"Been Angry Once or Twice, Living in an Unschool Paradise"


So the first day back from the weekend has started off with a bang, as I've already gotten into a good "discussion" with a client about what she"absolutely will not do, no matter what" I say. Good times. It did, however, cause me to take a deep breath and make sure that what I was asking for was realistic. And as I sat here thinking, two things came to me:

1.) At the end of Star Wars III when Obi-Wan is battling Anakin, he says something profound along the lines of "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." It certainly helped for me to hear my client's "absolute" and think of her as a Sith. Well, okay, maybe it didn't help but it made me laugh, which is good enough.

2.) In my job, it's critical for me to help managers think of the simple concept of preferences vs. requirements. When people come in to complain about how Johnny is just terrible and that we must get rid of him now, I ask whether or not the way Johnny is behaving is contrary to a bona fide job requirement, or just contrary to the manager's preference. I can act on violations of requirements (not coming to work, coming to work naked, flipping off your co-workers, etc), but acting on preferences is a bit more sticky and requires tons of coaching.
I want you to imagine what it's like coming home from work. Work sucks sometimes, but the day eventually ends and we get to come home (more like a furlough than a parole, but home nonetheless.) You're looking forward to being welcomed, hugged, kissed, adored like man such as yourself deserves to be, with a clean home and dutiful children - maybe even a meal on the stove? Instead, you come home to an "RU Paradise" - a kitchen full of dirty dishes, a floor covered with toys, and the laundry scattered around. Mama is on the computer playing a game and the kids are outside playing "pin the tail on the dog", who doesn't seem to be enjoying it. Oh, and there's no food left in the fridge for dinner.
Now, think about a few things. How do you respond? Are you disappointed, frustrated, angry, sad? What do you do with those emotions? Do you retreat to your "man cave" for some R&R? Do you make your displeasure known to all by barking orders at a louder volume than the poor dog? Do you throw your stuff down in a corner and start picking up, muttering under your breath?
Now, think about why you have the reaction you do. If you have no problem with the scene described above (not just externally via your "family face" but deep in your heart and soul as well), great. If you're like the rest of us, ask why. Why are you reacting this way? Is the house being clean and laundry being done a requirement, or a preference? Does it have to be that way, or would you simply like it to be that way? Once you go through this a few times, I think you'll find that there are really very few requirements in life, but a plethora of preferences. That's not to say that preferences are bad; they can reflect who we are, our values, our passions, our joys. We certainly deserve to have some our preferences met. But things get tricky when our preferences for order come into contrast with our families preference for freedom and play. I think resolutions to this contrast vary too much person-to-person to make many more generalities here, but I have made a concentrated effort to increase my own awareness of what's a "home" preference vs what's a requirement, which has made it much easier to come home into that RU paradise and enjoy it for what it is - a place where fun and happiness occurred.
Same thing, really (as most lessons are, I suppose.) Why would you hold someone accountable for something that is not required? Seeing the way other people prefer to do things can open your eyes to new ideas, new solutions, and new approaches. People open to such things tend to be viewed as flexible, learning oriented, and inclusive - very powerful and attractive traits in any organization.

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