During an advanced career workshop I facilitated a few months ago, one of the attendees (we’ll call him Tim) raised his hand. “You may be surprised by this question, but do you have any advice for when and how to inform my potential employer of a few felonies I have? I never know what to do with that in the interview process.” Tim then gave us some backstory to his predicament.
Tim was someone I’d met a few weeks prior. I found him to be charismatic, driven and flat-out talented. He was working towards a certificate in cybersecurity, working two jobs, and with all those positive characteristics, it’d be hard to associate him with crime. But I wasn’t surprised by his question, not the least bit. Why? Because I have also made mistakes and some less-than-ideal choices.
At age 13, I found myself on probation. The answer to how I actually got on probation is a story for another time, but how that experience shaped me is my point of human connection with Tim. The dark paths I’ve walked down (hell, some I’ve ran down and sadly, some I was pushed down) are the reason I’m so passionate about helping others explore their darkness, learn from it and then release it so they can step into their new selves, into their light, into their true selves.
After the workshop, I emailed Tim: “You were brave and inspiring today. Keep sharing your story. The right people will listen. Thank you for helping to break stereotypes. Thank you for not giving up on yourself and humanity.”
Tim wrote back: “I don’t normally open up like that, but I went with the energy in the room. Thanks for creating a culture of nonjudgement.”
Tim’s words left me misty-eyed and they got me thinking. How do I create an open and inclusive culture?
Here’s what I came up with:
Be vulnerable. Share your story: You don’t need a gripping “I had a run-in with the law and turned it all around” story to promote an unbiased and accepting environment. We all have stories of adversity and struggle: Speak your truth so others feel comfortable doing the same.
Get curious: Listen to people. Truly listen. Ask questions about others and promote opportunities for people to ask you questions; the real questions, the questions that matter; the ones that could profoundly change someone’s life (like Tim’s question).
Don’t take yourself or life too seriously: Humor, levity, shooting the shit, whatever you call it – it’s healing and helps others not take themselves too seriously. Judgement comes from a place of closed-mindedness; humor (if done right) comes from a place of lightness. If you want people to feel open, then add some whimsy.
Vibe high: People pick up on energy. They can tell if something feels right and if something feels off. Do what you can to ensure you’re giving off the right energy. Keep yourself balanced, honest and healthy.
If you’d like to engage with an open and inclusive culture, check out my Dark Night of the Soul = A Life Found workshop series starting 1/7. It would be great to have you with us. You’ll join a strong community filled with people ready to get raw and real with their darkness – through sharing, listening and connecting – so the light can shine again.
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PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I’m going to create a culture of nonjudgement’ journey: “I increase my energy by choosing to love rather than judge. I expand my energy by giving love, receiving love, and promoting love.”
PPS – Tap into the power of nonjudgement. Think back to a time when someone chose not to judge you. Perhaps it was something as simple as your appearance, or maybe a moment you chose to reveal a deep truth about yourself (like Tim). Spend a few minutes journaling. Here’s a prompt: Write a letter to the person who didn’t judge you. Would you thank them? How did their act of nonjudgement positively impact your life?
One thought on “The Power of Opening Up”
Danielle, you forgot to list one that you actually did for Tim in the story — positive reinforcement for sharing! (Of course, you may count that under “Vibe High.”)