How are you?
Did you ever meet a group of people for the first time and find yourself being exceedingly nice? Polite, positive and personable?
You know, a new job, first time at a church or maybe a neighborhood social you haven't been to before. You find yourself being so agreeable, nodding, smiling and affirming. And once, back in the comfort of your own home, you say to your self, that was nice.
Why aren't we like that all the time?
Tuckman wrote long ago about stages of team performance, his central argument being teams need time to reach higher levels of performance based on continued exposure to one another. Initially, he postulated, we tend to be very nice and reticent to overshare and or criticize others.
I've bought into this model for thirty years, and yet, its not a good proxy for individual behavior.
In today's world it seems cynicism, fatigue and irony are the stock in trade of almost every pundit of every stripe, political, financial or commercial. We just can't wait to dismiss each other's ideas (and thus each other) proving again and again how cosmopolitan and world wise we are.
Don't you ever get tired of that shit?
Isn't it just a bit soul-deadening to interact with others only to have work mates and near-strangers put you down and reject your ideas and contributions out of hand?
In our rush to be first and fast we have lost sight of our fundamental nature, which is to be curious about and then seek to understand the world around us.
Piaget and Darwin spent their lives immersing themselves in the world primarily by accepting it and seeking to rationalize it. Not reject it.
Mother Teresa, Plato and Shakespeare all sought to explain the human condition, not to condemn it.
And, as our old friend Steven Covey told us many years ago – seek first to understand.
Somewhere along the way to maturity much of Western society began to imply its okay – in fact, de rigueur – to skip past the early stages of development in interaction with others and simply pronounce our point of view consequences be damned. We skip the initial niceties in a rush to make our point not really caring what others think or say, as long as we're loud, proud and first.
Which raises an interesting paradox: how much can we really learn when we are the ones doing all the talking?
When we step into what might be described as forming mode – being polite, social and open-minded – we allow ourselves to get to know people. We could be in this mode as our go-to stance in all the compartments of our life including work, social and most importantly, family relationships.
Perhaps its better to be quiet first and speak second. To spend a few more minutes in active listening giving others time and respect. Perhaps we can get to performing in teams and in loose collaboration without an immediate launch into the storming mode.
And in so doing, perhaps we can learn even more and along the way and have a better quality of life.
That would be nice.