her family and friends didn’t do anything for her. ( very dysfunctional family)She seemed very sad. I gave her some encouraging words. But it didn’t hit me until I was at the grocery store shopping for my own “survival” kit of snack for my massage room, that she needed a “survival kit”. So I put together a little bag and wrote in her card about how I love birthdays and I loved my session with her. At the end I wrote  ” Thank you for sharing your gifts to the world you matter.” She started crying and told me she had had thoughts of suicide lately. I gave her a hotline information and she is doing better. I felt like your conduit for your message that is SO important. I am smiling at all the homeless people now! And I am not so “ho-hum”.Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” - Dawn Cochlan

What do you think about this week’s topic? Are you implementing this in your network? Can you see how it makes a difference when it comes to bringing people together and creating connection?


8 Ways to Create Connection

Human Connection, Feeling connected to othersWe all crave and desire to be connected to our fellow human beings, but what does it take to really feel that connection? 

Here’s a list of several ways you can increase your connection to others.

  1. Be open and willing to share about yourself and your life. 
  2. Be a trusting person and friend. Stay true to your commitments, honor your word, and follow through with your promises.
  3. Be present with people. Even if you have a million other things you could be doing or thinking about – if someone is in front of you, put them first.
  4. Look for similarities in people, not their differences.
  5. Be curious. Ask a lot of questions and engage people in conversation.
  6. Be patient. Connection takes time.
  7. Be persistent. Just because you didn’t connect with someone the first time you meet them, doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance that relationship can grow into something.
  8. Be connected to yourself, which may seem odd, but the more connected you feel to your authentic/true self the easier it will be to connect to other.

What other ways can you think of that really help to foster a human connection with others? I’d love to know. Please share below.