What can I learn from someone so different? (picture copyright by Temari 09 on flickr)
So, you read my post about the participant who drives you crazy because you feel like looking in a mirror with bad lighting. And you are thinking about a recent experience when a participant really didn’t work for you… but try as you may, you cannot find yourself in their behavior. Maybe they are of the other kind, the participants who drive you crazy because they are not you at all.
I don’t know you, maybe you love jumping into new experiences and this participant who drove you crazy was hesitant and caught up in analysis paralysis.
Maybe you need to think things through step-by-step and love having a clear, well organized session and they brought in chaos, the unexpected, the urgent problem you didn’t prepare for.
Maybe you are polite and inclusive and love giving space to everyone and this one person just took all the space there was and didn’t stop talking.
You migh be a natural born skeptic, seeing possible pitfalls wherever you go and this participant just drove you crazy with unbearable blue-eyed optimism.
Or maybe it was the other way round. But this participant who drove you crazy did everything the way you would never do it, they did it all WRONG! The rational part of you may admit that there are many different ways to sucessfully participate in a workshop. But there is a part of you that just feels that your way is the right way, so this opposite of you has to be wrong.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Listen to your gut. But don’t do everything it tells you.
You are feeling friction and frustration because by doing things so differently, your participant challenges your belief that your way is the right way and the only one. You have two options: Learn something from this or refuse to learn.
Refuse to learn: Push participant to act more like you. If they refuse, push harder. If they still refuse, find a way to silence or neutralize them so you can continue without obstruction, working with the part of the group that is just like you. In a certain limited way, this strategy can be successful (for you and those group members who are like you), you will be able to get from the beginning to the end of your planned session and do the activities that you promised would be done. And you might even feel clever for the way that you put the annoying participant on the eternal parking lot. But you will continue being stuck in the narrow-minded assessment that your way is the best. No learning. So what is the other option?
Learn: Listen to your gut while it complains about what a pain this participant is. Step away and take a deep breath and ask yourself: So what is the real problem here? And: Can I see this opposite behavior as my missing half? What is the most positive view you can have of their behavior? Do they bring something to the table that you don’t have? If they are your missing half, how can integrating their views and personality lead to a more rounded experience? How can you facilitate an experience that works for the other half as well, not just for those who are like you? And: Can you learn something from them that will broaden your own horizon, expand your personality? Maybe you even want to experiment with trying out their behavior to see how it feels and if it gets you places you have never been to before…
Let me warn you: This is really difficult, and most likely you will not be able to do all this thinking in the middle of facilitating a busy workshop. So go as far as you can. And do the rest of the thinking after the action is over, so that you can be more prepared for this the next time you meet the other half of your personality. If you can recognize why the participant drives you crazy (too similar or too different?), take a deep breath and not snap at them, that’s an important first step. Congratulations, you are on the road to learning. If you can embrace the thought that their being different actually enriches and deepens the workshop instead of thinking that it is a pain and they are a distraction that you need to neutralize, wonderful, you are getting there…
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