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The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp

This episode contains the never heard before full interview from our very first episode with Esther Perel.

It was this sit down conversation that sparked the friendship between Esther and Damon that continues to this day. We believe in the magic that real conversations can create, so we want to take you back to that moment in time, back to the start and give you access to the first time Esther and Damon sat down together.

For the first time ever, we’re releasing the full interview from start to finish. This conversation offers a great opportunity to be reminded of the foundational elements of relational intelligence, along with tangible takeaways to help you build a better world of work.

Psychotherapist Esther Perel is the New York Times bestselling author of The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity. Esther’s TED talks have garnered more than 20 million views and she is the host of podcast Where Should We Begin?

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Learn more about Culture Amp at or @cultureamp on Instagram

Episode transcript

Damon Klotz: Thanks so, so much for being here.

Esther Perel: Thank you. Me too.

Damon Klotz: So, I know quite a bit about you. I've seen you talk a couple of times. I've sort of, you know, seen your work, you know very little about me. So what do you wanna learn about me?

Esther Perel: This is a question that I ask actually, when I see couples in my office and after they've told me lots of things, I often say, is there anything you would like to know about me? Mm. But yes, I'd love to know who I'm speaking with, you know? Yeah. And. And why you decided to talk to me.

Yeah. And what it is that you heard, that you find relevant to who you are and to what you do. So you can start anywhere you want.

Damon Klotz: Okay. I can start with that. Um, I think the first time I heard you, it was at a conference. It was a workplace co, you know, workplace conference about technology. But you were speaking about relationships. And you're speaking about, I think the core thing for me was language. And I've always thought about the role of language when it comes to being able to express ourselves or being able to sort of be our true self. If we can't use language to do that, how else do we do that? Mm-hmm. And I was like, this is like, everyone needs to hear this. And I thought back about my time growing up, my relationship with my family, my relationship with others, and I was like, you're giving people new words. Or at least the ability to know that the words are already in them to express themselves.

Esther Perel:Which conference was that?

Damon Klotz: So it was called Unleash and it was in Europe.

Esther Perel: That was my first, your first like workplace conference or, um, workplace conference. Ever. Wow. I mean, I had spoken to LinkedIn just before, but this was really the beginning of my transition and thinking. This is the time where for the first time, everything that we have learned in our offices is becoming intensely relevant for the workplace.So Amsterdam was very significant for me, and not only for what I said, but for hearing the reaction of the people too, what I was saying. So that was very confirming. But you come from journalism, you come from

Damon Klotz: No, I'm got a bit of, a little, a different background. So I studied, business. Yeah.

I originally wanted to be a sports agent. And then I was like, that's just maximizing, you know, earning capacity for people. I think they've got that. I wanna have maybe a little bit more meaning in my work.. So I actually picked human resources to study,, on a bit of a whim. So I didn't really know what I wanted to choose.

And then I fell really in love with the idea of helping people find work that matters to them and actually maximizing the potential of humans at work. I looked around and so many people just really didn't enjoy their jobs and. I went back to like my first ever job working in like the fast food industry and like I was like, I can, I cannot do this forever.

Esther Perel: Right. Tell me, what is the data? It's 60 something percent of people that find themselves very fulfilled or just even miserable in the workplace at all levels of the industries, right?

Damon Klotz: Yeah. Lacking connection, lacking meaning, not feeling like they're developing, um, not feeling like that this work really matters, like having a sense of purpose. So very early on I was like, one, I want that for me, and two, I want to try and instill that in others. So I did a lot of speaking about sort of, you know, the future of work and what's happening, how to use technology in the workplace, how to adapt to sort of, you know, innovation. I've had many different lives actually. So to be here having this conversation with you, uh, I see it as like a bit of a full circle moment in my career where I sort of started learning about this. I sort of lived four different, five different lives and now I'm here to kind of just talk about the power of workplace culture with people like yourself.

Esther Perel: So the thing that changed is that anybody 25 years ago who would've said four or five different lives would be 20 years older than you. Yeah. That's the contraction of, uh, in 10 years.

Damon Klotz: Wow. Yeah. Wow. And so like that's one thing that you have spoken about before is the idea, or if you can have more than one relationship, right, with the same person. Right. And now I feel like I'm having more than one career. In the same company, in the same body, and in the same company. Right? Yeah.

Esther Perel: But I think that that's really one of the challenges of the moment is, For people in their romantic life. Yes, it's, can I have a new relationship with the same person? Which in effect is gonna be, you know, a different story. Mm. It's a different story. Can you write more than one story with the same person? And I think it's the same in the workplace, is do you have to change jobs to go and do new things? Or can you within the job actually have different career paths, but the frame is large enough that it can encompass these changes. Yeah., but you know, even when you talk about, you want a sense of purpose or fulfillment, I think that for most of history, the only people who could, uh, hope for this kind of stuff at work, where artists, I mean, if you went to work in the field, you didn't think about fulfillment and if you went to work in a factory, you certainly didn't think about no purpose. So, this is really an amazing thing that people, you went for purpose in religion. You didn't go for purpose in work.

Damon Klotz: Cause so much of our identity is now wrapped up in where we work. Enormous.

Esther Perel: Yeah, enormous. I had a dinner this week, about 25 people, and I start, you know, we are gonna not talk about and introduce ourselves by what we do, that's gonna be deadly. We are more than that. Yeah. And let's see what would happen if we spend the whole evening talking about ourselves without having to talk about what we do. And what was interesting was to see some of the people who were anxious that they couldn't use that lens to introduce themselves. And some who were anxious that, well, how can I talk to you if I don't, I can't place you kind of thing. Because you can place people in multiple ways. I think that. In itself should be a, a golden rule for gatherings at this moment is, is having people meet without having to start with what they do. This is very American too, by the way.

Damon Klotz: Yeah. And as someone who's Anglo, I'm from Australia. I've only been living in the United States for four years, and I think one of the things that I've had to learn is that like you actually need to promote yourself a little bit more because it's, you know, it's a very American thing to kind of, you know, default to that way, but to have a conversation with someone for an hour without saying where you work or what your job title is, refreshing how important you are, or where that person can help you, changes the conversation.

Esther Perel: Yeah. So I was at another gathering and it began like this where people started saying, what? And I just thought, there's 15 of us here. This is gonna be long. And I, as the number two person, I said, you know, can I, do you mind, I would just like to suggest something. I thought, you know what? Instead of saying what you do, maybe we could go around and each of us just talk about what it is that we've been thinking about lately. Mm. What's been on your mind? What is occupying you? And the next person starts talking about how she just lost her father. And it's like, you know, then you're interested, right? Because you're thinking about your loss, your parents, your histories. Then the next person talks about how she lost her pet, her dog, and then now we're talking, and the next one is talking about how he's actually thinking about the fact that he's done a lot of things for money and now he would like to actually do things for meaning, right? And an hour and a half later, people were riveted listening to 15 different stories and it didn't go around like this. The person who finishes chooses who they wanna hear next. Right. Popcorn style. So that exactly. So that you don't have the preparation for, you know, when is it my turn? And it was a whole, I mean, people left full rather than, you know, bad networking. What's on your mind lately? Um, What's on my mind lately? That's a beautiful question. Lots of things. Um, I mean, the first thing that was on my mind yesterday was about this talk that I was gonna give at Culture Amp and, and you know, I was excited about a few concepts. A few ideas that kind of popped up when I was thinking about it, and I just thought, will they find it as exciting as me? Will they find that relevant? Is that, is that as interesting to them as it is to me? Mm. It's like you jump on something, you know, and you say, identity economy, this is what is how going on, this is what you just talked about. Identity economy. How, when did the economy, when did the workplace become one of the prime, prime places for where we go and develop our sense of who we are? Yeah. And then, and then I thought, um, this idea that feedback has become more difficult because we are experiencing a l a lessening of this, what we are doing now, you and I right. Talking to each other without an interruption, you know, at this point, the only place people can actually experience that is when they are patients in a therapist office. They get an hour of undiluted device free attention. Where else can you get that these days?

Esther Perel: You know, there really isn't that much space in society for that anymore. So I was thinking about all of that, you know, attention. I was thinking about how people would hear what I have to say and, and how I stumbled upon suddenly thinking about work. Hmm. And it's a fantastically broad continent. So when I stumble on a subject and it's one of these that has tentacles, cuz work is so vast, it's exciting. I feel like, man, I'm gonna have, I'm not gonna be bored for the next five years.

Damon Klotz: Is it like, it's like a new, new, a new career for you again because you are still you and I'm still me, but we apply ourselves exactly in our sense of meeting into a brand new way and it reinvigorates you and. Yeah, like when I think about myself, it's like someone could have labeled me in many different ways. I was a social entrepreneur, I was, you know, a mental health advocate. I was a digital marketer. I was HR consultant. Now, you know, I've been, I joined a tech startup and now maybe I'm just a podcast host and someone who can have a conversation, but like I am the sum of all those things as well. That's right. That's right. And we always show up with all of our experience, but then we can apply it in a brand new way.

Esther Perel: I mean, that's what travelers do. Mm, no. I think in, in, in a way, you are a traveler. I think anybody who lives in a foreign country, does that naturally all the time. But you don't always reveal your sources. Yeah. Like all the parts of you are not revealed, but they show up together.

Damon Klotz: My parents, you know, ask me quite often, when am I gonna move back home? And I say, well, you do know what you called me. And I, they say, Damon, I'm like, and Damon backwards is nomad. Oh wow. So when you say, why don't you move home? It's like, you probably shouldn't have called me that. But I think it's just a curious mindset. It's about wanting to explore the world and see the world. And put yourself in a new environment where you actually become shaped as well.

Esther Perel: By that context, when did you know you would leave?

Damon Klotz: I've left a few times I've left and I'll come back and then. But I think I always wanna be somewhere outside of my comfort zone.

Esther Perel: And are you the only one in your family? Who is, are the others the rooted ones and you are?

Damon Klotz: I’m the eldest of four boys and the other three are all back in Australia. So yeah, like it's hard as well, like being on the other side of the world. I'm going back for a wedding in Australia this weekend. I'm there for 48 hours and then I come back. Yeah. Then I come back to the US.

Esther Perel: Do you know it's my association to Australia. My father had a friend who was in Australia who came, like him from Poland, but went as a refugee to Australia after the war, and I must have been seven years old, six years old. And he came on a ship to Belgium, huge ship that he had been on sea for three weeks. And we went to the harbor in Anfa to pick him up. And I said, where is he coming from? And my dad said, vie. And that was like this continent that, and then I finally went for the first time last month and did it. I've been waiting to go to Australia.

Damon Klotz: Did it live up to your expectations after all that time?

Esther Perel: I mean, it's a place where you travel super far and think that doesn't look that different from here.

Damon Klotz: I've actually heard someone say that before they go, you fly all this way and it looks like any other city.

Esther Perel: You might say it's a kind of an outpost of the UK.. And somewhat of, so it's very interesting. You expect if you go that far that you're gonna land in something that is completely different and it's not. So that was one of the now. Besides that, I enjoyed it a lot. I went to Uluru as well and Nice. Um, And I was also super well received because I was headlining Vivid and, and, and beginning to take this whole thing about work.. I like portable topics. Yeah. I like portals, topics that invite explorations that are very vast, and I like portable topics. So I'm doing this new podcast that's called How’s Work. Incredible name. And you like it?

Damon Klotz: Oh, I, yeah. Because it's just, it's a question that we get asked all the time. Yes. And it's a question that's typically answered without the true answer. How's work? Yeah, pretty good. Fine. Busy. Like you don't get any sense of meaning or understanding about how is actual work, right? When people answer it in that way, but yeah, I'm, I'm sure if you walked around and asked 10 people how's work? You just get those like same sort of just. You know, very short replies.

Esther Perel: So it's, you know, we literally closed the title. Yes. I mean, I've had this as the working title for a while now, but then we came up with five or six other titles.. Some of which titles were very interesting. But in effect, yes, I am a person who asks questions. It's, that's what drives my conversation and I always did. So how's work? That's kind of how I heard it, you know, but then they cut the, ‘so’, so it remained house work, and I think it's, it opens, you know? So now when you really say, I wanna hear. Then you're gonna get a 45 minute podcast. Yeah. That's gonna delve into. What are the issues around relationships that people encounter at work and how their relationship dowry that they bring from their own history comes to work with them every day in ways that we are not nearly as aware of. Yeah and I think that it's bringing a clinical perspective to the workplace, to HR and to culture and to, you know, people, director of people, all the people who deal with the relationships and the cultures of work. Yeah, I think. To me, the challenge today is, you know, we have worked on these things for a long time, very intensely in our office. We therapists, clinicians, and I, I wanted, when I did, where should we begin? I wanted to bring out the therapeutic principles from the office into the public arena. I wanted to take the therapeutic practice and make it free and available to the whole world. And now I think that I wanna do that and bring that knowledge to the workplace, and I think that the meeting of these two is going to be something very rich.

Damon Klotz: I could not agree more, and I truly wanna help you up with that because so many of my best conversations with people who are not in the people space or the culture space or the HR space is normally around like dealing with workplace issues or relationships, and they turn to people in this space for advice.So I feel like you can bring a different sort of lens to it as well, which is gonna be powerful. One of the core concepts that you talk about is relational intelligence, right? So how would you describe that to someone simply, and then I want to dive into how that shows up in teams.

Esther Perel: Well, relational intelligence is about how you connect. It's about how you establish trust, how you overcome betrayal, um, how you either engage or avoid conflict. It's how you manage the interaction, the interpersonal relationships that you have with other people. It's the stories that you tell yourself and that determine the way that you will communicate either with curiosity and collaboration, either with reluctance and suspicion. And it is the ability to see from a multiple perspective, meaning you look at a situation, a relational situation, you need self-awareness, and you need relational awareness. I've talked a lot, especially the people who did work on emotional intelligence. It's about self-awareness and I think that's plenty of people have gone and know themselves very well. What they don't know is the effect they have on others. They're kind of blind to it sometimes. That's a relational perspective, right? It's like when the people come in, they say, I've done a lot of individual therapy. That's great. That means that you've looked at your own belly button. Mm. But couples therapy, relationship therapy is not about what's here, it's about what's here. The space between, it's the space between, and you can feel all kinds of things. The effect of those things on the relationship. For example, depression, negativity, I can feel low and inside I feel helpless and I feel deflated, and I may even feel defeated and I feel no energy and I feel, but interpersonally, I wield so much power. Because everybody on my team, when there is one person like that, is busy trying to push me, to motivate me, to get me to see something better, to, uh, to, to lift me. And my gravity is ultimately, often gonna make all these other people feel as low and deflated as me.. So the weakness on the inside is sometimes the power interpersonally. And all kinds of, that's the shift of perspective of thinking relationally is what's happening between, what's your effect on others, not just what do you feel inside.

Damon Klotz: What are some of the ways that you would encourage teams to actually build a stronger sense of this inside of, of their team? And is this something that has to be done as a collective or can just two individuals within a team actually work on this?

Esther Perel: Both. Yeah. I think some things are done in pairs. Some things are done in triads. Some things are done in the whole group. Mm-hmm. Um, um, I think the power of groups is incredible and is often not nearly taken into account. The p the power of being supported by a whole group. I just went to a men's retreat.I was alone one woman with 60 men for three days. You know, and I saw these men basically working on developing emotional intelligence and relational intelligence. That's really all they were doing is learning to be vulnerable, learning to trust, learning to open up, learning to not just live by code. This happened to be, and their code is that their code as a man at home and as a man in the workplace. And you know, it was an incredible thing to watch. And, but I think sometimes you do things to people together. You know, in the old way, the old schools, they used to have people walk in the morning, take walks and talks. I think that would be an amazing thing to bring back. It's to help people. Connect and relate while they move.. While they move. We are sitting now, but it's static. Yeah. It's like if we were walking and we were actually both walking and looking in parallel, you know, parallel play, we'd, we'd be able to probably say all kinds of things that we not necessarily gonna say when we do this. Right. So you need both. I tend to nothing. It's either this or that. But sometimes there is too much of this and not another of that.

Damon Klotz: How much does the environment play? And when I think about environment, I think like where you're actually meeting, is it happening in an office? Not in an office. The type of meeting room that you're meeting in, whether you can see someone, like so many meetings happening around the world now virtual.

Esther Perel: Me too, my company. We do it too.

Damon Klotz: Yeah. How do you build relational intelligence when you're actually lacking a lot of the in person?

Esther Perel: You don't. You don't. You flatten the relationship. The screen life is 2d, it's flattening, and you don't get to see the nuances and you know instantly when you're talking on a zoom call and somebody is actually reading their message at the same time and you are put on pause and you realize that. I mean, look, there's a very important term these days. I didn't even talk about it in the talk today, but I do think it's, it's one of the very important concepts. People have often talked and are talking more and more today about loneliness and that people feel isolated. And you know, the virtual communications of work is part of that. There's a term that comes from grief. That Pauline Boss introduced that is called Ambiguous Loss. Mm-hmm. Have you ever heard of Ambiguous Loss? Because of me. Yeah. I never thought in my life I would be using it to describe the social interactions of now. Right. It's when people are physically present, but psychologically gone. Like they're compromised. They're absent because they're ill cuz they have Alzheimer's or because they are psychologically present. But physically gone. As in they're absence. Yeah, they're kidnapped. Now in a virtual thing, you often have a situation where a critical person isn't there, but everybody is talking as if that person is extremely central to the project. Or you have people that are physically there. You actually see their name, but you won't see their picture because God knows what else they're doing. I really think that the 3D needs to be recaptured in any way we can. You know, they're taking surgeons now to museums and to art classes in order to give them back the touch and the sensation of the tip of the finger so that they can do the micro surgeries that they need to do. Right. I think it's the same thing for people who work together or they should cook together. Mm. They should do real physical. Things that are, that involve the senses, um, because that's how we relate. When we see people, we hear them, we touch them, we smell them. And if all of that becomes a digitized, it does change your experience of the social environment. So I think we all have the reality that people work remote. That's fine. And as much as you can. There is nothing replaces it and I, I know it because as a therapist, I work still in my office in one of the only techno free environments, and I do Skype sessions and I do, but with people that I know, but every time they're in my role, I can do this. And when you're upset, and I do that (places hand on Damon’s knee), that has no connection with anything that I can try to do through the damn screen, but I can't get, I, you know? Yeah. We can't live without touch.

Damon Klotz: You can't show that you're truly there for someone.

Esther Perel: Only touch. It calms the nerve system. When I touch you, if I do the bony handles, the shoulders, the knees, the places where you anchor a person, the back of the neck, like we hold a baby, it says, I'm here for you. It's like, what the hell? We are talking about trust. If the basic way that people learn to trust that you're there for them is when you are physically there and you put your hand on them in a loving and caring way. It's like, we are, we, we use a word, but we have taken away the basic ways that that word actually gets imprinted on us.

Damon Klotz: Starting with trust and starting with that relationship, I think is really important. When I think about some of the strongest workplace relationships I've built, a lot of it has been because we've been able to connect on something outside of work first. That's true, that's true. To understand each other and just get to know each other. And then we've built really strong working relationships. But when you go straight to work and try to build trust in a form that can only show up in decisions or meetings or projects, it's a very different level of trust.

Esther Perel: And I think it's outside of, but that's different from what Culture Amp says. Cuz Culture Amp says that it is trust, that you trust other people to make decisions. And I thought that's such just a, a very, it's one of the few things that I thought that's narrow. I mean, unless I don't fully understand the way the sentence is constructed it, I though , no, that I agree with you.

Damon Klotz: Like if it was just trust, it's not an intellectual thing, because we show up with a lot more than just our brains, even though we talk about knowledge. It was Henry Ford who said, you know, I don't want your brain. I just want your hands because like, I can control your hands, it's really hard to control the brain.

Esther Perel: Right, it's totally clear that we don't just, there's body. Yeah. There's emotion, there's mind, there's all of that shows up at work. But it's the one sentence that I thought, I don't, I don't get it. Uh, what, what is meant here?

Damon Klotz: It's probably also the most, the one that people struggle with the most, because it's also about decision making. And in a truly global organization, people will be making decisions when you're asleep. Or when maybe you have more context or less context, or maybe you're the expert on that subject. But to move fast, you need to trust someone else to make that decision based on, you know, just a globally discussed workflow.

Esther Perel: Yes. But you could make a decision to, to fire 200 people. The point is that I want you to make decisions that involve me. You know, when you are, do you have a pen?

Damon Klotz: Not on me. No.

Or gimme this watch. Sure. I'll show you something. At eight months you do this. And then suddenly the baby looks and they realize for the first time that the watch still exists, even though they're not seeing it. And then they start this incredible game where they throw it on the ground, you pick it up, they throw it on the ground, you pick it up, and they realize that they can bring something back, even if it's not part of their awareness. It's called object constancy. It is the thing that allows us afterwards to begin to do pickable. Right?. This is the foundation of trust. Even when I don't see you, I know you're there, and even though you don't see me, you know I'm there. And then we do peek-a-boo and it's like a universal, universal game. There's not a child on the planet who hasn't played that. And it is the thing that allows the kid to move away and to know that you will be there when they come back, or for you to leave and for them not to panic. That idea that you are carried inside others, you want your company to make decisions in which you feel that they were thinking about you. Yeah. And that they were thinking about how much you've invested here or whatever you've done for the company, et cetera. Just to make decisions is not enough. Yeah. It's my interest that you need to also demonstrate. That's right. I think trust is what lends relationships, a foundational truth that is timeless and that allows me to know that I can rely on you even when I'm not there. It's exactly the child and the parent so that I can go and take risks and be vulnerable in a way that makes me feel protected. That's, I think, one of the definitions of trust that I think we can translate across cultures.

Damon Klotz: Beautiful. I've got a couple of questions that I want to sort of do more rapid fire with you. When I've told people that I was having a chance to have this conversation, I had a lot of people who had, you know, questions that they suggested. So I hope I do some of them justice. What is a sign of a poisonous relationship at work?

Esther Perel: Contempt. Contempt is the number one. This is John Gutman's work as well is the number one horse of the apocalypse.

Damon Klotz: When things go sour between members of a team, should the manager intervene or stay out of it.

Esther Perel: I think managers should intervene. But the intervention should be the encouragement for the two people or the three people to work out that which is standing in between them. If the manager can lend themselves as a facilitator of a reconciliation or a clarification process between the others, they should do it. They shouldn't let things fester and they should not also try to just solve a problem themselves. Neither, neither of these two, but hold the space for people to duke it out.

Damon Klotz: What role does love play in the workplace?

Esther Perel: Ooh, much. You may love your manager. Manager may love you. You may love a colleague. You may love your team. You may love what you do. Um, you may, you may love the way your company has supported you when you were going through hardships at home. I think love is friendship. Love is collegiality, love is, support. Love is, is a verb that is very active that permeates all of these different types of relationships.

Damon Klotz: Should work culture, feel like a family, a sports team, a classroom. Or something else?

Esther Perel: Work culture should feel like work culture. Sometimes it has elements that feel very familial. Mm. And sometimes it may feel classroom. Sometimes it may have an element of, of a, of a, of a solidarity of a sports team. I think the groups that you mentioned are identified by, by certain experiences, right. The competition, the solidarity, the unity, the familial thing can mean a lot of things. You know, in this instance I'm imagining it's meant to be positive elements of families, but, you know, families produce the best and the worst of humankind. So, I think workplace should be workplace. It is a unique thing that hopefully you want to go to when you wake up in the morning. That can be really hard sometimes, but you want to feel that you have dignity. That you can look at yourself in the mirror and you don't think, what am I doing there? That you don't feel disrespected or devalued. That you feel that you have a reason that you contribute in some way to do whatever that contribution is that. You make, that's the meaning of this, and that it gives you the opportunity to feed the people that you are responsible for. For many people, that is still the primary reason to work, and the fulfillment doesn't necessarily come from what they're doing at work. The fulfillment comes from the fact that the work is able to feed six children at home.

I think we have to not forget that. Yeah. We've become, you know, white collar thinks about the work as the fulfillment, but for many people, the fulfillment comes from being able to be a provider, a protector, a, a parent, a nurturer, a parent or, or, or a devoted child who is feeding six other siblings who could not come across the ocean or things like that.

Yeah, I think fulfillment is essential, but the meaning of fulfillment is not always intrinsic to the work. It's sometimes extrinsic to the work for what it can afford us in other parts of our life. Is that clear? Yeah.

Damon Klotz: No. When I think about my own journey, I feel like I want to do my life's work and I wanna make sure this has got meaning. But ultimately the first meaning that I was searching for was how do I provide for my family? Because, you know, they didn't go to college. Uh, you know, I was the highest earner in my family when I was 20 years old. So, like, for me it was actually like, I wanna be successful first. Yes. And I want to do things that are valued and is valuable. But I also wanna do it with meaning. And also, you know, you don't want one going too far away from the other. And you even shared that story earlier about that person at dinner who was, I've made all the money and now I want meaning..

Esther Perel: Right. But did you take your success and share it with your family or was it for you alone?

Damon Klotz: I would like to think I'm sharing it with my family and helping them out in ways that only I can, based on the work that I've been able to do.

Esther Perel: Okay. I think that is, that is a whole other level of fulfillment, which is not spoken about enough. I think in our individualistic perspective, we talk about the successes. Just for you, for so many people, the success is what enables you to take care of an ill person, of a child of a parent who can, who can't, who you know. You're the only one who's going to go. And those stories are not told in the workplace, and I think they would humanize the workplace so much. You know, I had a situation of a person who was really difficult and often late, and everybody was, until one day the person talked about the fact that before coming to work, they had an hour and a half every morning where they went to see their ill parents that they were taking care of and, you know, like, did it need three months before that story was told. Yeah. Then instantly everybody organized around how can we help him to come, you know, we understand. And I'm thinking this is, was this always like this?

Damon Klotz: I can't imagine people about talking about some of those things. Yeah, like that. They feel like they might be judged.

Esther Perel: Yeah, I'm gonna be seen as not ambitious like I am. Like I, instead of, I'm a full human being who's able to give and think about my healings. That, I find that is a problem today.

Damon Klotz: I know I've spoken a lot with my colleagues around the idea of I'm out here and living in this foreign country and I do wanna create wealth and be successful and find meaning and all that, but I've left my family is, which is actually who I'm trying to support as well. Right. So the thing that I, I wrestled with is doing all of that, but still sort of feeling removed and like the idea o, home had become quite triggering. Cause I've built two homes now. And I've got a home out here, and then I've got a home back somewhere

Esther Perel:. Right. Have they ever seen where you live?

Damon Klotz: My mom came out to the United States and she was able to see my home out here. I think that helped her really understand.

Esther Perel: Yes, completely. Yeah. I think it changes everything when, when your family has seen your other home, it allows you for the first time to really weave a thread between them and to create a different sense of continuity rather than I know their home and they know me there, but nobody has a single image from what my life looks like here. And no Skype is gonna replace that.

Damon Klotz: Yeah. I think she was actually kind, she was blown away a little bit by the love that my colleagues were showing to her. And like, you know, the cherished friendships that I have and all that. And she was like, wow. Like she was, she didn't really know how to let that settle with her.

Esther Perel: Like you had spoken about her and like they were expecting her and you had that she was more present in your life than Yeah. She may have thought. And that thinking that she had been somewhat deleted

Damon Klotz: She's like, why do these people keep hugging me? Yeah. So nice. Yeah. What do we not talk about enough at work?

Esther Perel: What do we not talk about? So, I think so many things. I really sometimes think that we talk about the stuff that doesn't nearly matter, but, what do we not talk about? We don't talk about enough at work, the fact that, I don't know the number, but it's something like 47 million of Americans are caregivers. We don't talk enough at work that caregivers of their parents, of their, of their family members, of their children, that people are not just responsible for themselves and the stress of caregiving. Um, I think we don't talk enough about the vulnerability indicators, the index of what are the things that make people vulnerable, uh, because of their housing situation, because of their financial situation. I don't think we talk enough about the stressors that compound the way that people show up at work are able to perform at work and what happens when they leave work. Um, so that we don't get a holistic picture of people's lives. Um, you know, you, you have to prove yourself. You have to show that you really mean it without the context. I think what is often missing in a lot of the conversation at work is context, the broader context. Um, You know, if you go back home to a dangerous neighborhood it's not the same. You know, and that means that in the morning, by the time you get there, your cortisol levels have already risen and people don't pay enough attention to the broader context. I think the same thing is true in relationships. Relationships take place in context rather than just what happened, you know, and this kind of very concrete manifest way of dealing with things.

I think that one of the things that is really an issue today, which I didn't bring up in the talk, but I watch it more and more, is when people leave. I have a person that is a contemporary and he's been at this company, um, I think 12, 13 years. People that he spoke with every day and he had a difficult time. He was ill and um, and I asked how many people call you? So I host a lot of dinners. Yes. And basically I have done this for the last two, three years. Most of my dinners are unified conversations. Yeah, I know. Uh, people chitchat for a while. You don't have to worry next to whom you sit because that's not gonna be the person you're gonna be talking to. And so now I was in LA and the host invited people in my honor, because I was staying with him and he said, you know, do you wanna just lead the conversation? And I thought, this is 25 people, what are we gonna do?. So I just, uh, I staged a whole unified conversation, but I started by saying, we are not gonna talk about what we each do. We are gonna have an amazingly curious, you know, awakening without knowing who, you know, what people have done before they came here. I think that sometimes when people leave or when people are not showing up at work, there is not nearly enough, uh, checking in or when people have a loss. It's not enough to do an emoji on Facebook. It's just not enough. Yeah, and I think that the managers could use the rallying of their team in support for the person who is going through some difficulty. Imagine, I mean, look, you, you, you lost your parents, or your mother is sick and you have to go take care. If you have a good social network, the people in your life are gonna organize around making sure that somebody comes to cook, that you have meals, the basic stuff that people really need help with. Imagine that as a manager, you took your team and you said, we're gonna support Damon. Right? And, and, and so that for the next two weeks, you know, and do you understand how people would work differently? Yeah. It's like, use life to create a stronger team rather than hope that you can create a strong team by, by creating a separation and a segregation from life.

Damon Klotz: Or asking people to go to a team building as opposed to actually just being there for each other in the team. Correct. Correct. Exactly. So many of the things we like create false environments. That's right. To build relationships. That's as opposed to actually just fostering good relationships with each other.

Esther Perel: I can't agree with you more. Yeah. That's my, that is my philosophy. I don't, you tell me cuz you do the research if this space, if this, uh, proves itself to be accurate. But in any case, it's how I see it.

Damon Klotz: People are always looking for more opportunities to learn and to feel like they're growing. And to build relationships at work. But like when we take people offsite to do that, we're actually lacking that, you know, what actually happens between someone because it's one thing to do it in a training session or in a classroom, it's another thing just to be able to show up and actually build a relationship with someone in the moment. So I think with the work that you are doing and the way that the world's going, we need more skills like this and conversations like this to inspire people to do it in the moment as humans as opposed to trying to remove ourselves into a different environment to try and be more human.

Esther Perel:. But you need managers who can do it. Yeah. And who can, you know, we are asking companies, which are the managers in the companies, to do something which they themselves sometimes don't do for themselves. So, you need to teach the teacher.

Damon Klotz: Yeah, definitely. So you need teacher training. I want to paint a picture of a situation that I'm sure happens at organizations around the world. I'm a manager. I manage someone who then manages employees. But I also have a relationship with the employees and they tell me that they're not really liking maybe the management style of this person, or that they're not getting what they need from this manager in this situation. Do you use that information that you have access to then coach and build a better relationship with the person that you're managing or. Do you actually try go straight to the employees and fix that for them?

Esther Perel: No. I actually have a beautiful example of this where the manager, that it was you bring it to the manager and you prepare that manager to actually do a 360 with the employees and have them tell it, but not as in what am I unhappy with, but as in what could make you a better manager? What are the things that we know that you could do that would really change things for us? And you facilitate the conversation between the manager and the team. I've seen it done and when it's done respectfully, it's not easy to listen to, but man, you know what to do afterwards. Like who said what? Yeah. And who, who said that? No. But that person doesn't really have an ability to say that because, you know, and then you discredit everything and because it becomes gossip rather than, you know, um, we believe that, you know, the things that you do well, uh, this, but there's a whole range of things that we, some, many of us here have had some real challenge with. And to be given the opportunity to say out loud, first of all, I can talk behind your back plenty, but if you invite me to actually say things to you in person, I'm gonna think about what I'm gonna say. So now I'm becoming responsible. So, And so I have to articulate very clearly, and why am I saying this, and in what way am I saying it? Then you have 10 people, eight people, whatever the number on the team and you hold that manager, you're behind them. You literally, you hold their back and, and then you say that's the direct route of the information rather than you telling me than the broken telephone.

Damon Klotz: One of the things that I've taken away from this conversation, one of the many things I've taken away from this conversation actually is, the link between therapy and what's happening in the workplace is in therapy you're creating, you're opening a space for people to have a conversation they need to have with each other. I think also in the workplace, the role of the manager is to open a space where people can have this conversation with each other as opposed to in a place, like you said, behind closed doors through gossip. Like actually just creating a space for people to have a better relationship. But that also means that the manager needs those skills. That's right. To know how to hold that space.

Esther Perel: That's right. Because otherwise you have triangulations, otherwise you have coalitions. Otherwise you have dark alliances, otherwise you have splitting where people you know and all these, everybody understands that these are the corrupt dynamics of relationships. They exist in every relational system, families, friendship, you know, um, but communication or these conversations is as much about training the speakers as it is about supporting the listeners. That's the piece that is really important to understand. You stand not behind the person who talks. You stand behind the person who has to hear it. It's a different type of support. That's a thing that I had to teach when I, you know what? Doing the couples therapy, I say support the person who talks, but the minute they started and they've got you, and they're bold enough to do it now, move and go and literally do this for the person who has to receive all of this. Because the challenge is not what is being told. The challenge is what will happen with what was said.

Damon Klotz: What do you think is the most powerful behavior that people can learn when it comes to actually creating more innovation inside of a company?

Esther Perel: I think you know this thing about innovation, it's really. The question in every system at this point, right? I mean, what is a thriving relationship? It's the relationship that can flexibly dance between our need for security and our need for adventure between what has been continuous and what is new and this disruptive between. Tradition and curiosity. Basically, I think these are the two sets of fundamental human needs. They are the two sets of fundamental needs of any relational system. Um, and so what promotes this in novelty, it's, it's basically a culture that welcomes newness, that welcomes the stuff that doesn't fit, you know. I come from Belgium, a country where actually for a long time you would say to somebody innovation, they would say in Belgium, the moment you say, why don't we? They say, we've tried it, it didn't work, it doesn't, we don't do it this way. And they would basically reinforce the past. You know, it's the circles, the past, the present, the future, and then you have cultures or societies that have a big future and a small past in which a new idea is always welcome. And I think it really needs both. In some periods more of one or the other. It's not a static equilibrium. Equilibrium actually is never static to put it in that. So it's about curiosity. It's about taking risk, it's about pushing through even when you're not sure and sticking to it, staying with it, because there is actually a promise, but it's not immediately available. Being able to say out loud when you're afraid that it may not work, even though you continue to stay in it. Trying it involves new experiences that take you out of your comfort zone. So you're, I think that whenever you have divergent conversations, you don't put all the engineers in one room. You put the engineers together with the salespeople together, you know? The moment you speak with people who look at the world differently from you, you see things. I mean, I had just had an incredible experience where we were hiring and we were five of us. And there is, I am the more intuitive, um, relationally, and I, and I have this genius director of product. But he thinks systematically, you know, the things are studied, there is research behind the things. He says, you don't do a little thing because you need to know the effect of the little thing on the whole thing. So it's another way of being in the world. And we would have meetings with potential, uh, employees. And what he saw, I was like, where did you hear that? And when you asked that question, she answered. It was like being at the movies and seeing another movie, and I thought, this is what makes it feel rich. And we ended up hiring somebody completely different than what I thought was gonna be the person we would hire. That's innovation. When you land in a completely different place and it feels completely integrated.

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