Hint: Grow a gray beard and present folding-money
Twice now young women have bought me coffee at the coffee shop on the campus where I teach. Just standing in line like everyone else—minding my own business—I pull out my $2 (cash-money) and the young woman in line behind me says, “Just put it on my card.”
I resist: “No! I wouldn’t hear of it,” I say. “You can’t. You must look after yourself with that—or at least spend it on your friends.”
I went on in that vein, until the cashier reached past my $2 (cash-money) for the woman’s card.
“She’s not going to spend it all anyway,” said the cashier, repeating what the woman said.
So. Free coffee. Thanks profusely offered.
Yesterday: same thing. I pull out my $2 (cash-money) and the young woman behind me says, “Just put it on my card.”
I resisted. This time with less velocity. Free coffee. Thanks profusely offered.
I’ve puzzled over this phenomenon. What I know for certain is that the students here are some of the kindest people you’d ever hope to meet. And earnest. Looking around I also see that I have landed from the planet “old guy.” Though I know even recent grads feel that way when revisiting their alma mater. Still, it’s been a long time since I was an undergrad.
But I think it’s the folding money that triggers the pity. What kind of a person uses cash-money on campus? Clearly someone in need and, frankly a bit out-of-touch. We all use cards.
You must not be from around here.
“Let me help you.”
The other day a student reflected on her community-building work in our social media marketing class:
“It’s also important to create a presence that encourages interaction,” she said.
I can’t get her comment out of my mind, partly because of getting two free coffees and partly because of the riddle of how to write in a slightly-unfinished, slightly-needy way. Like how Columbo conducted investigations: you pity the unkempt, needy fellow until you realize he is canny like a fox.
I’ve long puzzled over the magnetism of a dumb sketch. Stepping up to the white board and drawing something badly as a way of explaining an idea is a sure-fire way to invite others in. And they step up—not to correct, just to collaborate. Because it’s sorta fun to draw badly and without the pressure to create art. And it can be fun to think together. And, like presenting folding-money in debit card economy, you clearly need help.
What are you willing to leave unfinished to draw others in?
Image credit: Kirk Livingston, The-Toast.Net
Teaching season is in full swing.
And all my words are going toward the course.
I’ll be back.
Follow the Instinct to Say Again
We talk endlessly about the question “What is remarkable?” in my social media class. I am convinced that the bits of life that we remember to tell someone else are the very things that make for great conversations. It is that instinct that also powers engaging social media.
Say I run into an old friend and remember I finally read that book she told me about two years ago. Why did I wait so long? “The chapter about the train ride through the Alps was unbelievable and may have changed my life,” I say. I just remembered all this when I saw my friend and she said “train.” I can see that she is happy I read and enjoyed the book—one of her favorites.
Curiously, it is the running into the friend that pulls the trigger on the remembered thought. That instinct to pull from memory a thought stored for a particular person is one to follow. But maybe I did not store a thought for a person. Maybe I just registered a reaction to the book and I’ve been telling anyone who will listen—simply because I think they might find it interesting
Three things about this instinct to remark:
- We often remember for someone—we know they will like this thing and so we tell them.
- In a simple remark, we break complex thoughts into pieces and parts that can be verbalized. We want to be heard so we anticipate the questions our friend will say and pepper our talk on the fly with the answers they seek.
- The connection powers the thought and the communication. And so this memory or thought that becomes a remark goes on to cheer or enlighten or delight our friend.
The answer to “What is remarkable?” has its roots in a mystical intersection of connection, remembering and communicating. We might wish for such connection in our social media practice. The model for true connection is our plain old remarks to friends.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
On the Mindfulness of Listening
Listening is such a simple thing. How hard can it be?
But we all know that listening is harder than it appears, because listening means we have to shut up. And good listening means not just shutting up but also not using someone’s moments of speech as a time to plan counter-arguments.
Real listening happens nine hours into a car trip, after you’ve exhausted the common topics and celebrity gossip and a silence settles. For miles. Which can feel weird. And then you pass a broken down Quonset hut and your spouse/friend/acquaintance/ride share starts in on early memory of a fire at her parent’s farm, and how all the kids huddled in blankets watching the barn in flame and hearing the gas tanks in the tractors explode one after the other and how the firemen pumped water from a pond into a little pool they created and then onto the barn. And how the whole thing left her feeling sad and, well, bereft.
It had been a kind of turning point, she says, now that she thinks about it. And then she collects memories of what was different with her family after that and how it was different. She has very specific points.
And you have not said a word. Because the fire story had and entirely engulfed you as well. You were there—as she told her story—shivering on the side and hearing the pop of gas tanks.
Most listening is not that dramatic. But sometimes it is.
We’re talking about how to listen in our social media marketing class. How to listen to the audiences and communities we want to interact with. We want to hear the concerns and the jargon and the voices and the rhythm of those voices.
It occurs to me that we listen in stages. Or perhaps we hear—or comprehend—in stages. When new to a community, we hear the words and perhaps can make out only the broad outlines of the bigger story. The more we listen, the more we hear specificities and nuance The more we listen, the more stories we hear the emotion and motivations that bind a community together.
Good listening means sitting with and through the stages so that we burrow into understanding the people of the community. Our best friends are often great listeners because they sat through the bursts of story that followed silences.
Most of us have little time for listening.
Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston