“Hi, this is Alex Hoff with CBS3,” said the sweet young voice on the other end of the line.
“I’m doing a story on that Glamour magazine article that has everyone upset. Have you seen it?”
I stifled a chuckle. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve had interest or time for Glamour magazine.
“No, sorry. Haven’t seen it.”
“That’s ok. I’ll tell you all about it. It’s basically a list of what women should do to please their men, and it’s absolutely ridiculous… things like stocking the fridge with his favorite snacks, handing him a beer as he steps out of the shower – crazy things like that.”
Riveting. I now recall why I haven’t read that magazine in 20 years.
“And we’d love you to weigh in, since you’re a relationship expert.”
Wait… what? Where did she get that idea? I’m many things – certified executive coach, business strategist, marketing expert, speaker/facilitator. But a relationship expert? No, I don’t have those credentials.
“I’d love to help, Alex. But I’m not a relationship expert. Maybe you want to call one of the local therapists – I have some friends who are terrific – I can give you their contact info.”
“Thanks, but we really want you. I’ve seen some of your other interviews, and we want you.”
Sigh. Flattering..but still, sigh. “I don’t know. I’m not even sure that my opinion would be helpful to this story. Yes, the article is imbalanced and some of the points are silly (hand him a beer as he steps out of the shower? really?), but overall I think there’s something of value there. Basically, the tips suggest that we should try to infuse more thoughtfulness and fun into our relationships. That’s not bad advice. It just needs more balance. Both partners need to be more fun and thoughtful.”
“That!! Say that!! Can we do the interview in an hour?”
Ugh. Am I actually saying yes to this? Do I really want my name associated with this silliness?
Ok, quick decision time. Best/worst/realistic. Go!
What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll slice and dice the interview, take a few words out of context, and I’ll be embarrassed. Eh. Big deal. Been there, done that.
What’s the best thing that can happen? Hmm.. Oh, I don’t know. Let me dream for a second. Maybe someone other than my mother will watch the interview, see some wisdom in what I’m saying, and invite me to speak at a conference about the intersection of love and business. Hey, it could happen.
Realistically? I’ll get some calls from people thinking that I’m a relationship therapist, and I’ll spend some time directing them to qualified professionals. Been there, done that too. No big deal. Happy to help.
“Ok, Alex. See you in an hour. I’ll give you a few soundbites, but really – I’m not a relationship expert.”
As I hung up the phone, and repeated those words in my head, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of pain. I looked over at the bookshelf in my office. Yes, lots of business books. But as I took in the titles, I realized that for every 1 business book, there were 2 relationships/communication/personal development books. Dozens and dozens. Accumulated over 30 years of fascination about how people talk, relate, bond, solve conflict and become better versions of themselves.
Still. That doesn’t make me an expert.
No? Then what about all the retreats and workshops I’ve led, where my primary goal was to improve people’s connection to each other? What about the articles I’ve written? What about the classes I’ve taught? Hmm. Ok, maybe I have something helpful to share. Maybe I can believe that long enough to do a quick interview, and then move on with my day.
As expected, Alex was lovely, fun and efficient. We were done in 15 minutes. The spot aired, I received a few fun texts from friends, and didn’t get any calls for relationship counseling the next day. Whew.
Ok, good… back to building my CEO group. Back to my executive coaching clients. Back to the leadership retreat I’m working on for a healthcare company.
“Hi, Irina? This is Amanda. I’m calling from NextGen, and we’re putting on a conference in Philadelphia soon, with a relationship theme. We saw you on the news, and would love to talk to you about being one of our speakers.”
Seriously? Am I dreaming, or is this really happening?
“Umm.. Sure. Happy to talk.”
I’ll fast forward to the end of this story:
As I walked off the stage last week, after delivering my “Relationship Magic” talk, several people came up to me to tell me how much they learned, stretched and had fun.
The next day, there were emails from folks who wrote to tell me what an impact my talk made, and how they will do new things to improve their relationships and be more effective in their work and in their lives.
I was touched, humbled and amazed.
Amazed that I had the opportunity to speak at such a terrific conference (if you’re a nonprofit or fundraising executive, I can’t recommend NextGen’s conferences and outstanding work enough – I wish I had them as a partner when I was in the nonprofit world). Amazed that I got to meet and serve such wonderful people, doing important work. Amazed that audiences are open (more than open!) to the message that business and love can/should mix, and that we can all improve our relationship skills.
And amazed at what becomes possible when we stop saying, “But wait, I’m not…”
I think we all do it to some extent. We limit our thinking. We limit our view of ourselves and our abilities. And sadly, we limit the impact that we can have in the world.
So I have two challenges for you this week:
1. Say yes. Say yes to something that you’re not quite sure about. Do a quick best/worst/realistic assessment, and if the worst case scenario is not that bad, do it. Take a chance that maybe something wonderful will happen.
2. Catch yourself. When you hear yourself say, “But wait, I’m not…” – put up a fight. Don’t believe it too quickly. Argue back with, “I am, I have, I will… because…” And then work hard to create some magic.