“Isn’t this a beautiful day? I never dreamed we would make it to Saturn!”
“Saturn really is gorgeous. Let’s get started building our Starbucks franchise! It’s sure to be a hit with interstellar travelers.”
But what happens when we are stuck in a pattern with someone we speak with frequently? What happens when we recognize “When I say this, she may feel defensive,” consciously adjust our intention, do our very best not to be adversarial, and still get a defensive response?
It’s more fun to already be good at it, whatever it is.
Riding a bike, playing the guitar, sound editing…we want to be able to do it like we’ve seen others do it, effortlessly, gracefully, efficiently.
But getting there is hard work, most of it behind the scenes. And that hard work isn’t always fun. Can we stay in the place of looking toward that ultimate outcome, the graceful ease of knowing how, through the tough days of practice?
What if we work on changing our mindset to appreciating the labor of the practice, rather than resenting that we don’t already know how?
You probably wouldn’t stop to pick up two pennies on the street.
But most of us love to chime in with our two cents.
How much change would you stoop to pick up? Maybe that should be our threshold for weighing in with our opinion. “Is this opinion worth a quarter? A dime? Heck, this one is a Sacajawea dollar.”
We all walk into speeches and presentations with a set of expectations. For the most part, we don’t know that we have them, but they are powerful and they affect every element of our experience. If a speaker deviates from these expectations, we often decide they’re “not good.”
What if we let go of these expectations? They are founded on a whole bunch of things, primary amongst them our cultural understandings of what makes a good speaker. These understandings aren’t universal, by the way. What seems over-the-top to one group of listeners is perfectly calibrated for another.
A great example is the Reverend Michael Curry’s sermon at Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding. An Episcopalian priest, Curry might have been expected to fit right in—the Church of England and Episcopalianism are closely related. But Reverend Curry is also American, and also African-American, and comes from a specific tradition of what preaching means.
Looking at the buzz around that sermon, you can see that some listeners weren’t prepared for the style of Curry’s sermon. It felt like a mismatch to them. For others, it was a breath of fresh air. For still others, it was perfectly familiar and most welcome.
Recognizing that we all have expectations is a first step. We also have to work on suspending them, on asking, “is this speech not working, or is there something I’m missing?”
This is a link to an excerpt of Reverend Curry’s sermon:
I was in a car accident yesterday. No one was injured, but my car sustained a lot of damage. In the hours after the accident occurred, I found myself calling my parents, checking in with friends I haven’t seen in a while, lining up lunches and coffee and walks.
I didn’t set out to do it thinking, “Whew, that was a close one, now I really know what’s important to me.” But that’s what my actions were expressing.
If you asked me the minutes before the accident what my priorities are, I would have told you that my relationships with the people I care about are the most important thing to me. But I don’t always act that way.
Why wait until we have a close call, a reminder? What can happen today that puts your most important priority front and center?