“You Should Care” Versus “Why You Should Care”
Just Say No to this Toxic Assumption
This Sol Stein quote on high-powered facts failing to invite others in reminded me that we are at our best when we express our passion as an invitation. The best teachers are the ones excited about a topic. Their excitement is itself an invitation into the topic. The best salespeople are those humans who use the product and love it—which is why word-of-mouth remains the most sought-after form of advertising. The most persuasive evangelists are those whose lives have been altered by faith or by an Apple product (which is itself a kind of religion).
Alternatively, the worst college classes, the worst business meetings, the worst seminars are those where the professor/supervisor/speaker assumes you care as much as she does. That assumption leads immediately down deep into depths of details without painting the larger picture. And many of us are desperate for the larger picture. We want to see how our work or faith makes a difference in the rest of life.
A basic truism of life as an insider is that we stop talking about why we are here (in this company or department or group or church) because we’ve heard other people’s stories and we don’t need to go over that ground again. Pretty soon we assume we are all on the same page with the meaning of our activities together. Every once in a while the boss of your boss may say something about why we are here and why its important. But day-to-day it is largely assumed.
The outsider knows nothing of this.
The outsider comes to a group not with a blank slate so much as a slate marked by other groups he has dealt with. The person on the fringe trying to understand the group wants to hear the big meaning statements, the “Why we are here” stuff. And this is precisely where corporate talk falls flat. Corporate talk about meaning and mission and purpose is often vapid precisely because there is no human behind it.
But when the outsider makes contact with the insider who is properly enthused about the meaning-making activities of the company or group, that is a very different story. Mission and purpose come alive when demonstrated by another life being altered.
- Don’t assume the people around you are insiders.
- Keep talking about why we are here doing these things together. These orienting, meaning-making discussions help everyone. It is too important to leave to the VP of mission.
More takes on “transformation” here.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston