“I share, therefore I am.” Ouch.
I have been doing a lot of facilitating, traveling and speaking. In a bunch of cities over a bunch of months. It's been a gift. I am beyond grateful with what participants in my workshops share with me and with the group. We learn, we laugh, we explore. And I am touched by a theme that keeps coming up no matter where I am. The yearning for acknowledgement, witness and connection.
In a moment of emotion, even a bit beyond how normally emotion-filled I am, I told one group in the Midwest how much of a ‘love fest’ I was having with them. And the immediate response was, “Can you please tell our boss?” This request was echoed by many members of the group. Gulp.
I was at a hospital close to where I live and the topic on the table was appreciation. What kinds of appreciation do you like? Hugs, tangible gifts, shows of support and assistance in doing one’s work, etc.? One department in the room shared about how at the end of every shift they give each other pats on the back. These ‘pats on the back’ are a well-choreographed set of ‘hugs,’ which I learned from these guys and loved giving and getting. As we talked about this daily physical show of care, one woman spontaneously spoke up and said, “I want to work in your department.”
I could tell you about the department chairs at one high school district who felt deluged by new initiatives that were coming their way and how they felt their struggle to make sense of them all was unappreciated, or the principal who feels like support is not coming to her from her supervisors at the district office, or the teacher who is so tired of hearing about how everything we do is ‘all about the students’ that he says to me, “When is it about the teachers?”
These stories could make my colleagues all sound like a whiners. Yet, the consistent and real requests they are making are bigger than just complaints and griping. Something is up. They are making an authentic and urgent call for care.
Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Science and Technology at MIT, has given a TED talk based on her book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, in which she speaks about how technology has played a role in us not being as able to talk to each other face-to-face. It is safer and easier to text. Less messy. And less human. In listening to her talk I thought about how we don’t know how to care for each other as well in person anymore. Technology, as helpful as it is, can get in the way. A smiley emoticon just doesn’t cut it.
I have been avoiding facilitating webinars on the topic of having hard conversations for years because doing that specific workshop without the presence of individuals in a room doesn’t feel right. And while I have joined Twitter and have followers for whom I am trying to ‘curate good content,’ I just don’t connect in 140 characters as meaningfully as I do to a person in front of me. I feel old fashioned, but it is my truth.
My relationship with technology is complicated. I love hearing about my former student’s adventures on her year abroad as she posts on Facebook. I enjoy short video clips of my nephews as they run around the park or celebrate birthdays. I am beyond grateful for Skype for international connections. I just think that posts and blogs, while generationally here to stay, aren’t necessarily what makes life richer. Easier, but not richer. Turkle’s TED talk comment that startled me into this newsletter was her statement that individuals now days feel if “I share, therefore I am.” I think we need more than posting, blogging, tweeting and uploading to be seen. Face-to-face connection matters. Deeply.
Africans have a philosophy as embodied by the word, “Ubuntu.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes Ubuntu as: "the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them."
For me, technology is helpful, but I need to make sure I am ‘whole face listening’ more often. It fills my spirit.
Witness and acknowledge.
Listen and affirm.
Reconnect and renew.
Hug and fist bump.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to call me, 650-868-1916 and we can Face Time, Skype me at jenniferabrams, or email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com and we can set up a time to talk voice to voice. I look forward to hearing from you!
My book, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate and Create Community, is available for pre-order! Due out in November. I will write more about the book next month!
Next Avenue, “where grown ups keep growing” is a website, a set of articles, a weekly newsletter, a resource. Generationally targeted for the over 50 crowd, they describe themselves as “a group of public television people and journalists who, for the most part, are experiencing the very same things you are. Like you, we see both challenges and opportunities and we recognize that what we could all use right about now is an abundance of reliable information that can help us figure out what's, well, next.”
Next Avenue has compiled a group of TED talks entitled “The 11 Greatest TED Talks for Anyone Over 50” including one by Meg Jay entitled, “Why 30 is not the new 20.” - a really interesting take on not wasting one’s 20s and getting some ‘identity capital.’
My colleague, Lucy West, and her co-author, Antonia Cameron, have just published Agents of Change: How Content Coaching Transforms Teaching and Learning. Their book description says, “Lucy and Toni argue that when we infuse rich learning conversations into the professional discourse via coaching, study lessons, and regular meeting times for professionals to work collaboratively, we're able to examine what it takes on a day to day basis to reach every student in our classrooms.” Good stuff.
Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!
Having Hard Conversations
Association of California School Administrators
San Jose, CA
Being Generationally Savvy
Association of Middle Level Educators
Being Generationally Savvy
Tier 1 Program & BTSA Induction Site
Orange County Department of Education
Costa Mesa, CA
For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.
Until next time!
Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to www.jenniferabrams.com