The Backfire Effect of “Being Too Nice”

Listen Now: The Backfire Effect of "Being Too Nice"

Kayla participated in our 5-day workshop focused on self-awareness and its impact on leadership, productivity and fulfillment at work. We talk about how being too nice is a defense mechanism that manifests the very fear that drives the behavior, as well as how behaviors are intergenerational and learned and how conscious choices can create meaningful change in how we walk through the world.

Check out this episode!

View Transcript

I welcome Kayla back to the show on this episode – you’ll be hearing a lot more from her as we’re traveling around the world together. Right before we left Orlando, Kayla participated in our 5-day workshop focused on self-awareness and how self-awareness impacts leadership, productivity and fulfillment at work. It’s a profound experience for people, and I asked her to share some of her insights. We talk about so many cool topics like how being “too nice” can be used as a defense mechanism.

Kayla: Um, I’m a, I’m a bend and snapper. You know, I just will like, twist any way to, for whatever story I have in my head, to make them happy.

Laura: Mm hmm. The other person.

Kayla: To make the friend happy, the person I’m dating happy, the whatever, whatever happy.

Laura: Your boss?

Kayla: My boss is a piece of work.

Laura: Sitting right next to ya. Hi.

Kayla: No, I definitely, and I think I do it so subconsciously that I think I’m doing what I want to do.

We also talk about how in the world it could possibly be relevant to workplace productivity to talk about experiences from one’s childhood, and how it’s actually a critical step to creating real, meaningful behavioral change.

Kayla: so before I was born, um, my grandmother was really aggressive towards my father and just because, like, alcoholic, um, she did a lot of drugs apparently, and, um, I don’t know that version of my grandmother, but her father, my great-grandfather, amazing guy, used to be really like an alcoholic, too. And really aggressive with his tone. His father, same thing.

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: So, it’s just like–

Laura: Intergenerational. Totally.

Kayla: Yeah, just like down and down and down and down. And then even still, like, god, when I used to watch my little sister I would get pissed. Like, and I’d be like “Why am I acting like this?” Like, I used to even tell myself when I was a kid, like, let’s not act like, you know, let’s not act as mean as grandma did.

So, I think a lot of it is learned and that’s what I was getting to it’s like, we learn things without realizing we’re learning them, without wanting to learn them.

She gives awesome examples of how her own behavior has shifted as she’s become more self-aware, and does awesome vulnerable shares, including how she once told a Starbucks customer to shut the f—k up:

Kayla: As a Starbucks employee, in a management position, I literally told a customer to shut the fuck up. Like, you don’t do that–

Kayla: at Starbucks, like, it’s like Starbucks’ whole thing is like–

Laura: People!

Kayla: –you’re there for the customer, yeah, you love the customer. That’s your best friend. And I was like, “Shut the fuck -” So…

And, like normal, we have a ton of fun together, so I left in some of our silliness which I hope makes you laugh amidst the serious topics we chat about. Without further adieu, here is my conversation with Kayla about her first Human Element experience.


Begin Interview:

Laura: Wow. That was quite a neck pop right there. I really, I really wish I captured that actually.

Kayla: Oh, god.

Laura: I feel like the mic would have picked that up.

Kayla: Oh, yeah.

Laura: Can you do it again?

Kayla: No.

Laura: Ooh.

Kayla: Ooh.

Laura: Did you hear that?

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Alright.

Kayla: That was awes– that felt awesome. That was like my hips that– I wasn’t able to crack my neck like that until yoga.

Laura: Oh. You know I’m recording?

Kayla: Oh, are you?

Laura: You’re like– couldn’t see it.

Kayla: To be completely fair, there’s a pop filter.

Laura: There is a pop filter.

Kayla: And a glare–

Laura: Ah. Okay. Well–

Kayla: Double excuse.

Laura: –now you know. We’re recording.

Kayla: Hey Gary.

Laura: Hi!

Kayla: How are you doing?

Laura: Gary’s our editor so she’s saying hi to Gary, for listeners who are like, “What the hell is she talking about?”

Kayla: Oh. I assumed that would be edited out.

Laura: Oh, no. I like when we do our ridiculous, fun intros.

Kayla: That’s great.

Laura: This is what we do.

Kayla: This is how we do it.

Laura: Uh, hi Kayla.

Kayla: Hi.

Laura: Hi.

Kayla: We’re in Malaysia.

Laura: We are in Malaysia.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Thank you for brining that up. Yeah, I, I mentioned in the last episode, um, that, ooh, I’m recording the intro in Malaysia but, full disclosure, the interview itself which was with Colby actually happened in Orlando. But this podcast, we’re actually recording in its entirety in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Kayla: Yup. On the 25th floor.

Laura: 25th floor.

Kayla: We’re looking at the helipad and if we turn our heads really far we can see the– what is it, how is it pronounced? Petronas Twin Towers?

Laura: Ah. Yeah.

Kayla: I think that’s the name. I just made that up, though.

Laura: Yeah. They’re right there.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: They’re beautiful.

Kayla: They are. You can’t see it but we promise they’re gorgeous. Give it a Google. Check out a Kuala Lumpur gift card ’cause–

Laura: Maybe we can put a picture on the, on the site.

Kayla: That’d be smart.

Laura: And, um, and we’re, we’re also gonna be coming out with more video content because we’re–

Kayla: Yes.

Laura: –traveling around the world and we have all of these amazing sights and we just, we really wanna bring a visual aspect and component, so–

Kayla: And we’re cute. You know?

Laura: Yeah. Oh, my god.

Kayla: You have no idea, ’cause–


Kayla: –this is just audio but–

Laura: And we’re super expressive.

Kayla: Yeah. We have great facial expressions, hand motions, Laura knows sign language–

Laura: Lots of gestures.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Yeah, sign language is not really useful for the podcast, I’ve noticed.

Kayla: No.

Laura: But, anyway, um–

Laura: So we have a specific topic today, despite the rambling beginning.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Um, so, Kayla, you recently went through The Human Element–

Kayla: I did.

Laura: –which is a five-day foundational workshop designed primarily to enhance self-awareness and then teach people what the hell to do with that self-awareness in an organizational context.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Yeah. So, I am really excited to hear about your experience.

Kayla: Yeah. I’m excited to share, honestly. I’ve been looking forward to this podcast since before I even took Human Element. I was like, “I’m gonna go on the show and talk about it.”

Kayla: It’s like, “You don’t even know what you’re gonna talk about yet. Why are you so excited?”

Laura: But you just knew.

Kayla: I just knew–

Laura: You knew it was gonna be so good.

Kayla: –it’d be, it’d be a fun time. Yeah.

Laura: Yeah. Alright. Here’s my first question.

Kayla: Go for it.

Laura: How would you describe the experience of going through The Human Element to somebody that has never been through it and has no idea what it is?

Kayla: Good luck. No, I’m just kidding.

Kayla: So, to be fair, and I did say this in the workshop as well, I work with you–

Laura: Right.

Kayla: –so I hear a lot of this stuff. But hearing it intermittently is so different than just compact, five days, like it’s the only thing on your mind ’cause you’re not working, you’re not, you know, I don’t know, whatever–

Laura: I’m not?

Kayla: I’m not. Oh.

Laura: Oh.

Kayla: We’ll get to that later.

Laura: I language.

Kayla: Yeah. I language. So, I’m not working, I’m not doing whatever it is that I do normally. I’m like, really focused on this whole experience, so, um, I don’t, I don’t wanna say, “Oh, it’s a lot” because it’s not, it’s not– that sounds a little negative. It’s like, a lot of great information and it’s, like you said, what the hell do I do with this?

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And since it’s so…. for me, I had a lot of, like, thinking and worrying in my head during because a lot of the concepts I was like a little familiar with so I could take it, what I thought was like a little bit further down for myself–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: –but I could be like, alright, like, I already get this so let me, let me–

Laura: Go deeper.

Kayla: –dig in to what’s going on for me–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: –like even right now. Or, um, yeah, so I thought that was awesome. I felt like a part of me was thinking like, “Am I distracted because like I’m leaving?” I remember having that, like, thought, on Tuesday. I’m like, “Am I even getting the full effect of this? Like, I have a lot going on in life right now.” Like, I’m about to uproot from Orlando, which, by the way, is like the only place I’ve truly lived, and – besides like Palm Coast which is, you know, so–

Laura: And still in Florida.

Kayla: Yeah. And still in Florida about–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –like an hour away from Orlando. So, I, I did have that on my mind and a part of me was like, “Oh. Am I getting enough out of this?” And I realized by the end of it, like, oh, totally.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like, I wanted this.

Laura: So, okay, here’s what came up for me when you were describing your experience.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Because, yeah, like you said, you work with me and so you’ve heard these concepts. You’ve also been through Leading a Grounded Life–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and Radical Collaboration, and Teamwork from the Inside Out–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So, you’ve definitely been exposed to a lot of these things.

Kayla: Serial workshop-ist.

Laura: Serial workshop-ist. Yeah. That’s one of the, uh, signs of defensiveness, right? Is actually like addicted to workshops.

Kayla: I think I checked it off.

Laura: This is totally different, though. This is different. This is you, you know, just being a part of the Gallaher Edge family and–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –doing what we do. So, I think, for me, what makes Human Element really different from other experiences is that it truly is experiential.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: So, the first three days, and I think, actually, for your week it was really more like four–

Kayla: Four, yeah.

Laura: The first four days.

Kayla: Which I thought was awesome.


Laura: Yeah. I kind of wanna do, like, the whole thing, the whole five days focused just on self-awareness and then–

Kayla: Totally.

Laura: –do another three days or five days on the org solutions–

Kayla: Yeah, like, what do we do with this? Yeah.

Laura: –because there’s so much with the self but, um, so we, we really focus on helping people grow their self-awareness. And so what that means is there are five specific ways that we do that.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: And so as we go through the layers of understanding our behavior, our feelings, and then our own self-concept and self-esteem, we take you through this process that gets familiar, right, over and over again where you have your own self perception, you take an instrument to get some scientific numbers that are up to you to interpret, you get feedback from different people all the time in the class, feedback about you, your behavior–

Kayla: Yeah, that was–

Laura: –what they think about you–

Kayla: –mind-blowing.

Laura: –and structured experiences where it’s so obvious that it’s a structured experience where people are just following directions and it still–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –brings up emotions in people. And then the imagery, which it accesses a completely different part of your brain.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so I think what makes it so amazing and powerful and something that I don’t know how we can ever duplicate in this kind of medium with the podcast is that it’s really taking you through these experiences where your brain and your body are fully engaged and, like you said, it’s a lot of information–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –but my interpretation of that wasn’t that it’s, like, us as facilitators giving you lots of information–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –it’s, no, there’s just a lot of information happening.

Kayla: Inside.

Laura: Yes. Information from within, information from your peers, um, yes, some information from us. And so, to me, the work is so transformational because it’s super engaging.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I had somebody ask me once if they could audit, like, “Can I come and audit and like sit in the back with my computer and like watch?” I’m like, “No.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura:  Absolutely not. I mean, they would get some idea of what happens, but it would completely miss what’s so powerful–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –about the week.

Kayla: No. I can, I can see how that, like, wouldn’t, you know, work.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I… get what you’re saying with the whole like, “It takes all different–” Like I didn’t even really think about it like that, like the feedback is this whole other part and the imagery–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –’cause like, they’re all so different, but they all did so much emotionally.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: And I think, you’re right, that’s where that “a lot” comes from. ‘Cause the concepts, I believe, are fairly simple.. But it’s like, what meaning I take from that is, like, what’s, this is a lot. You know? This is a lot going on inside my head.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And I think at one point I said, “If anyone hasn’t been introduced to any of this before, like, props.”

Kayla: Because if I was having all these like–

Kayla: These are explosions by the way.

Laura: See, that’s why we need video.

Kayla: That’s why we need video.

Laura: They can see your hand gestures by your head.

Kayla: Yeah, I have really cool explosions. Like, fire comes from my fingertips.

Laura: It’s impressive.

Kayla: It’s awesome. It’s FIRO.

Laura: That was cute. FIRO is the theory upon which Human Element is based. Kayla.

Kayla: Got it. So, uh, yeah, I just distracted myself with my own joke. But yeah, it was, it was awesome. And I was gonna speak to the whole – the structured experiences. Knowing that they’re fake–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –when you go into them and still feeling visceral responses was insane to me.

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: So there’s one where, where we had like the group of three–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: –my group was a group of three and, um, there was two people and they were both male so it was Ayan and Denny, who are awesome, and they had to pretend to be stern with me and they, like, crossed their arms and made this, like, really grumpy face. And, for one, Ayan is not good at making a grumpy face. Like, he’s so sweet. Like, he’s not good at it at all. But still, like, it hurt. Like, like them not wanting to like smile back at me–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –and just, it brought me to such a, like–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I even looked away. Like, I–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: –’cause I was– so, how it was set up was that they were standing with their arms crossed and I was to sit on the floor and just look, I was supposed to look up at them, but the stern faces really got me so, like, uncomfortable, that I, at one point I started laughing, which is one of my defenses–

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: –like uncontrolled just laughing out of nowhere.

Laura: And minimalizing what’s happening with laughter and humor.

Kayla: Yeah, like, oh this isn’t– yeah. So, totally me. And, um, I just, I couldn’t even look. I just crossed my arms and, like, turned my head towards my shoulder and I just waited for the exercise to be over–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –’cause I was like, uncomfortable. And I knew it was fake. And I already–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –knew Ayan and I already knew Denny–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –and I was still like, “Wow. Subconsciously, I do not like this.”

Laura: Yeah. Yeah. So, god, that’s so cool. Sorry, I’m like saying, “Yeah.” I’m just nodding along like I’m so into you telling this story.

Kayla: She’s so excited.

Laura: I am. Well, I am because I do find it to be completely crazy and so compelling. Exactly what you said. Even though you know it’s structured, even though you literally hear me give them the instruction to do that–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and you know they’re doing it just to comply with my instruction, it still brings up feelings.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And the other thing I wanted to say that’s so powerful is because we’re so hardwired for human connection–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –we are so adept, whether we know it consciously or not, at picking up on the signals from people. The emotional energy literally shifts–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and changes when somebody is doing that, that stern look. And even to the whole point, the like, “Oh, well, they’re faking it. Or they’re only doing it because they’re being instructed to,” yeah, same deal.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I, I can force a smile on my face just behaviorally, make the muscles happen, and it’s gonna change the chemistry in my brain. It also changes the way that I sound when I talk.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Like, people can probably hear I’m smiling now. Or if I like make myself into a frowny face, I will literally change the brain chemistry.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And they’re just starting to come out with really cool science that I know nothing about where they’re starting to genuinely even measure what is happening in terms of brain waves and energy between people.

Kayla: Oh, that’s awesome.

Laura: It’s so real.

Kayla: Energy between people is like my favorite thing ever.

Laura: Yes. It’s so real. And I’m really, really excited. I mean, for me, I just know that it’s there–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and I know, um, for myself at least, what I want to pay attention to and what I want to do with it when I notice it, but I do think it’s really cool for people who are more skeptical or–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –more left-brained and really, really wanna see the data that they’re getting to the point where they can start to measure that stuff.

Kayla: Yeah. It’s like, “Here’s the data.”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: There you go.

Laura: But like the emotional energy genuinely does shift even though it’s a structured experience.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so, yeah, for you to notice for yourself, like, “Wow. What discomfort is this causing me? Where in my body do I feel this? What strategies am I employing subconsciously before I even realize what I’m doing?” Like, oh, I’m supposed to look at them but I’m looking away.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Or, oh, oh, I noticed myself laughing. Like, what is that about?

Kayla: And even while I was laughing I remember my, like, my throat was tight, I was like–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –I have no reason, and more so than anyone else in the room, I knew a lot of people in that room.

Laura: You did.

Kayla: I knew, like, I think, all but two.

Laura: Yeah, you had relationships with a lot of them.

Kayla: Yeah, and I was still like, “I don’t know who to look at right now. Like, I’m really uncomfortable.” It was crazy. Um–

Laura: So–

Kayla: –it was cool.

Laura: –what do you– Okay, so, I want to continue to use this example.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: What do you learn, then, about yourself from that experience? Like, connect that back to other parts of your life.

Kayla: Oh, yeah, totally. I realized, and I think I definitely realized this more so during Human Element, that even people I know and love, I can still come up with these stories that “Oh, they don’t like me” or “Oh, they don’t want me around.” And even though I have no basis to, you know, go off of for that, like, my best friend in the entire world, I could still convince myself like, oh, she must be mad at me right now. It’s like, you didn’t do anything. Like, calm the f*ck down. You’re good.

Kayla: I really have to tell myself, I’m like, calm down. That’s not what’s going on right now. Like, why do you think that? And, of cou– I could probably give you 10,000 reasons why I think that and it’s just like–

Laura: How about one?

Kayla: –whose voice is that?

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And? Whose voice is that?

Kayla: Probably somewhere from way back, way back when. Probably like growing up and, um, a lot of authoritative figures just, like, “being mad” at me– those were air quotes–

Laura: “Being mad.”

Kayla: “Being mad.”

Laura: Why, now I’m curious, why air quotes for being mad?

Kayla: ‘Cause they probably were just acting out their own bullshit.

Laura: Right.

Kayla: Like, their own aggression that had nothing to do with me–

Laura: So they–

Kayla: –it was more–

Laura: Okay. So I think–

Kayla: –you know, their own anger.

Laura: –they were mad.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: They were mad.

Kayla: Just not at me.

Laura: Maybe not at you.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Or maybe they were directing it at you even though that wasn’t really what the source of their frustration was–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –but I think they were angry. I mean, I wasn’t there.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: But I would think they were angry.

Kayla: In order to act mad, yeah, you do have to be a little angry, so…

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Yeah. Totally. I had a lot of, um, people growing up that they don’t handle their anger well. And I’ve realized that, you know, um, I kind of realized the pattern.

Kayla: Like, so before I was born, um, my grandmother was really aggressive towards my father and just because, like, alcoholic, um, she did a lot of drugs apparently, and, um, I don’t know that for sure of my grandmother, but her father, my great-grandfather, amazing guy, used to be really like an alcoholic, too. And really aggressive with his tone. His father, same thing.

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: So, it’s just like–

Laura: Intergenerational.

Kayla: Yeah, just like down and down and down and down. And then even still, like, god, when I used to watch my little sister I would get pissed. Like, and I’d be like why am I acting like this? Like, I used to even tell myself when I was a kid, like, let’s not act like, you know, let’s not act as mean as grandma did.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like, you know, so I consciously would not want to be mean like that–

Laura: Right.

Kayla: –and it still comes out.

Laura: It still happened. Yeah.

Kayla: And that’s one thing I’ve always wanted to reverse. Like, even my old roommate said, like, “You have the worst road rage that I have ever seen.”

Laura: Awww.

Kayla: And I’m like, “Really? I do get really mad on the road.” And I just, like, that’s the one way I take out my aggression and I was just like, let’s calm down. You know? So, I think a lot of it is learned and that’s what I was getting to it’s like, we learn things without realizing we’re learning them, without wanting to learn them.

Laura: Even, actually, to your point, that you consciously want to be different–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and you still find yourself–

Kayla: Yeah. Like, boop!

Laura: –modeling that behavior.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: Yeah. It’s really intense and so, you know, I think, so some of the work with The Human Element and part of what we do, for example, is the lifeline where we ask people to reflect back on the times in their life where they felt like their own self-concept was the most deeply affected.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: Where how you felt about yourself was most dramatically increased or decreased based on whatever was going on. And, you know, we do this kind of deep work and this is absolutely a professional workshop designed to enhance productivity of organizations and a lot of people go, “Well, this is way too personal–”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: “This feels like therapy” you know, ahhh, and they just get all uncomfortable with it.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: But exactly to your point. Like, what you’re describing, what you’re talking about, this is why we do this.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Because you, you’re talking about, you know, road rage, but that same kind of thing can happen in an organizational setting.

Kayla: Oh, yeah.

Laura: Right?

Kayla: Before I worked for you, um, I’ve calmed down a lot, before I worked for you, like my last job where I was like in an awful– at Starbucks, where I worked there, it was almost comical, like how much I would just like snap, like–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –like that story I told in  , and I’ll tell like a brief story of it here–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: As a Starbucks employee, in a management position, I literally told a customer to shut the f*ck up. Like, you don’t do that–

Kayla: –at Starbucks, like, it’s like Starbucks’ whole thing is like–

Laura: People!

Kayla: –you’re there for the customer, yeah, you love the customer. That’s your best friend. And I was like, “Shut the f*ck -” So…

Laura: And just for context, too, I wanna say like, so I’ve known you for coming up on a year, right?

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And I, I experience you as just one of, like, the happiest, sunniest, like most pleasant people to work with.

Kayla: Thank you.

Laura: You know? So it’s not–

Kayla: It takes a lot to get me there.

Laura: –you’re not– yeah. Like, you’re not one of those people that’s just, like, gonna be like, “Shut the f*ck up” like, on a whim.

Kayla: Yeah. Exactly.

Laura: But there was a trigger there for you. So, yeah, so that’s a great example–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –where it affected your performance–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –in a work si– I don’t think anything maybe happened in that.

Kayla: Oh, no. I called, I actually called my boss, like, three minutes later and I was like–

Laura: So this just happened.

Kayla: “I am so sorry. Like, I just, he made me really mad.” And I was, like, I was red. It was all those common signs of defensiveness. My blood was rushing. I hardly remember it.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like I was just like, I know what happened but because everyone else told me what happened. Like, complete blackout. Got so mad and just yelled at this guy who was just working.

Laura: So, I wanna give, I wanna give the listeners a little more context to this.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So, ’cause I love– I don’t know if this is a big example or a small example or whatever but I love examples like this and breaking it down.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So, I’m wondering if you could take us through, um, a little bit more of, like, what happened–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –like what was going on–

Kayla: Totally.

Laura: –when you told him to shut the f*ck up.

Laura: And also, um, if you can tie it back to this whole idea of every human wants to feel significant–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –competent, and likable–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and which of those three, one, two, or all three of them, maybe for you were, were triggered in that moment.

Kayla: Yeah. So, totally. I, so, at the time, to give full context, I was working a lot. More so than a normal Starbucks employee. I was work– closing like 45 hours. Like Starbucks ever hears that they’ll be like, “what the hell?”

Kayla: What was going on at that store? ‘Cause most people work, like, you know, 20, 30, normal. I was working close to 40 hours. My manager was out of the country. Um, I kind of got put the whole weight of the store on my shoulders. Like, make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to and, at this point, it was right before the holidays. I had worked, I wanna say it was like, I was on my 19th day in a row–

Laura: Mm. Oh my gosh.

Kayla: –working like eight to nine hour shifts–

Laura: That’s brutal.

Kayla: –and just keeping everything together. So, I was physically exhausted and I didn’t feel appreciated. So I think that would go down to, what would that be? Competence? No. I guess significance. Like, I didn’t feel like, you know, my boss cared about me.

Laura: Yeah. Like you as an individual.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Like you don’t matter. You’re just a cog in the machine.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Just work your hours.

Kayla: I’m just, I’m just working here–

Laura: Yeah, that’s about significance.

Kayla: –and I’m keeping everything afloat in my mind and, um, yeah, so like that was definitely going on for me in my head. At the same time, I’m training someone new. I’m just, I’d been there for so long. And so, I’m stacking the chairs. Um, this is like three minutes to close at a Starbucks. I’m stacking all the chairs, I just want to get out of there, it’s the last day, and now I have two days off. So, I’m just trying to push through that. And, um, this guy, and, in retrospect he was working. He did have a couple minutes left in the Starbucks. He turns to me and he goes, “Um, you’re being a little loud. Like, could you maybe not stack the chairs, like, so heavy?” And I was like, “Are you telling me how to do my job?” Just straight up.

Kayla: I was like, “You’re not about to tell me how to close my Starbucks.” I was just like, um, I was like, “I’m sorry sir. We close in three minutes. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.” He goes, “Well, you’re being a little loud.” And I was like, “Well, you need to shut the f*ck up and leave me alone.” And I just stacked the chairs.

Laura: Even louder.

Kayla: Yeah. Like, {stacking noises}. And then, like, oh, there was a couple customers in the store who all knew me, he didn’t know me though, that were just, like, head turned. Oh my god, let’s get out of here. Kayla’s mad.

Kayla: I was just, and I realized when I told that story, ’cause I think you brought up, um, a time where you overreacted–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: –and I was like, “Oh, I definitely overreacted.”

Laura: Hmm.

Kayla: And I genuinely wanted to apologize and he never came back to Starbucks again.

Laura: So, if you’re listening, sir–

Kayla: I’m so sorry.

Laura: –she’s so sorry.

Kayla: I’m so sorry.

Laura: Wasn’t your fault.

Kayla: It made a great story. It made me realize a lot about myself. But, no, I was feeling, um, I was feeling incompetent. He was telling me how to do my job.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I was feeling insignificant because my boss left me to, like, run this place and with little or no, like, for $11/hour, I might add.

Laura: Yeah. And, well, it’s possible that this guy was also triggered.

Kayla: Yeah. Definitely.

Laura: Right? So, he probably had his own things going on.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: This is what happens in human dynamics. So, he’s sitting at the Starbucks. He’s working. He’s thinking, his own significance is being triggered because you’re, you know, loudly stacking chairs. How dare you–

Kayla: When he’s trying to work.

Laura: –in his space, while he’s trying to work.

Kayla: In his co-working space.

Laura: He’s a paying customer. I assume he’s a paying customer.

Kayla: Yeah. He had a tall coffee, so–

Laura: Spent like $1.80.

Kayla: Cheapest thing on the menu, but, no I’m just kidding.

Laura: So probably that was happening for him–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and so even if he might have been trying to like, fake nice, he probably had even the slightest bit of edge, you know–

Kayla: Oh.

Laura: –we do the openness diagram. We have that dotted orange line for tone and body language and these things that just sort of ooze out of us.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: My gut says he probably was not like super open, authentic, chill–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Like–

Kayla: He wasn’t like, “Hey, I’m trying to work right now–

Laura: Right.

Kayla: –could you just, could I just have a couple more minutes?”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I might have reacted way better to–

Laura: Right.

Kayla: –like “you’re doing this a little loud.”

Laura: I don’t bring that up for the sake of blame.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: It’s not about blame.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: It’s just about understanding what happens with the interpersonal dynamics in the situation like this and so he might have been even just the slightest bit triggered. You, as you’ve described, had a lot happening for yourself, and this is why, by the way, for leaders and really any human being it’s so critical to do self-care.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Just make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Make sure that you’re not overworking yourself. Make sure that you are eating healthy. You’re making time for exercise. You’re making time for play and fun and all of that.

Kayla: Right. I wasn’t doing any of those things.

Laura: Because that gives you the emotional bandwidth to show up the way that you want to show up even if you have a customer be a little triggered and like talk to you in what was probably a little bit rude. My gut. I wasn’t there.

Kayla: Oh no. He was definitely not the nicest person I’ve ever encountered.

Laura: Right. Right. So he was triggered. So–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura:  –he had his own insecurities going on.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And it’s these teeny tiny examples that can be really, really informative for us. A lot of people, when I like to dive into these, are like, “Well, this is just a small example.” I’m like, “Perfect.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: “Let’s use it.” Because it’s the same things that trigger us in little ways–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –like that that can trigger us in really big ways and they all tend to come back and tie to something that was really, really important for us when we were growing up.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: Or, like we talked about last night, it doesn’t have to be purely from, you know, childhood experiences.

Kayla: Oh, yeah.

Laura: We can have really big, impactful events happen to us as adults that can create new insecurities and new things that trigger us and new ways that we show up defensively.

Kayla: Yeah. Oh, totally. I realize, like, I did say this last night but they weren’t there, so–

Laura: They weren’t, you guys missed it.

Kayla: I’ll let you know.

Laura: It was great.

Kayla: But yeah. My ex-boyfriend was just super in, in a not obvious way, controlling and it really, I, even to this day realize that it affects me and that was, like, almost four years ago.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: And I even took a break from dating, that I was just like, “I can’t. I cannot do this. Like I can’t. I don’t have the, like, emotional wherewithal for this.” And, um, I never realized that something that happened when I was so much older still just broke me down in all these little ways. And even

Kayla: I was really outgoing in school. Like, up until a certain grade in high school and I was like competence shot, like everything just like super low and it came out of nowhere. I was such an outgoing kid. I was always super, super talkative, like just–

Kayla: And I told you I make that face.

Kayla: You’re like, “Do you ever make that face?” And I was like, “I make that face.”

Kayla: I made a great face. So, um, yeah, I just, I, I brush off those things because one of my, one of like my mantras throughout my whole life was you just laugh it off. You know? Like, something bad happens, you laugh it off. And I never realized that me laughing things off was me defending how I really felt about it.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like, maybe I do need to cry about this. Or maybe I do need to, like, dig deep in how this made me feel and rewind it or change the story on it so it’s not affecting me anymore.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And, um, yeah. I don’t know, I don’t really know where I was going with that, but totally.

Laura: I love that. I love that you just said, and one of my favorite, like, one-liners, to that point is if you wanna get out of it you have to get into it.

Kayla: Yeah. Wow.

Laura: So that idea–

Kayla: I’ve never heard that one.

Laura: Yeah, it’s good, right?

Kayla: I like that.

Laura: I like it. I think I got that from Judi Bell, one of my mentors. She’s amazing. Um, but yeah. This idea of, so I mean, I love the idea of being able to laugh something off.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I love the idea of I choose to not allow this to affect me.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I choose to not give my power away to this person or this situation, but there’s a way that we can deceive ourselves–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –into thinking that’s what we’re doing, but in reality, it’s like these little, you know, negative, ugly little gremlins that are just sort of being stored internally–

Kayla: Love that movie.

Laura: Right? Whatever you wanna call them, and so you tell yourself that you’re just laughing it off–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura:  –but it’s actually just building up in you and that’s when you have a moment where you turn to your customer and tell them to shut the up.

Kayla: Yeah, and leave me alone.

Laura: And leave you alone. So, being able to recognize the difference, like when we talk about the  , which we’ve brought up a couple of times now, there are things on there that people have asked the question, like, “Well, I mean, can I ever do this behavior and have it not be defensiveness?” And it’s yeah, absolutely. ‘Cause there’s things like, you know, trivializing with humor and also loss of humor. Both of those are signs of defensiveness.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I could also choose to use humor, not in a defensive way–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –but in a way that’s genuinely designed to help me create bonds and connect with people–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and create levity and joy. Um, uh, teaching or preaching is on there as a sign of defensiveness. Yeah, I could absolutely be teaching or preaching, not from a place of defensiveness–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –but truly to educate and so–

Kayla: Like, being nice is on there.

Laura: Being too nice.

Kayla: Being too nice.

Laura: Absolutely. Which, okay, ah, I love this one. Can we talk about this?

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Is this one of yours?

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Ooh.

Kayla: Me? Too nice?

Laura: Do you have an example or a story that you can share with the listeners of when you were using being too nice actually as a, as a sign or as a way to defend–

Kayla: As a sign. Yeah.

Laura: –a way to defend against whatever you would feel if you weren’t then being too nice.

Kayla: So, this is probably, besides over explaining my top–

Laura: Okay.

Kayla: ‘Cause if I’m not over explaining, I’m being too nice.

Kayla: Um, I’m a, I’m a bend and snapper. You know, I just will twist any way to, for whatever story I have in my head, to make them happy.

Laura: Mm hmm. The other person.

Kayla: To make the friend happy, the person I’m dating happy, the whatever, whatever happy.

Laura: Your boss?

Kayla: My boss is a piece of work.

Laura: Sitting right next to ya. Hi.

Kayla: No, I definitely, and I think I do it so subconsciously that I think I’m doing what I want to do.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: And it takes me, like, a while to realize, “Crap. This isn’t what I want.” So, I’m trying to think of something

Laura: It could be, even, just like a really small example–

Kayla: Yeah, a little small one.

Laura: –where somebody wanted to do “x” and you wanted to do “y”–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: You were afraid that if you expressed an interest in doing something different than what they wanted to do–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –that something, some feeling, something would happen, right? So, you chose to just do what they wanted to do.

Kayla: Oh, yeah, that’s my whole life.

Kayla: So, I have an opposite story where I noticed that I’m not, I didn’t do that.

Laura: Ooh. Okay.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So this is like growth.

Kayla: Yeah. Growth. A growth story.

Laura: Alright. So, so tell me.

Kayla: So, um, it was fourth day into Human Element and I re– I was sitting in the car and I was just boiling with anxiety with a situation that’s like with my two best friends. Um, one of my friends who lives with me needed a key to the house and my other best friend and I were gonna go get tattoos. And I just had this insane story in my head that I could not, for whatever reason, go home and shower, get the key over to him, and go over and meet with her. Like I thought if I told her, “Hey, I need to go do this,” she would (her name is Rebekah– she’s the best person on earth) she would, um, be like, “Oh, do you not want to do this?” Or, like, something like that. Or maybe not even want to get them with me anymore. And then I would think about this forever about how I didn’t like get my tattoo because I needed to get my– the story. You know?

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: These stories. And for probably the first time ever, I stopped. I was in my car and I was like, “What’s going on in your head right now?” And I was like, “I don’t know.” Like I don’t think– it wasn’t like I was in my head, “Oh, she’s gonna be mad at me.” If I– but I didn’t even know, like, what was, why I was so anxious. And I’m telling you, like, anxious. Like throat damn near closed, my heart’s beating fast. The window’s down because I’m like–

Kayla: –breathing and I’m like, “What’s going on? These are your people. You leave the country in four days. Everyone wants to see you.” You know?

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like, that’s what I’m telling myself consciously and they’re still– so I picked up the phone and I FaceTim-ed her and I was like, “Hey. I think I’m gonna be a little late.” Straight out. “I think I’m gonna be a little late. I have to go do this and take a shower and I, I really want to see Elvis” which was the guy I was dating and she was like, “Okay.” Just like–

Laura: No problem.

Kayla: No problem. And I was just like what would I have done to, like, probably before I would have maybe skipped taking a shower, which I really wanted to do, I was so tired. I probably would have not gone home and just like went over to drop the key off and then, like, just strained myself in all of these weird ways to do something that’s, like, not even real.

Laura: Yeah, ok –

Kayla: Not even like a real situation. I would have definitely done that and then what would’ve happened is I would’ve gotten to Becky’s and realized, “Oh, we’re not even ready to go”–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –and then beat myself up about, like, all the things I could’ve done instead of freaking out. So, yeah.

Laura: So, this is a really, really good example for how when we make decisions rooted in fear we can manifest the very thing we’re afraid of.

Kayla: That too.

Laura: So you didn’t do that.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Right? This is a great example of your growth–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –of you being more tuned into your body and your physiological reactions, checking out your stories, thinking, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Can I cope with that, it’s probably fine, and of course it was way worse in your mind–

Kayla: Oh yeah.

Laura: –than it was in reality.

Kayla: It’s always worse in my mind.

Laura: So, let’s play that out. Right? So let’s say that you didn’t do that. Let’s say that you were trying to do this whole being too nice. You were not–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –um, you know, focused on getting your own interests met, of like wanting to take a shower, wanting to go see all this whatever, you would have carried with you that like mer-

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Mer.

Kayla: I would’ve been in a bad mood.

Laura: You would’ve’ been in a bad mood so you would have shown up differently–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –with everybody there and so your desire to, like, please other people and avoid a negative situation actually would have not pleased other people and created a negative situation.

Kayla: Created a negative situation. Totally.

Laura: And this is what happens to us all the time and it’s so bananas.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so, like, it’s completely counterintuitive so often for people to just be like, “Aw man. What if I just say what I’m thinking?”

Kayla: Thinking.

Laura: “What if I just make a request?” You know? And the fears that we have are, are, they can seem so backwards once we surface them but if we don’t surface them then it’s just like the whole, it’s just water to a fish.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: We just think this is the way the world is.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: We just think this is how humans are. This is the way I don’t even know. It’s just, this is what I tell myself about the world.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So that process of down, noticing, questioning assumptions, it’s, it’s crazy how big of a difference it can make.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And it’s all of these little moments when you’re talking about, you know, one evening, one week, but this is life.

Kayla: Oh, yeah.

Laura: That’s life.

Kayla: There’s like–

Laura: It’s all the time.

Kayla: I noticed, what, yesterday? Yeah. I noticed yesterday that, um, so Vanesa, one of the people here with Remote Year with us, like messaged me, asking what I was doing. And I got nervous.

Kayla: Like, I was like, I was like, “I don’t want her to not like me.” And it’s like, why would she not like you? Like, you know? And then I, I noticed instantly that I, I, um, for a second like ignored her message which is one of the things I do when someone I like texts me, I’ll like avoid it for a little bit because I don’t want them to not like me even though that in itself would manifest them not liking me–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: –’cause they’re like, “She never responds to me.” Like, she doesn’t like me.

Laura: Right.

Kayla: So, I was like, why are you not—like, you like this person. Why are you not messaging her back?

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like, what’s going on with you?

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And then I tried to like talk to myself about it for a second so I was like, “What are you afraid of?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I’m afraid I’ll be boring.” And I was like, “Are you a boring person?” And I was like, “No.”

Kayla: I guess not. I guess that’s not true. And I was like, “Message her back.” And I was like, “Okay.” And I did. And it was fine. And that’s the thing, it’s just like–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –I do it so often that it’s, it’s uncovering how rooted in me it is, is the biggest step–

Laura:  Yeah.

Kayla: –that I’m like pretty much always, like — and it always comes back to “Is this person mad at me?” And then that really comes back to, like, that whole, like always getting yelled at as a kid. So, it like definitely does come from there. ‘Cause even with, um, a friendship I had where she was, like, oddly emotionally controlling for a friend, and the relationship I was in, it did still come back to “Are they mad at me?”

Kayla: Like, are they mad at me right now? Are they gonna yell at me? I don’t like that. And just like I said with the exercise with Ayan and Denny, I didn’t like that they were “mad” at me.

Laura: And, like you said, when you grew up, you maybe had some authority figures in your life–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –who would express anger in a way that you found very, very frightening.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Very frightening.

Kayla: And it’s just like a lot of yelling. Like, yelling is terrifying. Don’t yell at kids.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Just like go nose-to-nose with them. Like, “Hey, what’s up? What’s going on right now?”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: When I used to, um, nanny, um, there was one– ’cause I also consciously know like, this isn’t your kid. You’re getting paid a lot of money to watch this kid. Like, you can’t just yell at her.

Kayla: But um–

Laura: Work harder.

Kayla: She was, like, tantrum. Like, screaming. I didn’t even know that her mom was home. And I really did, I got down on her level and I was like, “What’s going on?”

Laura: Yeah. what’s up?

Kayla: Do you wanna do dolls? Do you wanna play bubbles? Like, what’s going on? And she was like, “I wanna do bubbles!” And I was like, “We can do, we can do that. We’re not stuck in here.”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And she was like, “Huh.” I was like, “Yeah. Do you wanna go do bubbles?” She was like, “Yeah.”

Laura: Awesome.

Kayla: Yeah. Awesome.

Laura: Tantrum over.

Kayla: Yeah. Like that. And I could have very well been like, “What’s wrong with you? Like, stop crying. Like, you have everything you want.”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And then her mom later on she was like, “I really like the way you talk to her.” And I was like, “Oh, you were there?” ‘Cause they had a nanny cam on me. They had everything.

Laura: Oh jeez.

Kayla: And so I didn’t, I don’t care. I’m, like, I was really sweet to this girl. And her name was Simone. And, um she was like, “Yeah. You asked her what was wrong like she was an adult and she liked that.”

Laura: Yeah. Yes.

Kayla: And I was like, “Yeah, it’s true.” Like, if an adult talked to me like that I probably would have been like, this is what’s going on–

Laura: Right.

Kayla: –and I don’t like it–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –and here’s the solution.

Laura: Okay, so that’s really cool and it triggered this other thought in me that I actually wanted to say earlier which is that, you know, part of the concepts with The Human Element, , and this is true in executive coaching as well, is believing that humans are whole and resourceful. So, we so often, and the whole being too nice as a defense is a great example of this, so often we find ourselves doing things, overextending ourselves, not getting our own interests met because we feel like it’s up to us to take care of other people as though they are not capable of taking care of themselves.

Kayla: Totally.

Laura: As though they are not capable of speaking for themselves to say, “I do want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I would like to eat that. I don’t want to eat that.” And of course we do find that there are people who don’t speak up openly–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –about what it is they do or don’t want. But what happens to me, as an individual, if I find myself walking through the world assuming that people aren’t gonna take care of themselves and it’s up to me,–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –Holy hell. That is a hell of a load.

Kayla: And I don’t want that.

Laura: I don’t want that and I won’t do it.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I choose not to do it.

Kayla: And it’s like this um, and that triggered for me the, those friends that you just sometimes think of them as the moms of the group, you know, they call themselves that.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And it’s like, “Oh, I’m always the mom of the group.” And, like, you choose to do that.

Laura: You choose that.

Kayla: You know? Or I’m like, you’re like, I have a friend who, like, claims that he’s always like, you know, like the one that has it together– and I was like, “You choose that.”

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: You could be as bat-shit crazy as us if you wanted and do whatever you wanted.

Laura: Yeah, you could be as, you know, non-uptight–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –you could be as, like, loose and chill as you wanna be.

Kayla: You’re literally choosing to view the world this way, as it needs your help and we don’t.

Kayla: I don’t.

Laura: Right? To the extent that anybody feels like it’s not a choice, to the extent that I tell myself a story that I have to or I can’t do it any other way, that is exactly when you know that it is a defense.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: That is rigidity.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So, we talk about defensiveness and rigidity and fear. They’re all the same thing.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: And so, when somebody tells themselves a story like “I have to” or “I can’t not do it,” that is a perfect example of, okay, you have an opportunity to figure out what is this about. What is the anxiety or the fear that I will feel if I do not play this role? What is it that I think will happen? Chances are it’s far worse in my head–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –than it is in reality.

Kayla: Always.

Laura: And then I can ask myself that question that I love so much which is, “If this horrible thing happens that I think might happen, can I cope with it?”

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: That’s the only fear that we ever have is that I cannot cope with what’s happening in my world. Not about what’s happening in my world.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: It’s all about my ability to cope. Which is why I like to focus so much, not just in The Human Element but with everything I do, the self. Because if I am focused on enhancing my own capacity, my own capability to cope with whatever comes, my fear drops down to minimal levels–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –my flexibility expands the full range and I am able to be as effective as I wanna be in any situation that I’m in.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So as soon as you check yourself, and I’m using “you” intentionally now for the listeners, when you notice yourself saying, “I have to be like this” or “I can’t do it any other way”, use that. Figure out what that fear is. Imagine the scenario. Play it out in your head. And I used to be really good at catastrophizing. I was the best at the “What’s the worst that can happen?” game. But play that out. And think about what would happen.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And also ask yourself, “What would be different for me if I assumed that other human beings in this world can take care of themselves?”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And I’m not saying that, like– I mean, I’m huge into interdependence and you know I believe that about humanity and I love to have strong relationships with people so I’m not saying that. I’m saying each person can choose to take care of themselves and then our lives can be enhanced through our relationships.


Laura: So what if you stopped assuming that other people were incompetent and incapable of handling themselves? Just like you were able to have this conversation with a child–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –an actual child–

Kayla: A four year old.

Laura: –a four year old and say, “Hey. What’s happening? What’s going on for you? What would you like?”

Kayla: And she was able to answer me

Kayla: –and say this is what’s happening. And I also wanna note we are in the middle of downtown Malaysia.

Laura: If they just heard the honking.

Kayla: Yeah. That we’re in the middle of downtown Malaysia. We don’t have the nice sound booth we used to have.

Laura: No. No sound booth.

Kayla: So, if you hear the noises, just give it a pass.

Laura: Just go, “Hey. That’s Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for you.”

Kayla: Yeah, we’re down in the “Lump.”

Laura: In the “Lump”!

Kayla: Yeah. That’s cute, right?

Kayla: Yeah, I just wanted to mention that. If you hear that–

Laura: that was a really loud horn.

Laura: I gotta think they’re gonna hear that.

Laura: That’s happening.

Kayla: Sorry guys.

Laura: Anyway.

Kayla: But, um, yeah. I was able to have this discussion with a child.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Little girl.

Laura: And, and children are. They tend to be more capable than we often give them credit for.

Kayla: Oh, yeah.

Laura: Um, you know, they feed off of the energy of the people around them. Children and adults.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: And, you know, you talked earlier about how this stuff is intergenerational and that’s so true.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so, for me, you know, one of our core values that we preach about all the time is progress over perfection. So, I actually have been accused in the past of not wanting to have kids because I don’t think it’s possible to be a perfect parent.

Kayla: Mm.

Laura: I’m like, “Oh. That’s an interesting (and I’m using “interesting” intentionally)– that’s an interesting thought.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I don’t think it’s possible to be a perfect parent. I don’t think it’s possible to be a perfect anything.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: All parents are going to behave in ways that affect their children positively and not so positively.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So, the main goal in my mind is let’s just raise our awareness of how our experiences and our behavior is affecting other people and how other people’s behavior is affecting us. The more aware we are of it, the more intentional we can be.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So, the whole idea of self-awareness, too, which ties into choices, when I am more conscious about the stories in my mind–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –then I realize that I am making these conscious choices. I am choosing to be the mother of this group. I am choosing to be the one that has it all together. And I could choose something differently if I want to.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So what do I want?

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: What do I want?

Kayla: What do I want?

Laura: How often do I find myself complaining about my life, complaining about the world? This sucks, that– like, okay. What do you want?

Kayla: Then change it.

Laura: Yeah. Nothing is stopping you from, from doing what you wanna do, being who you wanna be, except for you.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And I’m not judging or blaming with that statement. It’s actually really exciting to me.

Kayla: Yeah. Exactly. ‘Cause it’s like it kind of almost could give, and I’ll speak for me, would give me like this sense of anxiety, like, oh, then I chose all this dumb shit that happened to me.

Laura: Right.

Kayla: But it was like no, no, no. I chose the way I reacted to it and I can now choose, now that I know that was a choice, I can choose to react differently.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: Which is awesome.

Laura: Well, and so I wanna–

Kayla: Just all get it out of us.

Laura: Wow. So, this is a whole subject that probably warrants its own episode but I wanna say one more thing about choice because in addition to the idea that I choose how I respond to anything happening in my life, part of what we ask people to consider in The Human Element is that perhaps you also choose the events that are happening that you are then responding to.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so here’s like a really, really simple example. So, if I take the very basic stimulus response, something happens, I choose how I respond, let’s say that as I walk into the office the receptionist maybe kind of makes a face or–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –says good morning and has, like, a tone. Okay. I can choose how I respond to that.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: I can choose to snarl back or I can make a face–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Right? Or I could choose to smile, be friendly, I could even engage with her, find out what’s going on. “Hey. You doing okay?”

Kayla: “Yeah, how are you?”

Laura: “What’s going on with you?”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So I can make that choice, right? But what we ask people to consider is let’s take the same example and back that up a little bit more. And let’s say that what I don’t realize is that maybe for the last two or three days I have come in and I have been really busy, maybe I’ve been on the phone, and I have completely ignored this person.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: And so on this third or fourth day or whatever it is I walk in and she kind of gives me some attitude. So, I might look at that and go, “Whoa.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: “Look at this stimulus.” And “Ooh, I get to now respond to it.” But what if I also consider the fact that I am contributing to the stimulus that is in my environment?

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I am actually behaving in ways that is creating my environment.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so I feel like that’s just a really simple example–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –that people can start to open their eyes and go, “It’s not just about how do I respond to this person that’s maybe giving me some attitude in the morning–

Kayla: But how are people responding to me.

Laura: –but how, how did I maybe contribute to that?” What was my contribution? And making an assumption that I always have some contribution, that through my action or inaction there’s always something–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –that I contributed to whatever my current reality is. And choosing to not blame myself for that but rather look at that as useful information that allows me to make more conscious choices moving forward.

Kayla: Yeah. Totes.

Laura: I find that to be so freaking cool.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: That’s why power of choice–

Kayla: You get to like take control of your life–

Laura: –is a core value for us.

Kayla: I get to take control of my life.

Laura: Yeah. It’s so cool to me. Like, and I had the same reaction that I think you were describing a moment ago where I could feel really overwhelmed or I could beat myself up or I could be like, “Well, this sucks. What do you mean I chose this?” And like I would wanna deflect that–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –and I would choose to not see all the ways I was contributing because I would be–

Kayla: I could choose to over explain how it’s not my fault.

Laura: –um, yeah, I’d be mad at myself, beat up on myself. So what if I don’t do that? What if I practice self-compassion? And I just open up my mind to consider all of the ways that I’m actually creating the world that I’m living in, especially the parts of my world that I don’t like.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: ‘Cause if I can be more aware of that, that is so cool.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Now I can do something with that.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So I love it and, you know, it’s one of the concepts that we introduce that tends to bring a lot of discussion.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And a lot of resistance. And part of–

Kayla: ‘Cause I think people, and I think I’m gonna speak generally here, I think people don’t want to– let me change that. There’s a payoff to thinking that things just happen.

Laura: Ooh. I like that.

Kayla: Yeah. Like–

Laura: There is.

Kayla: –there’s, there’s like, or like how you said to me once, there’s like a payoff to not being aware.

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: You know? Like–

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: And you don’t have to deal with it.

Laura: Yes.

Kayla: You can just deal with it how you’ve been dealing with it–

Laura: Well–

Kayla: –which is ignoring it or being defensive–

Laura: Yes. Yes.

Kayla: –or, you know, totally. So…

Laura: And a payoff– so, whenever we talk about – how am I unconsciously choosing things in my life that I don’t like?–

Kayla: Mm hmm. I have a good example of that.

Laura: –the payoff usually comes back to the self-concept. So, if I choose to believe that just bad things happen in this world and there’s nothing that I can do about it–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –then I don’t have to feel bad about myself. I don’t have to feel that I’m incompetent or that I’m unlikable.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I get to believe that I’m okay but that doesn’t actually help me get closer to where I want to be.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: It just helps me–

Kayla: Now I’m just like, “Oh the world’s like this.”

Laura: –“justify” (in air quotes) and, and so that’s where I really want people to, to shift their mindset. You had, you said you have an example?

Kayla: Well, yeah. It was like, my dating life.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: I was just gung ho on this whole “Guys are just assholes and there’s nothing you can do about it,” like–

Laura: Right.

Kayla: –they just act like this and then you leave when they do and, um, I realize I, (and this was a big one for me. I don’t even think this was during the workshop. I think I just genuinely realized this one day.) Oh, no. You helped me. I teach people how to treat me.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I choose to be like, “Well, this is fine. Well, it’s okay.”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: “Well, it’s fine.” Or like, “Oh, well, he took this but I’m not gonna say anything–

Laura: Yeah, I won’t say anything.

Kayla: –’cause I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna seem like a bitch or I don’t wanna be like–

Laura: I don’t wanna seem needy.

Kayla: –and it’s just like, well, first of all, if doing that makes me a bitch, would I want to date someone that thinks me doing that–

Laura: Makes you a bitch?

Kayla: –makes me a bitch?

Laura: Right. Right?

Kayla: No. I don’t. Like, take me how I am. I’m not gonna– and like that first relationship that I was describing, I did a lot of bending and snapping where I was like, “Well I don’t want him to blah, blah, blah, I don’t want him to do that.” And by doing that, by bending this way so he’s not mad or doing this or doing that, I wasn’t myself and he didn’t like that person that I was.

Laura: Right.

Kayla: You know?

Laura: Right.

Kayla: Whereas the most recent person I dated, I was just blatantly like, this is how I am. Because we were friends before–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –we dated. I was just like, “This is who I am.”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Bleh.

Kayla: And it was, like, awesome.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: Because, like, for the first time I was like, I wasn’t afraid to, you know, say what I had to say in order to sound like a bitch. It was just like, “No. This is what I’m gonna say. If you think I’m a bitch then you’re probably not the person I wanna spend my time with.” Or–

Laura: Yeah. .

Kayla: –if you think I’m sensitive or if you think I, like, then, cool, we’re not compatible.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And that’s fine. Whereas before I would, I have this in my head that I needed to be a kind of person in order to– so I chose all these stupid things. I chose to be like, “Oh, it’s okay if he doesn’t like call me.” You know what? No, it’s not okay.

Laura: Right.

Kayla: I don’t like it.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I’m gonna tell you that I don’t like it and if you don’t like that I don’t like it, then–

Laura: Yeah. And I wanna say–

Kayla: *(inaud)

Laura: –you know, that, so being open with your communication doesn’t– you keep saying like, “Oh, they’ll think I’m a bitch.” Well, so you can say it in a way that’s bitchy–

Kayla: Yeah. No. Totally.

Laura: You could. You could be like, “Dude. You didn’t call me and that’s not okay.”

Kayla: Yeah, or I could–

Laura: Or–

Kayla: What’s even a better example is, uh, as much as I don’t like people being mad at me, I hate being annoying. I was called annoying a lot as a kid.

Laura: Awww.

Kayla: I was like, oh my god, and it’s true, I was pretty annoying.

Kayla: I just know I was so annoying to the fact that I would, like, if you were sleeping (this is my grandmother), I would crawl in her bed, open her eye, and be like, “Hey. Like, I’m hungry.”

Laura: Wow.

Kayla: Like, you know?

Laura: Wow.

Kayla: Time for you to wake up. So,

Laura: Yeah, that’s a little annoying.

Kayla: Super annoying.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Like, no one– so, like, well if I was called annoying as a kid it was probably very warranted but it did do something to me. I felt, you know, annoying makes you unlikable, getting called annoying is not fun–

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: –and, um, I don’t like to be annoying and I think that’s a better example of, um, what was going on for me in that dating world. Where I just like, I didn’t want to be annoying. I didn’t wanna be nagging. I didn’t wanna be, you know, all the things I saw my step-mom be. I didn’t wanna be, like, I didn’t wanna be that person.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: I just wanted to be chill Kayla. And it’s hard being chill–

Laura: ‘Cause you’re not. It’s fake.

Kayla: Yeah. It’s fake chill.

Laura: It’s total deception.

Kayla: ‘Cause I can be chill-chill and genuine chill–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –like how I was or I could be like, I don’t wanna be annoying so let me just–

Laura: Let me just pretend like I don’t care.

Kayla: –pretend like I don’t care about this.

Laura: So, and that’s where first truth first is really useful. And I, I use this.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: I use this in my current relationship where, you know, if we’re having a conversation and I don’t feel like it’s fully resolved and I have a story in my head that he doesn’t wanna talk about this anymore, I know I’m not going to feel the sense of calm and resolution and love and everything that I wanna feel if I let it go–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –so my first truth is that I say, “I notice, I notice I’m really, um, I’m really concerned that you’re going to feel annoyed that I wanna keep talking about this. Um, I just know for myself I would really enjoy the rest of our day so much more if we can finish talking about this and feel connected again.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And I’ve had a lot of great luck with that. That works pretty well.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: Um, so I can express that fear and I can say this is still what’s happening for me and, you know, most of the time it’s, it’s real. There was something more there for us to work through.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And then when we get to that point and, and I, I feel it. And I think the listeners know what I’m talking about. That moment of like, “Yeah, okay.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: “We’re actually good now.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: It’s not like, “Okay, it’s fine.” It’s not that moment of–

Kayla: It’s not fine.

Laura: –eh, it’s not fine.

Kayla: It’s that orange, like, dotted line you’re talking about that seeps out of you. Like–

Laura: It does.

Kayla: –I tell my friend about that all the time, like, your lies, like, seep right out of you.

Kayla: They just crawl out of your skin.

Laura: Yes. Just stop doing it.

Kayla: Stop it.

Laura: You’re not nearly as good at this as you think you are.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: You’re really not.

Kayla: And you guys are not good at lying.

Laura: You know I don’t like generalizations.

Kayla: I know, but they’re really bad at it.

Laura: You think women are good at it?

Kayla: Yeah. I think they’re good–

Laura: Really?

Laura: Alright. Here’s what I will say. I think there are some men that are good liars and some men that are not and some women that are good liars and some women that are not.

Kayla: Alright. Yeah. No generalizations.

Laura: That’s what I say ’cause I do not like generalizations.

Kayla: Yeah. That’s fair. Can I say many men—

Kayla: –no, just kidding. Um, but yeah. I think that, I know that I cannot hide it when I’m– I could have the biggest, best smile on earth and if I’m mad, you can tell even if I’m smiling.

Laura: Yeah. .

Kayla: And you’re like, “Uh, Kayla–

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: –are you doing alright?”

Laura: I think we had a moment like that a couple days ago. You said something with like this huge smile on your face and I was like, “Are you doing okay?”

Kayla: Doing great. Yeah. Um, so it does. It seeps right out of you. I think it’s true for most people.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: If you are lying, it’s gonna– or, you know, withholding–

Laura: Withholding. Yeah, pretending.

Kayla: Anything. We said that at the same time, that was so cute.

Laura: That was so cute.

Kayla: Yeah, it just drips out of you like little droplets of nervous sweat.

Laura: Yeah. And people pick up on it consciously and/or subconsciously.

Kayla: And then they make up a story.

Laura: They make up a story about it. And that’s, yeah, we spent a lot of time during The Human Element this last month talking, really, really making the case for how valuable it is in relationships to be open. People are like, “Well, but this is my issue. Like, I’m just reacting to it ’cause it’s my thing.” But then that person was there in the room and we would turn to that person and say, “Did you notice that this person was having a reaction to what you said?” “Yes I did.”

Kayla: Yeah. Yeah.

Laura: And so, the more things go unspoken–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –the more each person’s creating their own story and it just builds up and it’s this crap between them and it’s kind of to the point, you know, where down the road they don’t even really know what happened that it’s like this weird sort of strained or awkward relationship–

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: –and they just notice they try to avoid each other. And so I, I, my experience of it from the facilitator perspective, ’cause everybody was contributing to these conversations, was that I think it was really compelling to people how important it is to genuinely practice openness–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –that in the moment that I feel triggered, even when it’s my stuff, okay, it’s okay, it’s my stuff, so let me own that.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I can choose to be open with you about everything that is in my awareness right now.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: I can say, “Wow. I notice I’m having a reaction to what you just said.” And you can be like, “Really? What’s going on?” And I go, go like, “I’m not sure. I don’t know.”

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: But you know that I’m trying to process through it. I’m, I’m owning that it’s my feeling–

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: –my thought that I wanna uncover. As I uncover that I can share that with you. You can share what your intention– like, and that’s the whole point, right?

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And like maybe this is a good wrapping section here, because–

Kayla: ‘Cause we could go on for years.

Laura: We could. And we will.

Laura: But we go so deep in The Human Element with self-awareness, not because we want people in organizations to sit around analyzing themselves all day and talking about their feelings all day. We go as deep as we do and we build the skills around self-awareness and openness and choice because when interpersonal things come up, we wanna deal with it right then in the moment so we can get back to work.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: That is the whole point. That is the point.

Kayla: Saves time.

Laura: So, Will Schutz, who developed The Human Element, he, he was all about productivity in organizations. That’s what this was. And so recognizing how common interpersonal issues are and how much time gets wasted is so, so important in my mind because it’s not something that you have to “blanketly” accept about this is just how people are in the workplace. It’s not how it has to be. You can have a workplace where people do not allow the interpersonal things to go on for, for hours, days, weeks, months, years. It can be the kind of workforce where people have self-awareness and they have the skills to be open in the moment, work through whatever’s happening, and then get back to the task at hand.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And I think that’s so beautiful.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And it’s just a more fun way to live, too.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: Like, not carrying all that crap around all the time.

Kayla: Easier way to work. You know, even someone in Human Element asked me. They were like, “Well, what’s it like working with Laura?” I was like, “It’s awesome. I can turn and be like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what the to do right now–‘”

Kayla: “I need your help.” And you can be like, “Cool. Here’s help.” And that’s 10 minutes of your time.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: 10 minutes of my time. Not three hours of me going, “Oh god, I just don’t want her to think I’m an idiot.”

Laura: Right.

Kayla: Like, I don’t want her to be like, “Gosh, this girl can’t get anything done.”

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And it’s just like, that would never happen.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: And how much time I save–

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kayla: –daily by just being like, “Hey.”

Laura: This is what’s going on for me.

Kayla: “This is what’s going on for me.”

Laura: And we get better at it.

Kayla: “I’m feeling anxious about this. I don’t know how to work Excel.” And you’re like, “Cool. This is how you do it.”

Laura: Let’s do some formulas.

Laura: Yeah. And that’s why we talk about how doing this work really is, like, what gives you a competitive edge.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: When you have everybody in your workforce really developing this skill set and growing their own self-awareness and developing the courage to be more open and in the moment, you save so much time.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: Your workforce is so much more engaged.

Kayla: Mm hmm.

Laura: They enjoy coming into work. They love what they’re doing more.

Kayla: And they like each other.

Laura: They like each other. They appreciate each other.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: They inspire each other. It’s amazing and beautiful what happens.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: And so I just – clearly I’m passionate about this stuff.

Kayla: We might like it.

Laura: Might, might like it. And thank you, Kayla.

Kayla: Of course.

Laura: This was awesome, as always. Like you said, like, legit, we could just talk for hours and hours and we will.

Kayla: We could do like a part two, three, four…

Laura: Yeah. We’ll keep it going.

Kayla: Do each module.

Laura: And we’re gonna rock some video too soon, y’all.

Kayla: Yeah.

Laura: So if you’re into that.

Kayla: Maybe even some Facebook Live. So, yeah.

Laura: Yeah.

Kayla: Be around.

Laura: Keep an eye out.

Kayla: Like I said, we’re cute.

Laura: We got, we got some things going on.

Kayla: Got some things.

Laura: That’s cool. Anything else, Kayla?

Kayla: Um, no. Like I said, I could go on forever so I really like the way you tied that up there–

Laura: Nice.

Kayla: –so props, boss.

Laura: Cool.

Kayla: Pop– doc–

Kayla: I was trying to say like props and boss and doc all in the same time and I just said pop. Alright and… out.

Laura: Nailed it. Nailed it.

Kayla: Nailed it.


Outro: Hope you enjoyed this chat! I realize I often forget to mention that we have show notes with links and full transcript of our conversation on our website, which you can find at If you find this information useful, please reach out to me at We could bring these workshops into your organization, or you could invite me to do a talk at your next leadership event or conference where I can teach concepts through story-telling directly to you and your audience or your team. Ooh, also – we are starting a Facebook Live stream that we’re calling Coffee or Wine because of our fun time zone difference. Uh, we’re in Malaysia right now. For now, check us out on Sunday evenings at 7 pm Eastern. By the time this comes out, we will have already started, so you can also choose to follow me, Laura Gallaher on Facebook and watch the videos of what we’ve already put out. This is a very interactive forum where we encourage viewers to ask us real time questions that maybe come up for you when you listen to the podcast but you can’t just reach out real time! And of course, if you do have questions about what we chat about here on this show, please email us at or and ask your questions or make requests for what you’d like us to talk about. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll talk again soon!

Recent Posts