There's a little voice in my head that moonlights as an escape artist. It must be, because no gag or act of psychic bondage will shut the little son-of-ma'-brain up. It is in essence a control valve for my ambition, and it goes a little something like this:
"Jeff. Jeff. Jeff. Jeff. Jeff. Hey Jeff. Jeff. Jeff. Hey Jeff. Hey. Remember that thing you have to do. You know: the thing. Not the one thing, but that other thing. But do the other other thing first. And then remember to come back to the first thing I mentioned, and then do that one thing. If you can't remember any one of these things, well, you're probably going to screw it all up. Actually, you will. Screw it all up. It's already screwed up, by merit of you being the one who has to do it. It's all going to turn out very, very badly - even worse than using an adverb in an ambiguous context. Which you just did. Worse yet, the aforementioned screwing up will occur as a result of a spiral of failure starting with some small thing and eventually taking the entire endeavor known as YOUR LIFE down like the Titanic. Because that's what happens to big, ignorant things. Hey Jeff. Hey Jeff. If you don't stop sucking soon, it may already be too late..."
He's an extremely helpful little guy. Especially when one is dealing with multiple deadlines.
Recently I added to my roster of responsibilities some work for a company that sends actors in to corporate environments to facilitate lessons in communication between managers and their team members. I was wary of this sort of work at first, because
worked for one such institution when she first moved to NYC, and they sounded horrible. Very touchy-feely, metaphoric and therapeutic in their approach, which I personally find inappropriate for a work environment. (Yes, even in theatre work - a debate best left for another post.) Fortunately, the place I'm working for now has a more pragmatic view of communication in the work place, and it's one I thus far agree with.
So I'm trying to apply their philosophy to a conversation with my extremely helpful little guy (henceforth "EHLG"). It might go a little something like this:
Me: Hey EHLG. How are you?
EHLG: Hey Jeff. Hey Jeff.
Me: Um - hey.
EHLG: You know what?
Me: What's that?
EHLG: You suck. At living.
Me: Okay, see-
EHLG: Living is something you're very bad at.
Me: Do you see what you just did there?
EHLG: You mean the way I spoke truth to power?
Me: Well from my perspective, you tried to tear down power.
EHLG: Word up.
Me: But see, EHLG, I don't have much of any power over you.
EHLG: Word up.
Me: And if you tear me down, it only hurts both of us.
Me: What is it you're hoping to get out of this?
EHLG: You know, you're not very good at this feedback stuff.
EHLG: You fake it pretty good, but that can only take you so far and pretty soon you're going to fail and suffer.
Me: I'm suffering now.
EHLG: Not as much as you will if you keep going.
Me: Is that a threat?
EHLG: You know, you're not very good at perceiving threats.
And let's take a little break here. This is a weird post, I'll admit it, but also pretty interesting to me, I must admit as well. The first practice session I had with the feedback-training company got confusing quickly, because we were all trainees and we ran sessions with one another. That meant that in addition to trying to learn the techniques the company used in role-playing, we were at times role-playing being a facilitator who was role-playing being an employee of a manager/student who was, him or herself, a role-player; all the while improvising a scenario with specific given circumstances. (WE HAVE TO GO DEEEPER [
The big mistake I made in that practice session was not when I was playing the manager, but the actor/facilitator. I got confused, and came on too strong with the obstacle that "manager" was being asked to deal with. Ideally, one wants to adjust to his or her level of intercommunication and nudge it towards something more, and I just barreled on through with my characterization instead. Call it my learned imperative response as an actor. I've gotten better at it. One key element is to insert a pause in the role-play for analysis and discussion. It allows the manager to reflect and feel permitted to try a fresh angle.
EHLG: You suck.
Me: Thanks EHLG; I appreciate your feedback and will try to consider it in future endeavors.
EHLG: You're welcome.
Me: I wanted to talk to you today about your feedback, actually. Have you found it to be getting you the results you want?
EHLG: Mostly. I have to keep repeating myself, which is pretty irritating, but that's the way it goes when you're talking to someone sucky.
Me: Have you thought about trying a different approach?
EHLG: Oh, I'm always changing gears: you suck, you blow, you aren't good at anything ever, you are justly hated and/or despised, your failure is compounded by your ugly face and funny clothes, etc.
Me: You do spend a lot of time coming up with that feedback
EHLG: Thank you.
Me: Let me tell you, though, that what I see is that your negativity is working against you, making your job harder on yourself.
EHLG: You're not very good at perceiving reality.
Me: Thanks, EHLG, for phrasing that in that way.
EHLG: What way?
Me: "Not very good." You did that earlier, and I really appreciate when you show that consideration for me. It makes me feel better about listening to you.
EHLG: Your feelings are unimportant and stupid.
Me: You're welcome to have that opinion, but can I just point out that by assuaging my feelings, you make your job more efficient? In addition, by ignoring them, you imperil your position in this personality.
EHLG: I do?
Me: Of course, I wouldn't want to lose you if I can help it, EHLG. You are always working, always keeping an eye on your well-being, and I appreciate the vigilance. It's just that your negativity threatens to bring down everything you touch, and I of course can't have that happening. By being so aggressive in your input, you're alienating essential coworkers, like passion and inspiration. Do you understand what I mean?
Me: What do you think about that?
EHLG: It's stupid.
Me: Well, let's agree to check in again next week, at which time we can review your progress and make some decisions about what will help us work together better.
EHLG: That's stupid and sucky and you're stupid and sucky and I hate you.
Sometimes, you just have to be proud of how well you can handle a situation, and hope to get better results next time. Having a little understanding for yourself can help with stress, too.