Breathe With Me

by Josh Orendi

breathe-joshMy wife and I are due on February 11th with our first child — a daughter that is showing early signs of becoming a soccer player.  This week, we took our first pregnancy preparation class.  Our instructor, Tamara, shared a piece of advice that is so relevant to leadership that I had to pass it along.  I’ll paraphrase.  She said:

“We all know the big day comes with pain.  We all know that there will be craziness around us.  Dads, this is when you need to step up.  You are her support team; her coach.  Breathing exercises are a way for the two of you to connect, calm, and focus.  You are a team.  When you notice that she is not breathing, DO NOT tell her to breathe.  She’s more likely to punch you than she is to hear your instructions.  Instead, hold her hand gently, look into her eyes, tell her you love her, and begin to breathe yourself.  Say, ‘breathe with me.’ and she’ll respond.  You can do this together….”

Breathe with me. That’s such a simple but powerful reminder.  Less instruction.  More hand-in-hand, loving, demonstration of what needs to be done together (especially on the big day).

This lesson has me thinking of campus professionals that say, “I tell them the same thing … for some reason it’s like they hear it for the first time when you say it.”  It reminds me of chapter leaders that say, “how many times do I have to tell them!?!?”  It reminds me of my headquarters friends that tell stories of feeling like they are ‘spinning their wheels’ or ‘talking to a wall.’  Our alumni sometimes say, “is it really that hard … in my day … they just don’t get it.”  The lesson even reminds me of my parents.  I was the worst offender of being dismissive or defensive when they told me what I was doing wrong.

Recruitment seasons create high tension environments ripe with these moments.

Compassionate leaders/teachers/coaches/advisors/consultants/chapter and council officers often come to realize the power of being present in the moment, listening deeply, empathizing, and doing it together.  Speaking in the voice that your recipient can hear is an art form.  Committing to do it together as a team.  Leading by example.  This is quite a bit different than dropping by to “check in,” barking direction, sending a passive-aggressive text/email, or rolling your eyes (all are examples I am personally guilty of doing).

So, whether you are having a baby or just dealing with one, a few more patient moments of brotherly/sisterly love is more likely to yield the result that everyone is looking for.  Breathe with me.