The more we know, the greater our comfort zone. But what if what we think isn’t fully formed? How do we extend the narrative past the point of comfort, and don’t we need to do that all the time?
As a child, my mother had an expression that she would invoke when her children’s behavior was inappropriate. She would say “there’s a time and a place.” Unraveling that message and reworking it has proven both difficult and beneficial. The trick has been to be able to differentiate boundaries and use the boundary as a useful leverage point. So it too explains another meaning behind framestretching.
The rules for what was appropriate my parents taught and modeled were largely in sync with societal conventions at the time, though our own home many of the conventions were relaxed. My mother felt that everyone needed a place to really let their raw emotions out. That it wasn’t healthy to keep them in. This of course was in sharp contrast to my father who felt you should be able to express yourself but not everything you could say needed to be said. That was their own war. They both agreed, and made clear that rules of etiquette and good manners were always expected. Disagreements could be discussed at home.
So what was the story with discourse? My parents were very good at arguing, my mother resorting to emotions that often drained the large reservoir of my father’s patience. Then again, my mother had an equally large reservoir for listening.
Growing up, my parents dinner table modeled what was acceptable behavior. My siblings and I were supposed to be well groomed and well mannered, and there was to be one conversation. Little sidebars to my sister or kicking my brother’s feet under the table was met with a look and yet, interrupting was difficult to control. Conversations were always lively, not always polite and no topic off limits. At this table, we were encouraged to ask questions and openly share our thoughts.
In school, I learned there were different conventions. One for the classroom and another for clubs. It was rare to have a team project, we were expected to do our own work. We would be called on or if we had question we had to raise our hand. The era was characterized by Robert’s rules–for English Grammar but also for Meetings.
When you are surrounded by adults and people in authority who are all eager to help you succeed, your confidence grows. I was no exception, I was a quick learner though not always willing to study, I got by using keen observation and ability to follow a line of reasoning. I was taught that no question was unworthy.
I still find myself impelled to ask questions and seek out others for answers before taking the time or making the effort to puzzle it out for myself first. Likewise, when I sense I know, I take great pride and that’s what also gets me into trouble.
Ever find yourself in a meeting responding out loud to something presented? The notion of politely raising your hand and waiting to be called upon is most often the expectation. It goes along with being polite, kind and nice; but it also risks shutting down interaction.
When I hear a comment that runs counter to my expectation or understanding, I feel my face change, my eyes roll. The word No forms at my lips and quickly words of confrontation emerge as I call out the inaccuracy.
My mother’s message “there’s a time and a place” only recently came to serve as dual edged reminder. yes, I should be polite, but I need to give others a chance, allow them to fully express their thoughts, and not interrupt them. It’s not just kind, but it’s also instructive to listen. What they say, the words they lead with and the ones they omit I’ve realized are often more telling about them. They reveal who they really are because it’s hard to hide everything.
Getting the undercurrent of internal dialogue out in the open makes sense, but not all of us do it. As a teacher, trainer, facilitator and or presenter, I actively seek to take the temperature of the room, check the engagement and reactions to information I’m sharing.
Nothing worse than getting the worst review after the fact. Personally I’d rather discover and change gears when I have the opportunity, set the record straight, answer questions and resolve their doubts in the moment.
It’s why I’ve developed some simple tips to give others the safety to reveal what they know and think. Knowing we all fear rejection, may lack confidence in our thoughts, or revert to feeling out of place, I need to give them space and assurance that I’m interested.
I’m happy knowing that my mother’s gift of listening to me and my siblings was one I’ve come to own, because there is always a time and a place.