On Being Unstoppable

stop

Last week, I visited the webpage of a coaching school someone I know is considering. On the school’s homepage, a graduate of the program boasted that the school’s methodology had enabled her to teach her clients to be “unstoppable.” And that stopped me, right in my tracks.

The nature of being human is that we are eminently stoppable. Our very biology gives us natural limits to how hard we can push. We need to breathe, to drink, eat, and sleep. We crave touch, the sun, fresh air, and communication. Our bodies are covered in a soft flesh–relatively defenseless with no claws or sharp teeth. We bleed and heal. Our reproductive cycle gives us utterly helpless young, demanding that we stop and take notice and care for these vulnerable creatures. And, of course, we die–the ultimate full stop. Death comes for us all with no regard for how hard we try to push it back. To be human is to be stoppable.

And yet we seek to be unstoppable.

Life should be able to stop us. If not for beauty, then for heartbreak. If not for the joy of seeing a tree’s stark branches waving against a gray winter sky, then for the horror of seeing people starving to death in our own rich cities or drowning to death on the shores of Europe. If not for the pleasure of a beloved piece of music, then for the despair of another mass shooting. If not for the happiness on face of a dear friend or family member, then for the agony present  when they suffer or when we let them down. Let life be present to us. Let it stop us.

To be unstoppable is to be blind to what is happening all around us. To be unstoppable is to refuse to notice the effect that progress–at any cost–might have on our relationships, our bodies, and our spiritual life. To be unstoppable is to deny our own biology. To deny our hearts and the beautiful web of relationships that surround us.

Sometimes the world demands a response. And sometimes the only response is to pause. To be stricken. To be soft. To take a moment to laugh, or to cry, or to hold someone’s hand. A moment of noticing how angry we are, or how sad, or how–this is the really hard one–how numb we’ve become.  And cultivating the ability to be stopped takes deep work.

It requires relational sensitivity to know when our families, colleagues, and friends need us to downshift and approach them in a new, more attentive way. It requires somatic wisdom to be able to sense our energy status and get a clear reading on what our bodies need. It takes emotional awareness to stay present in strong emotions while also noticing the emotional states of others. And, finally, the ability to stop often takes great bravery as it will likely be questioned by those who would not dare question the cultural value of being unstoppable.

In my coaching practice, I do not seek to teach clients to be unstoppable because I believe it is deeply problematic, even dangerous. What happens when you teach your client to be unstoppable, and their family and friends need them to stop because they have been neglecting their relational responsibilities? What happens when you have an entire culture of unstoppable people, and the culture next door needs them to stop because they are encroaching on ancestral lands? What happens when you have an entire planet of unstoppable people, and the environment is begging them to stop because species are going extinct and the land is being polluted?

Can you see where being unstoppable can lead? Do you see where it has already led?

Instead, I believe that we must learn to listen to the call of the world, our loved ones, and our bodies, to stop. In the coaching relationship, the relationship of mutual trust and mutual respect creates a strong container where clients can examine the habitual responses they have always relied on. Over time, they becomes more able to recognize the habitual turning away that has become so pandemic in modern society. They learn to cultivate a new response. This takes the learning of new skills and competencies; patience, compassion, resilience, discernment, the ability to self-observe (to name a few). I’ve seen clients, over time, become more resilient and able to stand in deep witness to their own emotional experience; to be stopped by the world, to be touched by it. They have the freedom to experience their reaction without being overwhelmed by it. This allows them the opportunity to make choices that they were unable to make before.

Today, let a small part of yourself be broken by this heartbreaking and fragile world. What might it mean to open yourself up enough for that to occur? What meaning might leak into your life if you dared? Stop, and and you might find out.



Jessica Minah is the Director of Enrollment and a Graduate of New Ventures West. Jessica’s presence, curiosity and wisdom—not to mention her previous experience as an award-winning radio producer and sales account manager—make her a natural fit for the role of guiding would-be coaches into the fold. She was certified as an Integral Coach® in 2014 and works with clients around the US. She lives in Baltimore with her husband Greg and brightens our San Francisco headquarters with her regular visits.

Women Powering Change – July 14th in Denver

Ready for another inspirational dose of feminine leadership? Join us at Women Powering Change, July 14th at Mile High Station in Denver.

Women Powering Change accelerates the social impact of women creating a just world. July’s event will be an energetic and informative gathering of diverse nonprofits, innovative leaders, passionate philanthropists, and aspiring activists.

Watch the video from last year’s event here:

Plus, Emerging Women will be hosting four free workshops that you won’t want to miss.

Learn more about the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and register for Women Powering Change HERE. We’ll see you at Mile High Station next Thursday!

Azure Antoinette: Pulse

What a gift to be in the presence of an artist who can put the weight of our collective sadness, shame, hope and love into words for us, so that we may both process the trauma and do everything in our personal power to make the world a more empathetic place for those who are bravely living the truth of who they are.

At Emerging Women’s Power Night Boulder, in support of Emerging Women Live, Azure Antoinette screened a video that left no room for doubt why she’s been dubbed “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial Generation.”

Her deep compassion for those affected as a result of the senseless violence at Pulse Nightclub on 6/11/16, a tragedy that left the nation stunned, resonated through the hall with the power that only poetry can.

Azure Antoinette is a luminous example of how vulnerability, courage and open-hearted honesty not only elevates the self, but everyone we touch. Thank you, Azure, for being a part of Emerging Women.


A Room of One’s Own: Why we need sacred spaces in order to create.

A few months ago, we had a feng shui master and his wife over for dinner. His wife and I were talking about our creative writing ventures and, when the master overheard, he chimed in with the simple question, “Where is your writing space? I love to see creative spaces.” I stuttered around an answer. The kitchen counter after the kids are asleep? A stolen afternoon at a coffee shop with thirty other coffee drinkers? The lobby of the rec center while my kids swim?

His look bored into my soul. He said, “Your writing will never take you seriously if you don’t have a sacred space to create in.” In that moment I realized what he was saying was true, but that actually doing something about it felt inconvenient.

“Your writing will never take you seriously if you don’t have a sacred space to create in.”

So I’ve been thinking about it: Does inspiration really squeeze in beside you if she has to contend with the sea of laptops and fancy coffee drinks, table to table with other aspiring creatives? Whether you are seeking to create a poem, a killer investor pitch or high tech breakthrough, if you want to invite inspiration to come visit you need a place for her to sit down. You need a “room of one’s own”, à la Virginia Woolf.

How many of us read A Room of One’s Own in high school or college and said to ourselves, “Right on, sister!” Her small book declares that women need space to tap into their creative power. Like me, you probably thought that when you grew up, you’d insist on the room. It would be a non-negotiable. But as our adult living situation becomes a reality, we concede the space to the distractions around us.

Some never conceded, like my friend and entrepreneur, Renee Israel. Renee is an entrepreneur and cofounder, with her husband Rob, of Doc Popcorn. They both work out of the home and they both have private home offices. When most people were remodeling by tearing down walls for larger living areas, Renee knew that she needed that wall. She insisted on articulated boundaries versus the larger communal space. And with that came intellectual freedom.

I am lucky enough to have an “office” that is shared with my husband, but stacks of to-do’s cover the space: brochures for potential summer camps, permission slips, bills, catalogs and then there’s Will’s desk, which is even more chaotic. When he is sitting at his computer, we chit chat and share, and we interrupt with things like, “Hey, is next Thursday a good day to get the furnace serviced?” My son walks in without a knock to ask if he can have a turn holding the bunny. The humdrum and the wonder have a hard time cohabitating at times. Busy work is worlds away from generative thinking. My office is a place to orchestrate the responsibilities, not the whisperings of my soul.

“My office is a place to orchestrate the responsibilities, not the whisperings of my soul.”

Lately, I’ve been eyeing the potting shed in the back yard. It’s full of straw, torn slip n’ slides, stacked pots, a wasp nest and a weed whacker. All of the that can find another home, I realize. So what is really standing between me and a room of my own? Maybe it’s my own self-doubt, or the fear of taking up space, but I’m getting over that. I may not write the next bestseller, but I just will have more than half an hour without an interruption to my thoughts – that sounds just as delightful. There would be nothing worldly in there, just a writing surface, some cool tchotchkes and creative quotations pinned to the wall. And ventilation. That’s it – all my room needs.

I like to think of it this way: HGTV is full of shows on creating the dream man-cave, but what would a woman-cave look like? Even if the best room of your own you can create is the kitchen counter after the kids are asleep – go for it. Find a talisman, light a candle and tell the others to stay away because inspiration needs a signal for the all-clear. Demand it. Do it for Virginia Woolf and the women who fought for the right. Because when we take up space, we take ourselves and our aspirations seriously. And so do those around us.

Show us your “rooms,” ladies. How do you take up space?


annike Annika Paradise is a freelance writer living in Boulder, Colorado.  Her writing has appeared in Brain Child Magazine as well as various blogs.  She is currently working on an historical fiction novel that takes place during the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado’s mining towns.

Power Practice #14: Letting Go – A Meditation on Surrender

Tosha Silver Letting Go

Are you feeling stressed out, rushed, or overwhelmed?

This very simple practice has become a staple for the Emerging Women team. As Tosha Silver says, in this testosterone-driven culture it’s so important for us to let go of struggle and let the Inner Divine take the lead. That way we can operate not from a place of aggression, ego, or even passivity, but with an openness and receptivity that is felt deeply within the body.

You can do this quick and relaxing practice several times a day to shift into a calming, healing mindset. Get ready to move with the flow and enjoy the synchronicity and magic that results!

Play Power Practice #14 – Letting Go – A Meditation on Surrender:

Tosha Silver graduated from Yale with a degree in English Literature but along the way fell madly in love with yogic philosophy. For the past 30 years she has taught people around the world ways to align with Inner Love. She’s the author of Outrageous Openness and the recently released Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender. She lives near San Francisco, where she runs an online school about these ideas called, “Living Outrageous Openness: Think Like a Goddess”. This offers an ongoing way to support those who truly want to live these beautiful, ancient practices. You can also join her on Facebook by liking her author page where she writes a few times a week.

She particularly enjoys finding fresh, funny ways to invite and embrace the Divine, while avoiding conventional jargon and cliches at all cost. She loves how the sacred and the mundane are truly One. The guidance from the Inner Divine begins to lead when it is sincerely invited….by anyone.

Check out our Emerging Women podcast with Tosha Silver to hear more:
tosha_silver

Emerging Women Power Night – June 22, 2016

Emerging Women Power Night

Power Night Boulder will explore the dimensions of living the truth of who we are through feminine power. You will experience real connection, intentional circles, speakers, book signings, live poetry and groove.

The line-up for this event is awesomely inspirational – featuring Tami Simon, Nancy Levin, Azure Antoinette, Lisa Wimberger, Kim Coupounas, Leslie Herod and Colleen Abdoulah — all successful visionary leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and creatives who are trailblazing a new way of influencing positive change in the world.

Expect personal stories of what fuels these women and how they were able to achieve uncompromising success by living the truth of who they are.

  • WHEN: June 22, 2016 TIME: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
  • WHERE: eTOWN HALL / 1535 Spruce Street / Boulder, CO 80302
  • FEATURING: Tami Simon, Azure Antoinette, Nancy Levin, Lisa Wimberger, Kim Coupounas, Leslie Herod, Colleen Abdoulah and Chantal Pierrat
  • REGISTRATION LINK HERE
  • COST: 
    • $45 Networking Reception plus General Admission (includes a networking reception before the main event – enjoy light appetizers and drinks with display tables from local sponsors)
    • OR $35 General Admission Only

Networking Reception Starts: 5:00pm

General Admission Doors Open: 5:30pm

General Admission Event Start: 6:00pm

Event End: 9:00pm

Check out an Emerging Women Power Night from San Francisco:

Speakers

simon_t__c_stephen_collector_08Tami Simon is the founder of Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company dedicated to disseminating spiritual wisdom. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Sounds True has published more than 800 audio, video, music, and book titles along with online courses and events. Sounds True is widely recognized as a pioneer in providing life-changing, practical tools that accelerate spiritual awakening and personal transformation. As a pioneer in the conscious business movement, Tami focuses on bringing authenticity and heart into the workplace while honoring multiple bottom lines. Tami hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today’s leading teachers, delving deeply into their discoveries and personal experiences on their own journeys. With Sounds True, she has released the audio program Being True: What Matters Most in Work, Life, and Love.

Called “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial generation,” Azure Antoinette is a poet, brand humanist and creative strategist. Antoinette coined herself as a Commissioned Poet in 2008 and was firmly committed to finding a way to live out her mantra of “Do What You Love & Love What You Do.” In her crusade to be authentically committed to her medium of poetry, she has forged creative partnerships with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, worldwide brands, and national organizations by using her unique talent to curate and custom write the story of a brand.

Nancy Levin Nancy Levin is the bestselling author of Jump … And Your Life Will Appear, Writing For My Life, and the forthcoming Worthy: Boost Your Self-Worth to Grow Your Net Worth (Hay House, August 2016.) She’s a Certified Master Integrative Life Coach and the creator of the Jump Coaching and Worthy Coaching Programs, working with clients – privately and in groups – to live in alignment with their own truth and desires. She was the Event Director at Hay House for 12 years and hosts her own weekly call-in show Jump Start Your Life on Hay House Radio. Nancy received her MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado and she continues to live in the Rocky Mountains.

Lisa Wimberger is the founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute. She holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Stonybrook, NY, a Foundations Certification in NeuroLeadership and a certificate in Medical Neuroscience. She is the author of NEW BELIEFS, NEW BRAIN: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear, and NEUROSCULPTING: A Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness. As the Founder of the Neurosculpting® modality Lisa runs a private meditation practice in Colorado teaching clients who suffer from stress disorders, and she is a faculty member of Kripalu Yoga and Meditation Center, Omega Institute, and the Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

Panel 

Move the People: Changing the World through Connected Leadership

Kim Kim Coupounas serves as a Director of B Lab, a nonprofit organization that certifies “B Corporations” and serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Prior to B Lab, Kim co-founded and served as CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer of GoLite, a global mission-driven outdoor apparel and equipment company. She currently serves on the Harvard Business School Alumni Board, the boards of the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, the Center for Social Responsibility at the Leeds School of Business, and as a Mentor/Advisor for the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, the Unreasonable Institute, Boomtown, and numerous other startup accelerators and incubators.  She earned an A.B. Cum Laude in Philosophy from Princeton University, an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and an M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Among her deep passions are spending time with her family, trail running, hiking, singing, doing yoga and martial arts, drinking great wine and climbing big mountains.

Colleen Abdoulah Colleen Abdoulah, who was the only female CEO to lead a top-ten cable operating company, is widely respected for her passionate focus on customer experience and company culture. Colleen guided WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone for 12 years, overseeing industry-leading financial success and creating unprecedented value for employees and shareholders. During her tenure, WOW! quadrupled the customer base served, from 200,000+ to more than 800,000 with revenues of over $1.2B. Under Colleen’s leadership, WOW! earned a remarkable 19 J.D. Power and Associates awards for customer satisfaction, multiple top-provider awards from Consumer Reports, and the PC Magazine Readers’ Choice Award for top cable Internet service provider. She is equally proud of the many awards WOW! received as an employer, including recognition as a 2012 and 2013 National Best and Brightest Companies to Work For winner.


Leslie Herod is the progressive candidate running for State House of Representatives District 8. She is passionate about making a difference in the community through advocacy and civic engagement. Raised by a single mother who was an officer in the Army Nurse Corps, she learned the importance of discipline, hard work and commitment to public service. After more than 10 years of experience working with local and state legislators, Leslie currently owns her own small business that focuses on strengthening community relationships. Leslie is a community champion who will proactively address our disparities in our education system, reforming our criminal justice system and tackling affordable housing challenges within the state.

Chantal PierratChantal Pierrat‘s passion is to empower women through feminine leadership. In September 2012, she founded Emerging Women and Emerging Women Live in order to support the integration of consciousness and business. Chantal’s ultimate vision is to weave feminine leadership and authenticity into businesses. When she is not dancing or working, Chantal enjoys family time with her husband and two sons in Boulder, CO.

Thank You to Our Sponsors power_night_sponsors

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to:

Emerging Women exists to support and inspire women to express themselves authentically through the work that they do. We strive to provide the tools, knowledge, and network to help women lead, start and grow their businesses in a way that integrates core feminine values like connection, collaboration, intimacy, beauty and heart. We provide a platform for leaders and entrepreneurs to come together to explore and express their inner truths. It is our ultimate desire that women have a strong voice in the shaping of our world’s future. Join us for our 4th annual Emerging Women Live event October 13-16, 2016 in San Francisco, CA.

Power Practice #13: Motivating with Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff Motivating with Self Compassion
Do you rely on self-criticism to get you moving?

This written exercise from self-compassion expert Dr. Kristen Neff is designed to help you shift your motivational focus from self-criticism to the more energizing benefits of self-compassion.

Press play to get in touch with what your inner critic might be trying to accomplish for you, and then let Kristen guide you towards meeting that same need with a kinder, more compassionate voice. Hands on hearts, people – self-compassion is the way through!

Play Power Practice #13 – Motivating with Self-Compassion:

kristin neff During Kristin’s last year of graduate school in 1997 she became interested in Buddhism, and has been practicing meditation in the Insight Meditation tradition ever since. While doing her post-doctoral work she decided to conduct research on self-compassion – a central construct in Buddhist psychology and one that had not yet been examined empirically.

In addition to her pioneering research into self-compassion, she has developed an 8-week program to teach self-compassion skills. The program, co-created with her colleague Chris Germer, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, is called Mindful Self-Compassion. Her book, Self-Compassion, was published by William Morrow in April, 2011.

Check out our Emerging Women podcast with Dr. Kristen Neff to hear more:

Proud to support WITI’s 2016 Annual Summit

We know you love it when women get together to create community and share resources. We do, too, and that’s why we’ve partnered with WITI in support of their Women in Technology Summit, June 5-7, 2016 in San Jose, CA.


WITI’s 2016 Annual Summit is shaping up to be the biggest and boldest ever – brimming with insights, tools, techniques, and opportunities to advance you and your company to ever-greater levels of productivity and success.

Join smart and savvy professional women in this unique opportunity to meet with some of today’s biggest technology companies and women led start-ups. Business and thought leaders are coming from all over the nation to lead hands on workshops, presentations and dynamic panel discussions about cutting edge trends. The companies participating in the Expo and Career Fair are dedicated to the development of powerful women leaders as well as increasing and strengthening businesses started by women.

To learn more about WITI’s Women in Technology Summit, click HERE.

Empowering our Girls in the Coming of Age

It was the dawn of a new chapter in the life of someone I love dearly, my oldest daughter Katherine. She was turning twelve years old and I knew deep within my being that I wanted to help ignite the next part of her journey as she transitioned from girl to young woman with beautiful lessons and ancient truths told from women around the world.

Echoing deep within me were the words of the African spiritual teacher Sobonfu Somé:

“A woman’s medicine is another woman.”

Since the beginning of time, we have symbolized various life passages for girls and boys with the markings of ceremony, celebration, ritual and community. I want these same gifts for Katherine in her own way. From the metaphoric Red Tent, to Quinceañeras and Sweet Sixteen parties, to spiritual and religious ceremonies, we all have our own native ways to honor various coming of age traditions.I wanted to recognize our traditions, yet I also wanted to sprinkle in something else…

I wanted Katherine to experience the broader context of her own becoming.I wanted her to see the next evolution of herself from trailblazing women role models who share their stories, their dreams and their invaluable lessons learned.I wanted to help inspire her own truth that is beginning to take shape within her.

Not too long after these inklings, I received a message from Emerging Women thatJane Goodall was going to be the keynote speaker at their upcoming conference in San Francisco.Stop, breathe, synchronicity.The Jane Goodall… the one that Katherine has admired from an early age with sweet book reports to boot?I quickly called my husband and within minutes we had our plan.

No, this would certainly not be the Red Tent.But it would be our own unique way to start the conversation. We would blend multiple traditions into our very own, and it would be rooted in the powerful wisdom of the words of Joseph Campbell:

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

I sat down and wrote Katherine’s twelfth birthday letter.While the strokes of the keys came from my fingers, they were equally infused with the love and mutual support of my husband who adores and cherishes the young woman in our daughter.

Dearest Katherine,

We want you to know that you have every tool that you will ever need inside of you.The heart is the seat of your soul.It is the strongest voice you will ever hear.Listen to its precious whispers and it will always guide you home to the truth about your next step on your path. 

We want you to know that in the peaks and valleys of life, the ups and downs, the ebb and the flow, that self-compassion and self-love will be your greatest friend. 

We want you to know that you are an extraordinary young woman and your light shines so bright in this world.We are humbled and grateful to share this path with you, and as your parents, we will always, always, always love, support and honor you as your own unique person.

When you were in the fourth grade, you did a report on Jane Goodall because she inspired a calling that was already brewing inside of you – a love for animals and a voice for those who do not have one. So, for your birthday, you and I are going to take a sojourn to San Francisco and you will get to see Jane Goodall LIVE.Our special birthday wish for you as you embark on this next chapter in your life, is that you always live a life inspired by what moves you the most.Touch this place inside and you will live a life of authenticity and deep human fulfillment. 

With incredible love, empowerment and inspiration for you,

Mom and Dad

What started as a seedling in my awareness manifested into a truly transformational weekend with my daughter.We laughed, we cried, we danced, we played, we talked, we ate amazing food, we rode the trolley and we paid a visit to the magnificent redwoods.Most significant of all, we shared the collective umbrella of connectedness among a group of women who care deeply about bringing who they are to the table to help change our world.

There is a powerful exchange in the mere presence of people like Dr. Goodall. In Katherine’s own words: “Her presence was incredible, I could feel it from 5 rows away.Seeing her in person brought a lot of real to the situation.She sparked something in me to keep doing what I am doing, thinking what I am thinking.I look at her and think; she is one of my people, she speaks my language, she understands.”
These moments help define who we are. I asked her to share what she would tell other parents about this particular phase of her life, and she offered that “this stage of development is most crucial besides babyhood, and it is great to be embraced by people who are making change and good in the world.These are the women that I want to fan girl over.”I couldn’t agree more!

“These are the women that I want to fan girl over.”

As parents we sprinkle the very soil of our families with our own nutrients, our own fertilization, and the traditions that resonate with us.As we do so, we watch our children rise from this ground into their own becoming.

On the eve of our last day together, I watched Katherine stroll down a path in a cathedral of redwoods with lightheartedness and gratitude.I could not help but to think of these amazing trees, their incredible roots and the community of this majestic redwood grove.I reflect to my own grove, the roots who supported me into my own becoming and now who support Katherine.

We are standing on the shoulders of our mothers, and our grandmothers and with much reverence, and my daughter is standing on mine.

Is your good customer service weakening your brand?

customerSurely you’ve heard the clichés: The customer is always right. Give the client what they want. Just do what you need to do to make them happy. If all else fails, give them their money back.

But when have clichés ever been a source of wisdom for building relationships with the people who matter most?

They offer no guidance in the often-messy reality of responding to customers’ needs and wants. It’s not for the faint of heart. Anyone who’s been in business long enough will know immediately what we mean: someone comes to you with a complaint, or a critical question, or a request that you change your policy just this once, as a favor, because it’s the “right” thing to do.

When you’re sitting at the computer with a knot in your stomach, you might acquiesce and just make the problem go away. In the painful moments it may be easier to defy your intuition and good sense than to speak an uncomfortable truth or hold a contested boundary. This is especially tempting when you mistakenly believe that the goal of customer service is to make people happy.

But here’s the truth: “good customer service” doesn’t mean putting your needs second. In fact, a more seasoned, intuitive, and courageous approach to customer service may just get your clients what they need instead of what they want.

In thinking creatively and in your willingness to speak a harder truth when necessary, you may serve customers in ways that they’ve never imagined, which have little to do with the product or service you’re selling. That’s what’s possible here. And in that capacity, you build your brand value along with your contribution to the world.

Most of us don’t even realize the ways we undermine ourselves. So here are the top 5 ways businesses unintentionally weaken their brand:

1. Falling on your sword to make the customer right.

We’ve all heard it before, but it’s just not true. Customers are human, and as such, they are funny, silly, forgetful, emotional and prone to make mistakes – just like us. They are also compassionate, caring, full of grace and forgiveness – you know, the good stuff – and we wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s no need for the blame game with your clients or customers, but there’s no need for you or your brand take the hit to stroke their ego.

Case in point: we were recently consulting with a client on creating some friendly scripts for failed subscription payments. They wanted their message to be kind and free from shaming language. (Yes, yes, yes, we couldn’t agree more.) However, the current model that they wanted to keep stated, We’re sorry, your payment has failed; perhaps something is wrong with our system (it happens), please try again or use a new payment method.

Do you see what’s happening here? This approach presumes shame on the customer’s part and assumes the blame. But look, failed payments happen. They’re nothing to be embarrassed about. They aren’t a sign of financial insolvency or an indication of personal irresponsibility. More often than not, a failed payment is the result of an expired or stolen credit card. There was no need to preemptively diminish the company’s payment system or apologize for the customer’s own oversight. Neither approach establishes trust in your brand and, worse, the former makes a valid case for customers not using your system in the future.

So keep it simple, stick to the facts, and be positive: Hi there, it looks like we are unable to charge the card we have on file for you. This generally happens when the card expires or some information changes. Here’s a secure link to update your payment information. We appreciate you working with us to get this matter resolved. Thanks!

2. Apologizing for things outside of your control.

Along the same lines, apologizing for things outside of your control sends the message that your business isn’t firmly on top of its moving parts. So one of your emails went to spam, and a client missed an important deadline. Or a customer didn’t receive an autoresponder that was delivering paid-course content. These things happen as a normal part of doing business in the virtual world. Instead of an apology, extend understanding (“Well that’s frustrating, isn’t it?”) and immediately move to a solution. (“We’ve got you covered, we just sent that email again.”)

This holds true even if the response you’re crafting is a troubleshooting email or a response to a complaint. All too often “I’m sorry” is said reflexively, without much thought, as a way to avoid further accountability for a situation. It also weakens your brand. There are more precise and productive ways to express that mayyybe you messed up. (You mess up? Nah.)

If you feel sorry, express empathy, and then write with a focus on solutions, from a spirit of assumed, collaborative solution-finding (i.e., “Let’s see what we can do.”).

3. Taking complaints personally.

Complaints frequently feel personal, because your work is woven through with your efforts, your aspirations, your desire to serve. In short, your work is personal because you’ve put yourself on the line. But the truth about client communications is that when it gets tough or goes sour it is RARELY about you (though it feels that way) and is NEVER personal, even if you made a mistake.

Taking things personally takes you out of problem-solving mode and puts you into a defensive, deflecting state of mind. Here again, you don’t need to take responsibility for the things outside of the scope your work, but we all have felt the difference between customer service that takes time to listen and understand our situation, and someone on the other end who is in total deflection-defense mode. The former will win you clients and referrals. The latter will not.

When a customer complains, they’re doing you a favor and giving you the opportunity to fix the situation. If you can get to the root of their problem and arrive at a solution you have a real opportunity to make a happy customer for life.

4. Offering an unhappy customer a refund as a first line of defense.

All too often our clients think they are being kind or delivering the very best in customer service when they immediately offer unhappy customers a refund. But consider this: when you offer a refund to a customer you communicate, “you’re right, our product or service failed you.” Sometimes it comes out of conflict avoidance or simple dismissiveness – a quick fix to avoid having to “deal with them.”

Over and over we see it. A talented, committed business owner whose work gives incredible value to her people will suddenly dissolve into no-questions-asked when someone writes a nasty-gram. (And sometimes it doesn’t even have to be nasty, but there is fear that it could become nasty.)

When we can face the complaints and gnarly moments with poise, even while our heart is racing and our stomach is in knots, we can learn so much. The unhappy customer may teach you something valuable about your target market, what they expect or don’t like, or the ways that what they’ve tried have failed them and how they feel about that. (Yes, there are always needlessly painful moments and folks who are caught up in their own neuroses. But remember that the most difficult cases aren’t fundamentally about you or your work anyway.) So it’s important to appreciate the value of what can be learned in the tough spots, even though it always feels awful in the thick of it, and to respond with grace rather than reacting with fear.

Sometimes when your surprising kindness and graciousness saves the day (because often it will save the day) people are so blown away that they will come back another time.

If you can’t remedy the person’s real complaint or objection and you make a graceful choice to offer money back (an important distinction, by the way: your ability to choose to give a refund from graciousness rather than shame) – that person becomes a brand ambassador rather than a detractor. Your genuine connection with them can shift what they say from “This product or service failed me,” to “That company is great, but I just wasn’t ready for what they were offering.

5. Assuming you have to reinvent the wheel of kindness with every reply.

Writing a kind, personal, unique email each and every time is the ideal, right? It means you and your team are delivering the very best in customer service. Well, not when it slows down the lines of communication or creates yet another unattainable standard of perfection.

Here’s the good news: it is absolutely possible to use a “formula” without writing a formulaic email. There is a middle way between pasting an impersonal blurb and feeling obligated to reinvent the wheel of kindness with every reply.

 This formula is the backbone that supports most of the communications that have come across our desks, because it allows for genuine connection that isn’t onerous or cheesy.

Here’s how it works…
 Use the 7 step non-formula formula:

  • Step 1: Thank them wherever possible.
  • Step 2: Make them feel heard and unique.
  • Step 3: If it’s a troublesome case, consider finding an alternative to saying “I’m sorry.” If you feel sorry, express empathy, and then write with a focus on solutions.
  • Step 4: Now work your particular magic. Move to a solution, recommend a service, etc.
  • Step 5: Outline the next steps involved and/or what’s needed from them.
  • Step 6: Clearly state what you need and make a call to action. Don’t bury this in the paragraph above (the one that’s full of abundant explanations).
  • Step 7: Keep the lines of communication and gratitude open, even as you sign off.

Good customer service simply means that you’ve honored the implicit and explicit agreements between you and the people you are helping. It means that your clients and customers reliably get what you’ve set them up to expect. And in order to provide those things, it’s critical to stand for yourself and your brand with dignity and integrity. When you model that, your brand’s trustworthiness grows, and so does its value. It’s a commitment worth making.

Now tell us: what are the hardest customer service moments for you? When are you most tempted to abandon your policies or to do the “nice” thing at your own expense? What might you do differently if you didn’t think your job was to make people happy?

Nita Apple and Jess Larsen Jukelevics of nitaapple.com are the co-authors of Say It With Grace Toolkit: a Blueprint for Stellar Client Communications. The Toolkit contains email templates and a customer service guide for what to expect, how to say it, and what to do when customer service gets gnarly. Together they provide a custom service called Let Us Say It With Grace and consult with businesses about ways to use customer service to build their brand, engage and retain delighted customers, and empower their support teams to do outstanding work. 

Nita AppleFor Nita Apple customer service was hardcoded into her DNA, as she grew up working in the family store, The Happy Apple. Greeting customers with a warm smile and can-do attitude was the norm, even for a five-year-old. Nita carried that service approach forward throughout her corporate career – whether working as a Human Resource Manager or an Employee Benefit Consultant – her approach was to treat everyone as a customer with a problem solving mindset. Today, Nita calls herself a Customer Service Solution-ist for online businesses. She’s a problem solver by nature, an intuitive innovator, and the founder of the online consulting firm nitaapple.com.

Jess LarsenJess Larsen Jukelevics is the founder of two businesses: a copywriting + virtual support firm and a birth doula + childbirth preparation practice. (You may think online course management and labor support wouldn’t meet in the middle. You’d be surprised.) Jess has a background in public relations, public policy and public health. She brings an instinctive sense about what needs to be communicated, and curiosity about ways that inspired communication can facilitate professional, personal and spiritual growth.

Power Practice #12 – Grounding Meditation

HeatherAsh Amara Meditation

Need to take a moment to anchor yourself in the here and now?

In the busy business of our modern world, the answer to that question is almost always a resounding “Yep.”

There’s a certain irony in the fact that the more we could use a good grounding, the less likely we are to feel like we can summon the calm and focus it takes to do the practice that we need.

This Power Practice is a perfect solution. No need to lead! Just hit play, close your eyes and listen as our soothing sister HeatherAsh Amara leads you in a 10 minute grounding meditation that will leave you feeling refreshed, balanced and centered.

Play Power Practice #12 – Grounding Meditation:

Heather ash AmaraHeatherAsh Amara is the founder of Toci — the Toltec Center of Creative Intent, which fosters local and global community that supports authenticity, awareness, and awakening. She is dedicated to inspiring depth, creativity, and joy by sharing the most potent tools from a variety of world traditions. She brings an openhearted, inclusive worldview to her writings and teachings, which are a rich blend of Toltec wisdom, European shamanism, Buddhism, and Native American ceremony. She is the author of Warrior Goddess Training, The Toltec Path of Transformation and co-author of No Mistakes: How You Can Change Adversity into Abundance. HeatherAsh Amara lives in Austin, Texas and travels extensively around the world, speaking and teaching workshops.

Check out our Emerging Women Grace podcast with HeatherAsh Amara to hear more:

heatherash amara podcast

Janet Mock joins Emerging Women Live 2016!

Janet Mock - Photographer Aaron Tredwell

Fantastic news for the Emerging Women community:

We are ecstatic to announce that Janet MockNew York Times bestselling author, advocate and media host, will be joining us at Emerging Women Live 2016 in San Francisco!

Janet is one of the most influential trans women and millennial leaders in media. TIME called her one of “12 new faces of black leadership” and one of  “the most influential people on the Internet” while Fast Company named her one of 2015’s “most creative people in business.”

When she released Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More in February 2014, feminist critic bell hooks called Janet’s memoir, “A life-map for transformation,” while Melissa Harris-Perry said “Janet does what only great writers of autobiography accomplish—she tells a story of the self, which turns out to be a reflection of all humanity.”

Following the release, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Janet for Super Soul Sunday. Watch one of our favorite video clips to get a sense of Janet’s openness, presence and wisdom:

Now, Janet finds herself on the other side of the story as a Contributing Editor for Marie Claire, a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight and the host of So POPular! — a weekly MSNBC digital series that aims to ensure that the culture that entertains us actually makes us think.

In the video below she describes how we can transform our “guilty pleasures” into access points to talk about larger and broader issues like politics, identity and community, making the show not only “so popular” but SO NECESSARY in this modern world.

We can’t wait to talk with Janet Mock at Emerging Women Live 2016, October 13-16th in San Francisco. Register now to save yourself at seat at this unforgettable event!