Who does not remember walking into the meeting room and feeling like they did not belong and that their presence was not welcome? How often does that happen?
There were many times in my career that I felt like I was the only one who looked different, thought different or was from a different background. Whether it was because I was the only woman in the room, the only one from my ethnic group or religion, or because I did not have the same experience as the others, there were many times that I felt that I was the outsider looking in. And that as an outsider there could not possibly be any interest in my views.
Looking back, I know that this was a story I told myself. My own feelings of inadequacy or difference were not known to others in the room, who might have disagreed on their merits or on their impact. Yet, I know that these feelings probably stopped me from being as effective as I could have been.
What to do in those situations? Clearly, changing the story we tell ourselves and our mindset is critical:
- What if the story we told ourselves was that having a different perspective would help this room see things differently and solve the impossible?
- What if we told ourselves that this group was not homogenous by choice and truly welcomed the different perspective?
- What if we told ourselves that previous experiences had nothing to do with the present and we should not feel like outsiders?
- What if we told ourselves that it did not matter what others thought, and that we could contribute no matter what?
- What if we entered the room with a beginner’s mindset, only interested in contributing and participating?
Our previous experiences, fears and biases take our observations and very quickly create those negative stories that stop us. Instead, take a moment to breathe, stop, observe your own reactions, and choose one that is empowering and affirming. A beginner’s mindset, a curious mindset and releasing the need to be liked or externally validated empowers us to participate.
Let’s try it.