Why sexual harassment training doesn’t work, and what to do about it.

I believe that the Universe talks to us, all day everyday. We’re never alone, we’re always connected to something bigger than us. Some may call it a community, the language of the world, God, whatever fits you, we’re always connected.

I also believe that if something needs to come to our attention, it will come in the form of a poke, an allusion, a passing mention. If we don’t pay attention, it will become louder, heavier, more forceful. So I try to pay attention to the pokes, it saves time ๐Ÿ™‚

Business people walking together in the cityI was in a conversation lately with a business owner looking for sexual harassment training. I promised to make a few phone calls to connect that person to a professional. I also did some quick research on the subject. I’m curious that way.

I found out that sexual harassment training doesn’t work. How did that show? 88% of women still endure sexual harassment at work and 95% of them report that the male perpetrators went unpunished.ย According to the EEOC, $52.3 million dollars in damages were received from claims in sexual harassment in 2011. That’s millions of consequences from training that doesn’t work. That’s millions of evidences that the current training are ineffective. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Most people do not report the harassment. Reported harassment don’t always come to a resolution or settlement. Fewer men report it than women. The numbers we have are not even representative of the truth. I’ll let you think about that for a moment…

Something needs to give, something needs to change!

That’s why I’m now offering sexual harassment and sensibility training that will address what’s missing: perspective taking and cultural understanding

Sexual harassment is in most cases about micro aggression and oblivious behavior. Yes, some harassing behaviors are obvious, others are not.

Yes, HR personnel goes through the training but how many of them are qualified or inspired to actually talk about harassment and hold space for both parties, the perpetrator and the recipient? That’s a lot of shame involved and most people don’t have the communication to talk about shame. Of all the training I went through in my corporate days, very little was dedicated to the subtleties of an hostile environment and the true harm of cultural expectations between genders, races or sexual orientations.

We need to bring knowledge, compassion and perspective taking to the work place. How can we expect people to learn about how to interact with one another by sitting in front of a screen for 1 hour? That’s not training, that’s a waste of time.

If you know a small to midsize company ready to actually invest in their employees well-being and dedicate a safe space for all, call me!ย My number is at the bottom of the page ๐Ÿ™‚

I want to talk to them and change the way we interact with one another in an accepting and compassionate way.

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Reach for the Greatest Version of Yourself!

Paola

 

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How to be powerful while being quiet

The universe is all about balance, right?

I know that last week I encouraged you to speak up, and I still do. Sometimes, being quiet, not saying anything, can be very powerful too.

I was setting up for dinner with a friend the other night after a long day of fun work. I had performed at the farmers market that morning on a chilly/sunny morning, followed by a Milonga in the Park that afternoon, one of my favorite tango social to host.

eatingBy dinner time, I was tired and Hangry (hunger turning into crankiness) I was aware of it so I made the conscious decision to speak as little as possible. I believe we are accountable for what we say, do, and give to the world. My goal is to be a source of joy, not pain and discomfort, therefore, when I’m hangry, I often get really quiet, to the benefit of the people around me. My friend knows that but he still checked in with me which is what friends do when there is a change in behavior. I reassured him and sure thing, after a few bites of my dinner and some wine, I was feeling like myself again and enjoying a wonderful conversation.

Another example when being quiet is more productive than speaking is in the venting-complaining-ranting department. I’m a true believer of venting, I think it’s good for you and your soul to let things out a bit, to release some emotional pressure and give back to the world what it gave to you. It’s best to vent to the right person, someone that can understand what you’re going through, that can hold space and maybe provide some validation, reassurance or understanding. Venting to just anyone may not be that productive.

angryComplaining is venting, twice. If you said it once chances are it was heard. If there is a need to say it again it may be that you didn’t receive the reaction you wanted. Saying it again may not help, saying it to someone else might which would be venting. Are you with me ๐Ÿ˜‰ Complaining is typically disconnecting or it’s fueling a negative dynamic with another complainer. We get what we put in so I invite you to contemplate if you complain and if so, who do you complain to? You might find yourself in a negative environment which will keep you from being successful.

Ranting is like complaining on steroids. It’s completely counterproductive, disconnecting and a waste of time. It takes time to rant, that’s time that could be used to serve life and your dreams, I’ll let that sink in. I know, I’m a recovering ranter.

I invite you to vent, strategically. I invite you to be quiet for anything beyond that.

Another opportunity to be quiet is when we are in scarcity or speculation mode. Scarcity is all about fear and we say things that are not relevant, accurate or even kind. If we can’t say something nice, let’s say nothing. If we’re scared, which is valid, let’s recognize it and say so. We can’t conquer our fears if we don’t know what they are. Speculating is also about fear and projecting what might happen. There is true power in recognizing what we can control and what we can’t. There is so much power in appreciating the moment and how we can influence the present rather than worrying about the future. We have the opportunity to be quiet and not spread that fear to others with mindless comments.

Again, it is valid to be scared, it’s not productive to assume and make a statement of it.

rain umbrellaFor example, if the weather is conditional upon a certain event to be successful, like our Milonga in the Park, and the projection is for 50% chance rain, when do we start talking about it and make projections? When it starts raining! When I see the rain then I’ll do something about it, there is nothing I can do about it before that. I may plan just in case it rains but that’s it. I invite you to embrace what you know for sure. It’s particularly difficult in a culture that is based on fear, projections and the illusion of control but I have faith in you. I know you can do it ๐Ÿ™‚

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ย  ย  ย  ย  ย Reach for the greatest version of yourself!

Paola

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Boundaries and sexual harassment

Anyone with somewhat of a presence on Facebook has seen the extent of the “#metoo” movement. I had a lovely conversation yesterday with a gentleman that reflected on all the times he may have been part of the problem and surely some times he saw a woman be mistreated and he didn’t speak up. It was a heartfelt confession and I’m grateful he felt safe telling me.

A lot of conversations went on this past week about the validity of such movement. Some people thought that there was a pressure for women, and men, to speak up about their abuse and harassment, some thought that men were being excluded from the conversation, some started to compare the level of pain and stigma per gender, some claimed their guilt, a lot of people opened up and expressed their pain. Another point of view I saw was the one of a woman demanding others to not victimize themselves, to stand in their power so they can recover from the trauma. I use the word “demanding’ very carefully and intentionally. I seldom think we can demand much of anyone really, especially not when it comes to processing painful experiences. I am a passionate supporter of inviting, modeling and being curious about others and that post wasn’t an invitation.

That campaign reopened a lot of wounds and teased people to ask themselves questions they didn’t dare to think about. At the end of the week, I see the conversation as a steady fire, burning strong, warming us up to others perspective. It’s no longer a spark or flame fighting in the patriarchal wind, this conversation, and the change with it, is here to stay.

What’s done is done, we can’t go back and rewrite hundreds of years of patriarchal culture and abuse. We can embrace the present and nurture each other and ourselves to the full extent of our ability. We can set new standards in place to build a future that is balanced, embracing and respectful. We can start today!

I spoke about boundaries before when it comes to time management and emotional productivity, it obviously would apply to sexual harassment as well. Do you think people would behave a certain way if they knew it was culturally forbidden and disconnecting?

We don’t have to speak up about our past to set ourselves up for a successful future. Setting boundaries is one of the easiest and most productive habit we can develop for ourselves. I invite you to contemplate an answer or action for each case scenario so that by the time it happens, you can be empowered and ready. Yes, it’s exhausting just thinking about it, I’m right there with you. Change is scary, and tiring, and we’ll loose friends in the process. And we don’t have to change if we’re comfortable with the Status Quo, but what if you’re not?

Business agreement deal at coffee shop

Imagine somebody making an advance to you at a job interview, what would you do?

Imagine somebody catcalling you on the street, what would you do?

Imagine your friend telling you they were touched in a way that felt like a violation, what would you say?

Imagine somebody touching you in a way that you feel slimed, what would you do?

Here’s a 3 step action:

  1. Observation
  2. Expression
  3. Request
  4. Reaffirmation, as needed

What does that look like in real life?

People have been touching my hair since I was a child, without my permission nor my request, they just helped themselves. Hair is a body part, it’s connected to my nervous system and I prefer people staying away from it especially if they are touching it to give themselves pleasure.ย A gentleman touched my hair a few months ago. I’ve known him for a while, he’s a nice man, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about him. He was behind me and he yanked my ponytail, in play, I assume, the way you would a 5 year old child. I turned around immediately, called him back to me in a room full of people and said: “Hello Darling, you pulled my hair, I don’t like it, I prefer you wouldn’t.” He looked at me completely stunned so I reaffirmed: “I prefer people don’t touch my hair, it’s a boundary issue for me.” He agreed and walked away, end of story.

That’s a scenario when you can have the opportunity for a conversation. I’m not a violent person but I do believe in self defense. I invite you to decide what line is not to be crossed for you with coworkers, friends and strangers. Set your boundaries and be ready to fight for them. It may look like a loosing fight right now but I promise you it’s changing. People won’t stay on the sideline any longer, women, and men, won’t be silent as much any more.

People that abuse were abused and/or find cultural validation in their action. We have the opportunity to offer compassion as well as to model the behavior we desire from others. We change the world one small action at a time, one small step at a time. And it will take time, but we can start today. Change comes when we speak up.

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Reach for the Greatest Version of Yourself

Paola

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How to Maximize your Happiness with Intention?

AustinTango180Last weekend was quite the Tango experience. We hosted amazing teachers from Buenos Aires to teach a workshop. We taught our classes Friday night, then Milonga, then workshop Saturday afternoon, then Milonga, then workshop Sunday afternoon, then farewell diner.

My business partner and I were fried by Monday morning!

That being said, we had set a very clear intention for that demanding event: we wanted to bring the teaching of those two experts to our students and friends. So each time we ran out of steam a bit, we had in mind why we were doing what we were doing. We had set a solid intention.

What I invite you to do, with pretty much everything you’re doing, is to set an intention. From time spent with friends to career and hobbies. What are you trying to accomplish?

This is really important because we want to be happy. Happiness can be easily destroyed by resentment or lack of accountability.

intentBy setting our intention before hand, we are better able to manage our emotions, our time and our area of tolerance. We are better equipped to enjoy ourselves and easily set boundaries. We can protect ourselves from toxic elements or over stretching ourselves.

The idea of pre-set intention may seem overwhelming itself, however, like anything else, whatever we do gets easier the more we do it. It’s not like we’re planning every second of our life, we just get better at making faster decisions about what is truly in alignment with our authentic self. This is where joy and happiness reside and this is what I want for you ๐Ÿ™‚

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Reach for the Greatest Version of Yourself

Paola

 

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What’s tolerable to you?

I’m not going to hold back on that one and give it to you straight: You get what you tolerate.

If we tolerate our friends being late and wasting our time, they’ll keep doing it.

If we tolerate our coworkers taking us for granted, they’ll keep doing it.

If we keep being passed on for a promotion and say nothing, it will keep happening.

If we let our partner treat us unkindly, it will keep happening.

All of it can keep happening, or worst, escalate in intensity.

What I invite you to contemplate today is your area of tolerance. What are you comfortable and what are you not?

For example, my definition of ‘late’ is 15 minutes after agreed meeting time. I prefer a message mentioning the delay by meeting time. Anything over 15 minutes after agreed time is officially late. Anything before 15 minutes is a delay that can be easily due to traffic, missed turn, wardrobe malfunction, long line at the coffee shop, etc.

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That’s my area of tolerance when it comes to time and meetings. I put that system in place years ago, that’s what I’m comfortable with, that’s the level of productivity I want in my life, therefore, I collaborate with individuals that match my needs which is a source of great joy.

That’s the point after all, we want to feel happy and purposeful, it will happen with individuals we invite in our area of tolerance.

Another example dear to my heart is when someone projects their anger unto others in person, through text, email or phone call. I consider all emotions to be valid and we can experience all of them freely. I draw the line at projecting negative feelings without consideration for others. Taking it out on others is not ok in my book. Some things need not be shared, we can be pissed on our own time and process it at our leisure, that’s what adults do. Children have tantrums, adults manage and process. Which will you be?

angry

I therefore draw a very obvious line in communication and any misdirected negative emotion is addressed in a firm and kind way. I don’t want that in my life, period.

Not tolerating certain things in your life doesn’t mean we don’t accept others. It means we choose what we allow in our life, and what we don’t. We can accept that people get angry and not allow them in our experience. We can accept that individuals are at a different stage of growth but we don’t have to be close friends or collaborators.

Being intolerant of others’ differences is being scared of them. I’m not scared of angry individuals or people that run late more than I can take. I just don’t like it and I have a choice to keep it out of my life. We don’t have to like and understand everything and everybody, we do have the choice to accept our differences and surround ourselves with individuals that are a source of joy and comfort.

So, what will you tolerate today?

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Reach for the Greatest Version of Yourself!

Paola

 

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Do your expectations spoil your experiences?

One of my main focus is to help individuals increase their level of happiness in life, while avoiding sources of disappointment, frustration or sadness.

I found that it is very important to have high standards. I encourage to set the bar as high as desired. I want people to reach for their dreams, not settle for less.

Having high standards and expecting everybody to reach them is not realistic though, that’s setting ourselves up for disappointment. I believe it is very productive to keep our standards high all the while having low expectations. By expecting less of life and others, we are more likely to be delightfully surprised by an outcome, satisfied, grateful and appreciative.

I also urge individuals not to lower our expectations so low that we put ourselves in an uncomfortable or unsafe position.

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A few months ago, I was relating to a friend of mine my frustration while booking a hotel stay out of town. I also shared that that particular chain was lower in the industry ladder and that there were only so much I could expect from that company. After all, it would be like expecting organic vegetables at a fast food chain restaurant. My friend agreed with me, to a certain extent. He said, and I’ll always remember this, he said: “Even at a fast food restaurant, they give you a cup when your order a drink.”

Touche!

That was the perfect example of me setting my expectations so low, because I wanted to experience joy and gratitude, that my basic needs for respect and comfort were not met.

This is a gray area that will be different for everybody. As I mentioned, I want people to feel fulfilled and happy. I also want them to stand in their power and speak their truth.

I invite you to proactively evaluate what your area of tolerance is for certain situations. It may be an interaction or a product you’ve been using for years. Does it still meet your needs? Does it still meet low, acceptable expectations, or does it need to be reevaluated.

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ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  Reach for the Greatest Version of yourself!

Paola

 

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It’s not about the butter knife, Netflix or the toilet seat

What do the butter knife, Netflix and the toilet seat have in common? They’re the disguise of something much more profound that can destroy relationships.

The toilet seat, up or down, used to be the number one reason stated for a divorce. Some people would justify either which way a toilet seat is supposed to be, at the end though, it was a disconnect ending with a divorce.

The top reason for a divorce was soon replaced by Netflix when some couples shared a queue for DVD delivery and the queue would be rearranged without communicating with the other party. The choices for the upcoming movie could have been negotiated, again, a disconnect was created.

I’m in the business of human dynamics and connection so I pay close attention to things that may go unnoticed by others.

So what about the butter knife?

I was visiting a friend one evening and we had decided to stay in, cook dinner and catch up. My friend offered to play some music and asked me for my preference, I said blues, I love blues music!

As I began cooking, I soon heard yelling and a raging crowd coming from the speaker, not blues music. My friend was watching a political rally and the crowd was mad. The noise bothered me but I said nothing wanting to brush it off, and telling myself the music would be on shortly. But the music didn’t come, the yelling got louder and I lost patience. The noise was feeling like an aggression to me and I snapped at my friend harshly asking for it to stop. My words were along the lines of: “not now, I’m sorry!!” And I’m pretty sure it was accompanied with hand movement and cooking utensils.

My friend obliged and soon after turned on the blues music which lowered my blood pressure.

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We sat at the table and as a good French girl, I put the butter on a small plate, with a butter knife. We started eating, my friend used his knife already covered with food and dug into the butter. I made a sarcastic joke: “Would you like another butter knife?” which didn’t go over well. My friend got mad at me, I was blindsided and the atmosphere in the room got really heavy.

We could argue the relevance of the use of the butter knife, how dirty my friend’s knife was/wasn’t or how relevant it is to be French while leaving in the U.S. We could do that, and then what? It wasn’t about the butter knife.

By the time we sat for dinner, my friend was still triggered by my reaction about the political rally. He needed to feel seen and heard about the political climate at the time. Instead of checking in with him I reacted in an emotional manner and created a disconnect. My friend didn’t sense he had a safe space to express himself so he bottled his emotion up, the same way I had done earlier. That’s a very counterproductive thing to do.

My friend and I talked it out, figured it out and developed a system to be aware of ourselves and each other’s trigger. It’s all about awareness and being there for others. It’s not about the toilet seat, or Netflix, or the butter knife after all.

I invite you to develop that awareness of emotions, triggers and our reactions. They can show up in counterproductive ways and create disconnects. Connecting is a lot more fun!

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Paola

 

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