Yesterday I attended a class for work. When I first walked in I felt awkward. It was all directors, managers, coordinators, analysts with their work laptops, typing so fast the keyboards were practically smoking. Immediately I felt intimidated and even questioned my ability to successfully participate. Here I am an administrative assistant with my little green padfolio that was a free giveaway several years ago. How am I supposed to effectively participate and accomplish big things on my project?
What’s the first thing almost anyone does in an awkward situation? Eat! (I’m not saying it’s the healthiest way to go.) Fortunately breakfast and caffeine was provided, and I was actively fiending for coffee. I grabbed my food and made my way past the typing zombies. I was practically twiddling my thumbs when the instructor passed out “fuzzy sticks” or as I call them, pipe cleaners. Hmmm? This looks interesting. This looks like something that doesn’t require a laptop. I looked up, now eager for class to start.
“First things first, put away your laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices. I want your full attention, and if you get bored keep your hands busy with some fuzzy sticks. I don’t care what you make as long as you are participating in the class.”
Okay, I’m definitely relieved.
“Now choose a partner.”
Immediately the anxiety returns. What if nobody picks me like in high school P.E. when I was the last picked for every sport? Fortunately the nice lady in front of me spun around and asked me to be her partner.
“Now what you are going to do is interview each other, but you are not yourself, the other person is you, and you are the key stakeholder for your project.”
It’s hard to put yourself out there. It feels awkward, nerve-racking, stressful, and sometimes it conjures up that feeling of crawling under your desk and hiding. As if it is not hard enough to open yourself up to criticism and input from a stranger at work, it’s even harder to do so with a friend.
After being paired up and discussing my project I found many places I had fallen short that I wouldn’t have seen looking in on my project alone. There were things my partner was doing way better than me and vice versa. There were even areas where we were both failing, and we got to discuss how we could both improve. Our teacher even suggested that we follow-up with each other in a few weeks to see how our projects were progressing.
We can do the same in our personal lives. We can lay out the facts, what we’ve done, where we know we’ve fallen short, even where we feel we’ve improved or succeeded, but we don’t see the full picture until we’ve invited others to give their perspective. You might learn something about yourself, and you are sure to learn something about the other person. Hopefully this leads to you being on the same page, and if it doesn’t, you know you tried your best.