As many organizations are taking steps to create dialogue on racism and inclusivity, they must ask themselves: Are we communicating in ways that actually allow others to feel comfortable and welcome enough to speak up?
In a recent Q&A interview with Paul Osincup, president for the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, he shared his rule to guarantee others feel included and acknowledged.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Have you ever had to “unlearn” something in your professional life?
The thing that comes to mind for me is speaking up too often. When I was a young professional in a role maybe higher than what I should be for my age or education level, I always felt like it was okay for me and even necessary at times to really speak my mind or show my competence and confidence and brilliance and all this.
But then, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I’m taking up space that other people can use. I actually even instituted a rule in meetings for myself. That’s three and then me. Three people get to talk first, then I’ll allow myself to chime in with my thoughts.
What’s something you find challenging about your work?
Currently right now, with COVID and everything.I feel like I’ve been able to adapt well. I was doing online keynotes and things like that prior to this. But now, it’s pretty much only that. And what’s interesting is, when you’re with people, you get to experience the emotions with them. If I go to a workshop, I’ll spend the rest of the day with them, or If I’m talking at a conference, I get to spend the rest of the time at the conference. I really get to mingle with people a lot and hear their stories and experience the emotions that go along with it.
Now I’ll be with a group and I’ll do an online thing. And then we click goodbye, and then I’m just standing in my office by myself like, “Okay, I guess I’ll go mow the lawn.” t’s hard to get the same connection and warmth that you get.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
I used to work with at risk college students with severe mental health and drug and alcohol addiction issues. A colleague who’s a therapist said, “all client defensiveness or guardedness is the counselor’s problem.” That has stuck with me. For one, in the role I was in I saw defensiveness and guardedness different.