Crucial Skills®

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Is “Love” Too Grand a Word?

“How would you describe the kind of manager you most like to work for?” asked Steve. He was interviewing applicants for an administrative assistant role on our team. The role reported directly to me. Steve and I had worked together for many years at this point and he had a really good sense of my management style. He wanted to make sure we were hiring someone that would work well with not only the team, but also with me specifically.

“Oh, good question,” Ann[*] responded. “I’d probably say I work well for managers who are . . . loving and patient.”

Steve thought for a moment and then said, “That’s great. I think that takes care of all my questions. Thanks so much for coming in.” Impressively, he managed to keep a straight face all the way back to my desk. You see, my management style was basically the antithesis of loving and patient. Demanding and impatient probably were more apt descriptions. Steve later said, “As soon as she said ‘loving and patient’ the interview was over. There was no way that was going to work.”

I have worked hard over the last decade to become a better manager. I like to think I have more patience (divorce and toddlers will do that to you) than I used to. But I still need a daily reminder in the form of a note on my computer monitor reminding me that I should “Never let a problem to be solved be more important than a person to be loved.”[†]

As part of this year closing out and a new one beginning, I have been thinking about love, and specifically about love and community. This past November, the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, was released in the US. I read several film reviews and commentary written at the time of the film’s release. One article in particular affected me, written by Shea Tuttle and published in UC Berkley’s The Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life.

Tuttle proposes that the reason we were drawn and continue to be drawn to Mr. Rogers is:

. . . he told us one thing again and again: You are loveable. He didn’t usually say it quite like that. Instead, he said, “I like you just the way you are,” or “There’s only one person in the world like you,” or “You’ve made this day a special day for me by just your being you.”

The story and message of Mr. Rogers resonates so powerfully with each of us because each of us deeply, and sometimes desperately, wants to be loveable. Loved by others, perhaps. And more importantly, loved by ourselves.

Fred Rogers, at least as I know him from his television neighborhood, was a master of Crucial Conversations. His good intent was always clear and he created safety for us all to learn and be. To every interaction with us, he brought love.

While I am definitely more patient and often more loving than I was ten years ago, I still live far below the bar set by Fred Rogers. When I step up to a crucial conversation, I regularly check my intent by asking the questions we teach:

  • What do I want for myself?
  • What do I want for the other person?
  • What do I want for our relationship?
  • What do I want for our organization (or neighborhood)?

When I look inside my heart, I almost always find respect, patience, and kindness. But love?

What if we answered these questions how I imagine Mr. Rogers’ did? What do I want for myself? To be loved. What do I want for the other person? For her to know, deeply and fully, that she is loved and is loveable.

Can you imagine that conversation? I can. I have been in that conversation, when I have not only been loved but also knew that I was loved and loveable because of how my peer communicated with me. It is incredible.

This is my promise for 2020: to answer the question “What do I want for the other person?” with love.

[*] Named changed.

[†] Quote from Thomas S. Monson

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9 thoughts on “Is “Love” Too Grand a Word?”

  1. Melanie Gao

    It is not too grand at all, and I *LOVE* this article. Thank you Emily. Also, I would work for you any day because you are real, all the time. Happy 2020 to you!

    1. Emily Gregory

      Oh, Melanie – it is I who should be working for you! My love to you and your family. Happy New Year!

  2. Stephanie Bowman

    There must be a reason those skills were all collated under “Start With Heart” 🙂 Thank you Emily for the reminded that “love” is not soft, no matter the environment (work or personal). It is the very basis of engagement and commitment. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year to you!

  3. David Wetzel

    Emily, here’s the thing: as I train in professional settings, I am uncomfortable talking about my participants loving others in the workplace. I think that they are uncomfortable with it, too. Which is why I’m so glad you went there in your article. Thank you for having the courage to go there.

  4. William Techau

    Love is patient and kind, not envious, arrogant, boastful, or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not celebrate wrongdoing. It celebrates the truth. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. Love works every time it is tried (maybe not on the person we love, but always on us).

    A guy named Paul defined love in these ways about 2,000 years ago. Nothing in these definitions is easy. Love is at the core of treating others as we would have treat us — another way of saying “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (There is another concept that is thousands of years old. And it works every time it is tried.)

    Love is challenging. Love is rewarding. But it is not easy. And if we want the best for our neighbors and ourselves, it is the right way to go.

    1. Joy Tibbs

      Beautifully and well said.

  5. Maria

    This is a super cool way of starting off the year with a different mindset and I appreciate it. I have 1 Corinthians 13:4 in a framed picture above my bed “Love is patient, love is kind…” as a reminder in my home of how to love regardless of challenges as a parent and wife. How amazing would it be if I framed it in my heart as well and took it outside of my home? Thanks for this gem, I needed it 🙂

  6. Sallie

    Years ago, I worked with a cross-branch leadership initiative in state government. In one session, participants were brainstorming and synthesizing shared values. Someone suggested many of the values could be summarized as “love.” Participants guffawed at trying to sell that to their peers, colleagues, and constituents. But after continued discussion, they returned to and adopted “love”! It was powerful to see the change and evolution in thought. I mean, really — how do you argue against “love”? Seeing the dysfunction in politics today, I often think back on that moment. Sometimes, it even gives me hope.

  7. Michelle Stockwell

    Thank you for sharing this!

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