Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. We each have our own motivations, values, friends, etc. We’re all living our own story.
I was at my usual happy hour bar…where everybody knows my name. The bartender seemed unusually emotionally down. I sipped my wine and asked her, “Something wrong? You seem a bit low energy.” She said, “No…I’m fine. I’m good” with a distant blank gaze. So I asked, “In all your years bartending, what’s your worst experience?” She hesitated then lit up. She spoke a mile a minute, fuming about the most terrible customers taking advantage of her. I gently nodded to encourage her to keep going. When she got to the part of her story where she finally stood up for herself, I gave her a big smile. Her mood changed.
She went home and spent the weekend cleaning her home. The next day, she popped into work with her hair nicely done and makeup tidy. She returned poised and beautiful because someone noticed…and someone listened.
One-to-one conversations are the most powerful. It’s where we’re the most vulnerable. I love it. Whether it be lunch, a walk, or happy hour… One-to-one. There’s no other audience and you must tell a story. In all your years, what’s yours?
Imagine you’re brought on stage to sing along with your favorite band. You’re swept up in the moment. Rock on. Then you fall flat on your back in front of thousands. Yes, and…
Every moment can be beautiful depending on how we choose to react.
Long time ago, I had a friend named Jerry. Everyone loved him because of he was always happy to join you. He lived by “yes, and…” Every embarrassing moment became an enjoyable laughing memory. He dared.
Jerry would ride his bike across counties to see friends. He was a free-spirit. He hopped on his bike from LA to Irvine, slipped at the freeway off-ramp, and crushed his chest. He died.
Jerry’s funeral was big with family and friends a plenty. When friends gave their eulogies, stories of Jerry were met with so much laughter.
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou.
We choose. We can make a moment, or be mortified by it.
We’re all essentially singing. The quality of our interactions and relationships has more to do with the tone and rhythm of our voice rather than the words we say.
George Carlin is the greatest stand-up comedian of all time. He held attention and poked into the hearts of millions. Jon Stewart clued into Carlin’s uniqueness. It was all in his voice.
Stewart: “It’s interesting, you know. As I watch you now and through all the years of listening to your albums and things, your fascination with language…it’s so apparent. Watching your work is like almost like watching a musician. You know the way you weave words and use language for emphasis…”
Carlin: “…what we do is oratory. It’s rhetoric. It’s not just comedy. It’s a form of rhetoric and with rhetoric you look and listen for rhythms. You look for ways to sing at the same time you’re talking…”
The power of voice is how we carry it. Self-awareness in how we’re delivering our voice determines our results in life. Voice is more than an avenue to fame.
Chris Voss was an FBI hostage negotiator who had to talk to the nastiest and most violent killers terrorizing our world. Voss experienced the highest-staked conversations – “Give me money or I’ll kill everyone!” He never won with logic. He learned to set the tone. Voss coined the secret as the “Late-night FM DJ voice.”
We all have unique and individual texture in our voice. The listener hears range. Opera is the exaggeration. Subtleties make the difference. When we control our inflections, we direct our own results.
Eyes are the windows to our souls. Staring blankly into space with negativity is a sign of rumination (i.e. the process of continuously thinking about the same thoughts, which tend to be negative or sad). Acknowledging someone’s rumination draws powerful bonds.
Slumped shoulders and a blank downward stare. It’s a real unfunny signal of depression. We can spot it a mile away.
When do we get involved? How can we help?
Take a whole look. When someone is ruminating, but you notice they’re rubbing their hands or forehead…they’re self-soothing. They’re in bad thoughts, but trying to figure it out. Give a good listen, but no need for alarm. It’s when someone is ruminating with no clear signals of self-soothing that my siren blares.
So, I jostle. Not scare, but just a firm interruption with acknowledgement of the negative thoughts. “Hey. You’re here with us right now. Be here. You can dwell on your shit later.” Honor their inner world, but have them honor the fact that they are not alone.
Rumination is often the eyes to heart-break. We see it after broken marriages. We see it when their child is in the hospital. We ruminate when we feel powerless over losing what we love.