If you went to high school with me, and you’re reading this title, chances are you’ve been transported back to 9th grade where Mr. McMahon is trying to impart onto our youthful minds the importance of relevance. We were honing our writing skills in English 9-1. Mr. McMahon was giving us some basic instructions on how to frame our work. Mr. McMahon was giving us a lesson on being succinct and meaning what we say.
I often think of this analogy gifted me nearly twenty years ago. I especially think of this analogy in group dynamics. You may recall that I love the idea and structure behind utilizing group wisdom. In order for the wisdom to shine through, though, all voices within the group need air time. If one person dominates the conversation by shutting others down or insisting on their voice being heard overs others, because of ego or some other reason, then the positive effects of group wisdom cannot be realized.
The facilitator, I am learning, has a responsibility to the group to help keep conversations moving along and ensuring that the rest of the group has ample time to speak. However, a certain amount of self awareness must be realized by the speaker. Which is where I think of the skiing analogy. This all plays into my recent observations of various personalities with whom I associate, and my subsequent puzzlement over their actions. It’s amazing that these particular personalities are so self aware in some aspects but incredibly blind in others.
Mr. McMahon instructed us, that if we chose our topic to be skiing, to not tell us things we already know. We know that people likely generally accept skiing to be fun. We also accept that skiing is considered good exercise. So, if you’re going to write your paper on the topic of skiing – tell us something new. Tell us why you are doing it. Tell us about a unique experience or a revelation you had while skiing. The trick too, is to be succinct, which really means ensuring your words are warranted. It’s handy, nowadays, that Office gives us the grammar checks cuing us into sentences that are wordy. I’ve noticed, though, some people don’t have that same censorship when they speak.
They just go on … and on … and on.
Why aren’t they picking up on the cues around them? Can’t they notice the bored faces? Why isn’t their litmus test of success vibrant conversation? Why can’t they see they aren’t contributing effectively?
The follow up question, for me, is always how I can help? Non-violent Communication commands us to be aware. Not only of ourselves, but of those around us. NVC commands us to ask and sense others’ perceptions — not in a specific way, per se, but in a way that allows for dialogue.
Reader: I would like to call you to action. Let’s work on social self awareness beginning with ourselves. If you find yourself in a conversation where the other person isn’t saying much — check yourself first. Are you saying relevant things? Are you going on and on and on without allowing for input? Is your ego or some other reason preventing full group participation? Answer those questions, and then reach out — “You’re awfully quiet, friend, what do you think?”
We don’t, individually have all the answers. We each have different strengths and experiences to bring to the table, no matter how young or old. In order for us to create the society we want, though, we have to step back and allow others a chance to step up. This way, we can all go beyond the rote, “Skiing is fun; skiing is good exercise,” and towards exciting stories of barreling down the hill managing the obstacles.