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?
There are more ways than ever to connect with each other without being in the same place. Video conferencing software and apps bring us face to face; we can see and hear each other, we can create real relationships without ever even being in the same time zone.
What is it, then, that we still yearn to occupy the same space, breathe the same air? Why isn’t it enough to see a friend or a grandchild depicted in our phone or computer screen? Those are good, but they are still placeholders for when we can be in the same place.
The immediacy of sharing the same space has great power. It allows us to create a new dimension of our connection when we can see the whole person, move through space together, reach out and touch their arm.
We don’t think of those things as being an important part of communicating with and truly knowing someone, but they seem to be at the foundation of our connection. Being with other people in person can’t be replaced by an app.
My daughter asked a great question last week.
We were in the audience of a big assembly hall, listening to the introduction of the speaker we had come to see.
She asked, “Why is the sign language interpreter so much more interesting than the person who is talking right now?”
I don’t know a lot about the craft of sign language interpretation, but I know what we were experiencing that day. The person at the podium was reading the introduction from notes in a monotone, and her focus on the paper she held kept her from connecting with the room at all.
The interpreter was dynamic. Her whole body encompassed her message. She was intent on delivering it to the audience who needed it.
Isn’t that always the job?
A little more kindness.
A little more thoughtfulness.
A little more reaching outside of our own convenience.
What else? What do you see?
I’m thinking a lot these days about all the ways we have to communicate with each other in 2019. In my adult life, there was a time when you either talked on the phone, wrote a letter, or saw someone in person (or you could send a fax!)
Now we have so many options sometimes we lose track of where a “conversation” took place. Text? Messenger? Email? Zoom? Slack? DM?
There is a lot that is awesome, literally, about all these methods. The fact that I can talk via videoconference with a friend in Perth, Australia blows my mind. But we are also losing something.
Over the lifetime of our species, we have evolved to understand each other—-but only in person. In fact, our survival has depended on being able to get a lot of information from another human in a short period of time. Most of the ways we do this are lost when we communicate in any way other than face to face.
Nick Morgan’s recent book, “Can You Hear Me?,” goes into this topic in depth. Essentially he argues that the emotional connection of communication is, at the very least, strained when we rely on other methods of communication, and often it is absent altogether. We lose the sense that we are communicating with another person, and we are bereft of the sense of connection we seek.
What impact might this have on our homes and workplaces? What is the proportion of true connecting to mere transmitting that is happening in our lives?