Sylvia Baffour – I Dare You to Care
The second of the #ShareTheMicNow episodes was created by Sylvia Baffour on how to approach the work around us, emotional intelligence, and being aware of the emotional after taste your leave with the people around you.
Sylvia Baffour is a Motivational Speaker, Trainer, and Executive Coach named among HubSpot’s Top 15 Female Motivational Speakers alongside Oprah Winfrey, Mel Robbins, and Iyanla Vanzant. She is the President of Baffour International LLC., a company helping organizations thrive and succeed with emotional intelligence strategies.
Sylvia is an Emotional Intelligence expert and author of I Dare You to Care. A book focused on how we can use emotional intelligence skills to inspire, influence, and achieve remarkable growth. She is also one of the most sought-after speakers and trainers in the fields of personal empowerment and professional development.
Sylvia has lived in several countries around the world and speaks five languages. She was recently ranked among the top 18 speakers at the World Championship of Public Speaking held in Malaysia. A competition that began with 35,000 contestants from 126 countries.
Stephen Gates 0:01
What’s going on everybody? Welcome into the 100 and second episode of The Crazy One podcast. As always, I’m your host, Stephen Gates. And once again, we’re going to change up the intro on this a little bit from what you may have heard traditionally partially because this is going to be the second episode in the share the mic now series that I’ve been doing, but also because this episode, I think, is something really, really special. And it came about probably about the third week of June, I got a message on Instagram and it was one of those moments maybe it’s happened to you, where you get a message from somebody and you almost have to do a double-take because the message was from a woman named Sylvia Balfour. And the reason why I did a double-take was because probably somewhere around the end of last year somebody had recommended a book to me called I dare you to care. And it turned out that it was Sylvia’s book. And it really is about emotional intelligence, to really look at how to use it to inspire to influence and to grow. And I think obviously those have all been themes on the show. So you It’s really a sort of become a go-to reference for me. And as I start to look into her background more after I read the book it I just sort of become even a little bit more starstruck as you know, she is it’s hard to contain her to one thing. I think she is an author, a speaker, obviously, she’s an emotional intelligence expert, but she was also mentored for over 13 years by Dr. Maya Angelou. And she had just reached out saying, just basically, thank you for what it was I was doing and trying to have this conversation and so I tried to seize upon the moment and to be able to say how much I admired her work as well and, and invited her to come in to be able to create an episode and very much to my humbled amazement and surprise, she agreed. That’s what this episode is about today is it’s an episode from Sylvia that I think is it may be hopefully will be one of the best of you know, this is the entire show that I’ve done here. She’s going to be launching a podcast I think within the next month. I think after you hearing this, you will be like me, so Have eagerly awaiting that launch so that you can hit the subscribe button. But I am incredibly humbled and incredibly happy to be able to introduce Silvia Balfour.
Sylvia Baffour 2:10
So I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to share a few minutes of time with you. I’ve been an avid listener of The Crazy One podcast for a few months now. And I find it I find refreshingly real and, and down to earth and informative. Judging by what I’ve come to learn about Steven through his podcasts. I know that accolades and praise are the last things that he craves. And so I won’t go on and on, except to say that, that I’m sure most of you will agree that he’s a pretty awesome human being. Right. Okay, well, enough of that. Let’s, let’s jump right in. So, so maybe you’re the one listening in today who hoped that this new decade would be quite different. Maybe you hoped that it would bring with it a real sense that you could accomplish more than you ever have. imagined or thought possible. At the beginning of each year, at least in our adulthood, we sit down. And maybe if you’re like me with a glass of wine or a glass of champagne, and we set new goals, you know, we set goals of what we hope to achieve by the end of the year. Well, it’s no surprise to any of us that 2020 2020 throw a huge wrench in all of our plans to put it politely. I mean, let’s face it, in many ways, it’s felt like a total detonation of everything we’ve known to be normal.
I mean, you know, think about this. What did you have planned for 2020 that is no longer happening. Me for me, live in person keynote presentations that’s out the window. Maybe for you it’s weddings or vacations or a trip to help out an aging parent or or a loved one in need. Maybe it was just a new move to a job, a new job that no longer is happening.
Lets It 2020 was supposed to be the beginning of a special decade. I mean, the way I saw it, I think it literally paralleled great eyesight for a reason. I mean, just like the name says, 2020, the year of clear sighted vision. And somehow I feel like many of us felt that, you know, we felt that at least, or at least before COVID-19 came along and, and slapped a mask all over our optimism, pun intended. You know, I bet you’ve probably even forgotten all the celebration around December 1 into January 1 2020. Felt like because to be honest, it’s kind of felt like a shit show since then, hasn’t it? And now all with all that’s happening around us, we’re left asking, Well, what the hell happened? And the last thing that we’re able to see clearly is the way ahead. You know, guys, I don’t think 2020 has been a complete disaster. And I do Think that’s the way we, we ought to look at it. And I’ll tell you why. You know, now, while it’s definitely had its share of discomfort and inconvenience and even immense suffering, I do believe that the 2020 has also brought with it a particular gift, the gift of time, think about it. Before this pandemic, we were also busy dashing around with work and, and going to sporting events and parties and gatherings and everything that consumed our attention. And all of a sudden, we found ourselves with more time on our hands than we we knew what to do with it while while in this lockdown and social isolation situation. And so I say that taking advantage of the gift of time, I think it will afford us a chance to just take a pause, maybe even to sit in our discomfort with our uncertainties and and learn more about ourselves. what it feels like to be in this global reckoning that’s happening on so many levels. It was a renowned psychologist, Dr. Susan David, who, who I think said it best. She said discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. You know, when I heard that, it made a lot of sense to me. discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. Yeah. 2020 has proven to have its share of discomfort for sure. But maybe it just may be it can be a time with what we have left and beyond. It can be a time that we use to reflect on ourselves more inwardly than we ever have before. Maybe it’s time for us to think more deliberately, about how we’re moving through this world. How how we can be more thoughtful and think more about the impact that we’re having on those around us.
So this all got me thinking, you know, how much time do we really spend thinking about the impact we’re having on others. I mean, on some level, we only need to look at a couple of things currently happening here in the US to, to see how a segment of society is struggling with the idea of keeping others in mind. I mean, we see debates from people not caring about the impact that they’re having on others by refusing to wear a mask during a global pandemic. And because of that, we’re seeing more loss of life and and we’re even seeing different parts of the world having to go into a second shutdown of sorts. We’re also seeing debates happening around as to whether black lives do indeed matter. And so maybe the question that’s floating around could be what Hey, why should we why should you care? You know, don’t we have enough in our own lives to worry about, then to pylon the responsibility of having to think about others and our impact on them? I think I make a case that A case ought to be made really that many of us don’t care as much as we ought to. Because truth be told, certain things just don’t affect us. I mean, maybe many men don’t care about sexism because it doesn’t affect them.
Most white people might not see racism, because it doesn’t affect them. Most young people might not see ageism, or care about ageism, because it doesn’t affect them. Heck, you know, many leaders within companies don’t see the problems that the employees are experiencing, because it doesn’t affect them. Until it does. You know, a few years ago, I had an opportunity to deliver a 90-minute emotional intelligence keynote presentation to some senior executives and leaders at a US government agency. Now this was thanks to a dear friend of mine who put my name in the hat to be considered for the gig. And I remember working incredibly hard as I do with all of my presentation prep to make sure that the audience would find some real value in what I had to share it after I was done presenting I, I have to tell you, I was really heartened by the standing ovation that I received. But I was also even more surprised by what happens next. You see the gentleman who selected me and booked me for that gig. a side note, by the way, hehe was one of just nine black people in the audience and an audience of about 150 people. So here he is, as I’m done, he walks up towards me. And he seemed to exhale this big sigh of relief before privately admitting to me that I was the quote unquote, Dark Horse of the conference. Now you have to forgive me because I’m not from the US and, and having never heard that expression until that moment. I just pretended like I knew what he was talking about. And I smiled and nodded and even though I had no idea, but the next moment, I heard, I heard comments that came from the Deputy Inspector General of the agency. She was a black female. And what she said to me helped make sense of that dark horse comment that I just heard a moment earlier. First, she thanked me profusely. And then she did something that I thought was a little bit odd. She robbed the back of her hand. As she said to me, You have no idea what you just did for us. Now, being a fellow black person, I knew instantly what she meant when she rubbed the back of her hand. In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s sort of probably an unspoken rule among black people. You know, you know what it means when someone rubs the back of their hand, they’re pointing to the skin color. But then she proceeded to tell me that I was the first speaker of color that had ever been brought into the agency to deliver a keynote presentation.
I have to tell you that look, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing in the year 2015 in America, I mean, how was that possible? All these years, I was the first. And by the way, thanks only to my friend who pushed for me to be considered for the gig. So it got me thinking about my own possible impact that day. That because I was able to do a good enough job as a speaker of color, that it might now be possible for others to be to be considered for that gig in the future within that agency. But I’ll tell you, I also thought about the larger impact of the folks with the decision making power in this organization, who in my eyes clearly must not have put, put that much thought into the way that they could be more inclusive. On more than one occasion. I’ve received insider information that I probably wasn’t supposed to know about, that I wasn’t chosen to do a particular keynote presentation, because the event organizers couldn’t envision a black Female Speaker headlining the conference and actually doing a good job with the audience. And while that saddened me to hear, it’s even sadder, it’s even sadder reality honestly that, that these sorts of practices still exist in, in my industry and in so many others. When I think about these incidents and these in particular, I asked myself, you know, how much do they really know and think about who they’re choosing each year to deliver these keynote presentations? What are they depriving themselves and their audiences of by not thinking about the larger impact and the ways that they can make a difference by being more inclusive? And I’d say to you that if you happen to be in a position of power or influence of any sort, in your workspace, is there an opportunity for you to challenge yourself to be more deliberate about how you including others in in opportunities that you have the power to make available to others. Now, I didn’t share those stories with you in In search of sympathy, but but rather, rather to get us all thinking more deliberately about how we about our impact on others, right about our own impact, because maybe you are that person listening in, in a leadership position with a chance to influence things in in a greater way moving forward. In many of us feel like we’re good at empathy, right? I think many of us feel like we know what it’s like to step in the shoes of others, and we know how to do that. But then I ask, is there is there room to care more? Do we have room to care more about connecting with others who are different from us in understanding where they’re coming from even in those moments, when we may not necessarily agree with them? I mean, how much? How much exactly do we think about our the impact of our decisions, our actions our mere presence might have on those around us. You know, the way I see it with this added gift of time that we all have Maybe it is time. Maybe it’s time to that we listen more. Maybe it’s time that we appreciate our perspectives and just become more thoughtful about the ripples that that we are each putting out there. I think it was us comedian and actor Jim Carrey, who said, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. Think about that for just a moment. The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. And I believe that. But why? Why again, should you even care about this? Well, let me digress for a moment, because I want to cite SOMETHING THAT COUNTLESS psychologists have often asserted, the happiest people in the world. The happiest people in the world are those who have meaningful and sustained connections with other human beings. So the question to Why should you care? I think it’s because I’m pretty sure that you’re like me, you want to be happy, right? I don’t think any of us I bet none of us wakes up each morning craving, the painful loneliness of a life that is devoid of these meaningful human connections with others, right. And the bottom line though, is that we cannot enjoy those connections and those meaningful relationships, if we don’t care about the impact that we have on others plain and simply, if we don’t care about doing the work to become the kinds of people that others truly enjoy wanting to be around. Now, speaking about caring, you know, 27 years ago, I had an experience that profoundly changed a part of my personality forever. So if you’ll indulge me for just a quick moment in the story, so I was living in a government boarding school in Beloit Zimbabwe at the time, and I remember The day very clearly, I had just won an important tennis tournament and I was walking back to the dormitory with with this belief that that all my dorm mates were going to delight in, in my hardware and victory and celebrate with me. So so as I approached the dorm, I couldn’t help noticing an eerie silence coming from from a dorm that really should have been busy and bustling with a bunch of 15 year old girls opening and closing their wooden foot lockers before heading off to the showers for designated bath times. Yeah, so so by boarding school, give you a little bit of pictures. I always tease that it was like Alcatraz you know, with metal beds and wooden foot lockers. And yeah, it wasn’t the most glamorous of living situations. So as I turned the corner from the corridor into our dorm, my fears were realized something was wrong. And I was thinking, why are all these 15 girls, my dorm mates Can I help around a couple of beds at the very end of the dorm with a dorm prefect motion motioning me into come in and and sit with them. Now guys, you know very well but feeling that you get when maybe it was in your childhood I don’t know that feeling you get when you’re you know you’re in trouble for something but you you don’t quite know what it is right?
Yeah that feeling so with my little heart pounding and, and my bony knees knocking. I stumbled into the dorm and I dropped my racket case and, and reluctantly I sat down. And then it began no warning. These girls I’m telling you, they gave me a piece of their mind. I mean, their verbal accusations were unbelievable. In fact, it felt like a verbal assault to be honest with you. And when it finally came to a merciful end, in what felt to me like an eternity and I’m sure it was just just a few minutes. It was brutal. I was so bewildered and uncomfortable and really embarrassed. And I remember that Last, the last thing I remember hearing these girls say was, you think you know everything. And we don’t like being around you because you make people feel small when they’re around you. Now, guys, you honestly, you’ve got to imagine that I was blown away. I mean, sitting there in disbelief with, with tears rolling down my face, my little teenage face. And I was thinking, how, how could I be any of these horrible things that they accusing me off? And I’ll tell you, you know, for the next for the next two weeks, I gave them all the silent treatment. I mean, I was, I was very good at that. I thought they deserved it. And I was like, You know what, I don’t need these girls anyway. So I thought, but once my anger subsided as it always does, right, so once my anger subsided, I began to think more clearly about everything that had happened. And there was this voice in my head that just kept saying, you know, Sylvia, what are the odds that that all 15 girls are wrong and you are the right one. What are the odds of that? So, you know, whenever I’ve shared the story with friends,
I’ll tell you that I found that sometimes they get a little bit caught up in the idea that hey, Sylvia, that’s that’s a bad story. Wow, those girls sounds so harsh and cruel. That definitely wasn’t fair. Now I do I think that they could have been less mean and a bit more tactful in the way they approached me. Yeah, well, maybe, maybe but you know, there’s, there’s, there’s a larger and more important point that I want to make. Because oftentimes, the way that we intend to be experienced can be very different from how people actually experience us. And my thought is that if there is a gap between the two, then isn’t it up to us to kind of figure out if, if and how we want to close the gap, or at least try to narrow it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that We spend our lives trying to control how others feel about us. I mean, that’s not our responsibility to control that. And I wouldn’t ask that view. But I do think that we have a role to play in, in how others experience us because a lot of that is it’s it is within our power to determine. I think so. I believe so. In my experience that day inspired me to, to get far away to get as far away as possible from being the kind of person that made others feel small, and feel unseen. Because truth be told that that was never my intention back then. And yet, it’s the way that others experienced me. I had a choice. And you know, guys, I think we all do to decide whether we want to narrow the gap between our intentions and our impact, if there is indeed a gap. So for me, I made a I made a commitment to try to be more in tune with how others are feeling and trust me, it’s a lifelong journey of continuous work, isn’t it? And I, you know, I, for one fall short, you know, at times and I, and I feel like we all we all do, because we’re human. But I pick, I pick back up and I try to do better the next time around. I mean, imagine this for a moment, imagine a world with, let’s call it a reverse tradition, where instead of waiting until we are no longer on this earth for someone else to stand up and read out aloud a eulogy about us, detailing who we were and, and, and what kind of impact we had on others. Imagine for a moment if the if the tradition was reversed, right. And we got to hear our eulogy read out loud while we are still alive. Now of course, assuming that that is an honest perspective on us, right and honest. Yeah, perception. So my question is, would you listen to what’s being said about you with great alarm and shock or Or would you listen with a pleasant smile or validation kind of knowing that that’s exactly how you hoped that you experienced while you were here on this earth? Just something to think about. You know, at the end of the day, we all know what it feels like to be seen, to be heard, to be understood. I mean, I think these are basic human desires that we all share out there. And my contention is that because we know exactly how it feels deep down inside, to be seen and heard and understood, then doesn’t that make it possible for us to, to connect to that feeling, and then extend the same courtesy to others? I’ve come to realize that whether we are aware of it or not every single interaction we have with others, whether they are a stranger, or someone most familiar to us, every interaction we have with others leaves behind what I call an emotional aftertaste. Yeah. You know, people have people feel a certain way having been in our presence. And I think generally it can be bitter or sweet.
And and the good news that much of it is determined by us. I mean, think about the people in your world that you cross paths with just a moment, whether it’s in your personal or in your professional life. I bet you that if I asked you to think about somebody whose company you really enjoy, you can think of someone, right, you probably have someone in your mind right now. And so so hold that person’s name in mind, hold them in, in your mind for just a second. And probably brings a smile to your face to think about them, doesn’t it? So So what is it about them that makes them so enjoyable to be around? I mean, how much thoughts have you put to that? You know, I bet you that when their name pops up in your mind, it brings a smile to your face, not just because you’d like them, but also because you love the way you feel in their presence. When you are in their presence, and that is a sweet emotional aftertaste The way I see it earlier in this episode I talked about the the idea of us all using the gift of time to become more aware and more intentional about how we are moving through this world. And I think that one of the ways that we can do this is by caring about the emotional aftertaste, we leave behind with with those that we are interacting with. You see that the bottom line is this guys, we all have the opportunity to decide who we are going to be in this life. The way I see it, you know we can we can be that person who who looks back at Okay, let’s let’s see a quote unquote disastrous and wasted 2020 and simply is grateful for having made it out alive who or we can be that person who uses the discomforts and the uncertainty of the moment to dig deep To discover resilience there, I see beautiful parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t have known existed under normal life circumstances without a life interrupting pandemic, to challenge us. And so I invite you to to be one of those taking full advantage of the added gift of time that we do have to pay more attention to what’s happening around you to to the ways that you can be a positive impact to others, whether it’s however big or small, it might be. So I want to leave you I want to leave you with, with wise words from a very dear dear mentor of mine, Dr. Maya Angelou, words that she is she’s most remembered by the world over really. She said people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them. Feel. Stephen, I won’t soon forget your kindness and your thoughtfulness in opening the door for me to share the mic with your audience. I’m inspired by your example in in in creating a podcast show that truly does add value to people’s lives. And I only hope I only hope to be able to do the same when I launch my podcast called idea you to care next month sometime. And I want to thank you for the honor and the privilege that you’ve afforded me to share time with, with your treasured listeners, your treasured listening community, and to your listeners. I thank you all for the precious time you spent listening in because I know you could have been doing anything else with your life in this moment. It’s been an honor and a privilege to have shared this time with you. Thank you so much once again.
Stephen Gates 26:50
Well, thank you again, so much for listening in to the series of episodes that we’re doing here. There are a number of more in the works that we’ll be releasing in the coming weeks. Once again. I would encourage you that if you are a speaker influencer, if you have any platform at all, I think, you know, this is obviously a conversation and a cause that is incredibly worthy and worth getting behind. And we’d love to be able to see more people be able to be a part of this so we can sort of broaden the conversation. But again, thank you so much for that. Look for more of these in the future and as always, stay crazy
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