By Kathryn George, BBH Partner and Ellen Perry, BBH Senior Advisor
With so much turmoil at one time, levels of anxiety and feelings of helplessness may seem overwhelming. At home, fear and outrage are being expressed by children young and old, and parents are grappling with how to navigate through these conversations. At work, employees are speaking frankly to business owners about their experiences with racism, while also feeling responsible for educating their colleagues on race and bias. All of this is unfolding against the looming backdrop of the current pandemic, exposing families and businesses to unprecedented levels of unrest and uncertainty. We are not only dealing with turmoil but feeling isolated and alone. The playbook for these times has not been written, and how to approach the issues can seem unclear. Nonetheless, there are ways to support one another and keep relationships from fraying.
With any difficult scenario, communication is the most important tool. Inviting a dialogue between your children at the dinner table or your colleagues at team meetings is essential right now. If you know someone who might be uncomfortable sharing their opinions in a group setting, open up to them one-on-one. Being vulnerable and sharing your own feelings or uncertainty, while welcoming other views and perspectives, can create positive exchanges and levels of trust and comfort around difficult subjects like race and injustice. During these exchanges, try to listen more than you speak. Everyone’s reaction to these times will be different, so it is even more important to listen to others, and to learn from them.
If a person does have a different opinion or perspective, do not shy away from this. It is important to take the opportunity to try and understand the differing viewpoints of those around you — whether it’s your children, your neighbors, or your colleagues — and respect those views. Inviting a dialogue is not enough if you do not approach these conversations with humility, respect and love. With family, who we might be spending much more time with than before, it is easy to be dismissive or harsh. Our family is the source of our most intense emotional relationships, whether they are fraught or not. Because we are much more attuned to our parents, siblings or children — their small gestures, mannerisms or change in mood — we react to them with more emotion. While you might be tempted to dismiss dissenting opinions from within your family, do not just dig in deeper on your own views. Be thoughtful; consider the stances of those around you and be open to change.
Most importantly, remember that everyone is struggling right now. We are all adjusting to a new normal and facing fears around economic stability, health and social upheaval. Now, more than ever, it is important to practice kindness and humility. Not just to others, but to ourselves as well.
At Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), our purpose is straightforward: to help protect our clients’ financial well-being, and to grow their assets over long periods of time. Our clients are at the center of everything we do, and we structure our firm, teams, and businesses to keep it that way. Our integrity will not be compromised.
Our culture of collaboration and innovation is the result of our global teams who bring diverse experiences and perspectives to the workplace. We create an environment where employees of all backgrounds feel that their unique perspectives and ideas are valued.