Dear Friends and Family,
Ken Burns, the documentary film maker, says that communication only happens between people who see eye-to-eye, who see each other as equals and equally human. This sounds obvious, even a cliché, but it is very hard to do in practice when you take the full weight of this seriously, and to heart. For example, I’m doing a book event at S.F. State University later today – how will I treat a theater full of students as equals? They will be in seats and I will be on stage, literally looking down on them. The same challenge was there with the audience I performed for last week in Santa Cruz and with the room full of tech wizards I’ll be working with on leadership skills with next week.
In the article by David Brooks that I sent in the last email, he talked about the pain he heard and saw traveling around the country. “These different kinds of pain share a common thread: our lack of healthy connection to each other, our inability to see the full dignity of each other, and the resulting culture of fear, distrust, tribalism, shaming and strife.”
This challenge of treating everyone with full dignity is there as I’m writing this newsletter, or working on a chapter of my next book. Even the seemingly positive labels like ‘student,’ ‘audience,’ ‘executive,’ ‘reader,’ limit my ability to truly see eye-to-eye with you, even though I want to very much. Brooks sums it up like this: “The phrase we heard most was “the whole person.” Whether you are a teacher, a nurse or a neighbor, you have to see and touch the whole person – the trauma, the insecurities and the dreams as much as the body and the brain.”
Clowning is the touchstone I use to try to be a whole person and treat others as whole people. This may seem strange to many folks who see clowning as a narrow relationship based on laughter and tricks. The clowning I’m talking about is the lifelong struggle to connect all of me with all of you, even if it is just a micro-connection on the street, in a classroom, a boardroom or a theater. This takes practice, just like everything else.
When and How to Share Your Whole Self at Work
A recent study by Rice University (http://news.rice.edu/2019/02/25/be-yourself-at-work-its-healthier-and-more-productive/) looked at when it is a good idea to share more of your “whole self” at work. I’m now offering keynotes and workshops, based on ‘The Snow Clown’, looking at how you share your whole self at work while allowing others to be themselves.
Check out this short video provided courtesy of my dear friend William Hall, from his ImprovGames site.