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Thinking Out Loud – Ep: 019 – GET REAL!

Dec 30, 2022

Today, Dr. Joe delves into the importance of honesty and vulnerability, and the questions that arise when we open up about our sensitive, personal moments.  How do you confront the realities of being true to yourself and others when it's difficult? 

Andrew J. Mason:
This is Thinking Out Loud with Dr. Joe Currier. Episode 19, Get Real. Welcome to Thinking Out Loud with Dr. Joe Currier. My name's Andrew J. Mason and this is the show where we hit the pause button on life, head to the locker room for some life changing halftime inspiration, and then zoom back in and grab the tactics direct from Dr. Joe's playbook to pull it all together when we're on the field. Today, Dr. Joe delves into the importance of honesty and vulnerability and explores the difficult questions that arise when we open up about our sensitive personal moments. How do you confront the realities of being true to yourself and others when it's difficult? Here's Dr. Joe.

Dr. Joe Currier:
My dear friend, Joe Ehrmann, author of InSideOut Coaching is convinced that emerging leaders need a clear, consistent life career narrative. I believe that whether individuals welcome the opportunity to share their life story or struggle with fear of being judged for opening the window to sensitive personal parts of their authentic self, I believe that questions typically arise as to how deep should I go. Also, are the three R's in play? Is this the right time, the right place and the right people? And frankly, embedded in the third R is the consideration, who has earned the right to hear my story, and how will this impact our relationship going forward? I call this the kimono paradox as in how much should I open my sensitive authentic self in a world filled with judgment and skepticism?
I think there are other cautions too that cause hearts to pound and palms to sweat like and here comes a big one, what if I cry? The anxious response to this last question is a common belief, if I break down. Can you feel the negative weight of this descriptor? If I break down, people will either laugh at me or wonder what's wrong with this wuss? I have a question. How do you spell wuss? Do you throw in an additional S, W-U-S-S to highlight your point about a weak, cowardly or ineffective person? Think back and be honest. What stories did you make up in your mind if and when you faced the potential wuss moment? What emotions did you struggle with to hide and negative self-talk did you mute when you made a mistake in public or failed to measure up to a potential winning performance? Did you hear people laugh or did you feel that people were laughing at you? Can you hear the difference?
And it depends on your mindset. The former is merely information. It describes how people act, the choices they make. The latter is a negative label that strikes your heart. Ultimately the choices you make, a repeated principle that determines the wuss impact. In the absence of information, people make up stories in their mind. Pain, sadness, and fear are commonly flagged as wuss triggers. One of the big ones is the belief that real men don't cry. Think back. Did you ever see your dad cry? I believe if the answer is yes, it was probably a rare historic catastrophic moment like at the funeral of his dear mother. Children at a very early age are taught to hide sensitive emotions. Frankly, kids are even coached and encouraged to lie. Why? To eradicate any wuss judgments. If a young athlete is injured, they're told that doesn't hurt. Rub some dirt on it.
Young ones are often shamed and blamed if they begin to fuss, fidget or shed a tear when a nurse pokes at them with a vaccine needle. I have a question, mom and dad, have you ever shouted the wuss trifecta, turn off the water works. What's wrong with you? Are you a baby? You and I know that parents do not intend to harm their child. They simply use necessary lies to justify their actions. I've heard them time and again say I'm doing this for their own good. Henry Dominguez in his book, The Life Story of Henry Ford's Forgotten Son described how the elder decided to verbally be abusive and at times cruel to his pampered son, his words. Dad was open and honest regarding why. Henry Ford told his biographer, I just wanted to toughen him up. Frankly, dad's abuse may have helped his son Edsel become a captain of industry.
It also likely contributed to his untimely death at the age of 49. What began as stomach ulcers ended up as stomach cancer. If you connect the dots, which I'll explain as we continue, you can draw your own conclusion. In my opinion, Henry Ford was working through a psychodrama of his own impoverished, isolated and abusive early years. Why do adults repeat such self-defeating behaviors? Their intention is to raise an individual with strength and character. News flash character and wellbeing are not diminished by recognizing our sensitive emotions. Strength and character are measured by the choices we make once we face strong vulnerable emotions. As a marine lieutenant, a true hero, a young man who in my eyes stands nine feet tall in a very private moment, confessed that he struggled with a secret. In the act of unimaginable heroism in battle, he told me that he wet his pants.
I assured him with tears in my eyes that that is an important part of why he is a hero. In the face of unimaginable chaos and terror, personal danger, he moved forward and frankly saved the lives of his brother Marines and more. Much more. I would've been more concerned if he did not wet his pants. Let me share a partner principle. One of the greatest signs of care and respect is when someone trusts you or I to hold what those outside of the circle of truth and trust, consider a wuss moment. To me, it's a sacred gift. There are two primary reasons I believe where adults react so negatively to vulnerability. The first is because they're DUM. Oh, wait, take a breath. When I say DUM as I shared it earlier in podcast, I don't spell the word D-U-M-B as in stupid or ignorant.
No way. It's D-U-M as in I don't understand the message, the meaning, the motivation, or even the momentum I'm creating when I teach individuals of any age to hide emotions, any emotion. The second reason adults worry about the wuss virus is that they are simply repeating what they've been taught. We have a very detailed process we call connect the dots. How significant life events impact your life, leadership style and competitive performance. And there's a marker matrix, three interconnected parts what, so what, now what? What refers to the marker events in your life, the highs and the lows you experience? So what is the underlying power of emotions that are embedded in memories, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors frankly that we both learn and model. Now what, now what refers to how we show up in future events. You and I can better understand our behavior, the how's and the why's by understanding and managing marker memories.
Now what, how things appear again, in a mind's eyes. The question is are you heading down the correct life path or are you racing towards a self-defeating dead end? Cultural norms will help answer that question. Cultural norms are the social emotional rules of the road. Cultural norms define the dos and don'ts to maintain membership in a clan. Many cultural values are not objectively right or wrong. They may be more like driving an automobile. The Brits are not nuts or directionally challenged because they drive on their other side of the road. I almost said the wrong side of the road. Other side, wrong side is compared to who the Canadians or us folks in the US? The key is to properly define, understand and follow the rules of the road to avoid head on collisions socially and emotionally. So too again, are these cultural norms around team building and social emotional relationships.
Some of these operational norms are sacred truths of noble cultures that drove the history of great tribes through the leadership of unique individuals struggling first to survive and later to prosper from caves to castles. This podcast is not intended to challenge, diminish or in any way criticize institutional norms. I am however, asking my listening partners to keep an open mind and consider the question do your intrapersonal, that is do the self forces, do the intrapersonal forces and in interpersonal cognitive behavioral norms regarding privacy and vulnerability, do they serve you in your current roles from home and office to competitive life arenas? At a later time, I'll ask you to join me for a deep dive into defining your window to your authentic self. How open are you? Do you share and receive sensitive information or are you defensive and frankly, tell these little white lies?
For now, I'm going to send you off to war. No, I'm not asking you to enlist in the military or the Marines still could use a few good men and women. I'm asking you to find a quiet corner when time allows, perhaps alone or even with a trusted partner and ask the question, WAR, W-A-R, what's at risk if I'm open and vulnerable, and what's at risk if I am not? WAR, W-A-R. What's at risk if you were to change kimono habits and perhaps open the kimono a bit more, and what's at risk if you don't change? Just listen to the advice of kids on the playground and I say, get real.
Well, I think it's time for you and I to get real with those significant others from partnerships at work on the playgrounds of our life and frankly with our own true self to get real. How about taking variation to this question WAR? What's at risk if we, it be if I was sitting with some of my team players, what's at risk if we in this team circle speak our truth? What do you know that I need to know in order to serve you better as a partner and frankly serve our mission? Think about it, get real and I'll see you down the road. Thank you and blessings on your way.

Andrew J. Mason:
Dr. Joe, as I'm listening to you talk about this and we think out loud together, one question that kind of reared its head for me is as an adult, how do you work out those autobiographical narrative moments, especially when you're not aware of them as they're happening? Sometimes things just seem to happen through somebody and it's like there's behavior there, but it was triggered and we didn't even know it was present until it happened.

Dr. Joe Currier:
One of the things Andrew I'd asked them to do is really to step back for a moment and ask if they were an observer to this event, let's say between somebody else, a mom or a dad down the street, and they would've said there, what wisdom would they bring to the situation? Did they have any surprise in terms of realizing maybe I overstated that. And thirdly, and I've shared this once before, I call it the eight o'clock parenting where do they make a B line up the stairs at night? Just when Johnny or Mary's ready to go to sleep and say, Hey, by the way, big guy, you know I was just angry. I really do love you. I think if they look at some of these chapters and see if they want us to stay, because they are records that facial set that you and I might have in that moment, they are records and they shape the child's beliefs going forward about their own self-esteem. And perhaps that's some of the bags that we are carrying ourself and it might be time to let it go.

Andrew J. Mason:
Let's say somebody's been listening to this and did happen to gain another level of self-awareness that says, my gosh, I've been leaning into the idea that people are laughing at me versus they could just be laughing in general. And how does somebody go about re-crafting or recreating that narrative that says, you know what, this might not necessarily be about me?

Dr. Joe Currier:
My dear friend, Dr. Les Frankford, I often relate to friends. He was a mentor, friend, partner of mine for nearly 50 years before he just passed away, survivor of the Holocaust. Les had a couple of phrases that I saw him use in conflict situations and I began to adopt them in my own life and they really paid off. And that is sometimes when someone responded very strong to me regardless of age, I wish I had his wisdom as a child, but I would say that I'm sorry you feel that way. And you may be right. Can we talk about this? I think it gave me a chance then to put on a little bit of a shield to protect from some of that abuse to my heart and just get mighty curious to what they were really, what people are trying to say to me. And that is, I ultimately believe my partners don't want to harm me, but you may be right. Can you help me with that? And those types of things helped. That simple phrase.

Andrew J. Mason:
That's brilliant. It makes me think of Viktor Frankl's in between stimulus and responses, man's ability to choose and you're not negating the fact that the other person is experiencing those feelings, but kind of using that space to say, now I'm going to provide a controlled response. It's a response. It's not a reaction, it's a responding.

Dr. Joe Currier:
If we avoid the wuss lab and step into the parenting lab for a second, or just the human beings laboratory, it's time to get curious and listen and say, wow, here's a chance for me to learn something because I know this person cares about me down need. So it might be one of those doors that opens for when opportunity knocks. Do you really learn and listen and say, and I love saying this, can you help me with that? People ultimately want to help each other. And I often see that the fumes of the fire or the anger or actually underneath it is the fear, is can you help me with that? Usually a person will start to apologize, say, Joe, I didn't mean to, I may have... No, please keep going with where you were. Shine a light with what it is that you saw me say, do, or whatever, and can you help me with that?
And then I can sit back and again take some quiet moments and see does that make sense? Because intention versus impact. You've heard me say many times, good intentions are get you to heaven perhaps, but it won't get you to the hall of fame as Aaron, partner, whatever. So I think those are some of the possibilities there. And then remember when you and I really have a face of conflict with a partner and no matter what the age, it's carefrontation. Carefrontation. Do you care enough to lean into this? And I ultimately want to say to somebody, thank you for taking that risk and that opportunity. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Now, whether I agree or not is a second question. I don't think I'd spend a lot of time looking that person in the eyes. They might misread that. But in the mirror I'd ask myself, Joe, does that make sense? And by the way, did you learn something there? Or just go away with a "Thank You".

Andrew J. Mason:
Just amazing to me that somebody with so much business savvy in every other arena of life comes up with this as a behavior. And I want to teach my child resiliency. I want to make sure that they respond appropriately to the world around them. Sometimes really good intention lead people down really bad decision paths. So what's a better way maybe somebody could go about that if they find you know what, I've been doing things for the right reasons, but I've been doing really the wrong thing?

Dr. Joe Currier:
I made contracts with people like Dr. Les and I, we would have contracts mainly I would ask him. If I was doing something, he might in a meeting touch his nose and kind of go like this, which would signal to me that perhaps I was showing up in some, like he used to say to me at times, I seemed angry or overly concerned, you're not smiling enough. He would give me some of the feedback about my body language. And at some point in time what I did was I asked him, could you signal me? And he didn't stop say, oh, oh wait a second. There he goes, you're doing it again. He made a non-verbal gesture.
But what I was doing was frankly asking for some coaching from a person that I trusted and I would at times simply see myself and I realized I wasn't smiling, I was getting too intense into something and I'd stop for a second, I'd take a breath. So yes, I think asking a trusted partner, a coach, a husband, a wife, instead of where he or she walks in hands on their hips saying, now what are you doing? Would you stop yelling at him, you're always picking on him versus figuring how do you come and add some value here? And we're trying to again, resolve and solve problem, not create more tension.

Andrew J. Mason:
That's really brilliant. To submit yourself to a coach so you can get that real-time feedback and course correct in the moment. It does require a level of vulnerability to say, I'm submitting myself over to you to realize that you see a perspective or a blind spot that I might not necessarily see in the moment and I trust you.

Dr. Joe Currier:
Well, ultimately it was his words, even though we got to know through the body language because I trusted him so much, but basically was saying, you may be right. Can we kind of check this out? Or Hey, thanks for at least the feedback and then I can make choices whether I want to continue moving in that particular path or maybe stop for a second and say, Andrew, I think the importance of this has maybe gotten a little bit out of my hands where I'm making it more than it is because now I'm interfering a thing called the R. And again, between two people is an R, this thing called a relationship and I don't want to diminish it, so I'm going to take a breath here.
Sometimes we even see it where we take a time out. You'll see this when there's too much activity, the police will come in and blow a whistle or referees will throw a flag because they'll say, let's just take a breath here and let's step back for a second. And one of the things that I want to bring into, whether it's a verbal conversation or whatever, is just the understanding that this is because I care. This is because we are trying to continue to build this thing called team or relationship or whatever it may be from marriage to whatever. And therefore what if we do going forward is an act of kindness, care and I think we need to pay attention to it.

Andrew J. Mason:
One last question before I let you go. You mentioned this experience, this workshop called Connect The Dots. It sounds like a very powerful thing to be able to help string together life's narrative. If somebody was interested in finding out more about that workshop, what else might they expect from it?

Dr. Joe Currier:
I think one of the things is it will give them a real opportunity to do a deep dive in terms of this thing called this journey in life. And what we do is we do a life timeline and we go into it in very unique ways, not just looking for the marker event, but some of the follow-up. One quick example, my dad was killed when I was a little boy in a car accident and I was four years old and I ended up for a short time being in the St. Anthony's. It was an orphanage. And until I went back home, I had learned the habit there. There was really good people, kind people took care of me and I was a good kid, but I wanted my mom to come and get me when it was possible. And whenever they'd say to me, Joe, would you need this? And I'd say, no, thank you. I'm okay.
And I didn't realize that I eventually was telling people that I'm okay and I was lying. I wasn't being honest. And a woman who works with me, Julianna Gambrella, a partner, a just tremendous lady years ago once said to me, I think you're full of bologna. And I said, what do you mean? She had asked me, how things this and that and we're in a conflict situation, a group of us, and I said, she says, Joe, I have a feeling that it goes back to you're afraid to ask for something because if it doesn't show up, it might break your heart. So it's easier just to say, Hey, thank you. I'm okay. So I think sometimes you and I develop certain habits that protect us, but in the long run it can diminish relationships.
My wife once said to me, I asked you how do I reach out? And you said, I'm fine. Well that wasn't true, but I wasn't fully aware of it. It was caught in the psycho trauma of my years of growing up. So when we connect the dots and go through a series of exercises, it takes us into some very private windows of our life, one-on-one by the way. We don't do this in a window where you're going to open the kimono there. I just want you to stop, look so we don't repeat behaviors that do not pay off, and that we model behaviors that frankly they're not mine. They might be a great uncle of mine or a coach or somebody, but it's time to get real ourself.

Andrew J. Mason:
That's excellent. Dr. Joe, thank you so much for your time with us. It's been really insightful and I know that people are going to grab value from this. Just honored that you spend this time with us.

Dr. Joe Currier:
A real privilege and a blessing. Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew J. Mason:
And thank all of you for listening as well. We'd so appreciate your feedback. And if you'd like to find out more about any of Dr. Joe's leadership or training experiences, you can do that by heading to and clicking on the contact button on the top right there. Remember to subscribe to us in iTunes. And until next time, this was Thinking Out Loud with Dr. Joe Currier, leadership transformation, growth acceleration.


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