For the past six weeks two times a week, I have been in physical therapy, battling back from a debilitating pinched nerve in my neck (more on that here). Each week, my PT throws new strength-building activities into my rehab program. First, it was small things like turning my neck from side-to-side. Then it got a bit more exciting; graduating from the green band to the blue band for my bicep curls. Next week, we are going to attempt overhead shoulder presses with three-pound weights. (I assure you that for a cross-training, gym rat, these little wins are everything in my path to recovery!)
When I was at PT yesterday morning, completing my three rounds of 10 reps of shoulder raises, my PT asked, “How do you feel?”
“Not bad!,” I exclaimed. Assuring myself, and her, that I could keep going, I finished the rounds.
Driving home, a big ole’ smile was plastered across my face. I learned that I had improved 15 degrees with my neck rotation. I have a new set of exercises to try at home. I can, for the first time in weeks, physically feel the progress we are making.
As with most PT patients, I also feel overwhelmingly grateful for my PT. She is helping me regain mobility on the right side of my body. She is methodical in making sure that we make progress without taking two steps backwards. And she cares, a lot, about how I am doing.
That’s when it hits me. She cares a lot, and I know this because with every move we try and with every fresh session we have, she asks:
How do you feel?
Stop for a moment and try to remember the last time someone at work asked you how you feel. The last time someone asked you this after a tough internal team meeting, after a tense client meeting, after receiving constructive feedback. The last time someone asked you this question after sensing that you seem “off.”
Now flip it. When was the last time you asked someone how they feel?
Likely, you may struggle to remember the time. Now this doesn’t make us, or the people we work with, bad people. If we are lucky, we may work with people who care deeply about how we feel but who succumb to the whirlwind of the day and let the moment pass. Or, we may work with people who are acutely aware when you are not yourself but feel it is not their place to ask that question.
If we find ourselves in a less supportive, more toxic environment, the above may not be true. We may simply be surrounded by people who are more focused on output and outcome, than emotion. The people who believe there’s no crying in work. The people who believe everyone is fine, regardless of the situation that happened that may suggest otherwise.
The answer to “How do you feel?” will take on every shade, color and texture, depending on the day and circumstance. And that’s a great thing! Our answers allow others to get to know us more deeply and to understand us more fully. But they only come to surface through our own sharing, or when prompted by others.
As individuals, we may be starved—particularly in the workplace—for others to ask us, “How do you feel?” We may crave to feel more “psychologically safe,” as the best-selling business authors suggest. We may need to feel more confidently that our colleagues, bosses and clients care about us, both when they do right by us and when they potentially fall short. And we need to know that what we are experiencing, feeling and thinking will be honored.
To be honest, being asked about 10 times during a one-hour PT session how I feel is incredible and refreshing. I feel supported, cared for and encouraged. What’s more, I know that however I answer that question we will course correct because as important as it is that I feel OK, it’s more important to acknowledge when I don’t.
So I have a challenge for you over the next few days…
Resolve to ask at least one person you work with, “How do you feel?” Listen with compassion. Be empathetic and solution-oriented. Synthesize what they tell you. Then ask one more person. You may be amazed by what you hear. You may be shocked by just how much this question takes others by surprise. And, maybe—just maybe—if you ask the question to others enough, someone will be so kind as to return the favor to you.
Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as VP of Marketing for Trilix. Carrie is a 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” honoree and a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.