Let’s Talk

A new book by two different-from-each-other local authors speaks to the need for curiosity and suspending judgment.
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Katie McCleary and Jennifer Edwards bridge the gap book authors
Katie McCleary and Jennifer Edwards. Photo by Beth Baugher.

The pandemic reshaped a lot about how we work, but one thing hasn’t changed: our need to communicate effectively in the workplace. In “Bridge the Gap: Breakthrough Communication Tools to Transform Work Relationships From Challenging to Collaborative,” a new book from Jennifer Edwards, a business and leadership adviser, and Katie McCleary, an entrepreneur and storyteller, the authors offer concrete methods for overcoming communication divides and making true and lasting connections.

CURIOSITY IS A KEY INGREDIENT TO YOUR STRATEGY FOR IMPROVING HOW PEOPLE RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER AT WORK, BUT YOU ARE CAREFUL TO NOTE THAT CURIOSITY ISN’T SIMPLY ASKING LOTS OF QUESTIONS. WHAT DOES GENUINE CURIOSITY LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
MCCLEARY: We think that curiosity is an energy that is really about being an explorer. When I’m with someone, I’m going to suspend my judgment, my ideas, my knowledge, and I’m going to enter an interaction where I’m going to be curious about what I don’t know that I don’t know. That takes a particular fortitude, but it is the antidote to disconnection. When we listen to understand, we’re able to bridge gaps pretty easily.

YOUR BOOK TALKS ABOUT HOW MANY OF US ARE UNAWARE OF “HOW WE SHOW UP AND THE ENERGY WE RADIATE TO OTHERS.” WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF WAYS IN WHICH PEOPLE CAN GROW THEIR SELF-AWARENESS WHEN IT COMES TO COMMUNICATING?
EDWARDS: There are two ways. First, in this busy, noisy, distracted world we’re in, take a deep breath and slow down. Ask yourself: How do I want to be experienced? Because how we show up matters. We all come in hot, bringing in all the residual [feelings] that you’re conscious or unconscious of. The second thing is this: Skill up. We weren’t all taught about how be curious, how to ask questions, how to keep your mouth closed and wonder about the other instead of constantly talking about yourself. Learn how to ask a question that opens up the other person as opposed to shoving information at them.

Katie McCleary and Jennifer Edwards book authors
Photo by Beth Baugher

YOU WRITE ABOUT HOW WE TEND TO PULL AWAY FROM THOSE WHO DON’T SHARE OUR WORLDVIEW OR WAY OF DOING THINGS, WHEN IN FACT WE OUGHT TO BE MOVING CLOSER TO THEM. WHY IS THAT KEY, AND HOW IS IT DONE?MCCLEARY: We live in such a fast-paced time and culture that we cannot do everything alone. We need to connect with people who are really different than us in order to accomplish our work. We would have a more prosperous world if we could all do that. If everybody could actually belong and be understood for who they are, we would be able to accomplish so much more than with blame and shame and division.

EDWARDS: How to move closer starts with showing up with an energy to want to know what you don’t know. I can show up in a way that says I have it all figured out, or I’m already judging and biased, but that ruins connection to someone who is different than you.

YOU BRING VERY DIFFERENT BELIEFS AND BACKGROUNDS TO THIS PROJECT. DO YOU THINK THOSE DIFFERENCES ARE IN FACT WHAT MADE THE BOOK POSSIBLE, BECAUSE YOU’VE LIVED THE DIVIDE?
EDWARDS: We’re a perfect example of what lives in the world: a conservative, a liberal. Christian, Buddhist. No tattoos, tattoos everywhere. How we grew up was different. But what we know is that if I show up truly curious about her lived experience and what’s true for her, there’s so much more that unites us than divides us. But we have to be willing to lean toward each other, not push away from each other. Our book is actually a practical guide to that exact conversation.