Identity – yours, mine, ours & his … 6 ways

 

Have you ever walked into a meeting feeling super confident, competent, on top of the world, and ready and raring to get down to business?

And have you ever walked into a meeting feeling like you don’t belong, like you don’t know what you’re doing, like you’re an imposter and someone’s going to find out any second and kick you out?

Likely you’ve done both. Yet how can that be?

Perceptions, of our self and others, go to the heart of our identity.

Not only can how we see ourselves radically change but also, how other people see us can change as well.  (And sometimes the two never shall meet – our perception of our self and someone else’s perception of us.)

And identity is a funny thing, it’s fluid and highly dependent on context – who’s doing the ‘identifying.’

When I’m doing training workshops about culture I often stand at the front of the room and ask people ‘what do you see when you looking at me?’

The results have been astonishing everything from a hockey fan to someone who loves to iron clothes. I am emphatically neither of those things (despite being a proud Canadian). My idea of ironing is wetting down a piece of clothing, smoothing it out with my hands  and hanging it up to dry in the shower.

 

Identity – yours, mine, ours

That’s why this social experiment caught my eye. Six photographers, one subject, six different perspectives.

The catch was that each photographer was told something vastly different about the person they were photographing, even though the subject was the same for each photographer.

Here was their brief about who they were photographing:

  • Self-made millionaire
  • Saved someone’s life
  • Ex inmate
  • Commercial fisherman
  • Psychic
  • Former alcoholic

Take a few minutes and watch the video above that recounts the experience. And look at the resulting photos below.

‘A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera then by what’s in front of it’ …

…says Canon who created the experiment.

No one sees you like you. Yet who’s the author of that perspective? Here are some things about your identity that may shift according to how you’re feeling, where you are, who you’re with and a multitude of other things:

  • How smart do you feel?
  • How do you feel about your body?
  • How do you feel about your role as _______ (fill in the blank eg parent, partner, worker, boss, sister, brother, community volunteer)?
  • Do you have lots in common with the other people in the room or not?

 

So what does it all mean?

Remembering that questions of identity and perspective are fluid and changeable helps.  And realizing that especially when you’re feeling frumpy, grumpy and like an imposter, your identity can be a matter of the mind. When the (negative) self-talk is all in your head, be deliberate and shoo away that uninvited guest.

 

Fisherman

fisherman

Alcoholic

alcoholic

Millionaire

millionaire

Convict

convict

Life Saver

lifesaver

Psychic

psychic

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Give me constraints, give me creativity

Photo Credit: jeschnotes Flickr via Compfight cc

 

If someone challenged you to write a book using only 50 words, could you do it? How creative do you think you could be?  That’s just what Theodore Geisel did when his editor bet him that he couldn’t write a children’s book using just 50 words.

Can you guess which book was the result? None other than the epic ‘Green eggs and ham,’ authored by Theodore who’s better known as Dr. Seuss.

Catrinel Haught Tromp, a psychologist, has dubbed this the ‘Green eggs and ham’ hypothesis of  creativity. The idea is that being faced with boundaries or limits can result in more creative thinking not less.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about limits due to my recent elbow surgery. I’ve not been able to type or write for about three months now. While it certainly has been frustrating & has caused me to want to tear my hair out at times, it’s also been strangely illuminating.

Here are some things that I’ve discovered based on my recent constraints:

  1. Technology: I’m using tech in all new ways. Auto-dictation is a wonderful thing. In fact I’m dictating this post right now using an app called Dragon Dictation (while the desktop version is pricey, the app is free). I’d seen the little microphone at the bottom of my screen on my smartphone (another built-in type of automatic dictation) but I never knew how easy it could be to use it. I have my constraint to thank for that.

2. Sharing the love: I’ve taught so many people  how to use auto-dictation. It’s been fun to watch their eyebrows shoot up & hear their exclamations of glee at the ease & efficiency of it all.

3. Going beyond the obvious: I was using Siri quite a bit (the built in iPhone ‘intelligent assistant’) but my constraints of not being able to write has pushed me to find new ways to use her. Who knew that Siri could add? Now doing healthcare receipts each month is a snap when I just ask her to add up all the receipt totals. No more fussing with a calculator.

 

All in all I’m not at the point where I’m glad that I had to have surgery, but I am grateful for the new opportunities that my physical constraints brought about a la the Green eggs and ham’ hypothesis of  creativity.

 

How can you use constraints to amp up your creativity?

Specifically how can you:

1. Use technology to help you learn, get organized &/or communicate?

2. How can you share the love & spread your learning?

3. When you’re faced with a challenge, how can you go beyond the obvious solution & break out some creative thinking?

 

Let me know, I’d love to hear. I’m not going anywhere; while I’m waiting for my husband to help me put on some deodorant (which I’ve discovered definitely requires 2 hands), I’m getting a laugh or two from the mistakes that the  dictation sometimes makes. Who is speaking about Justin Bieber? Definitely not me, though that’s what the dictation software transcribed recently.

 

PS thanks so much to all you readers who have sent me kind notes with get well wishes. I appreciate each & everyone. You rock!

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Simon says … ssssh, be the last to speak

 

I saw Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start with why,’ speak at an event in New York City some time ago and found his messages incisive & compelling.

Here’s one of his latest.  Check out the 1 1/2  minute video below & my notes from his video also below.

‘Here’s the problem & here’s what I think, I’m interested your opinion, let’s go around the room’ is too late.

Why? Because it’s leading &  influences what people say next.

Same with if you agree with somebody don’t nod yes & if you disagree with somebody don’t nod no.

Why? Again because it’s leading &  influences what people say next.

Instead what should you do?

Learn to be the last to speak.

The skill to hold your opinion to yourself does two things:

1. It gives everybody else the feeling they’ve been heard, they’ve contributed.

2. You get the benefit of hearing what everyone else has to think before you render your opinion.

So sit back, listen & ask  questions so you can understand from where they’re speaking.

Important caveat

Can you identify the big hairy assumption that Simon is making?

He assumes that you’re in a position of leadership & people will not only listen to you but will wait for you to speak.

At any rate it’s still great advice.

So go for it! Ssssssh.  Be the last to speak.

 

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Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know; Do You?

Photo Credit: Rita Eberle-Wessner Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I’m on week 12 or so of not being able to write or type due to a tenacious case of tennis elbow. My temporary disability has given me a lot of time to reflect. On a good day the fear, fatigue & frustration gives way to empathy, insight &  perspective.  (On a bad day I eat way too many sweets.)

 

In two days I’ll get surgery on  my elbow & be on the other side of recovery.  In the meantime I’m thinking about one of my favourite poems,  Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know by Pamela Redmond Satran (not Maya Angelou who it’s commonly misquoted to).

 

It’s a fabulous take on gratituderesilience & for those times when up seems down & down seems up.  Take a read & think about the ones that particularly strike a chord for you. My favourites are italicized.

 

A woman should have

enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own even if she never wants to or needs to…

 

something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour…

 

a youth she’s content to leave behind…

 

a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age…

 

a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra…

 

one friend who always makes her laugh…and one who lets her cry…

 

a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…

 

eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored…

 

a feeling of control over her destiny…

A woman should know

how to fall in love without losing herself…

 

how to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship…

 

when to try harder…and when to walk away…

 

that she can’t change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents…

 

that her childhood may not have been perfect…but it’s over…

 

what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…

 

how to live alone…even if she doesn’t like it…

 

whom she can trust, whom she can’t, and why she shouldn’t take it personally…

 

where to go…be it to her best friend’s kitchen table…
or a charming inn in the woods…when her soul needs soothing…

 

what she can and can’t accomplish in a day…
a month…
and a year…

 

Your turn

Over to you dear reader. See you on the other side of surgery.

  • which one(s) resonated most for you?

 

  • are there any you’d add?

 

  • leave a comment below & let me know

 

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In honour of sunglasses day, gratitude via the Life Lenses™

 

I’d originally planned to write this post in honour of national sunglasses day#NationalSunglassesDay because:

  • of my lifelong interest & passion in lenses, specifically the frames with which we see the world
  • of gratitude for the creativity, inspiration & problem solving opportunities the different frames or perspectives bring
  • it’s a fun, whimsical thing to celebrate

And then I got a bad case of tennis elbow & tendonitis with now weeks of not being able to type or write.

And then I realized how much you need your right arm to do pretty much anything if you’re right-handed.

And then I started to dive into assisted technologies to help me continue my work.

Now I’m grateful that surgery is on the horizon to help fix the problem, but in the meantime I’m thinking of you dear reader.

I’m thinking of:

  • What frames your worldview?
  • What comes onto your radar / into your frame, easily, naturally & with strength & grace?
  • And what lies under your radar / outside of your frame of reference, in those dark spaces that are unknown, foreign, awkward or difficult?

 

So in the spirit of celebrating a variety of worldviews:

  • Here’s to the gifts of the Mountain Life Lenses™, who helps us look up & see the bigger picture.  And here’s to the strength of their opposite, the Carrot Life Lenses™ which help us look down & see details & systems
  • And here’s to the perspective of the Stop Life Lenses™ which help us pause, reflect & ruminate, while the Go Life Lenses™ help us jump in, take action, & experiment,
  • Here’s to the Heart Life Lenses™ whose intuition & radar are so beautifully attuned & to the Head Life Lenses™  who focus on what’s tangible, what we can touch taste & see.
  • And finally here’s to the Journey Life Lenses™  who focus on the ‘how’ or the process & here’s to the Destination Life Lenses™ who focus on getting things done.

I’d already started playing around with the new clips app- which is what I used to film the above video.  And in the spirit of keeping it raw & real, yes I know the auto captions aren’t perfect.  Consider it a work in progress.

So in a combined toast to national sunglasses day – & how we see the world, how each of us has at the same time a unique & different perspective but also a shared perspective – here’s to you.

I hope you enjoy this short video from the perspective of each of the Life Lenses™. Because when you put them altogether the world is definitely a pretty cool, colourful place.

 

Your turn – take action:

  • Which perspectives or Life Lenses™ are you naturally drawn to? And how does this help you in your work & play life?
  • And which perspectives or Life Lenses™  seem foreign or different to you? And how could you use them to get a new take, a new perspective, fresh insight?

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Intercultural communication- When up is down & down is up

Have you ever been in a situation where up seemed down & vice versa, where the ‘rules’ didn’t seem to apply?

As I was waiting to upgrade my mobile phone chip recently I looked down at the ticket stub the agent had given me to indicate where I was in the queue – number 098. I looked up at the screen that listed the numbers (pictured above). I looked down again. Back up. My number was nowhere to be found.

I waited a minute. Checked the screen again. Same story.

Puzzled, I then had an even more puzzling talk with the clerk.

Then the penny dropped.

I was expecting my number to appear at the bottom of the list & move up the closer I was to being served.

Nuh uh. Numbers appear at the top, only when it’s your turn to be served & move down the list after you’re served.

And so it goes, living in a culture that I wasn’t born into. As a transplanted Canadian living in Kenya, I frequently don’t understand what’s going on around me (& that isn’t just because I don’t speak Swahili).

This cultural balancing act can be confusing & frustrating, but ultimately fascinating. It boils down to building my intercultural resilience muscles.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is culture?

Culture is …

  • What makes meaning in our lives
  •  The collective programming of the mind that divides us into groups
  • The interpretive lens through which we view the worldSources: Binns, B; Yukon College; Plog and Bates; Huber, M.; LeBaron Duryea.

 

Does a fish see the water it swims in?

 

Culture is so big we often can’t see it (especially if we’re surrounded by those who have a similar culture).

Some components of culture ….

Culture is made up of a ton of elements, such as:

  • How one gains respect
  • Family
  • Gender roles
  • Communication
  • Roles of community
  • Education (value and type of)
  • Role of leisure
  • Sexuality
  • Material possessions
  • Child rearing
  • Role of work
  • Conflict
  • Role of the aged & the young
  • Time
  • Ethnicity

 

Intercultural communication

Defining culture broadly, like above, means that almost every communication is an intercultural communication. For example;

  • If you’re communicating with a colleague who is a different gender from you, that’s intercultural communication
  • If you’re communicating with someone from a different generation from you, that’s intercultural communication
  • If you’re communicating with someone who has a different form of education, a different view of the role of work or leisure or of the role of the young &/or aged, those are all intercultural communications

Even though almost every communication is an intercultural communication, culture is rarely at the centre of our awareness when we’re communicating.

 

So how do we put culture in the centre of our communications?

You can improve your intercultural communication skills by focusing more on the right hand column below than the left.

 

So the next time you find yourself in a situation where up is down and down is up, consider the role that culture is playing. And move forward by asking lots of questions, observing, finding more than one way to deal with the situation, working collaboratively and staying away from a simplistic grocery list approach. It’s not easy but it’s always interesting.

 

Your turn – take action:

  • Think about what intercultural communications you’ve had recently. How did it go? What helped &/or hindered the communication?
  • Check out this intercultural communication video (2:42 min). Obviously there will be lots of individuals who don’t fit these categories, but the images are thought provoking.
  • Feel free leave a comment below & let me know your intercultural comments or questions.
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When it comes to resilience, which are you – an egg, carrot or a coffee bean?

 

My friend & I had climbed several of flights of stairs & sandwiched ourselves into high-backed, comfy chairs to listen to the bright minds that had come to speak at TEDx Kilimani, a suburb of Nairobi. Like speaker Sitawa Wafula, award-winning activist & founder of My Mind My Funk, demonstrated recently.

 

Sitawa had me from the get go when she began her story…

 

One day her father showed her 3 pots that had all been cooking for some time. One pot was full of carrots. Another pot was full of eggs. And the 3rd pot held coffee beans in boiling water.

 

Her father asked her what she saw.

 

Somewhat impatiently, she said ‘a bowl of carrots, hard boiled eggs & boiled coffee beans.’

 

Then he asked her to look closer & drew her near.

 

  • He explained that some people are like carrots. They start off strong, but when put under pressure, they can’t stand the heat & they turn to mush.
  • Others are like eggs – they start off soft, but when heated they actually become firm & strong.
  • And finally, some special types are like coffee beans. They not only start out strong & resilient & stay that way under pressure, but they influence those around them to be come strong & resilient (hence the coffee coloured water).

 

I LOVE this story of resilience, partly because it’s super creative & partly because it demonstrates that we can build our resiliency muscles.

 

 

Resilience means deciding if it’s time to fight, flee or flow

 

Here’s another way to look at resilience, from an old classic, the book As above so below:

If you can’t fight & you can’t flee, flow.

It’s an easy way to think about challenges that get put in our path. Once we know what type of challenge it is, we can pick our response.

 

  • What challenges do you need to ‘fight’ – I don’t mean physically fight but what are you willing to work to change & influence? These are things that are really important & meaningful to you & it’s worth your effort to try & change them.

 

  • What challenges do you need to ‘flee’ – these are things that could be risky (physically, mentally, emotionally) & you simply need to get away from them.

 

  • What challenge do you need to ‘flow’ – for me these are the toughest. They’re the ones that I’m not fired up enough about to fight, & I don’t need to flee, so I have to find ease with flowing & accepting. Tough stuff, but I find it easier to accept when I’ve framed it like this.

 

 

Resilience for your funny bone

 

Is your funny bone ready for a workout? Here are some very tongue in cheek examples:

 

And not so funny, but more tender, sweet & true:

 

Now that’s resilience.

 

Resilience is all about managing change & conflict & knowing when to stand up & be a coffee bean. It’s picking your battles wisely because not everything deserves a fight. It’s making yourself scarce sometimes, to self-protect, ponder & reflect. And it’s finding ease with the rest.

 

 

Your turn – take action:

 

 

Photo Credits: Derek N Winterburn, pheezy  & wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

 

 

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What my temporary disability has taught me & how facing a lifelong fear didn’t kill me but made me better

My multiple wacky arm braces.

You don’t know how much you use a particular muscle until it’s not working.

 

These days brushing my teeth, eating, writing & typing produce, at worst a searing hot pain & at best a dull ache. Meeting a tight curriculum writing deadline has caused tendinitis in my arm.

 

Multiple doctor & physio appointments later, I’m relieved to say it’s finally improving. In the meantime I’ve grown quite used to the odd looking braces I wear on my arm & my constant companions – heating pads.

 

After weeks of not being able to use my right arm or hand, I found myself feeling pretty down & frustrated. I needed some new perspective & I needed it fast.

 

Of course, being the lifelong learner I am, I applied a learning lens.

 

The 3 F’s – what my temporary disability has taught me.

 

  1. Fatigue– I’ve been sleeping waaaay more due to the pain. It’s tough when simple things become difficult (who knew brushing your teeth could be so hard?), which results in mental & physical fatigue & hence the need for more rest.

 

  1. Fear– I adore my work & not being able to fully function has been scary. I found myself thinking ‘will this ever get better & what happens if it doesn’t?’

 

  1. Frustration– I enjoy throwing myself into my work & into my life. Without a fully functioning arm I feel frequently frustrated. I can’t do 2 simple things at once – like carry a plate & open a door (because that takes 2 working arms).

 

 

The gifts of empathy, insight & perspective

 

As I’ve started to feel better, I’ve noticed my fatigue, fear & frustration (on good days) have given way to empathy, insight & perspective.

 

  1. Empathy – thanks to excellent healthcare I’ve been able to see the doctors & the physio I’ve needed to. I can afford the ultrasound, the medicine etc. My heart goes out to those who can’t afford the care they need. I’ve also been reassured by all the medical professionals that although we’re 7 weeks in, this health issue will resolve itself. I empathize with those for whom their disability &/or pain isn’t temporary & it’s something they manage everyday, & have done so for years & will continue to do so for years.

 

  1. Insight – anyone who knows me well, knows how utterly & entirely phobic I am of needles (I even have trouble typing the word) and yet, I’ve had acupuncture multiple times …. & I didn’t die. I learned when my fatigue, fear & frustration are high enough, that I can do things I thought would have been impossible.

 

  1. Perspective – when I was told I couldn’t type or write for weeks, I’ll admit it, panic set in. How would I work? How would I serve my clients? Taking a deep breath & gaining perspective really helped. For example I found Dragon dictation. I’ve learned how to speak (& to speak punctuation aloud, which sounds pretty odd), have my words instantly transcribed & peck around with my left hand to copy & paste into emails.

 

 

In the end:

 

  • Fear, fatigue & frustration have given way to empathy, insight a7 perspective.

 

  • I discovered I could do more than I thought I could (desperation likely played a wee role). To my great surprise I tried acupuncture, which not only helped but I didn’t die in the process.

 

  • I found workarounds. Our family recently had the chance to visit a research station near the Tanzanian border where my kid is doing an internship, only it was a 4+hour drive away. Determined not to miss the opportunity, I found I could still drive, just using my left hand. Voilà. It was thoroughly worth it. For example we drove through these stunning, bright pink salt lakes to get there.

Yep, that pink area is water.

  • As a result of my arm not functioning, I appreciate all my body bits that DO work just fine.       Thank you eyes that blink automatically, heart that pumps, knees that bend etc. etc.

 

Your turn. Take action.

 

  • What have you learned from a trying time in your life? What has fear, frustration & fatigue taught you?

 

  • What do you do to gain empathy, insight & perspective?

 

  • Speaking of perspective, check out this short (1 ½ min) video for a sweet take on a new perspective.

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Rabble-rouser or runner? How you feel about conflict affects how you resolve it.

Photo Credit: David Compton Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When you hear the word conflict how do you feel? I often ask this question in workshops I lead simply because how we feel about conflict completely affects how we do (or don’t) resolve it (regardless of what the conflict is about).

 

It’s fascinating to see the extremely wide variety of responses to how people feel about conflict – from ‘I’m a rabble-rouser / I adore conflict’ to ‘it makes me want to run away with every fibre of my being’ & everything in between. Recently I was delivering a team building workshop with staff who work to bring stability to Somalia & I asked them how they felt about conflict. Because their work puts them in physical danger, responses ranged from death & displacement to intriguing & complex.

 

I asked you to let me know how you felt about conflict & 65 of you replied via this link (it’s not too late- you can still reply if you haven’t already).

 

 

Curious to see how everyone replied how they felt about conflict?

 

Here are your responses in a word cloud (word clouds analyze text by frequency; the larger the text the more frequent the response & the smaller the text the less frequent the response).

 

 

What do you think? Can you see your response?

 

It’s worth noting that the difference between feeling anxious / destruction or displacement & opportunity / interested or healthy is a wide chasm.

 

It demonstrates how people experience conflict matters, regardless of the content of the conflict.

 

If you’re someone who conflict provokes high anxiety & you’re trying to resolve a conflict with a colleague who sees conflict as a terrific opportunity, that is worth noting.

 

Conversely if you’re known as a rabble-rouser & you love to debate & you’re trying to address a conflict with someone who feels nothing but dread & fear, that’s certainly an issue.

 

 

Why stopping to take into consideration how you & the person you’re in conflict with feels about conflict leads to better resolutions

 

The next time you have conflict brewing, take a moment to reflect on how you feel about conflict. Then take a moment to ask the person (or persons) how they feel about the conflict.

 

It’s is a critical step in getting to resolution because it doesn’t assume we all feel the same way.

 

Taking the time to discover means you’re showing the other person that it’s important to you & you can use that information to craft a better conflict resolution process.

 

For example, imagine you’re a rabble-rouser – aka you love conflict; you adore debating & may even take the opposite view of what you believe to be mischievous.

 

Now imagine you have a conflict with someone who’s every instinct says ‘run’ at the mere mention of conflict. Perhaps they’re a survivor of gender-based violence or perhaps conflict meant getting hit as a kid.

 

No matter what the conflict is about between the two of you, it’s going to be a rough road to resolution.

 

Here are some options for moving forward

 

First off don’t try to resolve the conflict. Focus on the process first – the ‘how’ of moving forward.

 

Here are some suggestions:

 

Setting the scene: ‘I know we have some conflict to work out but before we work on how we’re going to resolve it ….”

 

Possible prompts:

  • What do you think is the best way forward?
  • How are you feeling about the situation?
  • What can I do to make it comfortable for us to figure out a resolution?

 

So whether you’re a rabble-rouser & love to provoke debate or run at the mere mention of conflict or are somewhere in between, the next time a conflict raises her head:

 

  1. Think about how you feel about conflict
  2. Think about how the other person feels about conflict (& ask if you don’t know)
  3. Use this information to craft a better, more tailored fit conflict resolution process

 

Your turn. Take action

 

Jana replied to a recent post on conflict resolution saying:

 

Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed this post and the two step suggestion on conflict resolution as well. It is an art and these simple tools are invaluable – just need to remember to breathe, think and then speak… in times they are necessary (minus road ranting of course.) Jana

 

 

  • Go against your instinct. The next time you’re faced with a conflict, remember don’t try to resolve it right away. Instead, focus on the process first – the ‘how’ of moving forward.

 

 

 

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The danger of a single story

 

Photo Credit: redfoxinict Flickr via Compfight cc

As a young Nigerian student who had travelled to the US to study, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie came face to face with something we all encounter many times throughout our lives – a single story. Let me explain.

 

Chimamanda arrived to the US and met her new roommate, a roommate who was shocked and surprised to find Chimamanda so different than what she had expected. She’d been surprised to not only find out that her new roommate spoke English (not knowing that English is an official language in Nigeria) but that her ‘tribal’ music included Mariah Carey.

 

Chimamanada’s roommate had fallen victim to a single story. A single story is a story that we create about people and things, before having learned anything about them.

 

A single story is one that accepts people at face value.

A single story is one that judges a book by its cover.

A single story is seductive because it’s easy & quick.

 

Why single stories are dangerous

But they’re dangerous.

Single stories make assumptions. A lot of assumptions – and assumptions can be problematic and get you stuck.

They draw well defined borders around who’s included & who’s not.

Single stories also leave out. A lot.

They leave out alternative voices. Different opinions. Different ways & walks of life.

In the end they hurt us as well (not just the person we’re writing a story about in our heads) because excluding people because of their so called story, has a high price.

 

Why should we seek out layered, nuanced stories of depth?

Years ago I was working in a very remote, very tiny, very rural, very conservative village in the Philippines. When I referenced my husband, I used the word ‘partner.’

(Insert huff of indignation here, as it’s always bugged me that there are up to 3 ways to address a woman – Ms., Miss & Mrs. – & they all connote her marital status, while at the same time there’s only 1 for men.)

After the workshop a tiny Filipino woman approached me & said ‘I love it when straight people use the word partner, it’s such a sign of inclusion.’

I confess I was surprised. I didn’t expect to be approached by a gay woman in the conservative area I was in.

My single story got expanded. Without realizing it, I’d created a single story about the people and community that I was visiting, one that meant that I wasn’t seeing clearly but rather was shrouded in assumptions.

When this woman came and talked to me, I realized how much deeper I needed to go to truly get all the value there was to be had out of my visit. I needed to be ready to hear a multitude of stories.

 

There’s magic in expanded stories

It’s only when people feel welcome & heard that they’ll participate. And when everyone’s making a contribution, multiple voices are heard & magic happens.

 

When I’m teaching in new countries I’ve never visited before, I’ve learned to:
• listen hard,
• question my assumptions
• use humour strategically &
• keep an unfettered mind..

 

It helps me make sure that I fully embrace the stories around me & makes people feel comfortable knowing that I truly care about them and am ready and open to engage.

It’s a kind of magic.

That magic includes an increase in creativity & innovation, discovering multiple ways to resolve conflict &tackle tough issues..

‘When we reject the single story, we regain a paradise,’ says Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, in her TED talk.

 

Embracing expanded stories for International Day of Families

As the International Day of Families has just happened (May 15th) let’s take her advice & include wonderfully diverse & complex stories in your work & your personal life, that embrace:

 

– families that are far-flung global nomads
– families whose only travel is done seated in a comfy armchair watching TV
– families that are fractured
– families that are messy, dysfunctional
– families that are far from the ‘norm’ of mom, dad & 2.5 kids
– families with mental health issues
– families that are struggling with poverty
– families that are broken
– families that are on the mend
– families with alcohol & drug issues
– families who have members in prison
– families who aren’t biologically related
– families who are colourful – whether it be via the rainbow, skin colour, or personalities
– families that fit inside the box & families who are waaaaaayyyy outside the box

 

Because after all, as Pico Iyer says, home is more about soul than soil.

This week in the lunchroom, share a story about your life with your colleagues you’ve never shared before and invite them to do the same. The more we are ready to share & take in our various stories, the more we are open to deeper connections, and the more we understand each other, the happier/calmer/more creative/ more connected we feel.

 

Your turn. Take action

– Think of a time you unwittingly wrote a single story in your head about someone. How did you realize it needed some expansion?

– Expanding a single story means uncovering assumptions you’re making. Check out this post to help you with that. 

– If the idea of expanded a single story resonates with you, I invite you to share this post with a colleague or friend, &/or sign up for my blog.

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