Why We Must Talk To People Not About People

Leadership lessons often come from unexpected places. Some recent events reminded me why we must talk to people not about people.

The Valerie Bertonelli Incident

Last week, you may have heard about a social media incident that involved Valerie Bertinelli. In case you don’t know, Valerie is an actress, television personality and perhaps most famous for being the ex-wife of Van Halen guitarist, Eddy Van Halen. She currently hosts the cooking shows Valerie’s Home Cooking and Kids Baking Championship on Food Network.

Long story short, someone had posted a negative comment online telling her she needed to lose weight. In response, she posted a video sharing that comments such as these are very hurtful and unhelpful. She tearfully admitted that she has struggled with her weight her whole life, and she asked this commentor to demonstrate more compassion to others.

Two parts of this incident struck a chord with me.

Direct Conversation

  • I am currently reading the awesome book “Dare to Lead”, by Brene Brown. The book covers a broad range of topics, with a section focused on building relationships at work. Brene shares the advice to “talk to others, not talk about others.” When you have a struggle or disagreement with someone at work or in your personal life, the best thing you can do is have a direct conversation with this person instead of talking about them with others. Per Brene, “Either be brave, or go home!”. These direct conversations help to build trust and create a more positive environment. 

Compassion

  • I am lucky enough to work with a personal trainer a few times a week. Usually he is very friendly, talkative, and upbeat. However, one morning recently he was very quiet and did not seem like himself. I began to think that his behavior had to do with me. Maybe he was bored or didn’t want to train me anymore. 
  • The next time we met, he was back to his gregarious nature. I commented that he seemed to be back to himself since he was quiet in our last session. He said I was right. The trainer suffers from anxiety and that morning he had an episode, making it difficult for him to work that day. He went on to confide in me with more details. I felt disappointed in myself for assuming his behavior was about me instead of stepping back and showing him some kindness when he needed it. 

I am constantly reminded that we never know what someone else has gone through or is going through. If we can more often demonstrate compassion and if we can more frequently talk to people, not about people, I truly believe we’ll be happier, and the world will be a better place.

© 2021, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for such a positive post. I enjoyed reading about it.

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