“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”Elizabeth Appell
In my work, I help people take the risk to blossom. I tell business leaders, employees, educators and parents that all people have 4 core needs to feel empowered, lovable, connected and contributing. Most think I’m saying loved instead of lovable. Feeling lovable is quite different than feeling loved. Lovability is an outbound contribution; in other words, we cause delight in others.
Either way, many people get hung up by the very words. They get uptight like that bud. For example, last week an employee made the following comment (which prompted this article) on her post-training survey in which she wrote, “ I almost felt insulted when “lovable” was brought up as a social need. It’s, to me, too strong of a word to apply to a workplace. And I’m having a hard time understanding how you can make yourself lovable.” Here is my reply to her:
“Many people think work is no place to speak on things like feeling lovable. But experts who study human behavior say that feeling lovable is crucial to well-being and high performance. As for making yourself lovable, I have good news; you don’t have to. You already are lovable. That’s the easy part.
The hard part is practicing behaviors that internally and externally build awareness of this in you, and demonstrate it to others too. This includes listening, validating, and empathizing; things most of us have not been taught to do intentionally or well. As a result, many people feel invisible and disconnected.
Brene Brown, researcher and author on shame and vulnerability says, “That’s why we are the most over-weight, over-medicated, indebted, addicted, cohort in the history of mankind. We want belonging and significance, yet have this crazy fear that if people really knew us they would reject us.” Feeling lovable means we feel our unique social presence is helpful and needed.
Below are two scenarios. Consider what you think, feel and decide if you were in one, then the other. And, in both, let’s assume everyone involved is loving, caring, and well meaning.
Scenario 1: You come into a group and no one seems too excited. There’s no warm welcome, and as conversation ensues, you receive no encouragement to weigh in. Others look at you doubtfully when you do comment, or worse, they seem indifferent. You feel invisible and out of step, as if you don’t matter or fit in.
Scenario 2: You come into a group and people warmly acknowledge you with smiles. You are encouraged to share who you are and your ideas, and they listen attentively. They are curious; when you speak, you see in their tone, body language, and expressions indications your well-being matters.
Remember, in both scenarios, these are well-intentioned people who are not selfish, narcissistic, or uncaring. Yet notice what both scenarios make you think. In scenario 1, you may think,” These people don’t get me or care about me.” In scenario 2, you may think,”These people like me.” If you talked to gobs of people and described each, chances are, for many, the very describing would bring about memories of negative consequences related to the first, such as becoming self-conscious, shut down, hurt and fearful or to the second, of becoming more daring, caring, creative and helpful.
This is why it is so important to understand this need of everyone to feel lovable. This knowledge allows each person to experience the positive consequences we often intend to provide but, instead fail to do. We miss the mark in offering validation and demonstrating social interest (care in how our behavior effects others.) Giving cues to people they are lovable, impacts whether the best version of them shows up or not.
In my family, I was abundantly loved, but I did not always feel lovable. Too often I did not feel seen, validated in my perspective, and empathized with in my feelings. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were amazing, generous and loving people, but what they did not know about this core need in others, caused big problems for me and for others they encountered. What I know to be true is that when people feel lovable, they become productive, engage in caring teamwork, get bold, enthusiastic and supportive. They problem-solve with courage, and are innovative and playful.
So I encourage you to grapple with this concept of helping all to feel lovable. I can truly understand why it repels (or as you said “insults”) you. The goal of my work is to bring forth the best possible version of everyone there for the greater joy, meaningfulness and expanded capacity to serve. Seeking to accommodate the need we all have to feel lovable (as well as connected, contributing and empowered) may feel uncomfortable, messy, and hard, because it often is. It’s vulnerable, personal, awkward, and can feel hokey at times. But I want you to do it anyway because we are humans, and while we have conditioned one another to avoid vulnerability (and even talking about it), feeling lovable is important and personal because we are persons.”
Why People Hire LifeWork Systems
Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages. We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based Teal workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost. You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at email@example.com.
This article will be published in my column Emotional Intelligence in The Women’s Journals, January, 2017 (my first article in my column was Dec/Jan 2006!)
Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Her mission is “to help people create conditions in which all people love their lives.” She can be reached at 314-239-4727.