A regular question my clients ask is, “How do you do it?” Often followed by, “Those people (or teams) have not worked well together for years. How did they change?” When you boil it down, it’s not magic. I listen to people. I listen to the other people. I get them to sit down together, and they learn to listen to each other. And then we get to work.
They have an unimaginable impact on people, yet words are often overlooked and underappreciated.
Beautiful. Delicate. Words.
Since March, I’ve seen a pattern emerging from colleagues, family, friends, and clients.
An attachment to words and interactions. It is much more intense. And for good reason.
This period of isolation has influenced how many people express themselves. More and more, I see nearly monosyllabic declarations and responses, unless it is an emoji, then, you know, it could be a paragraph or just a grin. These monosyllabic declarations and responses seem perfectly clear to the authors, but to the reader, much is open to interpretation by the absence of thoughtful words.
Reading an actual sentence, thoughtfully crafted to invite the reader to consider a position, is so rare on social media, I sometimes give a 👍 just because the author is articulate.
I am not a fan of contrived divisive language. Never have been. It’s not my nature. I want to witness people hearing each other, step into each other’s shoes, lean into each other’s perspectives, and learn. With all that listening and learning, it’s my experience that people will align on a path, appreciating the tradeoffs that each person is making on the journey.
But this moment in time of isolation creates an intense need to be seen and heard. It has made some people push the boundaries of their own ethics and sensibilities, as though exhaustion has brazenly lifted the filter. I can almost hear their inner voices scream out,
“I will be heard! I will be seen! Dang-it don’t ignore me!
I am part of the world!!!!”
Some truly inspirational unlikely-bedfellows are forming, however, there are some (alarming-sad-disappointing) communities picking up speed. The language chosen is explicitly meant to divide “US from THEM”. Rhetoric that is so stark there is no space for discussion and learning.
It’s been going on for a while. At least a decade. The fire burns in people’s bellies to draw lines around their identities polarizing everyone around them. Tightening the identity line has a benefit; narrowly defining one’s identity allows you membership into a Team.
The Blue Team. The Red Team. The White Team. The Black Team. The Green Team. The Oily Team. The Gold Team. Narrowly defining Team mantras in polarizing ways enables quick identification, membership and association.
I do not know any person who belongs to a single Team.
Not. One. Person.
Because we humans are complex. We relentlessly challenge the boundary lines of our identities, often exploring new territory and shifting our centers of gravity on a periodic basis.
How is it possible that we complex humans subscribe to over-simplified Team membership?
So much is at risk for our blue ball spinning around the Sun.
Do we really want to use words that divide us farther and farther apart, until our temporary isolation becomes a more permanent isolation?
Again, office life and the daily human life mirror each other. When work teams entrench, dig in their heels, and grip their position, almost always, progress begins to slow. The words get tense, shortening into catch phrases and frustration veiled with politeness.
As I reflect on my own actions and words as well as the actions and words of my community, I pause again to find my path forward.
Once on that path, I will be not only dedicated, ferocious, and vigilant, but I will also be kind, listening, learning, and choosing my words thoughtfully.
When my team mate does that thing that triggers me to no end, I will pause and redirect my frustration to words that reflect the goal of the mission, not the temper in my spirit.
When I pick up a sign and attend a protest, I will be bold and direct.
When I respond to an email or post that bristles me, I will be clear and kind.
We are complex.
We seek community.
We heal with kindness.
We witness through behaviors.
Beautiful. Delicate. Words.