Inner Work With MaryAnn Walker: Life Coach for Empaths, Highly Sensitive People & People Pleasers

Embracing Differences through Compassionate Curiosity

June 15, 2023 MaryAnn Walker Episode 45
Embracing Differences through Compassionate Curiosity
Inner Work With MaryAnn Walker: Life Coach for Empaths, Highly Sensitive People & People Pleasers
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Inner Work With MaryAnn Walker: Life Coach for Empaths, Highly Sensitive People & People Pleasers
Embracing Differences through Compassionate Curiosity
Jun 15, 2023 Episode 45
MaryAnn Walker

Our brain wants to label things that are new or different as "unsafe" and things that are familiar as "safe" but this doesn't always support us in creating connections with those that we love. 

Today we are talking about how to embrace differences through compassionate curiosity. 

As we seek to understand others and their operating systems, we are better able to know how to relate to them. These differences might be in the form of marital status, political affiliation or sexual orientation. Lean into the discomfort of not fully understanding another's experience. You just might learn something! 


Show Notes Transcript

Our brain wants to label things that are new or different as "unsafe" and things that are familiar as "safe" but this doesn't always support us in creating connections with those that we love. 

Today we are talking about how to embrace differences through compassionate curiosity. 

As we seek to understand others and their operating systems, we are better able to know how to relate to them. These differences might be in the form of marital status, political affiliation or sexual orientation. Lean into the discomfort of not fully understanding another's experience. You just might learn something! 


MaryAnn:

Well, hi there and welcome back. So I have been at this podcasting thing for a while now, and so I thought I would kind of reintroduce myself. My name is Marianne Walker and I am a life coach for the helpers, healers and people pleasers. And I chose this path for my career because I have done it all. I am a helper. I am a healer and I am a recovering people pleaser. So I know what it feels like to give and give and give until you have nothing left. I know all about compassion, fatigue, and burnout. I know how it is to always be the one to hold space for others, and to also need somebody for you to talk to. So I have made it my life's mission to help other helpers, healers, and people pleasers to find a more sustainable way of living. That allows them to love and to serve in a way that is more supportive and sustainable for them. I am a married mother of three, going through a little bit of a transition in life. As I now have two adult daughters, which is totally blowing my mind. So I have two adult daughters, and then I have one that is still in high school and it just does not seem real. I am old enough to be in this situation, but here I am. My husband is a budget analyst and he works with concrete numbers and black and white spreadsheets. And as you know, I'm a life coach, which means I work with fluid, thoughts and emotions. my husband, enjoys running and lifting weights. Well, I enjoy walking and doing yoga. He owns an Android and I own an iPhone and we oftentimes joke that he and I just run on different operating systems and have different default settings because we just seem to relate to the world so differently. And also I think that it is exactly these differences in how we engage with and perceive the world that have really helped us to each grow individually and beautiful ways. And I introduced my marriage in that way, because today we're going to talk about embracing differences. And to start. I want to talk to you a little bit about your brain. So our brains have been divinely designed to help to keep us safe. And one of the ways that our brain does this is by identifying things that are different. So it looks for things that are outside of the ordinary. And this is an awesome feature that helps us to find food and resources. It lets us know when there is danger and it is just generally there to help to keep us safe. And this feature has served our ancestors very well, too, because by noting the differences in their surroundings, Our ancestors were able to prepare for and navigate storms. Keep them safe from wild animals and stay on alert for those that might be different from them that might want to harm them or take their resources. So this is a super cool feature. And because our brain likes things to be familiar and comfortable. Sometimes this feature in our brain, it gets a little bit activated even when there's not actually a threat. Our brain wants to tell us that there is danger when really it's just that there's something different that we aren't used to yet. And we kind of internally tend to resist these differences. For example, when I meet somebody new our brain, it might focus on how this person is different from us and it might get hung up on the one thing that sets this person apart from us. So when this happens, our brain wants to place them into a box and slap a label on them. So we might put them into the, this is the same as me box and therefore this feels safe and comfortable, or we might put them in the box that says this is different. And therefore it is unsafe and uncomfortable When I was growing up, I was super jealous of my friend. Jenny had a label maker at her house. It was shaped like a gun and you could turn this little dial to the letter that you wanted and then pull the trigger. And it would imprint the letter into this little sticky label. And it was just so cool. So we could just slap labels on everything. So like literally one day we just sat around making labels and we labeled everything in her house. And every time that we slapped a label on something, then we would get a little dopamine, hit. Our brain would say, Hey, you did an awesome job. You figured out you feel so good. And the same thing happens when we are labeling other people. Our brain is going to do the exact same thing. It's going to say, Hey, you figured it out. You figured out what? Labeled a slap on them. Great job. Here's a dopamine hit. And so when we are talking with somebody new, we may talk with them just long enough to learn this one thing about them that will let us know what label to put on them. And then our brain, then it will give us a little dopamine hit and tell us that we did a good job. And then our brain will probably take a little nap because, oh, we just figured it out. Good job. You can take a break now because remember our brain is essentially pretty lazy. It wants to take the path of least resistance. So we go through life, just slapping labels on people, and it might happen with somebody that you just met. Right? So it might be like, oh, well they're a night owl and I'm a morning person. So I'm going to put them in the incompatible box. Or maybe we learn who they voted for. And so we know, okay, we're either going to be the best of friends or the worst of entities. And I will put them in the box accordingly because now I know this one thing about them. So we kind of go through putting all of these labels on people and sticking them all in boxes and getting that little dopamine hit. And this might happen with somebody that we just met or am I also happen with somebody that we've known for a while, but now we know something new about them and we kind of have a little bit of resistance around this new information. So we have our boxes in our label maker at the ready. And so we can box people up either is the same as me. Or the safe box or the different from me and the unsafe box. So it might place someone into the box labeled Democrat, Republican vaccinated, unvaccinated, queer neurodivergent trans divorced infertile, super fertile, too old, too young, too expressive, not expressive enough, or the, you are simply just too different from me box. Just to name a few. And then we keep this person in that box thinking that we will never, ever have anything in common with that person because of this one thing. Label making can help us to feel safe in the short term. And the dopamine hit would get from it is fantastic. And also when we do this, it can ultimately create a lot of disconnect from others. So as we talk about inclusion and embracing differences, I just want to remind you that we all have more in common than we do different. We all want to be loved where we're at. We all want our experience and our perception of the world to be valid. And when we intentionally look for the common ground that we share with others, we will find it. So whether you're focusing on the things that are the same or focusing on the things that are different. That is what you will find. So do it on purpose. We may have different operating systems and default settings, and that can present some challenges and also hear all human. When we engage with somebody new, know that they have their default settings and we have ours, they experienced life through a different lens. So we might think that everybody should have the same operating system, but the truth is some of us are Androids. Some of us are iPhones and some of us are flip phones. And so we have very similar functioning, but very different operating systems and taking the time to better understand how each of those operating systems work. That is where the mutual love and respect can exist. And that's where it is, where we can learn how to really truly come together. Whether it is worth noting that sometimes because we have practice placing people in boxes for so long, it can be hard to open up to new ways of seeing people. It can be hard to open up the idea of seeing people as more than just the one thing that keeps us separate from them or the one thing that makes us the same as them. And because of this, it's easy to assume another person's experience. But what if we didn't. What if we were willing to lean into the discomfort of not knowing what their experience was, what if we were willing to ask a handful of follow-up questions? When we learned this one fact that made our brain want to slap a label on them. Like what might happen? What if we were willing to say things like, you know what, I don't know what it is like to struggle with depression or suicidal ideation. I don't know what it's like to lose a loved one to be neurodivergent to be in a mixed faith or mixed orientation marriage to have chronic pain or illness. I don't know what it's like to be black in 2023 to be gay. To be trans. I have no idea what your experience has been like with divorce and fertility moving your family across the country. And I know that everybody experiences each of these things very differently. So could we please talk about what your experience has been like? So that I can know better how you see an experience the world. What has it been like for you and how can I better love and support you on your journey? I saw something on Facebook, a while back about a library where you could check out people like books. You could sit down with them in a library and have a conversation with them about their personal life experience. You could sit down with somebody that was retired or just starting out. Uh, refugee somebody who was trans Democrat, Republican, just so many different lives and perspectives. And you could hear their story and ask questions to deepen the dialogue and to deepen the level of understanding. And I just love this idea so much when we are able to approach our differences through compassionate curiosity, and just be really curious, but what another person's experiences that's when we're able to truly connect with others. One of the greatest gifts that I have learned through coaching is to never assume another person's story. And what's really fascinating to observe as I'm coaching people, is that even when I'm coaching people and they tell me their stories, then oftentimes they assume that I will know exactly what their experiences after they've told me a single sentence. So for example, they might say, I just came out as gay and I was raised Mormon. Or I'm a single parent. Or I'm going back to school and I'm the oldest one in my class. Or I was abused as a child. Or I have a child with autism. They give me one line of their story. And then they assume that I know everything that there is to know about them. I don't, there is no possible way. That I could know and understand someone's story from a single sentence. Their sentence probably does contain an entire story for them. And a whole lot of emotion, but I couldn't possibly understand the whole of their experience from this single sentence, but I can ask follow up questions. Like, what has that been like for you? What has been the biggest challenge that you faced through that? Where have you felt the most supported? And how can I best love and support you right now? What is it that you need? And honestly those same questions can apply to any situation where somebody else's experience is different from our own. What has that been like for you? What has been the biggest challenge that you faced through that? Wherever you felt the most supported and how can I best love and support you right now? What is it that you need? Now as you may or may not know, June is pride month and this is a month dedicated to celebrating differences and celebrating self-acceptance. And I personally feel like pride month is important because there are still kids out there who think that it's better to be dead than to be gay. And that is just not okay. So one thing that each of us has in common is a deep seated desire to be loved and accepted exactly where we're at. Our experiences and default settings might be a little different, but that particular piece of our programming is the same for every human on the planet. We all want to feel loved and accepted as we are. Every person's individual experience is different within the LGBTQ community and the individual's response to learning that somebody that they know and love is a part of that community is also vastly different. And it's when we assume that we know who someone should be or how they should be showing up in the world or how they should be responding to the world. It's those assumptions that are going to be creating conflict. Now admittedly, when my daughter came out, it was a mixed bag for me. It instantly brought to light all of the heteronormative expectations that I had for her and for her life. And I did need some time to grieve the loss of that vision. And also the emotion that I experienced that was even greater than my grief. Was my relief. She had been navigating some serious mental health challenges. And so honestly my initial thought was finally, we have some answers. Now we can talk about it and I can let her know how lucky she is, and we can turn this around and it has been a journey, but ultimately we were able to turn things around for her. And I am so grateful. I think that what helped me the most as we learned how to navigate things together was me assuming that I didn't know her experience. So I asked her a lot of questions and I still ask her a lot of questions just to help me to better understand her experience so I can know how best to love and support her. So I asked questions, like when did you first know, what is it been like for you to attend church with our congregation as a queer person? Do you feel comfortable with me telling friends and family, or do you need more time? Do you want to be the one to tell them? And what would you like for that to look like? So when somebody is having an experience that is different from the one that we have had, it is easy to assume that we know. Everything that we need to know about that person and their experience, but I promise you, there is always more to learn. Assume that you don't have enough information lean in and listen. No, that your brain wants to think that it is a smarty mixed smarty pants. And it wants to tell you that there is no reason for you to ask any follow-up questions, because it already knows everything. Your brain is going to tell you that it has all the answers. And if your brain is telling you this, your brain is lying to you, it does not have all of the answers. So keep the dialogue open. It can be uncomfortable asking questions that we don't know the answer to. And also that is where the connection lies. Generally speaking, when we are interacting with people that are different from us in any way, we are uncomfortable, not because of who they are, but because we don't know enough about the way that they think or feel or experience the world to know how we should show up. So essentially, oftentimes we are fearing the other person's judgment of us. So we are feeling insecure because we don't know what to talk about or how to navigate life with them. And when this happens, it's a good to just notice. The artist's comfort is about us. It's not about them. It is about us. We just haven't learned how to navigate our own cognitive dissonance around. How we thought things should have been right. And that's okay. Just acknowledge that and move on. Remember that the brain wants to be right. Even more than it wants to be happy. So our brain is going to tell us that we know all that we need to know. It's going to say, oh yeah, a always equals be right. But this line of thinking does not create dialogue. It does not create connection. It's limiting. And oftentimes, because we don't know how to engage. We either disengaged completely, or we try to force our own. Narrative upon somebody else. Because that feels more familiar and therefore more safe. So the truth is my daughter has always been my daughter that hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is how much I know about her internal operating system. When we are uncomfortable and thinking that somebody else is just too different from us, then we might avoid talking to them altogether or avoid making eye contact. Or we might even pretend that we don't see any differences at all. And that can sometimes make it even more uncomfortable because then no one is addressing the elephant in the room. When my daughter came out, I did receive a mixed response from my friends. Most of my well-intentioned friends assumed what my experience was. And there are assumptions were that I would be reacting in the same way that they would be reacting if it were their kid. But very few people actually asked me how I was handling things. And honestly, I just wanted somebody to ask me how I was doing and meet me where I was at. Just give me space for processing rather than assuming what was needed. And if that was my experience as a parent, I can only imagine what that must've been like for my child. I would have loved it. If my friends had just asked me, Hey, what has this been like for you? What has been the most challenging part and how have you been navigating it? Uh, where have you felt the most supportive and how can I best love and support you right now? What is it that you need right now? I would have loved it so much at these friends had just asked me how I was doing, rather than assuming I would have loved to have had somebody to talk with about it. I would have loved it if they had said, Hey, you know, we heard your daughter came out. So how was that for you? I know every kid and every situation is different. So I would love to know more about what your experience has been so I can know how to better show up for each of you. This is what compassionate curiosity can look like. It's actually getting to know and understand the experiences of others. It's getting to know and understand what operating systems they're running and what their default settings are. It is never our job to change another person. Changing another person is totally out of our control. Anyway, our only job and the only thing that's really in our control is to learn how to love and to seek, to understand. To meet people exactly where they are at, not where we think they should be and not where we would feel more comfortable. But meet them exactly where they are at. This is what it means to be inclusive. So assume the best of people. Love people exactly where they're at come to better know and understand what their default settings are so that you can better communicate with them through this lens of compassionate curiosity. One of my kids has a Samsung phone, just like her dad. And she sent a message in a group chat with some friends and somebody commented and said, Hey, who turned the group chat green? So ultimately, does it really matter if all of the messages in the group chat or blue or green? No, it really doesn't matter. What matters is that we work to make our operating systems compatible enough so that we can all be in the same chat group, right? Whether it's green or blue, we can communicate and include. So some people have a green chat box and other people have a blue chat box. And I hope that we can all learn to accept that without adding to any shame or insecurity that it should be any different. So let people be here. They're going to be, because newsflash, they're going to be who they're going to be anyway. The world is full of people with different experiences that see the world through a different colored lens. And the world is a better place when we can love and accept people as they are. So, Hey, I hope that this month and every month we can all do a little bit better when it comes to working to really understand other people's personal experiences. So go out there and love somebody a little bit better today. Even those around you that have a different default settings and different operating systems from you. So I have talked to you a little bit about a little project that I've been working on. So I just wanted to let you know, my friend and colleague Kent, Casper Martineau is launching a new podcast and I get to be a part of it. So if you're enjoying this podcast, you might want to pop over and follow that one as well. It is called the society of happy things and it is dedicated to helping people improve their level of happiness. So I'll put a trailer for the podcast at the end of this episode. So stay tuned if you'd like to hear that. And if you're interested, And Hey, if it resonates with you then coming over and subscribe there, it will officially launch in July. So subscribe now. So you can be the first to listen. All right. I hope you have a great week. Talk to you soon. Bye now.

Hi, I'm Kent. I'm Maryanne. I'm Michelle. I'm Jonathan. I'm Sarah. I'm Tammy. and we are the society of happy things The Society of Happy Things is a movement for positivity. We adopt practices that are scientifically proven to make you happier. Things that take maybe five to 10 minutes a day, And then we discuss our experiences of implementing these so-called happiness practices into our daily lives. if you would like to be happier, then please join us, the Society of Happy Things, and start listening today.