May We Be Compassionate Warriors
Colleen Pellissier presented “May We Be Compassionate Warriors” at UX Camp Spring 2021. Enjoy!
UX Researcher, Groupon
Colleen is passionate about collaboration, human-centered research, and a holistic approach to creating products. She’s currently a UX Researcher at Groupon; bringing a customer-focused lens to teams and initiatives across the organization with a fiery heart and quick wit. Colleen leans into her experience as a storyteller to inspire, educate, and communicate customer insights. After work hours, Colleen can be found wearing big headphones while moving bits of audio around to tell compelling stories for various audio projects.
The following transcript very likely contains typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!
So hi, this talk is about being kinder to ourselves at work, and we’re gonna begin by practicing a moment of mindfulness, it’s gonna take about two minutes, so get comfortable wherever you are if you’re seated or standing, and bring some attention to your body, and if you feel comfortable, go ahead and close your eyes. You can notice if your body seated or if you’re standing where you might feel weight on the chair or against the floor, just notice it. Now, take a few deep breaths. Inhale on, and then release. Again, inhale, exhale. One more deep breath. And then release. So as you take these deep breaths, just notice the feet on the floor or your back against the chair, where do you feel pressure or weight or any vibrations? You might notice your legs against the chair, you might feel heaviness or lightness, you might notice your back against the chair, now bring some attention to your stomach area, is there stomach feeling tense or is it feeling light or is it feeling tight? Whatever it’s feeling. Try to let it soften. And take another breath. Now, notice your hands or hands tents…
Are they balled up? Are they cold or warm? Cohen, relax your hands. Let them soften. Now notice your arms. Do you have any sensations in your arms, let your shoulders be soft, now move to your neck, let your neck soften and relax. Take a deep breath and then exhale. Okay, we’re gonna move to your jaw and your face, go ahead and release your draw and relax any muscles that you have in your face. Okay, now I want you to notice if your whole body is present and just take one more deep breath. And when you’re ready, go ahead and open your eyes. So thanks so much for sitting through that. My name is Collin, I’m a ex researcher. My pronouns are she and her. We’re gonna take a moment and consider how that mindfulness break felt. I just want you to think, did anything surprise you? And if you feel like it, pop it in the Slack or anything you noticed, maybe it was really easy, maybe it wasn’t so easy. And if you feel like it, I invite you to add any comments or emojis in the slack. We’re gonna talk more about that mindfulness break in a little bit.
So as you researcher, most of my work is talking with users and understanding how they feel and interact with a product, I talk with folks every week, I interview them on all sorts of things, from new concepts to feedback on designs and usability testing, all the things work researcher does, and it’s part of my job to notice how they’re feeling and to even ask how they’re feeling, and sometimes I’ll notice though there’ll be like a flash of… A flash of confusion, or there’ll be a flash of delight, and I often follow up with… Can you tell me how that made you feel? I think in our professional lives, it’s fertile ground for lots and lots of feelings, both big and small, and I say we should feel them all. So this is my daughter, Fiona, she’s 60, and she is my favorite person in the whole world. I really love this picture, she had me take it of her last year, or actually in the fall, she told me she was feeling really creative and beautiful and wanting me to take her picture, so of course I did. I’m gonna share a video now
Somewhere, I just feel like it’s something like the self achievement. Oh, so cute. The is there interest you, you talk you really public website and then check out those… Pansy Know-what? So
What we just saw was a video last summer, I was doing work from home like we all are, and Fiona being six, kept popping into my user interviews, so let me get back to sharing my slides and… It’s funny. Sure, it was really funny. But also it was kind of embarrassing. I had a lot of folks from my company on the call, and there was the interviewee that I was trying to be mindful of their time, so it led to some self-criticism on my part, and I felt things and thought things like, Gosh, that was really unprofessional. I feel silly. I also thought Purina, I should have done a better job of making sure she was occupied, like I could be doing a better job as a Mom, these are sort of the self-criticizing thoughts that came into mind, I’m sure many of you can relate and sort of understand how that goes. So I believe to be awake in the world, to be breathing, it means we’re probably suffering, and sometimes it’s small and sometimes it’s big, and sometimes it’s really, really big, and like I said, sometimes it’s just really, really small, and I’d like to talk about the suffering and our professional lives, and this can be like setbacks that happen at work, or mistakes that we make, or failures or missteps, a bad boss, a disagreement with a colleague, being passed over for a promotion.
All of this is painful. I wonder if you can identify with any of these examples I just shared or some version of this, and if you feel up to it, please comment in the Slack or put some sort of emoji or plus sign, if that’s ever something you’ve felt it felt at work or had those uncomfortable feelings. So typically, we can be pretty hard on ourselves and we can beat ourselves up and we feel bad and we self-criticize like I did when Fiona popped in to my interview with that face full of makeup. And this is common in 2018-galleon, that two-thirds of full-time working adults experience some burnout in their job… Again, this brings us back to sort… That moment of suffering. We’re not feeling very comfortable. We’re a hard time. And then more recently, the American Psychological Association has found that almost 50% of adults are reporting this feeling of feeling uncomfortable or anxious about returning to work, so there’s plenty of research that suggests that these feelings of anxiety and self-criticism, they go hand-in-hand with depression, avoidant behaviors, a hit to our self-esteem, this effort where we try to be perfect, which is not real or possible, it can cause procrastination and rumination and all of this is a form of suffering, so criticizing ourselves at work or over work over something we did or did not do is not gonna help us be more successful.
I actually think there’s another way to be more successful, and for me, that’s been about learning and practicing mindful self-compassion, so I wanna pause here for just one second, and before I go any further, I wanna be really conscious to not divorce or misappropriated any mindful self-compassion practices from their origins, so the practice of mindfulness can be traced back thousands of years, it’s rooted in Hindu culture and religion, and there are many, many people before me who have practiced and studied this tradition, and I pay respect to that by honoring… By educating myself, I just see myself as another person trying to do their best to honor those facts and learn what I can about the practice. So just really quick, this slide is a water color titled Buddha by YG Sharma, a 20th Century Musician dancer and painter, she was born in India but spent a large part of her life as an artist in New York City. Okay, so let’s get back on track. So Dr. Kristen Neff is a leading researcher who studies mindful self-compassion, and she enter team asked college students to describe their academic social and health goals and report the progress report as they made progress toward those goals, and she found the students who were self-critics made significantly less progress or their goals and reported to procrastinate more often, research also shows that people who are more self-compassionate have more emotional intelligence and more resilience, and we talk more about resilience in a little bit, so I don’t want anybody to get excited…
I don’t have the secret sauce. I am not here to tell you how to sin up or avoid suffering, suffering is gonna happen. You’re going to feel like total shit some days. It’s just a fact. So a couple of years ago, I started going to therapy. I wasn’t in a crisis, but I thought, Why not? I have a great therapist, she’s smart and she’s direct and she asked me hard questions, but for an entire year, she was so annoying about one topic, she kept suggesting that I participate in a group mindful, self-compassion workshop with other people, and for an entire year I was like, No, not interested. This is not for me. I had a lot of strong feelings about it, it didn’t make sense, it felt weird, it sounded way to precious, it did not sound like my thing, so when the pandemic it, I was just like… I just thought, Okay, fine, I’ll try it. So I took my first 10-week mindful, self-compassion workshop, and then I did another, and now I’m planning on doing a really intensive nine-month program over the summer, so that’s all just to say that mindful self-compassion has helped in so many aspects of my life, but especially at work, the question I’ve been asking myself recently, and the whole point of this talk is to ask how might we bring more self-compassion into our professional lives? And I’d like to talk about that, I’d like to talk about how and when, and how does it benefit us and the people around us.
And I’m gonna share some of my experiences. So, name an uncomfortable feeling, any uncomfortable feeling? Just to think about it, we’ve probably felt it hundreds of times over the course of our careers, maybe it’s been embarrassment or failure, or not knowing an answer. Tons of things. Have you ever really bombed a presentation from a colleagues in your leadership team? Everybody, I have… Have you sent an email with a misspelling error or several missile… Ares, I have… Have you said something you regret… Did during a meeting I have… And all of these moments really lead to these moments of like, Oh, we criticize ourselves, we’re really hard on ourselves, we feel really bad. I actually, a few weeks ago, I was conducting user interviews over Zoom because that’s how we do it these days, and there were a lot of people from my organization watching live, including my boss and my boss’s boss, and one of our interviews was having a lot of trouble with the technology, and for about 15, maybe 20 minutes, I tried to troubleshoot the problem with them sort of live while all these people were watching, waiting for the interview to start, and eventually we ended up having to cancel, we couldn’t figure out how to help figure out the technology, I felt terrible.
I felt embarrassed and I began ruminating over what I could have done differently, maybe I could have written a better screener, or maybe there’s something about the technology I should have known that I didn’t know, and I felt bad and anxious, and I felt like a failure, and so at that moment, I knew I had a couple of choices. I could marinate on the feelings, which is perfectly fine and very possible, I could try to ignore them, and what I’ve found for myself is when I try to ignore things that make me uncomfortable or upset or painful, it does not work, I can sort of suppress them but at some time in the day, or in the next few days, it comes out in a really weird way, maybe it’s like, I don’t know, yelling at the dog or being snappy at my husband or something, so ignoring them for me does not work. And then the third option was I could meet what I was feeling with a little self-compassion, and that’s what I did. And we’ll talk a little bit more about the steps that I took in a second. So at the beginning of this talk, we did a body scan to see how we are feeling to see where we might be holding tension in our bodies, and usually for me, when I’ve met with some moment of suffering or pain, that tension happens in my stomach, I feel it really, really strongly in my stomach, and it can feel anxious and uncomfortable and sort of tied in knots is generally how it feels.
So for me, that Body Scan Meditation is just a way for me to come aware of what I’m feeling and where I’m feeling it. So after a mindful of how I’m feeling, I try to remember this concept called common humanity, when I first learned about this… It was kind of a game changer. So the concept of common humanity is any feeling that you’re feeling right now or have ever felt has been felt by people, millions of people, probably at some point, or even at that very moment, somewhere in the world. So it’s a reminder that we are not alone. When I’m feeling really embarrassed about something I did ’cause I screwed up at work, that feeling of embarrassment is felt by so many other people, and just the idea that we’re not alone in our feelings was really comforting for me, and then we actually practice a little bit of common humanity. During this talk, right? So some of us have commented in the Slack channels on ways that they’ve felt suffering at work or had resonated with some of the moments I brought up, so that is a moment, a common humanity that we just acted out.
And then the next part of mindful self-compassion is just self-kindness, so how might we offer kindness to ourselves, and there’s lots and lots of ways, and some people… Some techniques work for some people, some techniques don’t. So I have a friend of mine who one of the ways she offers herself kindness, she’ll actually hold her own hand, that doesn’t work for me. My hands are really cold and claiming all the time, so holding my hand is not comforting, but there’s other ways like putting on a favorite pair of socks or just using kind words with yourself, you could give your arm a gentle squeeze, there’s many, many tools and ways. Both like in the moment, you can do or you can have a certain time of day where you’re doing a kindness meditation or a practice, or self-kindness meditation or practice. So at the end of this talk, I’ll have a slide with some resources so folks who are interested to start exploring those… You can start doing that. And then the other thing I’ve learned in this practice is a really important question, and that question is, What do I need? And I think this is tricky because when we encounter a moment of suffering, like I said, we’ve got those choices of how we’re gonna deal with that moment, and I think the next really important question is…
It’s like, Okay, well, what can I do now? What do I need? And there’s lots of things. So this is my dog, Henry. And I think spending time with pets is a great way to show yourself kindness, you can take a walk, you can drink water, you can touch your toes, you can listen to Beyonce, whatever feels good to you, those are ways where you’re just taking a pause, asking yourself what you need, and then giving yourself that… And I just wanna point out that when we’re doing this, we’re not actually escaping how we’re feeling, we’re not trying to make the feeling of uncomfortable in this go away, we’re just trying to make space, we’re just trying to tolerate it a little bit more. So I believe when we meet our uncomfortable feelings with self-compassion, it actually builds our resilience, and resilience is the ability to move forward after something doesn’t go great, it helps us to identify problems and accept negative feedback from others and change habits aren’t working for us and all of this will help us at work, and it also gives us the openness for change, and when we encounter setbacks, it helps us grow in form, good baits and ultimately, I believe it makes us more successful, so this week or maybe sometime this month, when some sort of suffering happens at work, and I’m sure I will…
Hopefully, it’s very small. I challenge everyone to notice how you’re feeling, what inner critic of pops up in your head and what did they start alang about or maybe you’re just… It’s a feeling. And when this happens, try to offer yourself some kindness, so here are some resources, and I’ll put these also in the Slack, if anyone’s interested, I hope you find them useful, and I hope going forward in your career, you can practice being more kind to yourself because I really do believe it will only add to success and open you up for more opportunities and give you the courage to take risks. Thank you so much.