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Liz Fosslien: Work With Your Emotions —Transcript

Read the transcript to this episode of Simplify where Caitlin speaks to Liz Fosslien about the many benefits of emotions in the workplace.
by The Blinkist Team | Apr 23 2020

Caitlin: Welcome to Simplify. I’m Caitlin Schiller

Ben: …and I’m Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Caitlin: Hello, Ben.

Ben: Hi

Caitlin: How are you?

Ben: Good.

Caitlin: Yeah? Feeling healthy?

Ben: I’m feeling good!

Caitlin: Great! Um, okay, so I want to tell you two things. Well you, and mostly our listeners. Right off the bat, before we get into anything, first, I wanted to acknowledge that we’ve been gone for a little longer than usual this time, and that’s because we’re working on a lot of really cool stuff.

Stuff that, some of it’s already out in the world, like Two Minutes with Seth Godin, which you might’ve seen if you’re already a Blinkist subscriber and other new stuff that I hope we’ll be able to share with you soon. So, sorry you haven’t had your Simplify fix in a long time, and thank you for the emails.

It really warmed the cockles of my soul to know that you were waiting for it. The second thing is that this episode is not quite yet the kickoff to a new season. This is something a little bit different. It’s an episode to tide you over while we finish producing season seven.

Ben: Like a tweener.

Caitlin: It’s a tweener! Indeed. I mean, we could call it the bonus episode from season six because we didn’t do a bonus, but I think tweener is cuter. Let’s just call it the tweener.

Ben: Okay, so who, you wanted to talk to Liz Fosslien, right? Fosslien?

Caitlin: Yes, Fosslien is how you say it. Um, I did, I talked to Liz Fosslien, who is one half of the coauthor duo of this great book, it’s called No Hard Feelings: Emotions at work, and how they help us succeed. It’s by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy.

Ben: Yeah, so, tell me more about the book.

Caitlin: Alright, so these two coauthors lay out what they call the seven new rules of emotions at work. They cover things like, um, like health, motivation, decision making, what your intuition is telling you… I actually find the decision making part of their book super, super interesting and useful.

They have this great protocol for how to tell what is a relevant emotion when you’re trying to make a decision and what is not. Basically, it was just this incredibly concrete, useful primmer about like emotional etiquette at work.

Ben: Cool. So, um, the interview was a bit ago, but what do you remember from, from the talk?

Caitlin: The thing that I really remembered was a new way to think about feedback. Um, Liz says this really amazing thing, which is- giving feedback is a way to create a more equitable workplace. So, it’s critical. And she also gives this really easy three step process for how to give useful feedback, which you’ll hear from her and we can talk about later too.

Ben: Okay. So should we just go right into the interview?

Caitlin: Yeah, I think so. Let’s do it.

Ben: And for any new people, we’re going to recap the interview a little bit, add some context, but um mostly, we’ll make a quick little book list for more people, more books, more topics, if you’re interested in this.

Caitlin: and it’s called…

Ben: The Bookend!

Caitlin: We’ve been out of the studio for a little while, so…

Ben: Yeah, stay tuned after the interview. Let’s roll the tape.

Caitlin: See you then.

Caitlin Schiller Interviews Liz Fosslien

Caitlin: Hi, Liz. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Liz: Hi. I’m so glad to be here.

Caitlin: So before we get started, could you please introduce yourself the way that you like to be introduced?

Liz: Sure. I’m Liz. I would say I’m probably primarily an artist, uh, but I’m also the co author and illustrator of a book called No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. And I also lead content at a company called Humu, which uses behavioral science to make work better.

Caitlin: Very cool. I noticed that you start off the book with health. Is that a coincidence?

Liz: It’s not. So my coauthor Mollie West Duffy and I both had similar experiences early in our career, and actually those were the motivating factors for both of us to start researching emotions and work and what both individuals can do and organizations can do to make work better.

I think looking back, I didn’t even know that you could ever have a conversation along the lines of, these are the parts of my work that play to my strengths. How can I do more of this? Like I just did everything that was asked of me and never really thought deeply about the work, about my future, um, about why I might be getting these headaches.
It was just like ignore, repress, keep going. And that ultimately didn’t work. And again, Mollie, my coauthor, very similar experience in her first job.

Caitlin: Yeah. It’s easy to do with the way that professional culture is these days. Your new rule for work around health is: Be less passionate about your job, which I find delightful, but I wonder what does being too passionate look like? Because I’m sure that, as you just described, there’s some people who don’t necessarily know that they’re being too passionate. What are the top signs?

Liz: Yeah, so the top signs are just that you think about work, constantly. Um, if you’re dreaming about work and waking up, thinking about work, that might be a sign that you’re sort of “too passionate”.

I do want to caveat we, we do want you to love what you do and be passionate and excited about your work. It’s just when it starts to take over everything else. So when you’re dropping all of your personal responsibilities or you’re not seeing your friends, you’re really crabby towards your partner. Um, all of these other parts of life, when they start to drop away, that’s actually when passion becomes dangerous and unhealthy.

Caitlin: That seems pretty clear. But then how do you back up off of that a little bit?

Liz: Yeah, so it’s hard. Um, one thing is just to cut yourself some Slack in your free time. And I think too many people on the weekends, they suddenly set goals for their personal lives and goals for their exercise. And there’s really a lot of joy and, sort of emotional restoration, that comes from doing nothing or just doing something purely for enjoying it in the moment.

One thing that I do is I actually also time box evenings for myself on my calendar, so, when I know that I’m going to be working a lot, I will put on a Thursday night from like six to nine: nothing. Like you cannot say yes to a social engagement. You have to step away from your email. You can go to the gym, you can read a book, you can do all these little things, but you actually have to say no to all of these stimuli that will cause you more anxiety. Um, another thing, if you’re an extrovert and you actually gain a lot of energy from seeing your friends committing with them, saying like, we’re all gonna get together for dinner on Tuesday night. And that actually might force you to step away from work as, Oh, I’ve made this commitment to other people to be at this place at a certain time.

Caitlin: Ooh. Those are two really lovely concrete things that are, are possible to do, like, right now. That’s great. You identified in the book that there are four core reasons that people become unmotivated, which I think is actually really powerful because often when we’re feeling sluggish and unmotivated, we don’t even, we don’t really know what to attribute those feelings to. Could you talk a little bit about those four things?

Liz: Yeah. So one is that you’ve lost autonomy in your job, so you no longer have any control over, or at least you feel like you have no control over your day. Um, often if you have a micro manager, autonomy goes out the window because someone’s just looking over your shoulder and that’s incredibly demotivational.

The second is that you don’t feel that your work has any meaning. So there’s a lot of research that shows, again, when we’re able to connect what we do every single day, to the positive impact it’s having on other people, that’s incredibly inspiring. Um, Adam Grant, who’s a researcher at Wharton, he’s a professor, he’s written a ton of bestselling business books, he found that if you go into a workplace, and actually in this experiment, it was a call center at a fundraising center at university, and when he showed those people in the call center that the money they were raising actually gave scholarships to first generation students and had those students share like, ‘this is an amazing opportunity for me. I’m so grateful that I received this money and that I could have this experience that my parents didn’t have, and I really feel like I’m getting a step up in a life that they weren’t able to access’, that the people in the call center, after hearing those stories, their productivity went up over a hundred percent. So again, it’s just connecting to this better impact that we’re having on others.

Um, the third is learning. So, so often I think people say, ‘I just need a new job. I’m not learning anything anymore. There’s no more opportunities for me here’. And that’s usually not true. Um, there, so there are definitely times when you need a new job, but often it’s just asking someone outside of your department to go for coffee. Um, seeing if your company will sponsor you to go to a conference or to take some classes at night. There’s usually always some wiggle room to learn something new.

And then the last one, it just comes down to the people. So on a Monday morning when it’s cold and rainy and you just have a really long week ahead of you, it’s often not a ‘what’ that propels us out of bed, it’s a ‘who’. So if you have a great manager, if you really love your coworkers, that’s also incredibly motivational.

Caitlin: I loved reading about that part of the motivation section. There’s so many books about, you know, how to get along in a work place and what you should do to be an effective professional, et cetera, et cetera, that never address how important it is to have friendships and feel belonging at work. What I found actually really, really interesting and surprising to me is that sometimes work friendships can actually have a negative impact organizationally, in a way that it just never once it occurred to me. How is it that work friendships can actually be bad for the organization, even if they’re good for two people.

Liz: Yeah. So it really happens when the friendship becomes exclusive, and that’s true of anything, for any group, there is someone outside of the group. And so, you know, work friendships are great, it’s really motivational, again, to have amazing teammates that you feel personally connected to, but you also want to be sure that you’re not becoming exclusionary.

And I think it’s interesting in the book we talk about this too, how social media has enhanced this. And you know, there’s not an easy answer for this, but like if you’re on a team with two other people, and then on Saturday you see on Instagram that those two people went out for drinks, it’s going to be hard not to feel a little rejected.

Um, but I think there’s a lot that can be done in the workplace to still signal that you’re inclusive of everyone, that you still want to get to know other people and those things, they don’t sound like rocket science, but they also don’t happen enough. So for example, it’s just like, spell and pronounce people’s names correctly. Um, I’m an Elisabeth with an S- it’s in my email address- so many people spell it with a Z. And it’s not a big deal, but it’s still a small signal that you just didn’t take the time to look into the e-mail, and see how my name is spelled.

Um, but then there’s also things, you know, if someone joins the conversation, taking a moment to stop and fill them in on everything. Ask them for their opinion. If you’re in a meeting and someone gets interrupted, stepping in and gently asking the person who was interrupted to continue sharing their thoughts, and that’s again, a really gentle way of one, letting the person who did the interrupting know that it’s not okay, and then also just setting a norm on your team of, we want everyone’s voice to be heard and we’re going to take explicit action to make sure that happens.

Caitlin: I love both of those things. I also, I can’t help but think that it puts a lot of the onus of creating a space of, of belonging and inclusion. Onto individual heads. What is there, not that there’s anything bad, but about that, I think that it’s really important that we do things like that, but what is there that an organization itself can do to increase a sense of belonging in a workplace?

Liz: Yeah, so I think it’s a great distinction to say sort of, what can individuals do and then what does the organization need to step in and do? Um, and on the individual level, again, just to say it’s really these small gestures that have an enormous impact on how we feel in a space.

So it’s just saying hello, being inclusive, you know, acting as an ally to others. On the organizational side, I mean, first I think leaders do need to understand that they have an outsize impact on the people around them. So if you’re a leader, what you do sets the norm in a much stronger way than anyone else can.

So making extra sure that you’re engaging in these inclusive behaviors, but then also, really trying to understand what are the structural issues that might make people feel excluded, that again, cannot be addressed by the individual. So this is, is the hiring process fair and unbiased? Does everyone within the organization have equal access to upwards opportunities? Um. Are decisions made in a fair manner? Are you actually taking into account different people’s viewpoints? Another thing that leadership can do is just really make it clear that they are open to feedback and that if they hear something that should be fixed, they will try to fix it. And even if they cannot fix it, they will clearly communicate why a change cannot happen. Um, so the organizational and leadership changes really are more at the structural level. And then individuals can do these sort of day to day gestures towards each other that help other people feel a sense of belonging.


Caitlin: So we know that work is really important. But, like Liz says, you’ve also got to take time to be a whole human. See a friend, watch a movie, learn how to cook something weird. Recently, I’ve been making kombucha because I am that bougie apparently. Or, hey, read a book or sprawl out on your couch and listen to the key insights of a book on Blinkist.

Blinkist gives you a sneak peek into a whole world of great nonfiction books like Liz and Mollie’s, by transforming the key ideas into powerful little capsules of text or audio. All of our books in blinks are put together by real readers like me and Ben who pull out the insights. So digesting these key ideas will take you only about 15 minutes, a perfect amount of time to lull on your couch and decompress from a day at the office.

As with most things, it’s better if you just try it out yourself. So go to go to Try Blinkist in the top right hand corner, and you can try it for 14 days for free by entering the code ‘feelings’. That’s, use the code ‘feelings’, and yeah, you’re good to go. I really hope you love it, and I guess that’s it.

Now, back to my talk with Liz Fosslien.

Interview, Cont’d.

Caitlin: You introduce in the book this tool called a belonging intervention, which I underlined because I’d never seen an explicit tool like that before. Could you talk a little bit about a belonging intervention? What is it? What’s an example of it? Why? Why does it matter? When should you employ it?

Liz: Yes, so belonging interventions are really small, short interactions or gestures, um, at key moments that have a really big impact in the long run, in how much people feel a sense of belonging and ultimately how productive they are at work. Um, so they’re most effective during transition periods. And that’s because that’s when our sense of self confidence tends to tank.

So, the easiest example is when you’re starting a new job. Even if you were amazing at your old job and euphoric when you received this new job offer, on your first day, you’re still getting a sense of who you are within the organization, who are the people you can trust. You know, you, maybe you just feel a little anxious.

And that’s when the belonging intervention is really effective. And so my favorite example of this actually comes from the organization IDEO. Um, and they do sort of cultural change. And what they do is when a new person starts. So nowadays, we also usually interview with more than a few people when you’re, um, applying for a job. And so this company, they’ll ask everyone who interviewed the new hire to write on a post it note three things. One, what really impressed them during the interview. Two, what skills that person is bringing to the company that the company really needs. And three, something they want to get to know more about the person. And then when that person arrives on their first day, those post it notes are all over their desk. And so the first sign they have in the organization is just this wonderful welcome that also boosts their confidence again, gives them, not permission, but sort of really invites them to share everything that makes them unique and an expert in certain areas, and then has a bunch of little starting points for conversations.

And I mean, I think about that in comparison to my first job, which was about 10 years ago now, out of college. Um, it was, I remember so vividly, this is when we still had like binders full of pages. My first thing, they hadn’t, they hadn’t set up my computer yet, and so they just hand me this enormous binder and were like, okay, pick your 401k, pick your health insurance. Um, and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just felt like an idiot in my first moment at this new job where I was already terrified. Um, so I think, yeah, and I think that’s a common experience. Um, and so I, there’s just so much work that can be done around onboarding to just help people open up about who they are a little bit faster.

Caitlin: Yeah. And A- I also had that experience. I remember at the design firm where I was working, flipping through a book full of health plans and 401ks going, what do I choose?

Liz: And it’s also like not designed in an intuitive way, it’s just so much data.

Caitlin: Yeah, like you’d need six to eight hours just to read through all of it and try to make a decision.

And B. I, I really love that, I love that intervention that you described because it sounds like it not only helps people have a sense of belonging, but when you ask them or when you tell them what skills they’re bringing to the table, it also gives them that sense of meaning that you were talking about before, that sense of purpose.

Liz: Yeah, definitely. Um, a crucial element of belonging is creating a space in which people feel comfortable, fully being themselves. And the reason that’s so important is because if you have a bunch of unique people on the team, you want them to be able to share the perspectives and the things about themselves that make them unique. That’s where innovation happens. It’s this exchange of different ideas and so you absolutely want to avoid creating an environment in which people are afraid to show that and just feel like they have to walk the party line. They have to agree with everything the leader says. Um, so there’s just emotional, business, every kind of benefit to creating a space in which people are encouraged to just fully share what they think.

Caitlin: Yeah. Well, sharing fully what they think and showing up as their full selves and being fully them, which is the thing that we hear a lot in various levels of platitudery, they’re two different things. How, how yourself should you really be in the workplace?

Liz: Yeah. So I think this is a great question. Um, it’s not always as easy as just like, here’s my full self. Uh, there’s still unfortunately a ton of organizations too that don’t encourage people to be their full selves. So I think there’s sort of two paths for discussion.

There’s one is like, if you are a manager and you have the opportunity to create this amazing space for your people, what do you do? And then the second one is, unfortunately, you don’t work in an organization where that might be as valued or even as possible. And so how do you operate within those constraints?

Caitlin: Yeah. And how do you operate within those constraints?

Liz: Yeah, it’s hard. Um, I mean, I think the biggest piece of advice I would give is if it feels like that environment is really starting to wear you down, look for a new job.

Uh, you know, I think. There’s ways that you can feel better about the work you’re doing and try and seek a confidant, but ultimately, if you just dread going to work every day and you feel like you have to put on a mask, like find somewhere else to work. Um, but while you’re doing that, sort of really tangible piece of advice is to practice in the book what we call selective vulnerability.

And that’s, again, it’s just all about walking this line between sharing and oversharing. So it’s again, figuring out like, who are the people where you maybe need to be a little more buttoned up, and then who are those one or two people that you can really trust to share more with? But yeah, I think it’s, it’s hard to work in some of those places and there’s lots of research that shows when people, it’s called surface acting another word is emotional labor, so when you have to present really different than how you’re feeling, that has a lot of negative long term consequences.

So I don’t want to be as cavalier as saying like, find a new job, it’s super easy. It’s often not super easy and you have bills to pay. But I would say like, that’s when you really try to take advantage of any learning opportunities, um, try and sort of see if you can grow within the company while at the same time starting to look for a place that will value more of who you are.

Caitlin: Yeah. Do you think that bringing your whole self to work and really showing up with your emotions, is that at all in conflict with this idea of being less passionate about your job or do they live side by side?

Liz: That’s a great question. Um, I think they can live side by side. Um, I also want to say that showing up and being your full self or your best self at work is also different for different people.

So there’s things called segmenters and integrators, and so, an integrator is someone who wants to come to work, emotions on display, share everything about themselves, and that’s amazing and can be really fun for their colleagues. Then there’s also the segmenter, which is someone who is more private, and so I don’t think there’s a one size fits all for this.

I think it’s more about creating an environment where people can come to work as they are and as they want to be, and I don’t think that that’s at odds with being less passionate about your work. I think the ideal situation is you come to work, you feel safe raising issues, asking questions, even admitting mistakes, throwing out your unique viewpoint, and then, in the evening you can go home and like detach a little bit from work. So, those to me are not mutually exclusive.

Caitlin: Okay, good. I’m glad to hear that.

Liz: Yeah, there’s hope.

Caitlin: I also was hoping that we could talk a little bit about feedback. What can I do to be a better recipient of feedback?

Liz: Yes. Um, a few specific things. One is create a smile file. And so it sounds cheesy, but bear with me. So this is a folder you create on your desktop, in your email, wherever. And every time someone says something nice about you, or thanks you or just does something or says something to make you smile, you save it into your smile file.

And then when you get a piece of negative feedback, you can actually return to that file and read all these wonderful things about you. And then it’s actually easier to see this one piece of constructive criticism as a single data point. And maybe you need to make a change, but it’s not like a, you know, a tear down of who you are, which is often what it feels like when you first received that.

Another really valuable thing is, um, take notes. So just even if you’re having an emotional reaction, write down the piece of feedback you received, put it away, and then come back to it later when you’re in more of a calm state. And that’s maybe when you have the calmness of mind to look at it and say, okay, I should make a change based on this.

Um, I learned that one I’ve applied, my mom is sort of my, the PR person I never asked for. So anytime I tweet or post something on Instagram, she’ll text me five minutes later and just be like, I’m not sure this makes you look professional or you misspelled a word here. And I’ve started to write those down because often she’s right, but I just have this like, you know, rebellious teenager reaction where I’m like, mom, get off my Twitter. I don’t want to hear it.
Um, so yeah, write it down. Come back to it later. There might actually be some truth in the feedback you’re getting.

Caitlin: I think that’s, that’s really good advice in general. Just, cool off a little bit. Um, you also nuance your section on feedback in a way that I, I have to say, I haven’t seen a lot of other books do. You explicitly address how men and women, or women and people of different racial backgrounds, might get different kinds of feedback or get, get it with a different scope. Could you speak a little bit about that?

Liz: Yeah, so, um, there’s actually a research study that looked at performance reviews over six years at a big tech company, and they found that women tend to get much more vague feedback than men. So where a man might hear, ‘hey, in the deck that you shared, slides two and three are repetitive, delete one, and at the end maybe you sort of stand up a little straighter to project more confidence’- super specific and actionable.

A woman might hear, ‘Hey, your comments missed the mark’, or ‘the deck didn’t really land for me’. And the reason that those are so bad is because it’s impossible to figure out what to do next. Like I don’t know if you tell me my comments missed the mark, I have no idea what I should change. So I’m just left there anxiously thinking through every single word I said, and then probably thinking through every word I say for the next six months, trying to figure out when my comments are missing the mark.

And so it’s so important to create, I mean, one just to give good feedback, but to create an equitable workplace, to give everyone feedback that is specific and actionable. So it’s really always, the thing I like to say is, where’s the person now? Where do you want them to be? And then, what are the very specific steps to help them get to that place you want them to be?

The other thing I’ll say about feedback, um, and this story came from a friend who’s a black female engineer. And, so in engineering on teams, they do this thing called code review, which is where someone has written the code and you sit with another engineer and you go line by line through every part of the code and give feedback or,

Caitlin: Oof.

Liz: Yeah.

Caitlin: What an afternoon.

Liz: I know. Um, so. It can be very stressful, but it’s also, this is actually where you learn what you need to do to level up as an engineer. So if you’re not doing this, you actually don’t know what you need to improve and you’re never going to learn and grow. And so what again, my friend told me is that she was sitting during code review and she was again, the only female on this team and the only black person.

And so she noticed that when these white male coworkers would sit next to each other, they would just rip into each other’s code. They’d be like, line two is terrible. Line three, you obviously forgot the semi colon. Line four, there’s such an easier way to write this out and would just like, mercilessly, throw feedback at each other.

And then when they sat down with her, they would be like, oh, you know, overall it looked great. Um, there’s maybe something slightly you could change at the end, but generally I think you’re doing fine. And it was because they were uncomfortable around her and like just were afraid to have these little moments of like, yeah, it’s hard to give feedback. It feels bad to get feedback, but it’s still sometimes the best thing you can do for the person.

So she finally ended up sitting them down and saying like, hey, I just want you to treat me the same as your other coworkers because I’m not learning. I don’t know what I need to do differently. And it’s actually, you’re creating a more unfair workplace because you’re just not comfortable having these awkward moments with me. So like, have the awkward moments with me. If there’s spinach in my teeth, tell me there’s spinach in my teeth. I want to know, so I’m not walking around the rest of the day with spinach in my teeth. And then she said it got a lot better. But that was kind of, the opposite problem where people are just like wanted to be supportive and like nice to her, and in doing that, they were actually holding her back.

Caitlin: Whew. It really hit me reading that it, it makes so much sense and there’s so much that we can do that’s not great through good intentions.

Liz: Yeah. The one, one more thing. I have a lot to say on this, obviously.

Caitlin: Please, go on. Yeah.

Liz: This is sort of back to gender differences. In research around feedback in the workplace, often men are afraid to give feedback because they think that the woman will feel sad and then she’ll cry. And I think that’s just a deep misunderstanding of why women cry in the workplace. So out of all the women surveyed, most of them said, I don’t cry when I’m sad in the workplace, or if I’m crying, it’s not a sign that I’m sad, it’s a sign that I’m really frustrated. And so I think understanding that is really useful. One, if you’re a manager and you see someone crying, understanding that like there might be a barrier to their progress. There might be something that’s unfair. It’s probably not a sign that they’re like sad or whatever.

It’s like, something is wrong and we should help address it. And then also, if you are one of these men that was surveyed and said like, Oh, I’m afraid of giving you feedback cause she’ll cry. No, you know, that’s probably not what’s going to happen. Like give the feedback, give it in a nice way, make it specific, make it actionable so it doesn’t tear apart someone’s self esteem, um, but don’t shy away from giving that feedback.

Caitlin: Yes. Liz, just to sum up here and to, to get people on their way, um, and to get you on your way with your day. If there were one central idea about emotions and how they fit into the workplace, what would that be? One thing that you really wanted people to take away from this.

Liz: It’s understanding that behind most emotions, there’s a need. And so I think that sort of, there’s, I’m going to cheat, there’s like two pieces of advice that come out of that. First is just giving yourself permission to feel. And especially when it comes to work, I think so often we just think we should be these robots and that’s not how the most effective people operate and the most successful people operate. So just like, let yourself feel feelings. That’s one.

And then the second part of that is take the time to figure out like, what is driving those feelings? And often it’s like, has one of your values been violated? Um, do you just want to work on something else? Then maybe you can eventually have that conversation with your manager.

Uh, sometimes it’s a small thing, you know, like, oh, this person actually offended me and maybe I need to have a difficult conversation. But just really trying to figure out, what is the need driving that emotion and then trying to address that need. Um, so feel feelings, and then take the time to work through them and see maybe what actions you need to take to get to a better place if you’re having a strong negative reaction.

Caitlin: So great. So actionable. Thank you for that. And then the last thing that I always like to ask people, because writers generally have really great bookshelves. Um, is there anything that you’ve read recently that you’ve really liked?

Liz: Yes. Um, I mean, anything by Brené Brown, so just the entire catalogue of Brené Brown.
Um, I also think the book Difficult Conversations, is wonderful. It’s just a really great guide to how to approach someone, talk through an issue and resolve it in a way that like makes it a little easier for both parties. So Brené Brown and then the book, Difficult Conversations.

Caitlin: Very cool. Liz Fosslien, thank you so much for joining me today. It was a pleasure to talk with you.


Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

The Bookend

Ben: Welcome to The Bookend…

Caitlin and Ben: …where we end with books.

Caitlin: I, you paused and I thought maybe you weren’t going to say it and you wanted me to help.

Ben: Alright. So what do you want to talk about with this interview? There’s a lot to break down

Caitlin: What do you want to talk about, Ben?

Ben: I, there’s a lot, um, that I found really useful. I have a lot I want to share.

Caitlin: Do you?

Ben: Yeah, the interview, like I was sort of taking notes while I was listening and I, it reminded me of things that I also thought were helpful. Like I had this feeling of sharing, which is related to one of my book recommendations, but I’ll give you one example. She says that being understood in digital communications is really important. I was reminded of something that Ben Hughes here, the director of content told us once that I’ve never forgotten and think is one of the most important tips anyone can give you when it comes to digital communications. That is that you will always be understood as one step more negative than you mean.

Caitlin: Huh.

Ben: So if you say something is great, you will probably be understood as, it was pretty good. And if you think something was good, people are probably going to think like, it was okay or worse. So if you really want to convey that something is great, you have to say it’s like out of this world, fantastic.

And people will be like, okay, that was great. And you always sort of go one step. And if you’re not sure, then like write it rather one step too positive. Take some time and then go back and look at it. And I think you’ll often find that you end up sending it, as it is and not making it less. I’m not talking about smileys and exclamations, I’m just talking about the language you use and the tone that you’re trying to convey.

Caitlin: That’s cool.

Ben: What about you? I mean there’s, yeah, there’s more to break down. Do you want to talk about that feedback section that you really liked?

Caitlin: Yeah, I do. I, um, what I really loved about that feedback section, as I said at the, at the top, was that Liz frames feedback as a way to make your workplace more equitable.

And I thought that was really like, kind of mind blowing. Because it’s important to give everyone the same opportunities to grow, to look at their mistakes in a positive way and, and help them grow. And she gave these three steps to giving really useful, humane feedback. And I thought that they were so simple and so obvious, and it’s like you can help someone really actionably move from the state you see them in to somewhere where they can be their best. And I think that’s so cool.

Ben: I was at a workshop where they said that feedback has to come from a place of almost love, even very critical feedback, because it’s the only way to really acknowledge that the other person exists or that the other person is doing anything. So even if you’re giving critical feedback and you don’t feel love or something for that other person, it’s like somebody is recognizing that I’m doing something.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ben: And that, and if, when you say, where do you want them to be, you can think of that as sort of a manipulative, I want you to be more effective or productive, but actually, I think what, uh, Liz was trying to say and what most people who think seriously about feedback are thinking is, where you want them to be because you care about them. And you want them to be maybe more successful or struggle less or overcome an obstruction and so it is actually a very caring thing to do, to give feedback.

And from the perspective of the feedbackee, when you receive feedback in that way that are very specific and helpful, you’re actually also getting a validation and acknowledgement, a recognition that you’re striving, you’re doing something, you’re, you exist.

Caitlin: That someone saw you.

Ben: You were seen.

Caitlin: As you are.

Ben: It’s true. There’s so much interesting stuff. She also says, just to avoid hanger is really important. Just don’t forget to eat breakfast before an important meeting or don’t skip lunch if you’re going to have like a really intense emotional feedback session.

Caitlin: Probably better timing for that. Yeah. Is there anything else that you picked up on Ben that you wanted to call out? Or should we move on to some books?

Ben: Let’s get to books.

Caitlin: Yeah, let’s do it. So Ben, you have an extraordinary number of books this week. Would you like to start out?

Ben: Sure. Let’s start with Adam Grant, who Liz names in the interview. Adam Grant wrote this book, Originals, that a lot of people know about, but I, I liked this other book called Give and Take.

The core idea in the book is that giving rather than competing is what’s behind success and fulfillment. A lot of research shows that if you can create an organization where giving, where sharing, where being generous is a key part of everyday work, you will have higher profitability, productivity, efficiency, customer satisfaction with lower costs and turnover rates. But the key that he talks about, again, how can we teach employees to gain a nuance understanding of what generosity is and what it is not. That’s from the Harvard business review posts.

Caitlin: What is generosity not?

Ben: Well, it’s not timidity. It’s not availability necessarily, and it’s not empathy. Those are all different things, and he goes really deep into all of it.

Caitlin: I have to rethink my strategies, where do I read this?

Ben: Right. So Adam Grant, Give and Take. That’s my first book. What do you, what’s your first book?

>Caitlin: All right. I brought one with me this time because you had two, and it is called Leisure by Josef Pieper, or Josef Pieper. Um, he was a philosopher. This book was published like 50 years ago first, I think. And it basically posits that our whole approach to work, what he calls total work, has killed leisure.

And I never know I’m going to say leisure, or leisure, it just comes out in one of those ways, and then here we are. And he says that unless we, we regain this, this sort of art and appreciation of silence, of insight, of contemplation, of taking time to just not do anything. We will destroy our culture and ourselves, and that’s, that’s kind of doomsday-y, but we could still do it.

It reminds me actually of this other book that recently came out by Jenny Odell. It’s called, How to Do Nothing, and it’s just another elegant defense of like sitting with your brain.

Ben: Hey is she the one who says you, one of the exercises in the book is going through your timeline and writing it out on a piece of paper, like 10 posts in a row on Twitter or Facebook with context, and then kind of stepping back and looking at it and being like, what does this say about my position in the world?

Caitlin: If it is, then I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

Ben: Okay. I bought another book.

Caitlin: A physical book.

Ben: I brought a physical book. It looks like a paint the picture. It looks like one of your books cause there’s a hundred pink posted notes in here.

Caitlin: There’s so many post it notes. They’re extremely bright.

Ben: So this is Difficult Conversations, How to Discuss What Matters Most. There are three authors, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. I wanted to pull one part of this, which is about a mistake that we make when it comes to intentions.

The example is the father who was too busy at work to attend his son’s basketball game. He doesn’t mean to hurt his son, but the desire not to hurt her son’s feelings is not as strong in that moment as his desire or need to work. And, it doesn’t really matter if he wanted to hurt him or not. In the end, it still hurts.

So if the father says, I’m sorry, I hurt your feelings, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. He’s not actually addressing the son’s concern. And I think that even though it’s helpful to make intentions clear, the trap here is that even having good intentions, doesn’t necessarily absolve you from the impact that you had. And I think that’s a really important distinction.

Caitlin: It is a little bit, um, it’s hard to wrap your mind around at first because you’re so convinced of what your own intention is, that it’s almost impossible to see that the impact that you made on a person, was not what you intended.

Ben: Right. And also at the end of the day, we only know what we know. I think if you can make your intentions clear and if you can share your feelings, of how you made me feel then at least you have a basis to go through a difficult conversation.

Caitlin: It sounds like the flip side to that is if you can make your, make your intentions clear, but also make yourself available to hear what the impact of your intentions were.

Ben: Yeah, like listen.

Caitlin: Yeah, exactly. In a word, listen. Cool.

Ben: Cool.

Caitlin: These are great books. Yeah, and thank you for bringing such excellent books.

Ben: Happy to.

Caitlin: We’ve gone on for a really long time here, but I hope that that’s a good thing and it keeps all of you tied over until we get season seven produced for you, which I hope is sooner than later. Can’t make too many hard line predictions right now, because there’s a lot of stuff going on in our world right now that disrupts things like getting interviews recorded and air travel and people’s health. So..

Ben: But, I have a spoiler. I might do some of the interviews in season seven.

Caitlin: It’s true.

Ben: I haven’t done an interview since season one.

Caitlin: What a treat. I’m excited.

Ben: I hope you actually meant that.

Caitlin: I did!

Ben: I have to live up to very high-

Caitlin: You’re very kind.

Ben: Uh, what’s it called? Quality.

Caitlin: All right, so let’s get outta here. Simplify was produced by me, Caitlin Schiller, Ines Blaesius, Ben Schuman-Stoler and Christoph Meyer.

Ben: Yeah, we have, we have two requests for you. One, if you liked this episode, just share it with someone, maybe a work friend, um, a boss an underling, and if you’re in a flat hierarchy than just someone else who work with, I guess. Anyway. Then the second thing, leave us a comment on Apple podcasts. Tell us what you think of Simplify. It really makes Caitlin happy.

Caitlin: It does.

Ben: So, we appreciate it.

Caitlin: Yeah, and I appreciate it a lot. So thanks. By the way, in case you didn’t already know, and I hope you did, this episode was brought to you by Blinkist, which is where Ben and I work.

Blinkist is an app, but you can also find us on the web or an Android store or an iOS store. We basically take the key insights from the world’s best nonfiction books and distill them into little capsules that you can read or listen to in 15 to 20 minutes, per. You will also find original series, like Two Minutes with Seth Godin and our newest show, State of Mind, which is a documentary series on high achievers, and it’s hosted by Niklas Jansen, who is one of Blinkist’s co-founders.

Ben: Yeah. And if you want to hear all that, and also you can find more Simplify episodes in the app. Go to, we made a little voucher code, I guess they’re called, tap on, Try Blinkist so tap on Try Blinkist.

Caitlin: It’s in the upper right hand corner.

Ben: Thank you. And use the code ‘feelings’ and you’ll get 14 free days of Blinkist.

Caitlin: Hooray! If you want to tell us what you thought about this interview or recommend a book or just say hi to us, tell us how much you miss us, for example, we are on Twitter. I am @CaitlinSchiller, and Ben is @bsto and you can email all of us at [email protected].

Ben: Cool. So we’re going to get back to work and try and finish season seven.

Caitlin: Yes.

Ben: Stay tuned.

Caitlin: Stay tuned. All right, until then!

Ben: Checking out!

Caitlin: Checking out!

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