Humble Inquiry

“Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”  Edgar H. Shein

About three years ago, one of my pseudo-daughters and dearest friend and Maui soul sister, Claire, recommended the book Humble Inquiry. I purchased it soon thereafter but left it behind in Texas on one of my visits. I had forgotten about it. If you’re like me, it’s not uncommon to have a stack of unread books or to be reading several at the same time.

At the time I purchased it I must have done quite a bit of shopping, and it probably didn’t fit in my carry on. Yep, I’ve been know to fly with a duffle bag, only to have to purchase a larger one, or a suitcase, as a result of power shopping trips with friends. You know who you are…wink, wink!

Well, I finally started reading the book while in TX pet-sitting for my cousins last year. Yes, you read that correctly- last year. You see I started writing this blog last October but, for some reason,  never ended up publishing it. Perhaps the Universe had a better plan, and maybe now is when we can all use a little humble inquiry.

I was hooked on the book as early as the book’s introduction. In it, the author, Edgar H. Shein, poses the following question:

Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help build positive relationships?

The answer: Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, culturally diverse world, we cannot hope to understand and work with people from different occupational, professional, and national cultures if we do not know how to ask questions and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we may need to know  in order to get the job done.

The other thing that struck me and made me pause, was that he claims that we, in the U.S.,  live in a culture that overvalues “telling.” Pause….think about it. We are all probably  guilty of taking the art of questioning for granted. According to the author, getting questioning right is more important than giving recommendations or advice.  Yet, how often do we, as a culture, default to the art of telling instead? Some of us tell everything and tell it everywhere….we’re all guilty…just look at social media.

I think for some of us it’s probably in our nature to tell- unless we take the time to rethink, change our outlook and learn how to ask more questions.

He further goes on to say, “The issue of asking versus telling is really a fundamental issue in human relations, and that it applies to all of us all the time.”

I published a blog last year on essential leadership skills – Leadership 101. In it I mentioned the importance of building relationships and asking the questions that enable us to get to know our employees on a deeper, more meaningful level. However, one thing I didn’t mention, and reading this book brought to light, is that the art of questioning becomes more difficult as status increases.

This made me pause as well. Think about it, questions- and the way we pose them- land very differently once we start making our way up the leadership ladder. It’s difficult enough when you are  someone’s co-worker, an equal, and have the same rank. However, as you make your way up the ladder, you are now charged with running, managing and leading an organization. Like it or not, you are now in the spotlight.

The way we pose questions can make or break relationships and derail conversations (and not in a positive way). On a daily basis  (and oftentimes moment to moment), leaders are faced with making decisions and encounter challenges often stemming from cultural, occupational, generational, gender and racial barriers and biases. Knowing the right questions to ask can move an organization forward by drastically improving the way all parties communicate.

Think about how often our conversations with co-workers, superiors, subordinates, friends and family alike go wrong and how easily we get upset with the other person, as well as with ourselves when that happens. Think about how easily our discussions can turn into arguments and hurt feelings. When we “tell” someone something,  give unsolicited advice, or we don’t like the advice we’ve been given, rather than asking the right questions, we can very easily end up in a “situation gone seriously wrong.”

So…how can we do better? According to the chapter on humble inquiry, it’s rather simple. However, its implementation is not. Doing less talking; learning to do more asking in the particular form of Humble Inquiry; and doing a better job of listening and acknowledging is not as easy to practice as we would like to think.

We are so programed to tell, to share our knowledge, our expertise; yet, we fail to overlook the fact that there will always be things we need to learn, and the best way to learn them is by asking the appropriate questions in the appropriate manner.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that places more emphasis on task accomplishment. We are driven by accomplishments, competition and comparison and how we are viewed by others. In other words, we are driven by the Ego- but that’s for another blog!

So…this is where I left off writing last year. I am now being guided to continue as follows:

Given the times we are currently living, all the fake news, discrepancies, misinformation,  the social media bubble we’ve been programmed for, and the blatant lies and lack of leadership we are witnessing from our political leaders right before our eyes, we often fail to look at the other side of things, ask some difficult questions and be willing to learn (and in a lot of cases-unlearn). Many of us tend to just go with our own perspective on things rather than exploring other avenues.

I was listening to a Brene Brown podcast recently where a listener asked why people prefer to believe fake news as apposed to researching and fact checking. Ms. Brown went on to say that the  reason we do this, as research has shown, is that we  prefer to sit with something even if it is false because it would be more uncomfortable to research the lie or the fake news and find that our beliefs were erroneous. How crazy is that!!! Some people prefer to sit ignorantly blissful as opposed to wise and uncomfortable!?!? That damn Ego will get you every time!

Being open minded and constantly questioning and looking at different perspectives is a practice in mindful awareness, And given the times, we can all use some mindful awareness, open minds, open hearts and the empathy and willingness to see and question different perspectives.

When I was on social media earlier,  I  came across a post by The Holistic Psychologist, Dr. Nicole LePera, which speak precisely to this point. In her post, she listed 4 ways we can become more open minded in this area. They are as follows:

  • Regularly consume content that challenges your perception / world view. This allows us to get past our emotional  responses, listen to objective points being made and  understand various frameworks of thought even if they aren’t our own.
  • Learn to become a free thinker.  Most of us are conditioned to repeat  information we’ve been taught. A free thinker engages in conscious thoughts and questions. This is actually a practice of self-trust and self- inquiry.
  • Have relationships, friendships or mentorships from people who have a wide variety of beliefs. This humanizes ” opposing” view points and allows us to evolve beyond one dimensional patterns of thinking.
  • Practice meditation. This allows us to learn a different way of responding to our thoughts and allows us to sit with difficult emotions- which is the foundation of open-mindedness.

We tend to underestimate the power of questioning these days and how valuable and enlightening it can be to learn things we may not have otherwise known had we not taken the time to genuinely engage in the art of humble inquiry. All of the aforementioned points allow us to leave our Ego at the door, allow us to expand and grow, and gives others we engage with permission to do the same. 

Darlings, stay tuned for my next blog where I plan to expand and go into detail on the art of questioning and the numerous types of questions we can add to our toolboxes.

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Your Mother Is Always With You

“She’s the whisper in the leaves as you walk down the street, the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold. winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning. Your mother lives inside your laughter. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on Earth can separate you. Not time, not space…not even death.”

Mother”s Day is always a tough one for those of us who’ve lost our mothers. Several  of my friends lost their moms this year as well as over the last couple of years. And speaking from someone who lost hers 12 years ago, it never gets any easier. I often say that we simply learn how do deal with it, but  we never truly get over that vacant hole on our hearts.

Mother-daughter relationships are tricky. Some are stable while others are volatile. Some fluctuate and others are solid. Some are toxic while others are healing. Some are the things dreams are made of while others are a nightmare. Some are non-existent and others overbearing. Some seem to be “perfect” and others are perfectly imperfect.

There is no cookie-cutter recipe to what makes for a “perfect” mother-daughter relationship. And despite the range and types of mother-daughter relationships out there, mothers always fill a huge part of our hearts for better or worse…in life and in death.

Mother’s Day is tricky to navigate for us whether we like to admit it or not. Some of us don’t like to show our feelings, much less talk about them. Or we have shame around it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling your feelings -all of them- especially when you no longer have a mom around.

We live in a culture that is not comfortable talking about death, much less expressing our feelings around how much we may miss someone who is no longer alive. The love we feel for someone never dies along with that person, If anything, sometimes that love gets   even deeper and more expansive over the years. Yet, there is a preconceived notion some people have that they are expected to “get over” their grief in a certain time period. There is no timeline to grief, no magic recipe, and not one path that is better than another. We all grieve differently because we are all wired differently. As we’ve all experienced, grief just comes out of nowhere sometimes and it shows up differently for each of us. Oftentimes, it’s that unwelcome guest at our heart’s door that we need to allow in.

And when we open our heart’s door, and when we allow ourselves to flow with whatever arises, we are sometimes  unexpectedly surprised. Memories suddenly show up, or something that was so insignificant now holds deeper meaning and significance. Sometimes we struggle to remember something to no avail, but instead we are gifted with a precious memory that was long forgotten…perhaps even painful at the time but, with the passing of time, we look at it through a different lens.

Coming from a generation where our mothers tended to never speak about “family” situations, what I advise anyone who still has a mom around, is to ask them questions…all kinds of questions: about their childhood, growing up, experiences, traumas, ancestors, romances, challenges, successes, relationships, wishes fulfilled and dreams unfulfilled…you get the idea. Record videos and take lots of pictures of them. Interview them, have them interview you and record these interviews. Be silly, go deep and don’t leave any stone unturned. These will be some of the things that will comfort you and make you laugh when you are longing for their presence -even if it’s for one more day.

I’m a person who values rituals and enjoys celebrating a person’s life. So, on Mother’s Day, my day starts with a gratitude filled meditation and yoga practice. I usually have my customary white roses and my Mama’s journal that I write in twice a year.  Some years, I look back at what I wrote in years past. I like this quiet time to reflect . It also allows me to see how, with the passing of time, I am growing into being more and more like my mother. And I am owning it. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. It’s all good though…I embrace it all!

My mama was all about love, generosity and service. She loved to dance, celebrate and laugh. She always ended her conversations with “Te quiero” and was very loved by all who knew her. Mama had a huge heart. As I look back, I can see how she felt all her feelings… maybe too much.  I have no doubt that she was an empath. She was compassionate, loving and kind to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, she could have a temper – that Cuban mother temper- but most times she’d end up getting over it- and herself- very quickly. Sometimes she’d even be concealing laughter while in the midst of an outburst. I just don’t think she had a mean bone in her body…it was all theatrics.

All I know for sure is that my mother is always with me. This morning I took out a box of old family pictures ,and l really took the time to look at them, look at the body language, the smiles, the joy and the sadness too. I even found myself looking at pictures of me when I was a baby and a young child and talking out loud to the little girl I was holding in my hands. Talk about powerful stuff! I also read through letters and cards that teachers had their students write and draw for my mom a few months before she passed.

As if by divine intervention, as I sit here finishing this blog, a friend of mine who  lost her mom a couple of months ago sent me a picture of a card she received. The front of the card was almost the same as the title of this blog, Your Mother Will Always Be With You. Go figure! Is that a coincidence, or what?

So….in honor of all of us who’ve lost our moms-whether physically, emotionally or mentally- especially if this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom, I will leave you with the beautiful sentiment expressed in the card my friend received:

“You’ll never forget her face, her voice, her love for you. You’ll never forget the traditions she handed down, the things she stood for… They are her gift and your legacy. You honor her every day in the way you live and the person you are.”

Sending you all much love and many blessings,  from my heart to yours!

Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC

 

Grow Through It All

“When our souls are healthy, we change the environment; the environment doesn’t change us” -Pastor Carl Lentz

This past week I have been finishing up the numerous books I’ve been simultaneously reading. While I still have 2 more to go, I did finish Own the Moment by Carl Lentz. And not only did I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoy reading it, but I finally made it to service at Hillsong Church this morning. What an experience! One can’t help but getting that feeling of  coming alive and getting our souls infused with a healthy and relatable dose of “the all-knowing word.”

I will be taking a few weeks off from posting my blog, because I need to diligently and fervently work on all the blogs I want to write and schedule before going away and disconnecting from social media. I usually schedule one per week, usually on Wednesdays, while I am away. I will keep you all posted!

But not to worry…I am going to leave you with some meaningful food for thought, conversation, guidance and perhaps even some writing for the next couple of weeks while I devote some uninterrupted time to writing myself. Should you choose to deeply explore the questions, it is my hope that you will be left feeling an expansive sense of Self. There is always room for growth, darlings! The key is to be accountable and keep plugging away at this most powerful, pure-hearted, heart-centered and self-loving process.

So, I leave you with some questions from Own the Moment. The questions were scattered throughout the book. I may have tweaked some questions and added a few of my own. Nevertheless, I selected the ones that spoke to me in hopes they speak to you as well. Like I said, reflect on them, talk about them, journal or simply explore them in which ever way serves you best:

  • Do you know where you are going?
  • What drives you?
  • What shapes you?
  • What fuels you?
  • What guides you?
  • Are you changing?
  • Are you influencing?
  • What are you listening to today?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it life-giving?
  • Where do you put your focus?
  • What are your challenges?
  • Who challenges you?
  • Do you have broken relationships because you’re consumed with the wrongs somebody else committed and you have failed to own your part in the matter?
  • Can you be more constructive and look inward to bring change in your life?
  • Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
  • What do you demand for your own life?
  • What are your non-negotiables?
  • Do you know your convictions –  the “yes, I wills” and the “no, I won’ts?”
  • Are you changing your environment, or is your environment changing you?
  • Have you had to adjust your standards to fit in?
  • Have you lived with such conviction as people start rethinking their standards because of you?
  • How can you influence others?
  • Are you clear about your intentions?
  • Do the people in your life feel valued and appreciated?
  • If so, why? What do you do that makes them feel this way?
  • What would you do if you truly didn’t care about what other people thought about you?
  • How would you live, what would you pursue, and ultimately  how much fun would you have?
  • How many things in life would you have already tried if you didn’t fear failure?
  • How many people in your life might you be holding to an unrealistic standard of completeness when you have areas that are in the process of healing?
  • Do you find yourself living in the past?
  • Are you constantly in a hurry?
  • If you take a genuine hard look at what influences you today and the relationships that you hold most dear, are they helping or hurting you?
  • Could it be said that some things that should not be an option in your life have been given the opportunity to grow?
  • What makes you the most insecure in life? Why?
  • Where can you find time to stop and be grateful for all that you have in your life?
  • What is the one thing you can do today that can make a huge difference in the life of another?

We can look at our answers and realize our journey, and our task, is to do the work in order to grow through whatever it is we are going through and, ultimately, evolve into the best version of ourselves AND live a full, meaningful and purposeful life in the process! We have much to do in terns of growing. By the same token, we can also look to see if we are allowing the way we live to suck the passion out of our lives.

We can further investigate our answers and determine if we are living a balanced, grateful, rich, inspiring and benevolent life- and one that is filled with peace, tranquility and serenity. We can see, and feel,  if we are operating from a place of love or fear. We can look to see if we’re choosing to live in joy despite of the life circumstances that befall us all.

Ultimately, our answers will reveal if we are living from a place of truth, transparency and authenticity, or of we are living a life of dishonesty, fraud, lies, deceit, half-truths, and omissions that are compromising our soul’s integrity. Remember, the choice is always ours to make!

Darlings, stay calm, cool and continue to grow through it all

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC