Do you remember when I talked about the possibility of stages to the growth of trust?
I’m wondering, today, whether stages might be a helpful way to think about change more broadly, and particularly for those of us wanting to helpfully, trust-inducingly instigate it.
Because here’s what I think sometimes happens:
- Person A learns an important life lesson.
- Person A sees that person B hasn’t learned this lesson yet.
- Person A heaves said lesson into person B’s lap, en total.
- Person B must confront, and in some cases clean up, the heaved lesson which he or she may or may not be ready to apply.
I think this happens all the time and isn’t inherently harmful. It’s the way learning often happens, the way culture gets transmitted, the way kids grow up, parents parent, bosses boss, and, sometimes, nations treat other nations. We are all “person A” sometimes and “person B” at others.
On the same token, I think this process can be harmful, and can do the very opposite of grow trust. It can frustrate person A to no end that person B cannot appreciate or apply the lesson that A has so generously offered. It can offend person B, who isn’t ready or able to see the value of A’s lesson, let alone the timing of it being foisted upon them. And in both cases, it can strain the relationship between A and B.
But maybe most importantly, in the context of this site about growing trust, this process can grow pride in person A, and shame in person B – both, to my mind, antithetical to trust.
Because person B might be perfectly capable of seeing the value of the lesson that person A has learned. But having a different life and a different context than person A, and without all the factors that led to A’s natural “aha” in the first place, person B can feel incapable of incorporating A’s “gift” into his or her lived experience. He/she can feel sharp dissonance between how he/she continues to live, and how he/she would be living were person A’s lesson applied.
And on the flip side, person A can feel in response to B’s less-than-exhuberant reaction to said lesson a smug sort of pride in having learned the lesson at all, and in being capable of applying it – heck, even teaching it to other people too! Person B’s inability to apply it can be seen as person B’s problem, rather than the natural way of things when timeliness hasn’t grown ripe, and unsolicited force-feeding has occurred.
So much theory! How about an example…
Let’s say Big Name Blogger has taken a year or ten to grow a big following (I don’t have anyone specific in mind here – let’s call this an amalgamation). Let’s say she worked her tail off to get where she is today, used all the fuel her ego had to offer her, all the excitement about subscriber numbers and commenters, her willingness to work night and day, travel often, let her body go to pot and her in-person relationships suffer.
And let’s say she did it! She got what she was after! And she realizes that the costs have been enormous and she needs to make some serious life changes.
So she turns off comments on her site, scales back screen time dramatically, begins to rebuild her body and relationships and starts to say no to many of the opportunities to which she used to always say yes.
…And she begins a crusade to tell as many bloggers as she can that all that ego trap? All that out-of-whackery involved in growing a huge following fast? Totally not worth the price.
She knows this. Deeply. From experience.
But she also has such a huge following by this point that she really doesn’t have to do half of what she used to do to keep momentum on her site going strong. She can literally afford this lesson.
Can you see where this is going?
Little Name Blogger, let’s call her, oh, Kristin, is one of Big Name Blogger’s followers. And she really digs deep life lessons. When Big Name throws this one at her, she loses balance for a second, but then willingly gives it a closer look.
And the lesson looks solid. It looks like something she wants to apply.
The only problem is that Kristin is at the very beginning of her life as a small business owner and there is a chasm between Now and Financially Sustainable that she’s pretty sure must be bridged by a hell of a lot of hustle. Hustle that involves ego fuel. That leaves time for sleep or exercise, but not both; online friendships or in-person friendships, but not both.
So she does what her bank account requires – she hustles – but with Big Name’s lesson ringing in her ears and a nagging sense of failing miserably, constantly, in the peaceful, life-in-order, body-in-shape, enlightened-soul arenas.
Big Name’s lesson was and is an important one, and may even be a healthy agitation for the Kristins of our world. But as we talk about help here this month, and stages of change in this post specifically, here’s what I think bears noting if trust is something As and Bs (that is, all of us) are after:
- Force-feeding our Big Lessons to anyone can do the very opposite of our helpful intent. It can push people away, close them down, fuel shame and resentment fires, and generally – for these and other reasons – strain our best (and worst!) relationships.
- It isn’t a sign of inadequacy or defectiveness when the “person Bs” of our world – which are all of us at one point or another – are not ready to hear or apply the lessons of our world’s “As”. If you hear a Big Lesson, however eloquently or persuasively put, and you feel overwhelmed or despairing by the impossibility of applying it to your life right now, maybe it’s not the time to apply it just yet. Maybe your situation is calling for something else entirely.
Or maybe you need about one hundredth of the force of that Big Lesson to season other things you’re learning right now, and as life and circumstances change, higher doses will apply.
I know this isn’t rocket science, but I sense these are things we all could stand to hear from time to time – that we aren’t defective if we can’t apply or even understand all the good lessons we hear; that our loved ones aren’t hopelessly lost if they’re pushing away good advice; that change often happens incrementally, over time, and one person’s (or nation’s!) “aha” can’t usually be packaged and peddled (or heaved, or bombed) and experienced the same way by other people whose circumstances have not led them to that same “aha”.
I sense if we all lived inside such things – feeling them viscerally and seasoning our words and actions with them – our world would be a much more hospitable, trust-inducing place.
But by all means, you don’t have to take my word for it… :)