Rate of Exchange


“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”- Emily Kimbrough

I’ve been sort of floundering around over the past few weeks, trying to come up with a topic worthy of discussion, and failing miserably. I’ve decided it’s because my musings here tend to be rooted in conversations I have with friends in the normal course of life…and there’s been far too little time spent lately with some of the people who inspire me and make me think.

Because our house is still practicing social distancing, the precious little socializing I have been able to do has taken on a very special quality. When I saw a friend recently after months apart, I was surprised by the depth of the emotional reaction I had to seeing her in person again. I mean, I’ll be honest, I always feel a little bit like I’m getting away with something in my friendships; like I’m getting the better end of the deal without the other person quite being aware of it. That feeling is even more pronounced now, because I feel the absence of these interactions so keenly.

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Heavy Lifting

I recently published an article in Forbes titled “How to Cultivate Mental Toughness In Uncertain Times”. I hadn’t put up a blog about it until now because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking about this concept and how it applies all through our lives.

The primary reason I focused on this topic to begin with was that I was hearing from so many friends about how precarious they feel their balancing act is during these weeks of social distancing. People are facing brand-new professional, financial, relationship and parenting challenges—all at once, on a large scale—and it’s taking a toll.

No doubt about it, quarantine has turned many of our lives upside down. I think, however, that we have to be very careful and not forget that in the midst of all this, people are also experiencing hardships that have absolutely nothing to do with this virus, or quarantine. They’re dealing with past traumas, new illnesses, and losses of all kinds.

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So Emotional

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”– Edward Everett Hale

Emotional intelligence—sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or EQ—is the ability to recognize and manage both your own and other’s emotions. Two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, developed the concept in the 1990s, and used it to define and improve communication within marriages.

Over time, it’s become clear how emotional intelligence is critical to maintaining relationships in their various iterations, including those we foster in the business world. The concept is of such interest to employers that it’s being researched extensively to gain a better understanding of its impact on leadership and success. (Data shows EQ is the number one predictor of performance. You can see my Forbes article on that topic here.)

Emotional intelligence is more important than ever right now, because it feels a little bit like we’re living in a world under siege. It’s not just about the threat (and reality) of this specific virus. We’re all operating under new pressures. Millions of people have had to change how they function at work and are trying to juggle personal and professional obligations in a world that’s no longer compartmentalized. Millions more have lost their jobs or businesses entirely because of forced closures. How will they pay their bills?

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Mis(sed) Communication

We all suffer from the preoccupation that there exists… in the loved one, perfection. – Sidney Poitier

I come back to the topic of communication again and again on this blog, because I find its psychology and the role it plays in each of our lives to be fascinating. Communication, or lack thereof, can make or break the most significant relationships in our lives because it’s very easy to get things wrong. To misinterpret. To send or receive things in a way that was never intended.

There are so many interesting facets to communication that I’ve been reading a textbook on it over the last several weeks. (No, I’m not taking a class. Yes, I’m reading it for self-edification. Stop rolling your eyes. I happen to know I can use all the understanding I can get on this particular subject.)

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Life, Interrupted

“Be unprepared, that’s my motto. Let life surprise you.”― Marty Rubin

One of my favorite topics of discussion is communication; it’s benefits and pitfalls, and how it sometimes goes by the wayside when we’re pressed for time or exhausted by the demands of everyday life.

Point in case: this blog. I’ve not posted anything recently because life has gotten in the way, as it tends to do. This month has been full of surprises and insanely busy. It’s also been immeasurably precious, and given the opportunity, I’d spend my hours in exactly the same way a thousand times over.

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Hostage to Negotiation

I’ve spent many hours this month researching the topic of financial negotiation as it applies to women in the workplace. The data is thought-provoking, especially when you consider leadership competency and education. (If you’re interested in seeing why effective negotiation is critical to career success, especially for women, you can see that Forbes article here.)

One main concept I gleaned from this work is that most people (both men and women) express discomfort with the idea of having to negotiate things like a salary or benefits at a new job. In fact, any transaction where finances are involved becomes instantly more stressful when you add a negotiation component into the mix.

Here’s an example: In a highly scientific straw poll I conducted this week, most people said the excitement of purchasing a new car is dampened by the idea that they’ll have to negotiate the price. The effect is two-fold. They (1) hate having to haggle, and (2) always walk away feeling as though they could have done better. After all, if the other party agreed to the current terms, what else might they have agreed to?

You’d think we’d all be experts at this negotiation thing, given that we’re all doing it, all the time, in every aspect of our lives. Oh, sure, we don’t always call it that— we may call it bargaining, compromise, or conflict resolution, but it all amounts to the same thing.

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Merry and Bright

Winter is my least favorite season. There. I’ve said it.

I love the holidays, but I really sort of despise winter. I guess we’re not technically there yet—the winter solstice is still a couple of weeks away—but someone apparently forgot to tell the local weather. It’s utterly convinced that the season has arrived.

What that means in the Pacific Northwest is grey skies, fog… and rain. Lots and lots of rain, for months on end. Until recent years, I’d spent most of my life in sunny climates, and I don’t think I appreciated the sunshine enough. I can tell you, it’s not something I take for granted now.

Today there’s been a constant thrum of rain that has all but washed away the noise of the outside world. Without any background sounds from music or television, the only things to be heard are the clicks of my keyboard and a steady musical plink as drops hit the roof’s metal flashings.

And it’s dark. Why is it so dark at 4:30 in the afternoon?

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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Present Tense

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

As the temperatures fall, and I begin to see the skeletons of the trees and the frost diamonds sparkling in the morning sun, I welcome the idea of a warm wood stove, and quiet evenings spent with family and friends. This can be the most peaceful time of year, if you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy it.

I realize that may be easier said than done. This month, I did some research on the holiday season and discovered that 62% of people say their stress and anxiety is “elevated” this time of year. I think the biggest reason for that is increased responsibilities; we’re stretching ourselves even further physically, mentally, and financially to meet the demands of the season. You can see my Forbes article that addresses that idea here.

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Rooted In Confidence

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – E.E. Cummings

I published an article earlier this year that discussed the idea that a lack of confidence is limiting women’s career trajectories. In short, women tend to project less confidence in their abilities than their male counterparts (even when they’re highly skilled) and are less likely to take professional risks, call attention to their successes, or ask for raises and promotions.

It occurred to me that a lack of confidence is not something that just appears in adulthood; it begins much earlier. Further research proved the idea-  a recent study finds that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%.

Our daughters’ confidence levels begin to drop when they are just eight years old. Let that sink in.

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