Dear Mr. Bowers,
Hello, my name is Kyla. You don't know me and I don't know you. I live in South Korea, but I have been to Pittsburgh once to visit my friend Katherine who is getting her Ph.D. at The University of Pittsburgh. Although it may seem that it would be impossible for us to have ever crossed paths: you someone from the trucking industry and me someone from the happiness coaching industry; but perhaps unbeknownst to either of us our paths crossed when I visited my friend Katherine in Pittsburgh in 2012? Perhaps our cars were on the same freeways, perhaps we visited the same grocery stores, perhaps we walked along the same sidewalks, and most of all, perhaps we are more connected than we ever know because we are both HUMAN?
I have dealt WITH an inner bully for most of my adult life: I never felt good enough. I got into Harvard where I met my friend Katherine, incidentally, and I still didn't feel good enough. I sought to fill my external cup with awards, accomplishments, global speaking gigs, and the like. When all along, my internally-validated cup was empty. No matter how much water I poured into my externally-driven cup, it would not overflow into my internally-validated cup. And so my inner bully raged on.
TALKING WITH YOUR EGO
Most of our deepest fears are ego-driven, Mr. Bowers. For example, take the fact that most people fear public speaking more than death. Crazy right? Well, if we were to unpack that a little, we could figure out what is actually at the bottom of this fear. Why do we fear public speaking? Because we fear judgment. Why do we fear judgment? Because we want to be accepted. Why do we want to be accepted? Because we come from a long line of hunters and gatherers. When one person was ousted from the tribe, what was the likelihood that he/she would survive through the night by him/herself? Yeah, that signaled death.
Don't let your ego talk AT you.
TALKING WITH OTHERS
Last night I watched two men talk about one of the men's sons and how he had cancer at the age of 3. One of the men visibly teared up, the other one loosely acknowledged it. And you never really even knew what had happened because it was all shrouded in vague language. It was Michael Buble and James Corden on Carpool Karaoke. Buble's son had been diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 3. He is still undergoing treatment. I get it, sometimes it's hard to say things out loud, like "My son has cancer," or "I hate Jewish people," but that is how change is created.
Have an uncomfortable conversation WITH someone.
SEVERE AT COMMUNICATION
You know how some people's worlds are separated into black and white? While others see more grey? Well, to me my world is separated by WITH and AT communication. I see everything through that lens. Allow me to explain. If you have a WITH conversation WITH yourself to try to figure out where the anger is really coming from and you respond to it, rather than react to it, you will be a lot less stressed out. As I mentioned earlier have comfortable or uncomfortable conversations WITH others who are different from you, you will GROW and become a better person. When all of this breaks down, stress occurs, and we humans cannot think clearly. We fall back on our limbic systems (which don't allow us to creatively problem solve) and we do what we have done in the past. We fall back into negative behavioral and/or thought patterns. We all do it. Then we talk AT ourselves: that inner bully comes out, and then it really comes out to others AT others.
A WITH TOOL: EMPATHY
I can deeply empathize WITH you. The government took everything my grandparents had away from them, and during WWII, they were placed in an internment camp. My uncle was born in an internment camp, my grandfather would carry ice-cream in his hands back for his children, and my grandmother once had a gun pointed at her. My mom never trusted people, least of all people who were darker than us. I ended up marrying a Mexican-American man who was the first in his family to go to college and grad school. Growing up, both my parents were quite negative, so I knew nothing different. You'll be happy to hear, my husband is one of the most positive people I know, and despite everything he has overcome in his life, he remains positive and has helped every single person in my family see the positive in the negative.
What do you think your story of struggle is Mr. Bowers?
We all have a story of struggle. It ends WITH you WITHin you, not WITH others.
Mr. Bowers, if you have read this far, allow me another paragraph. It is this WITH communication that would have allowed you to deeply empathize WITH the people in the Tree of Life Synagogue. Let's bring you back to Saturday morning. Imagine the tables had been reversed and you had been in the synagogue. You would have wished to communicate WITH the shooter, right? Explain WITH the shooter that even though you are different, even though your religions and ideologies are different, even though you may seem different on the outside (like you and me) that we are all humans, and therefore inextricably linked.
If you have gotten to the end of this letter WITH me, I am grateful that you have been able to understand just how important communicating WITH vs AT is and how much it can truly change not just your own life, but the lives of the humans you communicate WITH.
Wishing you WITH Success,