Last week’s theme seemed to evolve into one of courage — having the courage to try something new and having the courage to stand up for one’s convictions. Over the weekend I thought of another aspect of professional courage: being willing to reach out.
True story: There’s a woman in my town who works as a writer and is now the stepmother of my daughter’s best friend from preschool. (These two children, in fact, were engaged at one point, in the way that four year olds plege to marry each other.) I run into this woman all over town — at professional events, at volunteer meetings, in the local coffee shops and bookstores, etc. But we just have never, well, clicked. I don’t know what it is–my personality, her personality, some professional tension, who knows. Truth is, I’ve never quite understood what she’s about and I suspect she feels the same way about me.
So last week, after exchanging emails with her about a professional matter, I noticed that her email signature line included a link to a blog about spirituality. And being interested in all matters spiritual, I followed the link and found post upon delightful post about poetry, gardening, her battle with cancer, and her search for spiritual connection. Moved by what I read, I sent her a quick email saying how much I liked it, and referring her to Holly Cole’s version of “Waters of March,” a song that, to me, speaks to the profundity of everyday objects. “At last,” I thought, after pressing the send icon, “we have a way to connect.”
And she never responded.
I confess I have a slight pang about this. I don’t send the “Waters of March” reference to just anyone, just because it has so much meaning to me. Nor do I open up about poetry and spirituality to any old person I meet in my professional journeys — it’s personal stuff that isn’t always appropriate to share in business settings. But in this case, this woman had publicly provided a link to her personal blog site. I figured comments would be appropriate. I guess she figured differently.
Did I make a mistake in trying to connect on this level? I don’t think so. Personal connections in our professions are important — they help people open up, help get ideas flowing, inspire collaboration, provide meaning to our daily work life, and form the basis of friendships that can be taken outside the office. Did I take a risk in trying to connect this way? Yes — but to me that’s ok. I liked the side of her I saw on that blog and wanted to let her know that. And I’m glad I was brave enough to try.
Today’s homework: Think about someone in your work life with whom you want to make a deeper connection. Figure out what’s stopping you (shyness? fear of rejection?). Take one step toward reaching out, whether it’s asking them for coffee or telling them you like their portfolio. Understand your connection may not go through — but know, too, that this may be the start of a rich professional and personal relationship.