About this episode
In this episode, hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch explore john Stepper’s Working Out Loud framework in the context of building relationships for resilience. Jessica and Bob discuss five elements of Working Out Loud: purposeful discovery, relationships, generosity, visible work, and growth mindset.
Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Sara Croymans, for her help with MFLN promo and our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing.
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- Learn more about Working Out Loud
- Dive deeper into relationships for resilience with the Building Networks for Resilience learning experience
- Sign up for the Military Family Readiness Academy
Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch.
Jessica: Hi, welcome to this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Thank you so much for being here with us and for listening. I’m really excited about today’s topic because during our last session, we talked about trying to build relationships before you need them and, in the context of disaster readiness, that’s really important, but it’s really important for many other areas of our lives as well. So today we’re going to be going through a framework, one of many frameworks for relationship building, and this is one of my personal favorites. It comes from Working Out Loud, a book that was written by John Stepper. John came up with this really great way of framing out and going through really thinking intentionally about building relationships. This is a framework that Bob and I have used in workshops, several workshops, and in many different times and one of the things that is really cool about it is that there’s five pretty clear elements. There’s purposeful discovery, relationship-building, generosity, visible work, and developing a growth mindset, and we’re going to take you through each one of those pretty briefly but hopefully to get you started.
Segment 1: Purposeful Discovery
Jessica: So let’s get started with purposeful discovery. This is actually one of my,.. of the five elements, this is one of my favorites, because I really enjoy learning new things and I enjoy thinking about learning new skills and habits. So, Bob, I’m wondering, purposeful discovery, is this something that, you know, you would mind kind of taking us through?
Bob: Sure. You know one of the ways we talk about purposeful discovery when we’re using the Working Out Loud framework is just to draw a contrast between how we, maybe, consume information in the normal world, in the everyday world, where it sort of washes over us. It’s in our face all the time, and in contrast, how we could be intentional about seeking out that information and then applying that to the idea of relationships. So some relationships we don’t get to pick, right? Your coworkers, you know, maybe you decided to take a job or not take a job but people get hired, and come in, and leave, and you don’t have a lot of control over that, but you have to have relationships with those people. Obviously your family, you’re born into relationships and maybe even extending to, you know, friends that are friends of a partner but not necessarily you, or something like that. So you don’t always get to choose, right? Your relationships kind of come in, some of your relationships come in and out of your life without a lot of control on your part. And so the idea of purposeful discovery is to really take some control over that and, at least in a domain that you select, to have control over the relationships that you want to establish.
Jessica: This can apply to anything from, if you want to learn how to knit, you know, you want to learn how to knit, you don’t know anyone who knits, and you want to start to discover who you know and what relationship to develop so that you can learn. It can you can apply to things small like that, and it can also, in the context of disaster readiness, it applies to, you know, taking stock of who are some of those people you need to know. What do you need to know in the event of an emergency? And then you can start to kind of shape up who you might want to start developing relationships with whether they’re professional relationships or they’re relationships that you might need for your own personal reasons.
Bob: I think that’s really a great point and thinking back to our last episode in our discussion with Danielle Swallow of Sea Grant Delaware, you know, Danielle talked about disaster readiness, part of that, really being to know what your risks are. And that seems to me like a good place to start when you’re doing purposeful discovery for, you know, finding those relationships for disaster readiness. It’s like what are my risks, what am I susceptible to, what’s my family susceptible to, what is my workplace susceptible to? Wherever you want to put your focus and then, you know, once you have an idea what those risks are, purposely going out and identifying those relationships, those connections, that you might need if, you know, a hazard or disaster arose.
Segment 2: Relationships
Jessica: That’s a really great segue into relationship building, the second element of Working Out Loud. Relationship building helps you see the value of connecting with others, and helps you practice establishing and nurturing relationships. And, you know, relationship building is very interesting. Everyone approaches it differently, and so it would also help, I think, it’s helped me to know what some of my, I guess, strengths and pitfalls are with relationship building. Like I’m really good at meeting a lot of people, but I’m not always really good at keeping the ties going, and so I know that that’s something I have to work on. So as I create..a lot of times with Working Out Loud… we have you create a relationship list. You think through, once you thought through the things that you might need to know or the topic that you’re trying to learn more about or the area of your life that you’re trying to develop relationships in, then you you can create a list of of people or list of types of people to try to get to know. And for me when I do that I might actually place people that I already know on that list, and make it make a point to keep making connections, and to not let those ties get weaker, because in my case that’s what I need to do, because I know where my weakness lies with relationship-building.
Bob: Yeah, I am the same way, Jessica. And I think it’s completely okay, you know, and good to put people that you might already be aware of or know, so when we’re in that purposeful discovery phase, we’re not just always looking at new people or connections that you haven’t established, but will you pay attention to connections that need to be cultivated or deepened in some way. And that speaks to the nature of all of our connections, which get referred to as your network, and in this context of disaster readiness I would go further and describe it as your social support network. And when we talk about those networks, we talk about how important it is to not just have a lot of contacts but to have diversity in those connections both in terms of perspectives or certain kinds of information or support that they could bring to you, but also in terms of strength of connection. So, you know, if you are trying to get disaster ready in a particular area and build a social support network around that, it might be enough of a connection to just have a sort of low-level, or what we might call a weak tie, in terms of strength of tie, to somebody who has some information, right? So I know you know who the emergency manager is in my community, or I know who is in charge of the disaster plan in our building, and then maybe I don’t need to have more of a relationship than I just have to know that’s the person need to contact, and they know my name, and I know their name, and I have enough of a connection there. But in other areas of your life, you might need a much deeper connection, or at least somewhat of a deeper connection, all the way maybe to, you know, a deeper end of that spectrum, where you might think about, hey I’m going to be under extreme emotional stress in the case of a disaster, who’s that person that I have a deep enough relationship with that I can share that with them, and work through that with them, and then support them as well. So that diversity and variance, in terms of the strength of our relationships, is important as well. So I like the idea that you’re putting people on your list that you already know or that you already have a connection with, because there’s an opportunity there to cultivate those relationships further.
Jessica: Yeah, I actually downloaded an app on my phone that allows you to…it’s called Cultivate I think, I’m not trying to advertise the app, but I really enjoy it… it has you list out the people you want to stay in touch with and then you can set reminders on a regular basis, and it’ll shoot you a reminder that you need to contact this person. I found that really useful, you know. I’m being completely honest, I’m still not very consistent, but those reminders like that really helped me to start to become more consistent and to be reminded that I need to keep in touch with people. So we all have to find the adaptations that work for us, right?
Bob” Yeah, definitely. I think it’s important to think about, too, that there’s no shortcuts to it. You know, in an earlier episode of the podcast, we talked about transformational relationships and that this takes work, time, practice. Relationships matter and can keep you resilient and ready, and identifying those and being intentional about building them can help you become more resilient and ready in the face of disaster.
Segment 3: Generosity
Jessica: This next one actually gets a little bit into how we can deepen some of these relationships, and how we can even start some of these relationships through acts of true generosity. It seems like a really easy concept on the surface to understand, but there’s a lot involved in it. I’ll give you a quick example, then I’d love to hear your perspective on generosity. My example is that things like time and attention are on the list of generous acts that John Stepper talks about, but I would even say, it says time and attention but within the time and attention, I think there’s some listening, some real true listening, and being open to what the other person is saying, and being open to shaping your own thinking, and then continuing this cycle of sharing and listening, and being open to each other. And so, you know, obviously there’s lots of other things on this list of generous acts, and you can come up with a list of thousands of things you can do for somebody, but I really have just recently been kind of opened up to understanding that the gifts of time and attention include listening, and, you know circling back and continuing to interact. So that’s kind of my recent revelation.
Bob: I think if we go back a little bit and talk about generosity and why it works, right? So we’re talking a little bit about the kinds of things that we want to be generous around, be generous with, but the reason that generosity works, especially in this context of disaster readiness and resilience, is that it helps us build relationships that are not transactional. And when I say transactional, I mean, you know, I do something for you because I expect someone to do something for me or expect you to do something for me. I do something for you, I expect you to do something for me, not just someone else for me.
Jessica: I totally would though, Bob. If you did something for me, I would totally do something for you.
Bob: OK. Awesome. Yeah so we want that level. And, in this context, I think it might be a little bit challenging, right? You know people might be thinking to themselves, you know, I’m not trying to have a best friend, here I just want to be able to, you know, work with my colleagues to, you know, do you what we need to do when there’s a pandemic, and we have to move all of our work online. But there is a depth of relationship that is necessary for that particular task. and for any kind of collaboration there has to be some connection and relationship, and the way that we get there is through generosity. And what generosity does. the act of being generous and not transactional, is that it builds trust, right? Transactionality does not build trust, because you are measuring somebody’s reliability based on their returning a particular action, and you can’t always expect them to do that if you don’t trust them, right? You have to actually open up and anticipate that maybe they will return the favor, maybe they won’t return the favor, but I have to, you know have this faith in the future that they will, and that’s trust. That’s what trust is, that we trust someone to act in a particular way, before we actually see it, right? Sometimes you hear that… I’ve heard people say this before, like, well I’ll trust it when I see it happen or whatever. It’s like, well, that’s not trusting, sorry. That’s just evidence, right? When you see it happen, there’s no trust necessary, no faith necessary, right? So trust is, without evidence, you know, expecting something from someone, right, or trusting them to do the thing that you think is the right thing, and that is an act of generosity, when you’re trusting someone, that is being generou, right? You’re not going to call them to the carpet. You’re not going to go and say, no, I don’t trust you until you do X for me. You’re saying, I’m going to be generous with my trust, with my time, with my attention, and when we trust people, they trust us back, and that’s what deepens the relationship.
Jessica: You know, so Bob, I’ve done some…I’ve done a little bit of of teaching on, specifically on the topic of trust, and I will first admit I’ve done teaching on it, I’m not an expert on the topic of trust, but I have, you know, I’ve done some reading and I’ve thought through a few things, and one of the things I read that I found really interesting is that…so it goes to your point that trusting someone is an act of generosity…and so when you don’t trust someone until they’ve done something, I guess, quote-unquote “right” in your eyes or they’ve done something for you or they’ve consistently done a certain thing, when you don’t trust until they they’ve done that thing, it’s sort of like you’re playing a game. Because they don’t know what game you’re playing, because we all have different ways we approach relationships, and different ways we approach things like trust, and how we give it, and who we give it to. And so, you know, when you are holding out trust until someone has done something for you or they’ve done something in a way that you would like them to do it, then you’re sort of playing a game that they don’t know the rules to, and it’s a little lopsided.
Segment 4: Visible Work
Bob: So another element of the Working Out Loud framework is visible work, and John Stepper wrote Working Out Loud with a lens that was kind of focused on the corporate workplace and how to be more engaged and fulfilled in your work, so the term visible work sort of comes from that. But I think it’s valuable, it’s important. Like, that’s one way to unlock relationships that might not be on your list is making your work visible. Hey I’m interested in this area, I just want to let everyone know, or here’s something that I’m working on, does anybody have any comments? And, you know, things like that let people know, okay that’s a potential connection, and you’re making yourself visible, and that’s really how I like to think of it is it doesn’t necessarily have to be strictly work-related or have some work product attached to it but it’s the idea of making yourself visible, so that other people can can connect with you. It’s hard to connect with somebody who you can’t see or who’s moving around all the time, and so this act of taking time to think about how am I making myself visible can be really helpful in building existing relationships, people discover things about you that they may be didn’t know because you are making yourself visible and that deepens the relationship, and also establishing new relationships, because people discover you. They can see you and then see the opportunity to to connect with you.
Jessica: I really appreciate the distinction between, you know, this does not have to be your work, because I think that I’ve had some people ask me like, wait you want me to share like an unfinished report with people? And, you know, I always have to kind of explain this one a little bit, because I like to say that it’s about sharing what’s on your mind, what you’re thinking, what you’re learning, and even sharing a little bit about the direction that you’re trying to go in. Because there are people out there that not only would see something like that and help you get to where you’re going or help you go in that direction that you’re hoping to go in, but genuinely want to connect with you in the process. And they want to connect just because you’re interested in whatever it was you were sharing about or just because you hold maybe a different viewpoint than them, or a similar viewpoint, it happens both ways. And so I, a lot of times, like to share this as, sort of, you know think of it as sharing what’s on your mind, which is really vulnerable and can be really difficult for a lot of people. And I will say this isn’t, of the five elements, this is the one I think I have the most trouble with because I have terrible impostor syndrome, and I’m a little afraid that when I start to share those kind of unfinished thoughts in my mind or the things that I’m starting to to move toward that, if I’m being honest, I’m afraid I’m wrong. Which is so funny because it’s learning, and learning is not wrong, but, yes, that’s one of the ways I like to look at it, as sharing what’s on your mind, and sharing what you’re learning and thinking.
The Military Family Readiness Academy
Sara Croymans: Hello. I’m Sara Cravens from the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions team. I’d like to tell you about the Military Family Readiness Academy, a free professional development opportunity design for military family service providers working in any field with any organization. The 2020 Academy series will focus on the unique needs of servicemembers and their families, and the added stressors and challenges when disasters and emergencies strike. Join us as we explore this complex issue in two parts offered in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021. The 2020 Academy will provide an overview of disaster and emergency readiness information, tools, and resources for military family service providers working in any field as they help military families navigate the unique context of military life. Check out the Military Family Readiness Academy at https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/mfra/.
Segment 5: Growth Mindset
Jessica: So let’s get into the last element developing a growth mindset or cultivating a growth mindset. I think that when you’re able to…when you’re able to kind of notice what’s going on, and start connecting with people about it, and start to share some of that, sort of, thinking that you’re having with others, that is, I think, evidence of the growth mindset at work, or at least I think it would be for those of us who might be a little more hesitant to share our work out loud. And so as you continually cultivate a growth mindset, that builds the muscle for you to feel good about sharing what’s on your mind out loud. And so in case this is a new term for some folks, the growth mindset is really about understanding that you can always learn more, and you can always do more, and you don’t have to be perfect at anything, you really just need to keep moving forward and continue your learning. One of the phrases we’ve used before is that it’s not about being good at something, it’s about getting better at something, and it’s always about just getting better.
Bob: Yeah, it sounds simple. I think, you know, most of us, if just we asked is like, hey can you get better at something if you practice it, we would say, yeah. But I still find myself thinking about, you know, our disaster preparedness and readiness as a family saying, yeah but I’m not good at organizing, or I’m not good at making plans. That’s an example of a fixed mindset. I’m not good at this, so I can’t do it. And so it takes work, I think. It takes, you know, being aware of it to cultivate a growth mindset and say, yeah I have not been the greatest at being organized or making plans in the past, but I can get better at it. What’s one small step I can take today to get a little bit better at it? And so some of those disaster readiness tips that you might have found at at ready.gov or heard Danielle and Chris shared on our last episode on community resilience, or if you’re been attending the Military Family Readiness Academy that Sara Croymans shared a little bit about with you today, take those little steps, right, and do one of them, because I think that opens up some of the possibilities in terms of a growth mindset is that, if I start here, maybe I can make a plan, or if I start here, maybe I can be better at budgeting, or I’ll invite you today, if you start here with making your relationship list for your own disaster readiness and resilience, you can be a little bit better at make at building relationships that support that resilience.
Segment 6: Gratitude
Jessica: Thanks for joining us for this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. If you’re interested in taking your learning a little bit deeper, and you want to learn more about this framework, you can check out the Building Networks for Resilience learning experience on the Military Families Learning Network website. We will have a link to it on our show notes. Also if you want to check out more of the Working Out Loud framework, you can check that out on workingoutloud.com. Bob and I would like to thank Kalin Goble and Sara Croymans for sharing their voices on today’s episode. We’d also like to thank Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for helping us with promotion, and Nathan Graham for composing and performing all the music you hear on the podcast. I hope you’ll join us for our next episode and in the meantime keep practicing