I heard someone say recently, "We teach what we need to learn the most." I believe this is true, since as I present workshops across the country on trust and communication, I become more aware of my own need for continued learning in these skills. Dave and I frequently have conversations about communication (a bit of metacognition at its finest) and I believe as our communication grows, so our relationship and marriage grow.
I have had the distinct pleasure of presenting three workshops at the National SAM Innovation Project conference in San Diego this weekend. If you are in education and not aware of this great project, check it out at www.samsconnect.com . Mark Shellinger happens to be an amazing guy as well.
As it happened, Dave and I found ourselves able to enjoy an afternoon of trolley-riding around the San Diego area after I had finished my 3rd presentation. You know the trolleys that allow you to hop on and hop off at multiple locations, after paying one price for the narrated tour. The quality of your tour is often contingent upon the driver you get and the narration they provide. Here is where two roads diverged for us this afternoon.
When we hopped on the first trolley on Coronado Island, we settled in to our seats, enjoying the sunshine streaming in through the windows. Right before we took off, the gal driving the trolley (let's just call her Jimi) leapt out of her seat, yelling "What the hell is going on?" as she barrels down the aisle to the back of the trolley. "Oh no!" Dave and I both exclaimed. "What happened?" We turn around to see her hovering over a seat in which a couple were trying to lift the window flap so they could get some fresh air. "You can't do that yourself!" Jimi yelled (yes, really yelled) to the couple, who immediately backed off and apologized. "We were just trying to get some sunshine" they demured. "No, no, no!" Jimi kept on. "You can't do that yourself."
After that escapade, she tromped back up to the front, where she settled in her seat and began the tour. Less than a block from our starting point, we watched Jimi glare into the rear-view mirror and shake her head. "Listen up!" she barked. "No talking while I am narrating. People paid good money for this tour not to hear you talk." Wowee....Dave and I glanced at each other in a bit of discomfort. I have to be honest. I was embarrassed for her. When a couple talked quietly to one another a few minutes later, Jimi muttered, "Blah, blah, blah. I guess I'm just up here to hear myself talk. Nobody is listening anyway." Ouch.
Dave and I got off the trolley at Old Town to enjoy the sights, eat some amazing Mexican food, and ummmm....frankly, to get on another trolley NOT narrated by Jimi.
As we got on the afternoon trolley, Brian greeted everyone with a joke. He, too, asked us not to talk while he narrated, but here's how he said it, "If you can give me your full attention, I plan to teach you some new facts and trivia about this fine city. I ask that you keep your conversations to a minimum so everyone can hear." Whew! What a difference the words make. And they're basically saying the exact same thing. But the way it was said made all the difference in the world.
When I wrote my first book, I wanted to call it "It's not what you say, but how you say it". The difference between Brian and Jimi's messages may not have differed in content but they were light-years away from one another in context.
For me, if I have a choice, I'll always pick a path in which we honor people versus demeaning them.
Just for today, perhaps we can think about how our words impact others around us.