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Happier at Work: Challenge Ideas, Not People

Welcome to the sixth and final episode of our Happier at Work video series! We have spent the last few weeks covering the ideas of mindfulness, empathy, emotional intelligence, meditation and happiness in the workplace.

Our goal has been to find tools that you can practically apply to impact work happiness. Below is also a TL;DL (too long didn’t listen) so you can skip to critical parts of the videos if that’s more your scene. We encourage you to add your own personal techniques, ask questions and contribute to the conversation.

We made it team! We’ve been so happy to have you as a part of this journey over the past six weeks. Today is a topic that we feel recaps everything we’ve discussed: empathy, mindfulness, compassion and emotional intelligence, and how these lead to a happier, more creative workplace.


TL;DL: Here are the critical points in the video:

  • How do we create a culture where people are not afraid to be challenged? 0:44
  • What is the concept of flow? How do we use it for strong ideation? 2:50
  • How do you build trust in an organization? How does it benefit the client? 4:40

Let’s start by asking: Have you been in a meeting or brainstorm where you felt embarrassed or frustrated because your ideas were not used, were misconstrued, modified, questioned or duplicated by someone else? We bet so. Even for those not in a creative field, this happens all the time and it can feel awful.

Turns out, there’s a pretty long evolutionary trail for these feelings. It’s been hypothesized by Thompson Barton and Don White in their book “Please Lie to Me” that we are hardwired to react in these situations. While our reasoning these days does not include actual survival threats, it still somehow dings our emotional subconscious and makes us believe that we will be thought of as insignificant, easy-to-ignore, incompetent, or generally disliked. Our feelings can snowball and become a sticking point for progress or creativity. The funny thing is, they are likely not true.

Enter mindfulness, self-compassion and empathy (aka, emotional intelligence).

Let’s start with mindfulness. Paying attention to when we are defensive of our ideas is very important. Thompson and White would advise you to find your specific ‘Signs of Defensiveness’: loss of humor, indignation, feeling flush, blaming, etc. Start to note those when you see them, be kind to yourself and acknowledge that the idea is not tied to your complete self-worth. It’s best to develop coping mechanisms to move past the emotion (breathing, laughing, etc.), or else you will become lost in that emotion rather than continue to contribute. You lose your connection to the ‘flow’ of the meeting.

Now empathy. First of all, everyone is attached to their ideas, which is important as you start to question what others bring to the table. But when your idea is being questioned, remember that people might be questioning it for the right reasons: understanding it more, evolving/elevating it, or maybe even just honestly calling it out as not a solid idea (yep, it might not be). Maybe even try to be excited that someone else had the same idea as you, high five! In theory, you’re all working toward a shared end: the best outcome and idea. Remembering where they are coming from and the end goal can help you stay present and focused on the best result.

Okay, what is this ‘Flow’ you mentioned?

Flow is really where the self-awareness and empathy come together for the best result. It’s the energy of a team creating great ideas, and having fun in the process.

Flow is possible when:

  • General kindness and support exists
  • The team can have self-awareness and empathy for each other (which builds trust)
  • No one is labeling themselves as a failure, and not making others feel that way
  • Stay focused on the end goal: the best solution, idea, etc. for XYZ, a ‘we’ attitude
  • You are willing to watch your idea evolve, challenged or discarded
  • You can meaningfully contribute to others' ideas

Flow is the balance of understanding yourself in the moment, maintaining empathy for others, and keeping a focus on the larger objective.

What has this meant for Room 214?

It’s meant us taking a look at how we can build a company of trust, even when we think it may already exist. It’s reviewing many of our processes, systems, trainings and expectations to make sure that respect, empathy and self-awareness can play into most of our interactions.

It definitely ties back to our core guiding principle of ‘Creating Valuable Relationships’, which can be misunderstood. Creating a good relationship means that we’re willing to be challenged, as long as it leads to greater value for both involved. Sometimes that means admitting when we are wrong, need to change or grow. It’s the humility that we like to keep in mind so that we can always evolve.

Our creative process and Spills (brainstorming sessions) also incorporate the idea of flow, where we give each person a chance to walk us through all of their good and bad ideas (bad ideas encouraged, and usually the most fun). They typically result in a confluence of ideas that can be grouped or rolled into a better one, truly unique perspectives we hadn’t thought of, and one or two wacky ideas that make us excited to meet again.

But we’re definitely not perfect, and still looking at ways to continue to give everyone that basis of self-awareness, support, and trust.

Related Resources

Happier at Work: What is Mindfulness in the Workplace?

Happier at Work: Mindful Attention in the Workplace

Happier at Work: Self-Compassion

Happier at Work: Mindful Listening

Happier at Work: Connect & Succeed

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