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The opinions of the employees of s You are personal.
Before George Floyd’s death, I had planned to email my contact list with a questionnaire that I had prepared about elevator parking spaces. Before the atrocities occurred, my plan was to send the email on Monday June 1st.
But on Sunday, May 31, there were protests across the country. And in my neighborhood in Los Angeles, complaints, violence and helicopters flew for 24 hours. It was clear that sending a questionnaire would not only fall on deaf ears, but would also have had a very bad taste.
Many of us have difficulty figuring out how to respond to events like what happened to Mr. Floyd, especially when we are white and have not experienced the prejudices that people with color are exposed to around the world. We are afraid to say the wrong thing or to take the wrong action.
This problem becomes even more pronounced for those who run a business alone because it seems inappropriate to promote themselves in such a difficult climate.
What should entrepreneurs say now, especially when we feel we don’t belong in the conversation?
What should we say as humans, period?
This Monday, instead of sending out the questionnaire, I did something that helped me answer this question.
You don’t have to have all the answers
I sent an email with the subject: “I would like to hear from everyone what I can do for you today.” In the email, I made it clear that I wanted to help, but I wasn’t sure what would serve my audience at the time. I gave them a few options: make them a Facebook Live to discuss the situation, send my regular emails about the talks and TED talks, or even send the questionnaire they were supposed to send.
I asked them to tell me what they needed, not by completing a survey, but by answering me directly.
In the 170 emails I received over the next 36 hours, I heard about people of different races and backgrounds. Some were challenging and even confrontational, but most were kind and grateful. Some people asked about that Facebook Live or the usual emails, and some even asked for the questionnaire.
But most people just wrote down their thoughts about what happened. They explored what they wanted for the country, what they fear or say, how angry they are, how sad they are or what they want to improve. Some people described a revelation that they had in response to everything that happened.
I asked everyone what they wanted now and they replied:
- They wanted to feel heard.
- They wanted to feel that their voice was important.
- By replying to each email individually, I showed them that their voices are really important.
- This wasn’t because of what I said, but because of what I asked.
I led with a question I really wanted to know the answer to.
I led with curiosity.
He guides curiously
Ultimately, this means that in times of crisis it is curiosity that gives people the feeling of being seen and heard.
Curiosity leads to healing
There are no strict rules on how to lead curiously. However, what is usually very important is that it is real. However, if, like me, you are communicating with my list in a one-to-many format, you can let me know that you want to help, but you are not sure how to do it. Then offer a range of options to choose from, as well as an invitation to share a completely different need.
And when you speak to someone, you can start by asking, “How are you doing right now?” This can lead to the initial connection, and then you may be wondering why they feel that way. And that can make your question more direct than necessary.
But ultimately, this idea of asking how we can serve calls us to worry less about what to say. If you trust them and ask them what they need, they will feel seen.
If you ask others what they need, you can find healing for yourself.
One of the 170 emails I received was particularly striking. His author offered me an eloquent and friendly investigation into what all of this means. Before answering, I searched her online to find out who she was, and in a series of discoveries I found that not only was she from my hometown in New York, but my father had been her sixth-grade teacher.
I buried my father last November. This was one of those fitting stories that I would have liked to share with him and when I thought about it I felt pain. At that time, I also experienced a softness that I had not felt safe enough since the murder, protests and helicopters the week before.
My intention to put the question on my email list was that it could somehow help others to heal.
I had no idea that this would also experience a moment of healing.