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Sharon Steed on Operationalizing Empathy and the Power of a Stutter


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And I've I've watched you you just kicking butt all over the Internet and I I saw your I your Ted ex talk a some years ago but you've been thinking about the space of of of empathy and building collaborative environments for for many years before you kind of blew up in the tech space. Yeah Yeah Chris. You're actually actually got it started Speaking back in two thousand Gosh fourteens splits been about five years now. I gave that Ted headaches talk in two thousand sixteen and I got started speaking on the advice of a speech. It pissed I was seeing at the time. I'm a person who stutters and so I just sort of like comes to the spot where I I was so uncomfortable dislike talking that I would avoid social situations. I would avoid talking the people and it was you know quite frankly just destroying my career and so she suggested I pursue like like public speaking as a way to sort of just as the fear you know I of course being me it was like absolutely not and then after she like facts me off the Ledge said. Don't worry it's not going to kill you. I said okay sure and so. That's kind of how the whole thing again again. Let's just as a way to sort of you know face a fair and see if I could do it or not. When you're you add a speech therapist who is talking to you about how to adjust this? This this affecting situation and they say oh. You know what. You should do international keynote keynote speaker. That would be a great idea. What are you thinking at this moment? So here's the thing like it wasn't hey you you should like go on a plane and you should fly to you know Sydney and Talk in front of like a thousand developers. No it was like how about you. Go and speak to a fluency. Swimming are like at a new ratchet college college and just talk to them about your experiences. As a person who stutters and so you know in my mind I mean I spent my like entire life and I'm not kidding like a grade school high school college like of voiding. You know no these kinds of situations and so her to sort of present. This idea was just like why why But I've fallen terribly. Do this thing that has traumatized me. I don't know how many times times my entire life and so just in my mind it was just like there's no way that that could even work even even a little bit right and so that's what I was thinking. I had no idea that it was going to turn into. And you know the thing that it's turned into now. No no no clue the idea that the one would or could take something that was affecting them and and turn it into Lambeau. Is it fair to say it's an asset. I mean does it get you recognize is like Oh yeah I saw you like. You're the you're the woman who stutters or does that make it worse. Oh no I actually think it's made it better and like So In all of my talks now like I sort of talk about my like poignant you know home. Aunts wants along away like that of sort of T- taught me about communication as a person who stutters and then just communication communication and like as a person in a world that is just like increasingly divided right and so Another's there's sort of high product of speaking has been actually me his getting a lot more comfortable trouble talking about stuttering stuttering in. Did you did you did you did you. General and I wasn't expecting expecting that to He the case. I mean I thought you know I was always going to be uncomfortable with how I spoke in so I didn't know that there was a way to sort of speak freely and stutter at the same time until until I became a public speaker when I and forgive me if this is a a bad analogy but let's try this when I was diagnosed type one diabetic. I didn't know anything about this situation and I went and I was at work and I told a bunch of people and I was like Oh my goodness Dr Today diabetic I got these needles. My needles and I was just I was young and I was telling us all about this. And what a fascinating and horrible thing. It was a new because it was the thing in my life and a woman in accounting pulled me aside like like in a hushed tone into a into an alleyway and she was like. Don't talk about you. Doing I'm like what are you talking about. I'm diabetic but they don't know because they're gonNA they're take away your insurance and they're gonNA They might they might think you're weak and they're not gonNA. They're not gonNA give you assignments because they know that you've got this this thing and she for about two years taught taught me to be consciously visibly ashamed of this thing that I thought was a thing like I thought everyone has something and it messed me up for a pretty good amount of time time but then when I started doing speaking and I would have a low blood sugar or have to fix my pumper stab a needle and myself on stage. I'd have people come up afterwards and say well. It's so nice to see a visible diabetic in today's world. Is it good to be visible blank. Whatever your thing is we've got supermodels with vitiligo ago? We have international keynote speakers. Who stutter? Like everybody's got something that a good thing. Oh Yeah I mean. Of course it is. I think that I think that the more people who are a little bit different a little bit outside of the box who are out there doing a thing thing that people don't think that they can do because of you know link. I think that that's a great thing I mean. I think that we're telling kids kids. I think that we're telling adults had like you know all of us. Are you know we have our own things right. He all have our own securities are on his abilities. And you don't have to be quiet about those things. Those things are actually kind of a to us because they give us a different perspective and she should she should show the world world a different perspective. Right I mean it also helps you to connect if people who. You didn't think that you had had anything in common with and you have common ground. I mean I can't tell you how many people have come up to me You No when I've spoken and said yeah you know I stutter. To and you know I have had a really a CH- challenging time like Sir speaking up at work or you know taking phone calls like I just like constantly avoid talking on the phone and Sh- and And saying you know he onstage and be confident and be comfortable like that just gives me it gives me a feeling at I. Can you know speak with confidence. And that it's okay and so yes you know. Of course yes. I think I think that the more that we make things in in a visible the more that we give those things power over us and over our ch- choices and I think that we should you know do everything who we can to sort of take that power bag. Yeah and let me ask you this though like it feels like it takes a lot of willpower like I. was you know every couple all of years. I'll be honest with you. I will have crying day. It's not all the time but it's just like every couple of years diabetes just gets me down and like the will all of of willpower goes away. And it's just like you know I just can't today and you just WanNa break right. It's been twenty seven years. Here's it's just like I need one day. I can never freaking cookie and then I've cried I get over it and then I move on not not. Everyone has a well of willpower. That is as deep as someone else's how do you teach someone that like. Well they might say well Sharon she's on stage. She's got that power she's got that that's something that I don't have of. How do we teach others to have that ability as well right? I mean it's such a small thing right I just WanNa cookie and now I'm crying about it however mark I have those exact same moments I was at a party. A couple of weeks ago and So people whose daughter like the one word that we can't kit around is our name and so when we are introducing being our cells. He can't say hi. Well I'm this. Awesome person and Blah Blah Blah. And I do this this and that how it's like I have to say. Hi Hi I'm schistosomiasis Sharon and like occasionally. It doesn't come out as quickly as it should. And so people kind of give you this like. Oh this is weird. I am either going to Lula. of Louis Look at you because I'm uncomfortable or I'm just going to completely avoid you because I'm uncomfortable and so I was at this party and we you know like going around saying i. You know I'm swimming so high school and so and then I said I am Shish Che's Barron and a woman I was talking to just like was like Oh hi and then she just avoided me for the entire night and I remember going up to my husband and being like I wanNA leave like I was so upset. I was so overwhelmed with just like this. This is so embarrassing. I'm so ashamed. Why do I have to stutter? Like I wouldn't be normal like I just WanNa go to a party in snow my my name and have fun and have good conversations and so I mean I think that when people see people you know like a year you and like I as strong and confident all of the time while. They're only seeing a very very very small part of Our lives right on twitter or on stages. Or we're on these PODCASTS. Like that's only a very small heart of us. You know. I have to be this person. You have to be this person all All Day every day and times when I don't feel strong like times when I'm just not gonNA call anyone because I really really don't feel like having to talk to someone right now because it's going to be hard and so hard and a like I'm snared bad because this is the worst right and so I don't know I mean. I think that people kind of you who willpower as strength and I don't see those things on the same plane I feel like having would will will power is is you know kind of Hickson valleys. It's like I have awesome days and I feel confident and I feel amazing and I feel really really really really only strong and tough and then it's on those days when I do feel weak and I do feel small and I touched pitched choose to continue to continue pursuing a thing or co onstage anyway or or take picnic call anyway like that willpower. Like that's like real true strength. You know I really appreciate that. You pointed that out I. I had not thought about that before that I think I- primitively had thought of Willpower as being strength and that I was weak if I didn't have it let's flip the the idea that willpower is not strength. There's not a direct access there and flip it on its head and think about your book and your reported O'Reilly empathy at work. If if willpower is not strength does that mean that empathy is not weakness. I mean I feel that has a great question. I know I get a lot of people who sort of come up to me and say like Like that touchy feely soft skill. faming being isn't really all that important and I will. Yeah I mean will one because these quote unquote SOPs skills and I absolutely the spies term. Those are the only skills that you are going to consistently need throughout your career and then as you know like at You know your parents house or with your kids or with your spouses with your friends like these are the things talked about like further relationships and you know built scholar connections and so you know like how can thing like it him. Pathy you know. Be acquainted weakness when it's such a powerful Foale connector and it helps us to really like Louis Laid the foundation for you know her suing understanding other people's perspectives and And other people's opinions like those things don't take us were weak make us header. They improve improve us at P.. As people they expand our minds and all of those things are going to help us. You know truly connect the others. How can that possibly be a weakness sick of waiting for your C I test to pass or having to manage different? Ci Servers for different teams using billed. Kite you can run fast and reliable. Ci Pipelines for every type of project whether it's back in tests mobile apps or even custom custom hardware. Build Kites agent helps you scale to thousands of parallel jobs and your secrets and source code. Never leave your infrastructure. There's great documentation a clean web. You I and plug ins for different types of tools visit billed kite that's k. I T E dot Com Slash Hanson for a fourteen day free trial and and see how sharp affi- scaled from three hundred to fifteen hundred engineers while keeping their bill times under five minutes. That's built kite. Dot Com Slash Hansen. Is it something that can be taught we take we. My wife and I are Kinda deep in the middle of the tween years might have an eleven year old and a thirteen year old. And and you know at this moment in time I love my kids. But they're just jerks Just just awful awful little people you know because they have zero empathy Z.. Of any kind. And I'm you know in your book. You actually call out three types of empathy emotional empathy cognitive embassy and empathetic concern. They effectively have none of these things. Except maybe They can manipulate US using amphitheater. Like a tool. What we're looking for them to really have is primarily cognitive empathy which you say is perspective taking in unfortunately as you point out in your report That's the kind of empathy requires work and little boys don't like Jordan Yeah I mean The research shows that like a lot of these things things we're talking about you know now like aren't just in Herrin and if you think about it you know like we're sort of Of A inclusionary like we are protectors of ourselves and our ch- triads sides and so in phased with an outsider. We're not like attempting to like understanding then it's almost like a fight or flight sort of action and so like his a skill that you know the vast majority of us the capital scores of learn as we go and we have to sort of take. It's time to really cause to really think about you. Know where other people are coming from and and killing filling the gap fill in the gaps of the things that we don't know or or he just Kinda you have to accept like that we don't have all of the context and you have to assume that other people are coming from a good place. It's all of those. Things are not things that are in the herons in us and so it does as of require some Trial and error and a whole lot of work on. Fortunately I never really thought about the idea that it isn't intuitive to some folks because it may be evolutionary not a beneficial thing like it depends on the world you live at if you are in a cave and your focus is three people in your space than yeah. You should be apathetic towards those three people in everyone else's an enemy but in a in connected global world is actually quite useful to instantly when a world of social media being empathetic towards people. Only good thing. Oh for sure or I mean especially now when we're constantly bombarded with all kinds of news and all kinds of contents and all kinds of opinions a lot of those opinions just like I don't agree that I how am I supposed to you know like he'll like with these feelings. I mean I feel like we've gotten to a point where like if we're confronted. The person who liked has an agreed thus on you know like a few obvious topics. Then we just don't want to talk to them at all and that is the complete opposite You know trying to pursue understanding and like trying to get inspected We live in a world like that makes it empathy incredibly difficult. And so you know we have have to work Quite a bit harder in order to achieve our goals of like truly connecting with with people especially if we his agree with them the hoping that the boys are GonNA learn embassy on their own. But I'M GONNA keep trying to explain it to them. I don't think having them read your research. Paper is going to work for an eleven year old. But I'm going to do the. We may assign this his homework. In fact I think that's it's a great idea. Why not you know you might as well get them started young? I'm sure they would love that. Well you call it out right. It's learned it's not. It's not innate like some empathy is built into our brains but the most of it is our learned that it's difficult if you've been if you've had a tough life in your life has beaten you up. I'm sure that would probably holy beat the empathy out of you or I mean like it could do the entirely. You know a opposite thing and and forcing foreseeing can be incredibly pathetic. I mean I know people who Stutter who kind of view new fluent people as like. Wow you know like tore. Life is slow easy. How can you ever be uncomfortable talking on the phone? I'll never be uncomfortable getting up on stage age. Unlike you guys hold on like these things that we're doing like me every time I get on stage. I'm not just concerned about stuttering. You know I'm concerned about about the content. I am delivering right. Like I mean every time like I have to hop on like a conference call. I'm you know of course risk concerned about stuttering but I'm also concerned about you. No kidding across my point and convincing clients is that the thing that God I WanNa do for the company is going to work for them and so I mean I mean I think it depends on you know who that person is either. They're going to be like. Wow your life is really easy. And you don't have any problems or it's going to force them to sort of take a step back and say like hey like I kind of understand you know how you could feel that. This is an uncomfortable situation. And I can empathize with that. Yeah I think one of the important things is that I. I always encourage people who try to avoid playing the oppression Olympics. This is not a point system term. I'm going right. Yeah I mean okay so like I have type one diabetes. Okay so what you're right. Yeah exactly well. But here's the thing right but we we are are in a in a country that can support us. We're in a time that can support us. I mean you WanNa talk about who would be a lousy caveman right Lazic I would be the blind diabetic eating eating lettuce in the back of the cave. You know throw so. We're very lucky. I think that empathy is also applying these things to yourself. Everybody's everybody's got something in. What a wonderful time? It is that we can We can all just survive together. One thing that you you said there I had not heard that term. you called us the fluent. I've called people to normally sugared or just the normals someone at work. Can you eat that cake. And it's just like oh you normals yeah create off my lawn. Exactly I know that there are people for example in the in the deaf and hard of hearing community. who have some kind of feeling about Someone who might get a cochlear implant. Are there things in the stuttering community that can Heard about hearing hearing aids the talk back into your ear. Is there a push button and fix it option and is that considered a good thing about thing. Well so I know that there are idea hearing aids And I know that those do work for some people however I've heard that like after a certain time period like they stopped working But other than that I haven't heard that. There's any cure for it and Tom. I think that people are like trying to find a cure. I was actually saying a therapist. WHO said that he helped you know? One of his clients cure stuttering daughter in by like complete accident and he did it by Putting them on some sort of like anti-anxiety Miami pills and then the client has also smoking a lot of a medical marijuana and so that combination. Shen actually cured stuttering for him now the therapists we look. I don't stop jest going out and getting a lot of read and smoking it but I'm just saying there's a way that we could help you stutter. Less and those the side effects though I mean who knows exactly. You've been no but I mean I think that I think that the community is kind of Split. I mean so he we have this conference It's called the National Stuttering Association conference and it's every year around the fourth the fourth of July and so like a lot of the people that starter like they kind of come from all over the world to sort of just connected. electons a totally different shops in here hawks in you know like all of that stuff and so There are people there who say like I would take a pill and then go away and then there's a lot of other people there who are like I would never take a pill because stuttering is the best thing that's ever happened to me now. I'm a person who could probably say that. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me. But if I could take a pill to maybe like knots daughter like ninety eight percent of the time I would consider taking that pill I mean I just think it makes my day to day life way easier however I mean I kind of like can't imagine me personally like my life about stuttering. I mean I don't know where era I would be so It depends on who you talk to scam. People are like I'm going to start it for life and others are like just give me the federal so we we always talk about this diabetes community like they cured me tomorrow. I would still be picking my fingers and checking my blood sugar because I would not believe it was true. Yeah diabetic at heart. I would eat cookies and then I would Just check my blood sugar. It'd be like that's amazing. Amazing look perfect for all the time. So wh You have a company called Communal log and you do basically tickly. Empathy can such empathy consultancy. Are you giving workshops and traveling around to To companies people can hire you talk about these things. Yeah yeah so I and again as a speaker and so you know I was talking about You know Improving communication empathy. And then it kind of just shifted shifted in going into companies and working with a huge like either their teams or Or Ewing like breakouts at their Like internal company events like where we have these Scott around I'm like how to engage empathy at work in an impactful way and so I work work with companies on sort of improving communication collaboration. You know through upper `rational leising empathy on their teams and like in their apartments and in their organizations as a whole and so New Breakouts got some do arm. It's Weena Sixty minutes in three hours and so We hard to get a lot done and I think that the thing that I've learned the most I mean so I am coming from like a a speaker keynote sort of background. And so you know I only have like Hardiman. It's forty five minutes. Had liked doing these workshops. I didn't realize just how has spratly he bowl in you know. Companies in the corporate's space are just trying to like have conversations around empathy and in securities and owner ability. I mean you know your employees wants talk about these things. So I'm the person that accompanies during into sort of create space to they have those conversations. The thing that I thought was the most powerful or kind of surprising about what you just said would you operate op. Yeah it's hard to say for anybody. Forgive me made that word up. I think it's pretty awesome operationalizing empathy because you're not just coming in and saying. Hey let's talk about squishy things you're saying let's optimize business outcomes and like being pleasant and facilitating conversations around. Empathy can actually help your business. Shocker shocker Walker I know right A lot of people like don't believe in it are just like well. How is this going to help my business? Well do you want your teams teams to collaborate. More he wants your teams to be more productive while they're not going to be highly collaborative or productive if they don't get along well or even if they like completely can't stand each other like they have to respect each other other and empathy you know is going to increase all of those things and it's just going to help collaboration communication all of those good the things it's just going to help it. Just go much smoother if you ever come into a company and presented this information to them and they just sit there with their arms crossed and then just storm out at at the end like yeah okay. I just did this workshop so it actually happened one time and it wasn't that a company is at a conference and so I have to give you like a little bit of background on this so it was the first time I had given any sort of content like this It was all day and it was an as stony So every possible hairier. I could have to slip seating. I had it and long story short here. It did not go well at Paul and I remember calling on my other consultant friends and being like. I can't do this like I'm not good at this. I'm just going to stick took canines. And she was like okay. Look calm down like let's talk about like who you are like what you bring to the table and what you who well and it turns out you know all of the answers to that. Those questions are all of the things that I did not do when I was giving this like full day workshop to a culture that's completely different from mine and so yeah. Yeah I mean like after that first time of you know learning like look like I'm not gonNa tell you anything that like you don't already know. Oh all right like I am here to Create space for conversations. I'm not here to teach you anything like I want. You guys is to be able to solve your own problems. I'm not the problem solver. I'm just the vehicle and so after I got down. Yeah can't it was fine. It was great actually but that first time man let me tell you that was. That was a Zora Day in couple of weeks after that. Actually that actually hits me pretty hard. Because I'm supposed to stony next week so I'M GONNA have to get real. Well it'll be fine fine. It was just me. I was just wholly wholly unprepared for every single thing that I was walking into instead. I think it's really cool that you are conscious of that because Estonia's great and your your empathy now has to go two ways because you have to put yourself in their heads and shortly and you probably learned a lot in your better speaker for it. Oh absolutely one thousand percent. Thank you so much. Sharon steed empathy inclusion expert and CEO at log for chatting with me today. Oh of course thank you. It was an incredible conversation. And I'm so happy I was finally able to get to talk to you online and not just talk to you through through words on a page. Fantastic thanks so much. I'll make sure to put all the details on how you can get hold of Sharon and have her speak at your company in the show. Notes else again. Her Company is called Community Log. This has been another episode of Hansel minutes et. We'll see you again next week

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