March 2020


I’ve had a number of responses to this newsletter from people who feel that human interactions aren’t always as positive and supportive as I report. A couple of recipients have even asked to be removed from the list because my view of the world feels like a disconnect for them. “Women don’t lift each other up,” they told me. “In fact, we spend most of our time trying to tear each other down.”

This insight really made me stop and think. Was it true for me?

I realized that while most of my friends are supportive and kind, there are still a few people in my life who seem to get joy from making it much harder for me to be open and vulnerable. They try to diminish my joy, detract from my story and create divides between us.

I want to bite into why we bite each other. 

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Arielle Fuller, Parlay House’s Chief Relationship Officer, noted that this pattern of women being each other’s worst enemies reminds her of rotting fruit. “When one little tangerine in the bowl starts to mold or rot, the destruction quickly spreads to the nearby, healthy fruit. It doesn’t just pass on the rotting: it leaves all of the surrounding fruit in a weakened and less appealing situation.”

What can we do to stop the spread of destruction? 

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Step One: Be Self-Aware

When we feel “less than” or have self-doubts, other people may inadvertently trigger us. Their apparent confidence or happiness is a reminder that we’re not feeling the same way ourselves. We might lash out at them because they remind us of our own pain.

Brene Brown has said that people who tear down others are often struggling with something similar themselves. If they feel bad about their body, they are more likely to be hyper-critical of someone else’s body than they would if they were happy with their own. They grab hold of others to try to pull them into the same sinkhole that’s trapping them.

Step Two: Don’t Hide Your Hurt

For me, the best way to combat this behavior is to acknowledge that the behavior upset me. When someone “bites” me with judgment, criticism or aggression, I literally say “ouch.”

That “ouch” validates my pain and acknowledging it is my first step in healing. It’s also an opening for the person who hurt me to know how I felt and to course-correct if the insult was unintentional. Importantly, that “ouch” is also an opportunity for me to self-reflect to think about whether I was their trigger in a way I could change.

Step Three: Look Behind the Hurt

If I feel hurt by someone close to me, I might probe to see whether there is something going on that is causing her to lash out. If I don’t know her well enough to ask, I assume that something about my actions was a trigger for her, opening up her own wounds. Acknowledging that her reaction might not be directly about me frees me to feel empathy for her rather than pain for myself.

Finally:  Stop the transactional assumptions about happiness, confidence and success.

Many of these “bites” happen because we are competing instead of collaborating. We assume that there are winners and losers. Success and Failure. A bigger share of the pie and…

The fabulous truth in this day and age is that the size of our shared pie is growing, and more for me doesn’t mean less for you. And vice versa. The more we lift each other to new achievements, opportunities, and experiences, the greater the pie grows. Another woman’s gain is no longer our loss. Another woman’s gain is actually a gain for us all.

How do you like them tangerines?

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Do you Parlay?

Share It Small:  The next time someone seems to be tearing you down, practice responding with an “ouch.”  The best-case scenario is that you get an apology or can course-correct in a way that preserves the relationship.

Share It Big:  Fight the “Scarcity Mindset” by reminding the women in your life that we can grow opportunities for all of us rather than fighting to split the existing pie. Remind them at work, on-line and at home. We are stronger when we lift each other.

Share It with Me:  I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.