A conversation with Sean Harvey, Chief Compassion Officer, and Founder at Warrior Compassion Men’s Studio.
“I think we’re going to be as vulnerable as we’re comfortable or as vulnerable as we’re aware. To be a leader today, I think to be able to be vulnerable, to model vulnerability, we still have to be aware of our own stories, and what are we comfortable sharing of our own stories? What are we comfortable sharing of all parts of ourselves? In writing my book, one of the things that came through loud and clear, is it’s one thing for me to be vulnerable with my employees, right? But one place that I found a lot of men expressed fear in the interviews I conducted, was the fear of being vulnerable in front of other men, regardless of if it’s at work or outside of the workplace.” –Sean Harvey.
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sean Harvey about his 20+years of experience working in personal, organizational, and societal transformation as a Purpose, Talent, and Org Development consultant. He explains how the healing work of men serves as a critical lever and catalyst for building compassionate bridges across society. We then discuss heart transformation and how to use it to understand yourself. Listen in for inspiration on how to use compassion to unlock the healing power of men.
[1:35] How Sean Got His Start Working As A Healing Consultant
[17:05] Why We Aren’t Socialized To Socialize For Healthy Living
[25:10] The Feminine Wounded Masculin
[29:00] Transforming The World Through Liberation
Links | Resources
Sean on LinkedIn
Warrior Compassion Website
About the Guest
Sean Harvey is the Chief Compassion Officer and Founder at Warrior Compassion Men’s Studio, under the Sympónia Institute for Global Compassionate Healing umbrella, based in Washington, D.C.
Sean is the author of the upcoming book Warrior Compassion: Unlocking the Healing Power of Men. He shares thought-provoking insights and questions for men engaged in their healing journeys. He helps men tap into their fierce Warrior Compassion energy that helps them heal by becoming more integrated and ignites their inner healing power to carry out and manifest their mission into the world.
He believes the healing work of men serves as a critical lever and catalyst for building compassionate bridges across gender, shifting power dynamics, reframing leadership models, and reimagining systems and structures that transform cultures on a global scale.
His work in personal, organizational, and societal transformation is inspired by 20+years of Purpose, Talent, and Org Development consulting combined with having served on the faculties of Cornell, NYU, and Baruch College CUNY teaching courses in the areas of Leadership, Management, and Organizational Behavior & Change.
Sean is a founding member of Project Compassion, a national coalition of culture transformation practitioners, masculinity guides, and compassion They are experts in developing a compassion-centered systems change model. He is using a consulting approach for police departments, federal law enforcement agencies, and military security forces nationally and globally.
Sean most recently served as the head of Personal Transformation and Wellbeing for EILEEN FISHER where he co-authored an article for the Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion on Nurturing the Soul of the Company at EILEEN FISHER. Prior to his experience at EILEEN FISHER, Sean was the Vice President of Talent Consulting for Partners International, where he launched a Socially Conscious Leadership program for emerging leaders on Wall Street.
Sean holds an MSOD in Organizational Development from Loyola University Chicago, an MSEd in Counseling with a theoretical orientation in Existential Psychotherapy from Fordham University, a graduate certificate in Administrative Foundations in Public Service from DePaul University. He is an ordained Interfaith/Inter-spiritual Minister from One Spirit Interfaith Seminary.
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Douglas: Welcome to the Control The Room podcast, the series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting.
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Today I’m with Sean Harvey, chief compassion officer and founder at Warrior Compassion Men’s Studio under the Sympónia Institute of Global Compassionate Healing umbrella, based in Washington DC. He’s also the author of the upcoming book Warrior Compassion: Unlocking the Healing Power of Men. Welcome to the show, Sean.
Sean: Thanks, Douglas. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
Douglas: Oh, absolutely. As usual, I’d love to get started by just hearing a little bit about how you got your start in this work.
Sean: I’d actually started when I was 16. I had just come out as a gay man, gay teenager, I guess at 15, and I knew I had actually a pretty easy time of it back in 1989, actually. A year later, I was like, there’s no way to socialize besides going to bars. So being the kid that I was, I found a gay activist that was in the newspaper, called him up, and said, “Hey, I want to volunteer. I want to work with gay youth and help them to come out.” With that, he said, “Well, nothing like that exists.” I said, “Well, I think there should.” He said, “Well, we’ll give you the resources if you want to create something,” and I started something called Youth Quest as a gay and lesbian youth group for the city of Dayton, Ohio, at 16. And 30 something years later, it still exists, now serving all of Southwest Ohio from Columbus, Cincinnati over to Indianapolis.
I say that’s the starting place because I think that was, for the work that I do with Warrior Compassion, I tend to be someone one who sees a need, I see the suffering, I see the questioning, and I’m like, “Okay, let’s just create something.” So I think, in a sense, I’m a social entrepreneur, and I just believe in creating something that will meet a need to help others.
Douglas: Wow, that’s incredible. So many questions emerging. I guess for one, we talked a bit in the pre-show chat around your work in intimacy and just the nature of how men struggle with that. I wonder, with your experience in coming out at the age of 16 and then helping so many people come out, I mean, that’s a lot of work in intimacy. So I can’t help but think that there’s a direct connection there too, not only in this social entrepreneur space but specifically in this experience of working in intimacy from such a young age.
Sean: Well, I have a very long, crazy journey that brought me to this work. Within that were my own struggles with connection, loneliness, isolation, drug addiction, sex addiction, all these things where I was still, even if I was helping others, within my own personal life, I was still struggling to create that sense of intimacy, that sense of connection. I think for a number of reasons, but I think one, just as men, so many of us have not been socialized to socialize in healthy ways. Where I talk to a lot of men now who are doing amazing things in the world, they’re leading organizations. They’re leading departments, they’re social entrepreneurs. They’re bringing deeply held values to humanity, and yet when we have conversations around love, sex, dating, relationships, I see very different personalities come through, and a lot of times I think that’s where a lot of our shadow is.
When I talk to a lot of folks who do personal transformation work, spiritual healers, and what have you, we often say the intimacy work, the relationship works. This is a later frontier of the transformation journey. Because it’s really where our wounding, where our shadow, where our shame, what have you, is just packed in, and it’s really in that shadow, which is really the unconscious. And from that place, we’re often unaware, or we’re working on other things, and this is the stuff that’s still deep-seated, be it attachment wounds or the ways that we’re seeking, we’re yearning, we’re running into intimacy out of need, or we’re running away from intimacy out of… And both of them were based in fear.
So it’s how do we move this energy from fear into love, to really help us become more whole, more integrated? And to really ask us to look at our truth and our own wounding in a deeper way, that really, I think allows us to then be more compassionate, to be more conscious, to be more connected with ourselves and others.
Douglas: It reminds me of a lot of leadership development training, et cetera, talks a lot about vulnerability and creating cultures of vulnerability. I haven’t heard a ton of framing around this intimacy and this shadow side of how men might have these things locked away in this way. I wonder how linked do you found that to be to people’s ability to be vulnerable?
Sean: I think we’re going to be as vulnerable as we’re comfortable or as vulnerable as we’re aware. To be a leader today, I think to be able to be vulnerable, to model vulnerability, we still have to be aware of our own stories, and what are we comfortable sharing of our own stories? What are we comfortable sharing of all parts of ourselves? In writing my book, one of the things that came through loud and clear, is it’s one thing for me to be vulnerable with my employees, right? But one place that I found a lot of men expressed fear in the interviews I conducted was the fear of being vulnerable in front of other men, regardless of if it’s at work or outside of the workplace.
I think that’s where, as men, we still have these challenges of competition, comparison, and insecurity. I think within that, for many of us, we have internalized an idea of what it means to be a man, then we compare ourselves to our own ideal. And the ways that we don’t measure up to our own ideal, that’s where we can experience shame. When we see other men who have and measure up to the ideal that we have, that can create comparison and insecurity, that they’re more of a man than I am, or whatever that can bring up. I think there are a lot of nuances to explore in what it means to be vulnerable and vulnerability.
But I think when we get to these conversations around intimacy, the way I describe intimacy is, it’s really having the courage, and that’s what Warrior Compassion’s about, is really having that courageous energy to look at yourself in a fearless way. When you do that, it’s really about being on this journey to discover the truth of who you are. And more importantly, learn to love the truth of who you are, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And then to be able to see others in their truth, not their masks, not their protective layers or their constructed identity. Then to be able to create deep connection that’s authentic when we look at each other in our humanity versus when we’re connecting superficially from our masks.
Douglas: Wow. It just reminds me of a conversation I was having with my friend, Sunny Brown the other day. This article was circulating around this guy in London who had created this agency, and it was totally fake. He’d managed to hire a bunch of employees and their contracts stated they wouldn’t get paid until the clients had paid. So these people had been working for six months, and none of them had gotten paid and it all came out and came crashing down. When we were unpacking it and talking about it, she was like, “This wouldn’t be possible if people didn’t have a sense of unworthiness, if people didn’t think that like, oh, if I go here, I can prove myself. If I go work for this cool agency, I can prove myself.” It’s exactly the kind of stuff you’re talking about, the story around, am I good enough?
Sean: I think that’s where the intimacy works as well. It’s the, am I good enough? For many men, because so many of us have been told we can’t have emotions, we can’t express our emotions, right? What that actually precludes us from is actually being able to access love and embody love, and to really experience love in an unconditional way without expectations. I think this work ultimately, of intimacy, is really helping men unblock intimacy to access love in new ways. Then when we move from living from a place of fear and insecurity and less than, and worthlessness, we can fill the void from this place of love, integrating ourselves where we’re not seeking the love of others, so we can express love for others, that’s when we can create the true types of relationships that we want. But when we are operating from the void, we’re going to fill that container with anything we can to not experience and feel that void.
Douglas: That’s really fascinating. I’m kind of resonating with it. I’d be curious to… Do you have any stories to exemplify this kind of someone operating in the void and somehow shifting to embodying and living that more?
Sean: Sure, my story. I was one of those guys who, I was a college professor, I worked on Wall Street, I had a great resume. I invested in my resume, I didn’t invest in my personal life. I sought out sex and drugs as my way of creating intimacy. I had this void, I think I’ll speak for myself as a gay man. When society tells you that you’re wrong, that you’re bad, that you’re going to hell, it kind of messes with your psyche. So regardless, and I grew up in the eighties, it was a very different time. So for me, I had a deep void in me, I didn’t know how to love myself, so I sought it out through mostly sex, but then also drugs later on.
It wasn’t until I started being surrounded by people who cared for me, who loved me, who saw me and accepted me for who I was, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and once it was described to me as let us love you until you can learn to love yourself. Right? I think the first thing that I noticed that helped me was when I could start to have the comfort and the confidence to walk into the parts of myself that where I had shame, the parts of myself that I didn’t want people to see that I was really hiding. When I could lean into that and then inch slowly, step by step, but taking a step, putting it out there, being exposed, but then being accepted, not rejected or judged. I think that was probably one of the most… That was one of the turning points. Then I think to be able to be seen by others, for who people saw, who I really was versus what I thought I was. So if I thought I was a piece of shit, but they were seeing the good, it was starting to shift the narrative.
Then I think it was… I’ve done a lot of personal growth work, both through the companies I’ve worked with, and I think it was looking at shadow work. What do I not see in myself that others can see? Or does that come out when I project my stuff onto others? I’m like, “Oh, if it’s activating me, it may be something with me, more so than it’s about them.” Then looking at my limiting beliefs, what are the beliefs I have on myself that limit my potential, limit my possibility, limit my reality? And counter, how can I transform those from limitation to affirmation? So that can be another way of tapping into self-care and self-love.
The final thing is to get real with my own story, and one of the things that we would do at the company I used to work for, is we would also have folks look at their own unmet needs. And in the unmet needs, what did I not get as a child that’s still unresolved, that as an adult, when I don’t get that, these are my reactions? Those needs, though, are really the core, basic, fundamental needs that we all need, that we all have as humans.
I was in a group, and 38 people were in this group, and we did an exercise around unmet needs. In that exercise, those 38 people came down to, what is the core need you need most in your life? It came down to be loved, to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, to belong. One of probably those five, maybe seven were going around the room for those 38 people. I think when we’re able to see that we all have these core, basic, fundamental needs, you can start to see each person in their humanity, beyond their identity, beyond their levels, beyond their layers, beyond their class. Then we can start to see the humanity in ourselves and the humanity in them.
Douglas: I’m really curious the story you told, there was a pivotal point there where you found community, and it sounded like you were also starting to do some internal reflection too. But it seemed like there was a pivotal moment where this community, these people, were speaking to you, or you were connecting with them, and that was helping you on your journey. I’m curious, what was markedly different from that group, versus what was happening with Youth Quest and the group that you had created there? Because from the surface, as a bystander, it sounds like, wow, if you created this community, that community would give back in a similar way. So I’m curious, what was different in your experience between those two?
Sean: I was 16 years old versus I was in my late thirties.
Douglas: Got it, so you left that community…
Sean: I went off to college. I started it, and then I went off to college, and then other people kept it going for the 30 something years. It was really just this idea of just putting this together. Going into an environment that is totally accepting, totally authentic, just culturally different, and this was in a workplace, right? So it’s like going into a corporate culture where they really do walk the talk that you can bring your full self to work, which I don’t think a lot of organizations actually do provide that.
Even though we talk about human-centered workplace design, to really create that culture where you allow for total acceptance to bring your authentic self, that requires a lot of rewiring on the systems and the organization and the culture itself, and shift of mindset to go to that place of acceptance. I had gone to this organization, and within it, had that experience that there was just care, nurturing and love permeating the entire corporate culture. Those are really, in a sense, part of the value system and the ethos. I think when you look at an organization and the organizational culture is steeped in love, you’re going to feel it. It’s going to give you a very different perspective than if it’s just based on numbers, it’s based on outcomes and measures, and it’s based on performance alone.
Douglas: Wow, yeah. That’s painting a really vivid picture now. It’s like this, go to college, there’s a lot of shifts and transition and a lot of things happening. I’m sure going to companies that are not anywhere near the values of the company you’re describing could lead to a deep, dark hole, even though you started from a place of having a community where you even fostered and grew the community. So think about the individuals that didn’t even have that foundation, like how deep and far and dark it could get.
Sean: One thing though, I just want to… I’ll call out on myself and then also what I see in a lot of men. As I said, many of us weren’t socialized to socialize in healthy ways. We’re often so living in our own narrative and our own conditioning, that we don’t even realize how much we’re missing. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I think a lot of us don’t know what we don’t know. So I don’t really talk about these things like toxic masculinity, I don’t talk about what’s healthy, what’s unhealthy, because I don’t think that’s helpful. I think this isn’t a judgment of good, bad, right, wrong, you’re broken and you’re not. The question I always ask, is what’s been the cost of the way you’ve been living? What have you been missing out on, and what are you yearning for?
I tend to speak to what is it that you’ve been missing out on, and where’s your yearning? Where’s the yearning in the type of relationships you want? Where’s the yearning in the type of sense of community and belonging that you want to have with others? What’s the yearning for the way you’re loved and can love and the ways you can be seen and heard and experienced? That to me, is really the bigger question.
In my second master’s degree, I studied existential psychotherapy as my orientation. I really kind of break it down to when we’re looking at all of this work, when we’re trying to find our truth, it really comes down to these four questions. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I here to do? And how do I love? If we brought a lot of these narratives down to those questions, I think we’d have a very different conversation and exploration. I think a lot of what’s out there right now, we’re trying to change the system, but we’re intellectualizing it and we’re keeping it in a head-based conversation. I think getting to the heart of these questions can move us into the heart, move us into our intuition, and move us into the truth of who we are at our core, at the core sense of our being.
Douglas: It reminds me of when companies try to create mission and vision statements, and they’re just kind of like rubber stamping stuff that just sounds like any other statement from someone else. It’s ridiculous when companies do it, it’s ludicrous if we’re going to do it to ourselves, right? We should hold ourselves a little more accountable. It comes back to a point you made around companies talking about wanting to be accepting, but you rarely see them actually being able to be successful there. I’m curious what you see as the most common pitfalls, or even what are ways that companies could strive to do better?
Sean: I think we’re focusing too much on behavior change, we’re not focusing enough on heart transformation.
Douglas: What does that heart transformation look like versus behaviors-
Sean: Shifting the heart. Well-
Douglas: Oh, heart.
Sean: The heart, the heart.
Douglas: Of course, yes, yes.
Sean: Heart transformation, the heart shifting work, right? I think when we’re trying to change behaviors, we’re really still staying in the head. It’s basically cognitive behavior, like what’s the awareness that I need to have for the behaviors that you want to see me perform? What do you want me to say? What do you not want me to say? I’ll do what you want so I don’t lose my job, and I can get promoted. That’s the cynical side of me. There’s a lot of good work that’s out there, but on the flip side, if you’re asking me what I see as the pitfall, I think it’s falling into that trap. I think the work I do around compassion, compassion, and masculinity, some of my work is doing work with cops in the military, on how to deepen compassion and this workaround compassion and masculinity as a way to open the heart and have different intentionality. And to heal the wounds of the trauma that’s created by the job itself.
Douglas: Wow, yeah.
Sean: If you take a step back, the hard shifting work, really, I think it’s about understanding our own story. It’s about feeling our feelings of our stories. It’s about getting uncomfortable. I think that’s where we get in trouble. We try to, if I were to say the thing I see the most, and I’ll use my own example. A lot of times people will tell me, “You know, Sean? If you want to reach men, you got to talk to them like this. Meet them where they are.” My sense is when we do that, we’re just perpetuating the problem because we’re watering down what we’re trying to do to sell it to someone. And we are not keeping the integrity of the teeth of the work, and what we need to talk about, right? So I think if we had more courage to really call things what they were, and also when we’re saying we’re going to talk to men, I think we do a couple of things.
One, we lump all men together as one. You have to talk to men like this. In my experience, men come in many shapes, forms, sizes, colors, energies, and different experiences, so we can’t all be lumped into one. Second, often being said is just speak to men and to their heads and simplify it. So I say, okay well too, I think we’re underestimating the capability and capacity of men. But three, and it goes back to where I started in terms of my own transformation, for men it’s one thing to be talked to by another man from the head, something completely different to be talked to by another man from the heart. When I can talk from my heart to another man’s heart and his heart can receive it, his mind may not understand what the hell’s going on, but he’ll still be gravitating because it’s like, “Wow, I’m not used to this.”
Sean: Where there’s no intention, there’s no agenda and I don’t want to change you, and I have acceptance for who you are, and I have a genuine love and compassion for who you are and want to see you succeed, and I want to see you excel. And I want to also be there to support you in the pain and suffering that you have as a human, as a man, and someone going through the struggles of life. I think when we can bring that energy in, both from one man to another and in a community of men… When I was loved by a community, that was by women. A community of women were offering that love. I said we often as men go to women for care and nurturing, but if we can receive that from other men… And the reality is that doesn’t weaken us, that doesn’t make us more feminine, it actually is strengthening us both in our compassion and our masculinity, in what it means to be a man, to really be caring and nurturing to others. It’s not a softening.
Douglas: Every man that I know that participates in any kind of men’s group or ritual, cadence-based men’s activity, whether it’s yearly or what have you, they always come back refreshed, renewed, and it’s like they’re a new person, right? It’s like a prescription. I want to talk a little bit about the work you’re doing with the labs and the various [RAPID 00:24:43] retreats and things because I find it really fascinating, especially as it relates to individual work. And I guess I’ll just make it a huge wide-open question and also throw in, how much of your work is informed by this community of women that you found that created so much change for you? Are you sort of recreating a little microcosm of that same little community to give people an opportunity to start experiencing some of that?
Sean: Often, when I talk to men in men’s work, from whatever community they’re in, I’m like, “I did my men’s work through the feminine.” The company where I was, I became the head of personal transformation and wellbeing. In doing that I was, and I have experienced men’s work as well, where there’s more of a masculine approach into it. What I noticed actually in the company is I would talk to men who were being transformed through the feminine and these were all straight men who were married, kids, working in departments like IT, distribution, finance, and some of the creative areas.
But they would tell me like, “Yeah…” I would say, “Hey, I feel like I’m changing. Are you changing? You notice anything?” And they’d say, “Yeah, my wife noticed that I listen differently, I’m more patient. I’m more patient with nuance. I can be in a conversation, we can really go into the granular level of the gray. I stopped needing to be right all the time. I started to be more curious. I started having more access to my emotions, and I could read her emotions. And I started to be more creative, and I started to solve problems differently.” I said, “You know…” But what men realize is, they weren’t really doing anything, they were just being in this culture, and that culture of acceptance and that culture of the feminine was just helping them see things, experience things, and have a different way of being.
I think in reality, I bring that perspective when I think about the ways to work with men. My sense is, for many of us, we start in the wounded masculine. We start in our own wounding. We start to tap into, in this work, into the feminine, but it can still be in the wounded feminine. But we heal through the feminine to strengthen us back into the masculine. I think one of the challenges is that in the world today, the masculine and masculinity has become so polarizing and demonized that a lot of men, when they start doing the work, shy away from the masculine. I think the reality is we need both the masculine and the feminine, and the way I describe it… I’m talking to them not just from the conditioning from the constructs of masculinity and femininity, I’m talking about the energy within us, that we all have these energies.
You could call it the masculine, feminine. You could call it the head and the heart. You could call it the active, receptive. You call it the yin and the yang. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the reality is you can look at yourself as you operate on these two poles, your energy. Because of the ways we’ve been conditioned as men, there’s usually an imbalance. From that imbalance, the question is, if I’m stronger if I have more of my masculine energy to lower feminine energy, what’s the cost? If I’m higher in my feminine energy and lower in masculine, what’s the cost? Then what happens when I’m more balanced in my masculine and feminine? The way I describe it is you’re really than just getting greater agility in the ways you respond to what’s thrown at you by the world. What life throws at you, you’re able to do more of a dance and have more access to more of yourself in dealing with the challenges that you’re going to experience in life, and to have a more fulfilling life.
Douglas: It’s interesting, it reminds me of being stuck in one gear versus being able to change gears.
Douglas: You know? Yeah.
Douglas: Much more resilient. which brings me to another kind of curiosity, which is, what would you say is possible through this work? When we peer out into the future, you’re doing more of this work, other people are doing it and it’s like amplified and amplified. What does the world look like? How do things change?
Sean: Well, I think first, the word that comes to mind is liberation. When we’re not telling men to change because they’re broken, they’re weak, where there’s something wrong, but really saying, “You know what? If you want to come into your best self, there are certain things that have been happening, most likely in your conditioning, that’s constricting you and holding you back, and keeping you hostage from your real self.” I think this work is about liberating men to come into the fullness of who they are. Then from that place, being able to discover who they are, discover their truth, learn to love differently. Learn to unearth and tap into their inherent gifts that maybe they didn’t know they had. And to start to realize how they’re meant to truly contribute in the world.
It’s one thing to do your purpose work not connected to personal growth, right? Because you’ll probably find your life purpose, you might find your job purpose. I’m also an interfaith minister. I think there’s also, how do you find and connect in with your soul purpose? What is it that you’re actually meant to do in this life that has nothing to do, most likely, with your job? How are you meant to contribute? I think when more men can discover that, that’s going to create a new possibility.
I think if we move from, for many of us, and many of our systems, they’re based on fear-based control, if we can move to love-based liberation and empowerment, we can redesign organizations and institutions in a very different way. I think if men are doing this work on themselves, and they’re doing it in the company of men through an intersectional lens, so we’re crossing the lines in these groups around sexuality, around race, around religion, around ability, around ethnicity, around our masculine, feminine expression, whatever it may be, that we’re preparing ourselves for the conversations then that we can have with women and those beyond the binary. We can actually do gender bridge building in a very different way.
Not gender bridge-building solely for the sake of equity, because that’s one conversation. But from the perspective of being able to really blend the best of what we have from our full humanity. Create a different type of relationship, tear down the walls and the ways that we harm each other, and create a different type of healing across gender. I think that’s going to help us innovate differently, I think it’s going to help us solve problems differently. I think it’s going to help us, as systems are crumbling all around us, we’re going to be able to come together across the gender continuum, across our humanity, and be able to start to reimagine these systems that are crumbling from a voice of deeper consciousness and collective wisdom. They’re going to shift the power dynamics in a very radical way, and are going to be able to raise up and give access to all voices and raise up all voices.
Douglas: The word that’s been coming up for me multiple times in this conversation is relating. Whether it’s the workaround intimacy or just understanding the shadow impacts, all of it seems to be directly corresponding to our abilities to relate to others and how others relate to us. Sure there’s this internal conversation and how we might think about our purpose in the world, but that’s also how we relate to our fellow man and how we can help be a good contributor to society, et cetera. I’m just curious to hear your thoughts on how you’ve seen your work, how it’s played out with your clients and people you worked with, and just the relationships and how people shifted the way they relate to each other inside of organizations after you’ve worked with them?
Sean: Yeah. I mean, I think first and foremost, my work, when I was working on the book, and I started noticing that this is the work, the ways we relate, the ways we’re in a relationship, and what gets in our way of being able to relate? What gets in our way of the ways we constrict ourselves and the ways we hide, and the ways we avoid discomfort and vulnerability in a relationship, right? That’s why I started something called men navigating relationships to bring a space for men, to be able to have any and all types of conversations on any and all things relationships, from isolation to friendship, to romance, to sex, to work relationships, to family relationships, to the ways we lead. It’s all related.
I was an organizational behavior professor at Cornell and NYU, and Baruch College in New York, so I pretty much had 10 years of teaching people how to relate as part of the mix of the things I’ve done in my life, and I think it does come down to that. I think it does come down to the ways we relate. What I’ve seen is, in the work I’ve done, people showing up in an authentic way. People relating in an authentic way and creating an authentic connection. People share openly and having the hard conversations, leaning into the discomfort of those conversations, and having the courage to be able to say what needs to be said. And be supportive and be in companion with each other so people can feel that they have been heard and seen in the conversations. And that people have learned how to listen deeply for each other as a gift, versus listening to understand. Listening to respond, but really having that intentionality of listening to both receive and, and to get curious with each other.
Douglas: That’s an important tenet in facilitation, for sure. Listening to understand versus listening to respond. I want to end here by giving you an opportunity to leave our listeners with a final thought.
Sean: I would say, to think about what holds you back from doing this work, right? It can be the fear of opening Pandora’s box. It can be the fear of what are those emotions that are within me? If I let them go, will I be able to stop? Will this make me less of a man if I do this work? Whatever that tape is, I think there’s three things that I would say. One, don’t do this work alone, do it in community. Do it with the community with people that you trust and who are going to be an anchor and a guide for you. And who are going to mirror back for you, who you are so you can see yourself through their eyes, not through your own perceptions.
Second, get curious. Look at this as an adventure where you can play, you can experiment, you can fail, and you can learn. But also realize that, yeah, there’s going to be discomfort, but the flip side of the discomfort is the liberation that’s going to come from it on the other side. The last thing I think that’s so critical, is be willing to surrender control. Let go. Let go of the ego, relax the ego and allow yourself to go into the not knowing and sit in the discomfort of the gray, but realize that you’re still not going to fall through the cracks, even if you do.
Douglas: Awesome. Thank you so much, Sean. I think those are great thoughts for folks. I encourage everyone to check out your programs and the work you’re doing. The book will be out here sometime soon. Excited to see that and check it out. And we’ll have some resources and links to your stuff in the show notes where folks can find you. It’s been a pleasure chatting, so thanks for joining, and I hope we can talk again soon.
Sean: Yeah, for sure. Thanks so much for having me.
Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control The Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together. VoltageControl.com.