Heart-Led Communication and Radical Emergence with Jordan Grob, LCSW, LCAS
Greetings and happy new year!
Y'all know how much I value REAL connection, communication, and understanding in relationships--so when I learned that my friend and colleague Jordan Grob, LCSW, LCAS was launching her coaching practice that centers heart-led communication, you better believe I reached out as soon as I could and asked that she share some of her knowledge and wisdom with all of us!
In the blog this week, Jordan shares some of her favorite communication tools (that you can start using TODAY), the barriers to connection she witnesses (specifically for millennials), and why it's SO DAMN HARD to just put your phone down.
You are going to love this blog post. So grab a cup of tea, pause your scrolling, and settle in to learn about how you can show up more fully in your relationships.
Tell us about you! Who do you work with? What do you LOVE exploring with folks?
Hi! Yes! I’m Jordan, and I’m a communication coach for millennials. We (and I say ‘we’ because I’m an older millennial myself!) have become accustomed to screens and the internet as a normal part of our socialization. This coaching practice grew out of a theme I began noticing years ago in my clinical work as a therapist: young adults expressing depression, anxiety, and a sense of isolation and disconnect specifically related to their online experience. And of course, there are plenty of studies and evidence to support those claims, right? Millennials have grown tired of the internet as an echo chamber void of any real humanity, and we are the first generation tasked with the challenge of figuring out how transform that relationship. As a coach, I’m here to support my generation (and future generations!) in building our collective skills and capacity to use the internet as a point of connection, to build trust, to experiment with risk-taking, and ultimately to use it as a bridge to build better, richer, face-to-face authentic relationships.
I love exploring with folks the ways in which, as products of a carefully curated digital world, perfectionism, “goodness”, passivity, and the appearance of “having it all” have eroded our ability to show up honestly, communicate assertively, risk vulnerability or being wrong, and have tough conversations with one another. I help millennials to have more courageous conversations through a process I refer to as “radical emergence”: the fundamental transformation of oneself from the inside out, to support the necessary re-centering of our relationships, our connections, and our communities. I love to support millennials in reconnecting with the parts of themselves and their humanity that they have forgotten about or abandoned as a result of living in a digital world.
What do you see as the biggest challenges we have with communication in this day and age? What do you think interferes with us communicating clearly, effectively, and from a heart-centered place?
Three of the biggest communication challenges I see today are screens, a desire for “goodness”, and an urgency to fix. I’ll explain:
Being raised in front of screens from a young age means that we are not exposed to the same plethora of opportunities for empathy development or for the development of nonverbal communication as our older counterparts were when they were growing up. Both empathy and nonverbal communication are necessary for communicating clearly, effectively, and from a heart-centered place. A lack of empathy development in young people is one reason why we have “internet trolls”, for example. Multiple studies have also linked the increased use of smartphones in young people with higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidality, ADHD, and other addictions. A quick Google search links you to several articles and studies that support this. Here’s a recent one that ties a lot of this together.
Our desire for “goodness” is another major communication challenge. The need to be right, accurate, and not hurt anybody’s feelings is so pervasive among millennials, and it often paralyzes us from doing or saying anything at all. The longing for “goodness” tells us that we dare not engage in conversations where we aren’t 100% sure of what we’re saying. We don’t contribute unless we’re certain that what we have to say is “correct” and “accurate”. Folks don’t want to try things because they’re afraid they won’t be good, but nobody is good at anything when they first start. Many of us are so focused on not wanting to harm another person that we forget our capacity to heal, and instead, our silence ends up being more harmful than helpful. This silence is not only unproductive and offers no new learning, but it is ultimately damaging to our relationships.
An urgency to fix is a third major communication challenge I see today. This urgency insists that we try to think our way into solution because we cannot tolerate the discomfort of not having the answers. We show up impatiently, which is, of course, another barrier to effective communication. We try to problem solve. And yes, there are plenty of circumstances where problem-solving is and should be the number one priority (e.g. the job of an engineer, being in the midst of a medical crisis, etc.). But when it comes to meaningful communication and conversation: people do not want to be fixed. People want to be witnessed.
What is your favorite clear-communication strategy? Is there anything folks could start doing today that would change how they show up in the world?
I’m going to have a hard time picking just one! Ask and answer this question before approaching any tough conversation: What is my goal or desired outcome from this interaction? Use your answer as a guidepost. Finding out the goal or desired outcome from the other person/people you’re engaging with is another great strategy to help steer communication to a clear and productive end. You can also ask yourself, what is the essential need or feeling that inspired this conversation to begin with? I once worked with a young woman who shared a several-page letter with me that she had written to an estranged family member. There was a lot said in the letter, but the purpose of the communication remained unclear. I asked her what inspired the letter, and she said: “I miss her.” I told her to scrap the letter and to say that instead. We are so much clearer when we distill our communication down to its essential purpose.
Okay but truly, if I had to pick just one, curiosity is my all-time favorite strategy for becoming a better communicator. And you can start practicing today. You can foster curiosity by habitually asking yourself lots of “why” questions about the world in general. Seek out the stories, experiences, contexts and insights of people who think differently than you. Listen more than you speak. Ask questions more often than you give opinions. Take in what others are telling you rather than crafting your perfect response. And always remember the three magic words: Help me understand.
What else should people know about communication, difficult conversations, and technology?
This stuff isn’t easy! Plenty of studies have shown over and over how we have come to rely on smartphones to meet many of our attachment needs. And I know you speak on this too, Elizabeth! But the reality is, the answer can never be as simple as asking a client to just “put down their phone” because neurologically that will go about as well as asking an infant to disconnect from their mother. Again, studies support this (seemingly hyperbolic, I get it!) claim.
The skills and mindset shift necessary to guide us back to ourselves require quite a bit of intentionality. But if I may offer some cause for urgency in putting more intention towards this end: It’s like the frog in boiling water analogy. The story goes, if you put a frog in an already boiling pot of water, the shock will send the frog jumping right back out. However, if the frog is in the water before you even turn the heat on, you can bring the pot to a boil and the frog will stay put, eventually boiling alive. We are the frogs. The long-term effects of our growing dependency on screens and social media is the boiling water. This may seem like a dramatic analogy to some, but the truth is: we need each other. We are a species designed for interconnectedness: in person, face-to-face connection. And the thing is, communication does not develop intuitively. It’s something that must be learned and practiced, and it is a skill that is fundamental to our survival. Our survival is, in fact, dependent on our ability to talk to one another and communicate deeply, effectively, and truthfully in real life. That’s the big why for me and the reason I feel so passionately about the need to re-center meaningful communication as not just another throwaway buzzword, but indeed a vital necessity for the continuation of our species: how us humans will both survive and thrive. And I believe, truly, that millennials hold the keys.
Do you have any suggested resources to support folks as they move toward a place of courage and authenticity?
Absolutely! In the early years of my personal journey, I leaned heavily on folks like Brené Brown and Katie Byron’s work for guidance. These days I have found renewed energy from “Emergent Strategy” by adrienne maree brown, “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson, “Reclaiming Conversation” by Sherry Turkle, and “Conflict is Not Abuse” by Sarah Schulman – to name just a few. There’s also a Resources page on my website where I share the names of several incredible activists, community educators, and healers who continue to inspire and lend value to this work. I encourage your readers to follow them, buy their stuff, and send them money if you find you’re learning something new too.
In general, start small. Build in little social media breaks – an hour here, an afternoon there, one evening, even a whole day or more if you’re feeling enthusiastic about it! Experiment with what happens if you take one day at work where you stop apologizing unnecessarily. Choose one moment where, rather than silently hurting and wishing your partner could read your mind, you actually say what you’re feeling out loud.
My online course, Heart-Led Communication, is another great place to start. Heart-led communication is a curious, embodied, and relational way of showing up for tough conversations. It’s not based in the intellect and therefore requires no special knowledge to use. Simply some skills worth honing! In the course, we go deeper into the essential components, skills, and practice of heart-led communication. The course will be out in early 2019, so hop on the waitlist through my website if you want to be among the first to know when it launches!
How can folks get in touch with you? Tell us about your practice!
Sure! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest at @radicalemergence. You can get more info about me or my coaching and course offerings on my website (plus some fun free downloadable goodies!). You can DM me through social media or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the form on my website to get in touch! And I hope you will!
Thank you so much, Jordan, for all of your knowledge and the good work you do in the world!
And thank you all so much for reading. I’m so grateful to be doing this important work with you.