Several months back, I wrote a blog about my golf lessons with my first golf instructor. I had the mistaken notion that it would be a good idea to make her laugh in an effort to lessen the discomfort (let me be clear....she had no discomfort. She knows how to golf; I, on the other hand, do not). Dave tried to assure me that I needed to focus on my lessons, not on pleasing her. Woe is me.
Fast forward a few months to this week. For Christmas, Dave and I gave each other golf lessons. Dave and I each took a golf lesson with the club pro the other day and I may not have made him laugh, but I am happy to say I think he taught me a thing or two...not just about golf but about life. While I took my lesson, Dave took notes for me, and then I did the same for him.
Imagine my shock and awe when the pro did not correct my grip or my posture or my alignment or my....whatever. Instead, he said, "I just want you to think about your intention." Hmmm....I thought. Outloud, I said, "I hope you could tell me what I need to intend to do." Nope. Wrong answer. He pressed me, and I finally said, "I guess I would like to intend to hit the ball." Blessedly, he did not roll his eyes. Neither did he sigh, at least not outloud. I did not look at Dave because I am certain he was doing both of these things. Instead, the pro politely asked, "Where would you like to hit the ball?" "Oh!" I exclaimed. "I don't usually know where the ball is going to go." He simply smiled and said, "You need to begin to have an intention every.single.time. you.hit.the.ball." He went on to say, "Don't picture it going in the bunker or in the lake or into the desert. Picture it going to your target. But in order to do that, you have to have a target." Novel concept, right? Wait, I can do this, I thought. This is like Stephen Covey's "Begin with the end in mind"
Over the course of the next 45 minutes, he suggested the following tenets of golf (and what I believe are appropriate for life):
1. An easy approach works better than trying to manhandle your grip.
I had certainly been swinging harder, as I thought it would produce more power. Miraculously, when I let go a little bit and engaged in an "easy" swing, the other stuff fell away a bit more.
2. When you complete the move, hold it there for at least five seconds in order to evaluate the move.
Oh wait. So, in golf, and in life, I shouldn't jump from one bad decision immediately to something else, just to try to get out of it or away from it? Another novel and totally thought-provoking point.
3. Hold a mantra in your head whenever you approach the next shot. For example, he suggested, "An interrupted flow of energy". Wowee!! That's what I want in life---an uninterrupted flow of energy. He even said, "And just evaluate what, if any, interrupts that flow".
I have to say I have taken his golf thoughts to heart, in my game and in my life. I like them---simple and thought-provoking.
Just for today, or maybe for the New Year, you can try on a new mantra for size. And remember...there are lessons to be learned in everything we do....if we are willing.
I am learning communication lessons everyday, still, Despite having written two books on the subject of communication and relationships, I learned another lesson today. When communicating about relationships, taking shortcuts is not a good idea.
Let me back up. (beep-beep-beep)
Dave and I just began fostering Labrador Retrievers through the Desert Labrador Retriever Rescue group. Great organization that does great things for rescue dogs. We picked up our first foster pup last week. The routine is supposed to go like this: foster the dog, post pics on the website, take in phone calls and emails from approved adopters willing to adopt the dog, then make an informed decision about the best forever home for the rescue pup.
Within hours of posting our sweet Casey (the adorable Black Lab above) on the website, we had several possible suitors. When we talked to the first family, they agreed to drive down to Tucson from their home 2 hours away to see her. If a match is made, they are allowed to take her home. While the human family made it down, they decided to leave their dachshund at home. They said he got car sick. "No matter", we were assured. "He gets along with everyone." Yes, I had a couple of ding-ding bells go off that should have been warning signs for me. BUT..... the family got along great with Casey when they came to see her. They hugged on her, loved on her, and ended up taking her home. Unfortunately, the dachshund had other ideas about having a newcomer enter his home. While the two did just fine out in the yard, the dachshund had a lot to say to Casey when they tried to come in the house.
Within hours, the couple had called us, saying it just wasn't going to work out, at which time we immediately jumped in the car to go retrieve sweet Casey.
What is the lesson, you might ask? Don't take shortcuts when it comes to building relationships and in any important communication. If we hear something that sends up red flags (I can't bring my dog to meet a potential new dog), don't take a shortcut. I should have insisted and been very clear: the adoption can take place when all members of the family are present, so we can make sure it is a good fit. Instead, we were hopeful. Hope is a great thing, don't get me wrong, but it is no substitute for putting in the right work.
Jane Pollock, a great educational author, once said, "We need to take the hope out of teaching." What? No, no, no, this cannot be. Hope is sometimes all we have. What she meant, however, is that we need to back up hope with putting good stuff in. For example, instead of saying, "I hope my students do well on the test this Friday", we should know how they will do based on the formative work we have done with them up to that point. The same holds true with fostering. While I can't make ensure every little detail, I can take the hope out of fostering---not just saying, "I hope the family dog gets along with the rescue pup" but putting in the footwork to ensure the best results possible occur.
From now on in the foster world and in communication in general, I vow to not take shortcuts and not just "hope" for good things to happen.
Just for today, perhaps we should be clear, consistent and persistent to ensure the best results possible in all we do!
Whether we are discussing how school leaders talk with teachers about their latest observation or how customer service representatives handle concerns, how we say what we say matters.
I learn and re-learn this lesson all the time. Why does it matter in the first place? As we all know, reputations are often made on the first impression. Right or wrong, if someone has a bad experience with a night's stay in a hotel, they will often generalize and write off the entire hotel chain ("Don't ever stay at Hotel Hell---I had a horrible experience there"). So, it is incredibly important that we say things in such a way that people will hear what we have to say in a palatable way.
Maybe I am just still reeling from my latest experience, but I am convinced it matters even more with weary travelers. Case in point: I was attempting to get back from Seattle to Tucson, in the midst of the wind/rain/fog from Hades this past Friday. While the airline couldn't guarantee I could get on an earlier flight that would get me back to Tucson by early afternoon, frequent travel has its rare benefits and I was placed at the very top of the Standby list of a completely full flight to San Francisco. My heart raced as I waited with patience (ha! not a chance) to hear my name called. Finally, I heard "Mary Shelly Arneson, please see me at the podium for your seat assignment". I almost cheered! The gate agent handed me my ticket and I asked if it would be inappropriate to kiss her. She laughed and said, "I'm so happy I could make your day." Ah, but I was only lulled into a false sense of security.
As soon as we landed in San Francisco, I had a text message saying, "Your 10:48 a.m. flight to Tucson has been cancelled due to maintenance." Not great. It went on to say I would now be flying to Denver then to Tucson, but----good news!--- you will get in by midnight tonight. Oh no you didn't just say that, I thought.
Once I had all but tackled a Customer Service representative, I asked about my options. She was able to get me on a flight through Phoenix to Tucson that would arrive by 5:00 p.m. (still traveling all the live-long day but not until midnight). I had to push for those flights because it meant putting me on another carrier, "which I'm really not supposed to do, because of the weather", she told me. "Hmmm...but my cancelled flight was because of maintenance, so I'm sure it's great that you are doing this for one of your frequent flyers" I quipped with a smile. "Well, not really" she retorted. Silence from me, because I know when to be quiet....sometimes. But....she looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'll try to re-route your luggage but good luck getting it when you arrive". Oh no you didn't just say that. Good luck getting my luggage? That is not great.
Well, the good news is she was honest. True to her word, my luggage did not arrive with my physical body, but I was so grateful to be getting back home in time to go pick up a new foster Lab, I didn't complain. I had read I could report the missing bag online or on the phone once I got home. In fact the wording online says:
delayed baggage should be reported to the airport Baggage Service Office immediately after the arrival of your flight, or by calling our Baggage Service Center...,and went on to give the phone number. So, imagine my surprise when I called the number and the rep said, "No, no, no, you have to report the bag missing when you arrive at the airport."
Here's what I said, "No, no, no, it says differently on the website", while Dave looked at me and shook his head (I hate that voice of reason sometimes).
He said, "I don't know what it says online but you can't report it to me over the phone." "Ummm...I know what it says online --- I just read it to you" I replied, which prompted another head shake from Dave.
"Let me try again", I breathed. "Clearly I didn't report it missing or delayed at the airport. What do we do to get my bag reported missing now? I really appreciate you helping me out." Every piece of me wanted to scream---"READ YOUR WEBSITE!!" but we all know you can catch more flies with honey. Well, finally, this fly agreed to go catch my bag for me and I finally got it delivered about 24 hours later. !!!
Lesson learned: It really does matter how we say what we need to say, and the other subtle lesson I learned (but might have to learn a few more times in my lifetime): listen to your logical, fair and wise husband.
Just for today, perhaps we can remember to word things in such a way that other folks around us will find it easier to listen to us and want to help us.
I giggle a good bit to myself. Things just tickle my funny bone and even if someone isn't around when an amusing thing occurs, I try to see the good humor in it.
Dave, my rock and husband, often says I am the impetus for his giggles sometimes, even when I don't mean to be. My own true confession is: as we were on a flight, I looked out the window of the aircraft then said to Dave, "Wow, that plane is close to us." He peers out the same window then just looks at me as if I have lost my marbles. "That is OUR plane's wing." Oops.
So, I guess turnabout is fair play.
As I am waiting to board my flight from Tucson to Sacramento by way of San Francisco, I am watching a neighboring flight board. The gate agent is making the "last call" for a 1:05 p.m. flight to Phoenix when a gentleman hurries up, thinking he is about to miss his flight. The gate agent checks his boarding pass and says, "Oh you are on the 2:50 flight to Phoenix---much later. But...we can get you on this earlier flight if you want." The traveler, who must just be weary....yes, that's what it must be....says, "Well, I guess that's okay. Will I get to Phoenix later or earlier than my original flight?" What?? Priceless was the look on the gate agent's face as he said, with absolutely no sarcasm, "Good news, this one leaves almost two hours earlier so it gets in almost two hours earlier." "Oh great" says the confused traveler.
I love stuff like that, maybe because I do it myself. Perhaps we are simply too busy to think through the crazy thoughts in our head before they jump out of our mouths. When I tell folks these stories, they laugh, but then inevitably they tell me their own forehead slapping duh! story. So, I guess we're all imperfect. :)
I had the privilege of working with 100 Kinder kiddos on Friday, and I heard more than enough things to make me giggle for awhile. I was working with them getting on a brand new computer program, which excited most of them greatly. One student asked me, as I brought in seven Chromebooks, "Miss, did you make those?" Why yes I did, I wanted to say. Dave said, "That's not any crazier than asking if you were going to make dinner---about as likely." Ugh.
Another beautiful boy, in his excitement about the motivating media on the program, called out, "I'm winning!" Stifling a giggle, I put my fingers to my lips and mouthed, Quiet voices. Other children are at their desks, reading." He looked at me quizzically and said, "I'm not too loud. I have on these!" as he points animatedly at his headphones.
Just for today (oh why not every day?) I sincerely hope you are able to find the humor in all you do and the conversations you have (or overhear).
Check out the interview I did with Schoolbriefing.com
The topic was on teacher trust in evaluations and in school leaders and what we can do as administrators to improve that trust. As Dave always reminds me, this issue of trust is not just about schools, though. It is about how we treat each other in all aspects of our work, love and life.
ENJOY and Happy Communicating!!