Kryss Shane of “No one can help you if no one knows what’s going on”

I think resilience is simply the survival of tough times without becoming worse for them. The human experience typically includes some great times and some tough times. However, to me, a resilient person is someone who can have the tough experience and not let it make them jaded or mean or hard or cruel. It […]

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I think resilience is simply the survival of tough times without becoming worse for them. The human experience typically includes some great times and some tough times. However, to me, a resilient person is someone who can have the tough experience and not let it make them jaded or mean or hard or cruel. It can be easy to turn a hurtful moment into a desire to put up walls or to try to heal by hurting others. Resilience is when you can not just survive but do so in a way that does not result in you becoming lesser or you determined to harm others because of the adversity experienced.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kryss Shane.

Named by The New York Times and many national and international platforms as America’s go-to Leading LGBT Expert, Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW (she/her) has 25+ years of experience guiding the world’s top leaders in business, education, and community via individual, small group, and full-staff trainings. She is known for making each organization’s specific Diversity and Inclusion needs become more manageable, approachable, and actionable. She is also the author of “The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion,” the first book of its kind to guide educators, administrators, and school staff to become able and empowered to make their schools more LGBT+ inclusive.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

It seems that most people who work in mental healthcare have a personal story or experience that draws them to this field. I’m someone who was always the support person and the go-to person for my friends, but I never considered making a career of it until much later. I was always a believer in equality, and this led me to begin to become mindful of ways in which minority groups weren’t represented in my middle school and high school textbooks and in the media, I was enjoying. This led me to speak up a lot in class, asking questions that many teachers had no answers to because their education also lacked inclusion. As my recognition of this problem grew, I began to realize this problem in my community and in families. This led me to earn my bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University in Human Development and Family Sciences.

Simultaneously, I was volunteering a ton with LGBT+ organizations. Over time, my volunteer work grew, and many began asking why I didn’t do this as my profession. It hadn’t dawned on me before then that I could. This realization sent me into my first master’s degree program, where I graduated from Barry University in Social Work, where I focused my studies on LGBT+ issues. As years passed though, I was always bothered by how often textbooks in schools still lack representation of marginalized groups. This led me to go back to school, where I earned my 2nd master’s degree, from Western Governors University in Education, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction. I am currently working toward my doctorate in Educational Leadership from University of the Cumberlands, where I get to bring my LGBT+ work through the lens of leaders in our world, thus making me better at educating others and teaching them how to improve their allyship and activism. I am also working in undergraduate and graduate social work departments Columbia University and Brandman University, and writing articles, book chapters, and books that focus on the minority populations that have been too long left out. That includes “The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion” the first book of its kind to guide educators, administrators, and school staff to become able and empowered to make their schools more LGBT+ inclusive, I am also hearing that many parents and those who work with or help raise youth are also seeing the book as a way to become better at helping to raise children who are anti-racist and anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic!

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Oh goodness (laughs) I don’t know how to choose just one story! I think rather than sharing one, I’ll share that I am amazed how many people are either LGBT+ identified or who loves someone who does. So often, we hear statistics that it’s such a tiny percentage of people. It can be easy to think that, in giant groups, maybe there’s just one or two gay people and maybe no one is transgender or gender fluid. In reality though, I’ve never been in a room where there no one was LGBT+ AND no one loved an LGBT+ person. It’s really common that groups start off very quiet with no one volunteering anything and, as soon as people start to talk about inclusion and being pro-inclusion, individuals start to feel comfortable sharing stories of their sister or their uncle or their child or their best friend or their neighbor. The reality is, maybe there’s only a small percentage who identify as LGBT+, but I’d venture to say that 100% of people love someone who is LGBT+ identified, even if the individual doesn’t know that person’s identity yet!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company stands out because it is really fluid and it grows as I grow. When it started, I was just a person with volunteer experience and a true belief in equality. As I grew in my work [Kryss has earned multiple advanced degrees, licenses, and certifications], the company grew. What I offered to others grew as I met more people and as more event attendees asked more questions. As our society has expanded its awareness of all of the groups who fit into the plus category of LGBT+, more of the work went to discussing how to support those individuals. As we continue to grow and now we focus more on the recognition (finally) of racial injustices, now I have more conversations, consulting relationships, and events tied to the intersection of LGBT+ and race alongside other leaders and as we continue to realize that the world can’t get better until we get more educated!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Oh wow, there have been so many who have positively impacted my life or my work or encouraged me when I struggled. While it is so tough to call out just one person, Andrea Shorter has really been this ray of amazingness in my life. I met her socially, on a cruise actually, and we were in this small group of people who wanted to spend some of their cruise time talking about inclusion and social justice. Out at sea, without internet and such, we spent the week knowing nothing about one another except what we discussed. I adored her energy and she was just such a lovely person to be around and we traded cards before the end of the trip. For the first few years, we exchanged periodic emails and would meet for a meal when we were in the same city at the same time. A while later, I couldn’t find her card and wanted to reach out so I googled her. I’d had absolutely no clue that she is an LGBT+ pioneer! Admittedly, I came to her with hat in hand about it and she just laughed. I know now that there are so many who would love a moment of her time or to hear her thoughts and I think I got very lucky to have met her as a friend first… though she thinks me quite weird now days when I fan-girl out about her! (laughs)

As I was working on my first book, “The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion,” I reached out to her, nervous that I might be bothering her or asking questions far beneath her (remember I told you I was a fan?!). Instead, she wrapped me and this project up in a giant professional hug! She cheered me on for the ideas of the book and she was the very first to read it in its entirety. I will never forget her texting that she’d finished reading and asking if we could talk. I was certain it was not going to be a good call, since who was I to write something and have it be read by THE Andrea Shorter?! I was so tentative when I answered her call. The first thing she said? “Oh, it’s so good. I absolutely hear your voice throughout the whole book!” The first sentence was the world’s biggest relief. The second was something I didn’t know I’d wanted but, when she said it, it felt like the realization of everything I hoped the book to be.

In the projects and work since, we’ve stayed close and she’s continued to be a sounding board and a mentor. Luckily though, since we’re friends first, I also know that she will always call me out if I misstep, which means I get the privilege of not just having support but also consistently being encouraged to grow and to become better. Goodness, I could go on all day about how grateful I am to know her but I can envision her telling me to stop (laughs)… she’s just the best!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think resilience is simply the survival of tough times without becoming worse for them. The human experience typically includes some great times and some tough times. However, to me, a resilient person is someone who can have the tough experience and not let it make them jaded or mean or hard or cruel. It can be easy to turn a hurtful moment into a desire to put up walls or to try to heal by hurting others. Resilience is when you can not just survive but do so in a way that does not result in you becoming lesser or you determined to harm others because of the adversity experienced.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes to mind (and not just because I was born on her 50th birthday!). She is someone who grew up at a time when women did not go into careers or into law school. She faced discrimination for this. She had a husband who almost died of cancer. She was Jewish in a nation that is not always kind to Jewish people. She fought court battles no one thought she could win. She was often disliked by many in America due to her SCOTUS rulings. However, she always had a reputation of being loving, kind, and being open to hearing whatever case was tried in front of her. She did not become anti-men even though many thought she should not be a lawyer. She did not become anti-love because she almost lost her husband so young. She did not become vengeful in her decisions. She used her experiences and the backlash of her actions to inform her understanding of humanity and to become better able to understand the perspectives of others.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

If I’m being really honest, no one has told me “that’s impossible” more often than I have told me that. As a result, I know that sometimes, I’m not the best judge of situations or of my own capacities. So I outsource! I have a very small group of people who love me and who also trust me to be open to their honesty. When I am telling myself “that’s impossible,” I turn to them. I know that, if it really isn’t right for me or something that aligns with my bigger goals or fits with my values, they’ll tell me. I know that, if it’s outside my scope or something too far from my current capabilities, they’ll guide me to either become better educated first or discuss it with someone who specializes in that area. I know that, if it’s just me getting in my own way, they’ll call me out for it. I’ve found that, the times they assess whatever the thing is and they are encouraging, it means I ought to attempt it and, almost always, I become more certain that it IS possible once I’m on the path to meeting that challenge!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I think, if I counted up all of the setbacks and all of the successes, they’d probably be about even, though it wasn’t always so pro-success. Most of those times have stemmed from a lack of belief in myself. The result caused me to allow narcissistic or ill-meaning people into my life. It allowed demeaning and undermining words to take root in my spirit. It caused me to assume the worst in myself. When I was younger, I used to slowly crawl out of that eventually and then blame myself and kick myself for a long time for making that mistake. Now I know better. Now I recognize that we all try, we all learn, and we all make errors and stumbles along the way. I think that the best part about having setbacks is that, when the next one happens, it’s easier to look back at the last one and tell myself, “you survived THAT, and that was way worse, so you can most definitely survive this” no matter what the “this” is!

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

As a woman, I think we all have experiences in our upbringing that are tough. We live in a society that shows us in every advertisement, every commercial, every tv show, every film what women are supposed to be. They show us that “real women” are bigger here and smaller there, that our bodies are supposed to be hairless and our skin always smooth, that our eyebrows should always be perfectly shaped according to the trends. There are aisles of makeup to cover birth marks and freckles, to hide dimples, there are magazine articles about how to overline lips or minimize waists. Not only this, but we are constantly being told what to do in order to be loveable and loved. “Wear this nail polish to land a man!” “How to wear your hair to get your crush to want you!” In addition to the perfect look and the perfect shape, there’s what we’re supposed to do; we have to perfectly cook and serve holiday meals (and have the perfect serving dishes for this), we have to always be working 10x harder than men in the workplace to get half as far but we must get to the top, we cannot use childcare but must also never let our work or our appearance suffer. The list is endless.

As a girl and as a teen, I certainly compared myself to that expectation. I questioned whether a boy I liked would like me better if my hair wasn’t so curly. I wondered if the guy I was interested in wouldn’t like me because of the shape of my body. I poured over magazines with friends trying to understand all of the rules so that I could be loved and loveable.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect nail polish shade or bra size or job title or hair style that will guarantee that Prince or Princess Charming will show up for any of us. It can be a tough reality for us to recognize after we’ve been told otherwise since we were very young.

For me, it became about filling my life with people who love me when I weigh 30 pounds too much, people who respect me when my nails are without polish, people who trust me when my hair is a mess, and people who show up for me not in spite of or because of those things but because they love me and love isn’t about those things. The more I realized and accepted that, the better I was set up for success and the less I cared about those other details!

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Stop- When you catch yourself spinning about “what if I’d just done” or “if only I had said,” stop yourself. Take a pause. Consider that what is happening may be due to something not your fault. Give yourself time to feel your feelings and then assess the logistics of the situation with a clearer perspective.
  2. Absorb- If you find that something happened because of your actions, own it. This includes apologizing and improving on yourself when you make a mistake. It also includes celebrating yourself when what you did caused a win!
  3. Share- No one can help you if no one knows what’s going on. Whether it’s carrying something physically too heavy for one person or carrying something emotionally or professionally too heavy for one person, don’t hurt yourself trying to do it all alone.
  4. Show up- Build people around you who show up for you whether it’s a 3am breakup call or a car in a ditch call or a buried under work call or a self-doubt call, only allow people in your life who will come to help and not judge you when you call. In addition, be that person for others. Literally and figuratively, answer the call!
  5. Check in- The world is busy and often overwhelming. It can be easy for a month or three or six to go by without realizing a lack of communication with a loved one. If the relationship is healthy and mutually beneficial, make the effort! Even if you put it into your calendar to remind you to text your favorite cousin every other week or to call a friend you adore, use the technology around you to support your connection to your loved ones. Heck, you can even create a habit around this… for example, if you are someone who uses your phone on the toilet, decide that every bathroom break means you’ll send two texts to people just to let the know you hope they’re having a great day! It’ll take no time from your life and it’ll bring smiles to others! (Plus, it’ll remind you that you have people who smile when they hear from you!)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My life’s work is in LGBT+ inclusion, focusing on safety and affirmation. All I ever want to do is to make it safe for LGBT+ people to live their lives openly without being at risk for discrimination or harm. Not only do I think that this would allow for LGBT+ people to live happier, I know it will also allow others to realize both that their differences don’t make them unsafe and it will lead us all to grow because we can learn from all of the ways people are unique, once they no longer have to hide their uniqueness out of fear of harm!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Wow, this is a big question! Well first, not everyone is a “he or she” (non-binary people and agender people exist and are included too)! Second, in this time of covid, I miss having breakfast or lunch with everyone in my own life! That said, I’m going to go out of the box a bit… I’d love to sit down with Shane McAnally. He’s a top songwriter in Nashville and he’s been someone whose music I’ve adored for decades (I used to rock his cassette tape, if that gives you any idea)! In terms of professional connection, I’d love to hear his thoughts as being a gay dad. Personally, I would just love to hear his stories and how his mind works as he creates the songs that make so many of us feel… there is a special kind of magic about creating something that allows others to better understand their own emotions and to better articulate them to others. Plus, two Shanes at a meal table are better than one, right?!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @itsKryss

Instagram: ThisIsKryss



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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