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Get the Thumbs Up!

52 little practices for a year of big change


If you want to talk to someone about something which matters to you, get the thumbs up from them that they have the willingness, desire and capacity to engage with you.


“I have something I am excited to share with you. Do you have some time right now to listen? If not, is there another time you’d be willing to put aside?”

“Something happened at work today which I could use your feedback on. Is now a good time?”

“I’d really like to talk to you about this new project of mine. Would you be willing to put some time aside today?”

“I had a rough day and could use an ear and a hug. Is there time this evening when you could listen and give me a hug while I share?”

There are better and worse times to engage with each other. When we are tired, distracted by something else, or overwhelmed by our life experience, we are not well equipped to solve complex problems or hold space for someone else's heavy emotions.

It’s difficult to have a fully wonderful and connected conversation with someone who is distracted, overwhelmed or resentful. But, this is what happens often between people who share familiarity in their relationship - whether it be between couples, family members or work colleagues.

When you talk to another person you are making a BIG request of them. You are asking for their focus and their care. You are asking for them to step outside their internal world and step into a shared world, and in particular your world. Luckily we are wired to do this. As a whole, it supports us humans to give our attention to others. This is our highest need (in my opinion), the need to transcend our “self” and connect with our greater universal existence. And yet, it takes effort. It’s important to be aware of the request we are making of others when we talk to them and expect them to listen and respond. Our awareness is fundamental to being able to receive their response and their needs with compassion, appreciation and respect.

Here are some (worst case) ways UNAWARENESS plays out…

I have something urgent and important to me to share and I ASSUME (or don’t even consider) that you have the ability to give me the focus needed to engage with me in a satisfying way. You are: engaged in a work project, reading the last chapter of a really good book, or exhausted from a hard day…

My Possible Result: You are distracted while I am sharing. You don’t hear all I am saying. You don’t respond in a way which is most wonderful for me because you are distracted or tired. I fall down the rabbit hole of “You don’t care about me.” “You don’t listen.” “You don’t care about what matters to me.” etc…Our conversation deteriorates because I am digging deep into my rabbit hole.

Your Possible Result: You are resentful that I interrupted you and don’t seem to have care or awareness of what you were doing before I engaged with you. Your thoughts might go to, “She doesn’t care about anything but herself.” “She’s so unaware.” Or they might go to, “I’m a bad partner. I don’t know how to listen to her right now.” “I’m overwhelmed.” “I don’t have the energy to respond. I might hurt her.” You respond shortly or defensively. Our conversation deteriorates.

Do you see where this can go? All this is avoidable by:

  • recognizing that you have something to share which matters to you.

  • recognizing that others also are likely engaged with things which matter to them and you are asking for an interruption when you engage with them.

  • asking others if, when and how they would like to receive you.

Getting the thumbs up (to be listened to and engaged with) shows yourself that you matter. Carving out the time and ensuring that the person you are sharing with is willing and able to receive you is a way of honoring and respecting YOU!

Getting the thumbs up shows others that what matters to them matters to you. You aren’t forcing them into listening to you and then punishing them for not listening. You are recognizing that they have a life outside of you and may need to set aside time and energy to receive you.

Getting the thumbs up creates the space and the capacity in you and others to engage with each other fully.

What do you think?


Before asking to be received, connect with what matters most and how you would like to be received. Do you want empathy? Do you want advice? Do you want feedback? Do you want a hug? Do you want to be reassured. Even if you don't share with the other how you would like to be received your awareness will help you direct the conversation. Ideally though, you so share with the other how you would like to be received. For example: "I don't need advice. I could really just use some empathy." or "I really need some feedback." or "I don't need empathy, I just need help brainstorming ideas."

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