Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

If We Could Hear Ourselves… 

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At a recent department retreat, a colleague asked us all to (using Nearpod) contribute a word that reminded us of each other person in our team. The name of a person is displayed on the screen, and each of us contributes a word. It was originally meant to be professional, one word that the person says frequently. It ended up that many of us contributed a fun phrase that person said frequently. We had loads of laughs. It was so interesting to see how people remember particular things about others…which phrases or statements they choose. Sometimes people would let someone notice they said something a lot that they didn’t actually realize they said a lot. Some were more obvious. 

Anyway. It made me think of a different thing. If we only heard ourselves saying certain things, we might be more careful not to say them. It’s not something that came out of the game above, but I imagine if u could play it anonymously with someone you wanna give critical feedback to, it could be really powerful.

Sometimes someone says something, and I wanna tell them, “Can you even hear yourself talking? Do you realize what you just said? Could you tolerate someone else telling YOU that?”

And, you know, the same applies to me. I wonder if there are things I say that I don’t realize are hurtful or worse. I think it’s hard to imagine unless someone tells us in our face.

I also want to note that in some situations, a person would not be upset to hear certain things said to them, but need to understand the impact on others is different from impact on themselves, whether because of differences in power or different personalities. 

That’s all I wanted to say…

3 Comments

  1. Agree that we need to be aware of other’s sensitivities when we make comments–and maybe the term “sensitivity” itself is a kind of judgement or dismissal of people’s rightful feelings. Some perceive themselves as silenced or “outside the conversation” or just unqualified to contribute to the group and their sense of precarious position requires us to be gentler than our own confidence of place might make us.
    How are we to be honest with each other without also applying at least some of the soft falsehoods of consideration? Our care for each other maybe insists we hear ourselves and judge if are being true to the “needs” of our relationships (as abstract constructions of knowing someone) as compared to the more emotionally referenced direct relationships as in people we are quite helpless to not be entangled with.
    Personal relationships aside though, the concern for others hopefully would create a safe place to offer genuine advice that isn’t mistaken as impersonal observation or “correction.” Or maybe we ourselves need to be less reactive to insights others have of us?

    • Really interesting comment, Scott. So much there… So much to consider and i think people tend to differ in how much they decide to prioritize care in particular relationships

      • Great concept Maha of “prioritizing care in particular relationships.” It might be a falsehood to declare an uncaring position or to hide behind a neutral persona. I think we need to admit to being helplessly possessed by our relationship with others while still being autonomous and self-possessed.

        I might be misunderstanding the purpose of the game to name a personal attribute of a colleague as a way of naming what they may mean to each of their fellow colleagues but could this be about how we’ve come to connect with each other as fellow humans?

        Being outside the context of institutionally structured relationships, I now find myself in the possibility of relationships that are without advantage or that progress my needs. Yet to be non-hurtful is sooo important !! What we say must always be supportive and promoting of growth. Period.

        Can we “care” for those we don’t like? Does this weaken us or are we stronger by our ability to hold a position of conscious values that dismiss no one? This is hard to figure out:-)

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