New Book Encourages Openness to Thrive Through Change and Obstacles

Ann Van Eron’s new book Open Stance: Thriving Amid Differences and Uncertainty convincingly shows us that the best way we can improve our relationships and cope with life’s changes and obstacles is to be open-minded, or adopt an open stance.The book opens with a powerful quote by Jim Collins, which perfectly sums up why this open stance is necessary: “If the first two decades of the twenty-first century have taught us anything, it is that uncertainty is chronic, instability is permanent, disruption is common, and we can neither predict nor govern events. There will be no new normal. There will only be a continuous series of not normal episodes defying prediction and unforeseen by most of us until they happen.” The response many of us might feel to the tumultuous change all around us is to run and hide. Ann Van Eron understands that. She describes a vacation she took to Santorini, Greece, which she thinks of as her oasis because there she learned to relax, quit stressing, and be open to what was around her.Since being on a perpetual vacation is not an option for most of us, Ann encourages us to find our own oases or pleasant memories of times when we felt open and relaxed and apply them to situations in our lives that may be more difficult. When we approach our obstacles with the same openness we approach a vacation or other positive things, we can shift to being more open-minded and finding ways to appreciate even the most difficult situations or come to find common ground with people we previously felt were too different for us to see eye-to-eye with.Of course, being open or closed is all a state of mind. Ann teaches us how to be aware of when we are closed-to be aware of our thoughts and how they might be sabotaging us or preventing us from taking an open stance that will bring us greater fulfillment or peace of mind. She reminds us that we each have an internal spin doctor who tells us stories about situations, other people, and ourselves. We need to be aware of when the spin doctor is operating, twisting perspectives to make us look good and others less so. By paying attention to our thoughts and to other people, we can open a door to possibilities.As a business consultant, Ann has worked with numerous organizations to teach their members how to take such an open stance. She has witnessed firsthand how companies faced with diversity challenges have had employees shift to being open so they could co-create solutions. Now in Open Stance, she shares the tools and processes that have worked for the numerous people she has guided through the process. The book is divided into four sections. Part One argues the case for being open, Part Two offers a process for shifting to being open, Part Three shares practices for embodying an open stance, and Part Four encourages us to take action from an open stance to make the world a better place, whether in simple ways or larger ones within our local or global community.Throughout the book, Ann shares not only her own experiences helping others to be more open, but she backs up her statements with research, showing, for example, how employees are more engaged when they are open and experiencing wellbeing. The result for companies is greater financial success and positive impact on their customers. By creating a workplace that is more open, people feel psychology safe, and then they are more willing to share ideas, are more creative, and work better together.While being open might sound easy, it requires learning to listen to other people to understand them. Ann discusses such topics as empathy and how to be open to and curious about others. She also cautions us not to assume we can easily understand another. Can we really know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair or to be unable to get a cab because of our skin color? However, we can listen to others and come to understand why they hold the beliefs and opinions they do so we can find common ground.We also can expand our emotional vocabulary to better listen to ourselves. For example, rather than use basic descriptions of emotions like happy, sad, or angry, we can expand to pinpoint whether we are frustrated, irritated, afraid, or annoyed. By becoming more aware of our emotions, we can develop greater emotional intelligence. We will also then be better able to notice what emotions others are responding from so we can respond better to them.Some of this may seem like common sense, but it is easy to forget these practices if we are closed. It is also easy to forget what long-lasting ripple effects we can create simply by having “compassionate curiosity” and connecting to each other. Open Stance’s final section is a true tour-de-force vision of how good our world could be if we simply focus on being open, try to be optimistic, and express gratitude.Ann shows how positive change can begin simply by each of us choosing to be open, and how that will affect everyone we come into contact with. Others will pick up on our positive vibe and become positive themselves, and soon the goodwill and openness will spread so that we all can make this a better world. It might seem like pie in the sky, but even a small shift to being more open will make our lives incrementally better. I encourage you to be open to reading Open Stance and giving it a try.

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