The last few times I’ve interacted with groups on an adventure, I’ve tried something new. Normally, when I meet new people, I act out my insecurities. What I mean is, I’ll drop names or try to control the situation or say things I think will return respect. This never works. While I enjoy the time, I usually feel like I talked too much and didn’t really let people get to know me. I feel more like I put on a show than let my guard down to have a good time.
This past week, nine guys from Texas came to Portland to climb Mt. Hood (I’ll write more about that adventure and share some photos in a coming blog) and before they came I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote my ambitions for our time. I’m not talking about the ambition of getting to the top of Hood, I’m talking about social parameters, if you will. I wrote down I wanted to refrain from talking too much, and I wanted to serve. I wrote down that I wanted to make meals, drive cars, set up tents, whatever. I also wrote that I didn’t want to try to be in control of anything, but for a week, let go of all control.
I’d say I sort of succeeded. I served a bit, pretty much didn’t try to control anything, and had an all around great time. What I didn’t do, though, was operate out of my insecurities. I really don’t have any regrets about our time together and that is a different experience than I’ve had in the past. I didn’t mouth off, get angry, or try to grab the steering wheel. It’s amazing how setting up a few boundaries can give you a sense of freedom. I was free not to control, I was free to be a lowly servant in some ways, I was free not to put on airs, I was really free. And I loved the time we had together. It seemed like the whole group essentially had this attitude. We were all just joking around serving each other and having a good time without playing games.
I’ll use this tool for the rest of my life, for sure. Whenever a group is coming to town, or I’m heading somewhere to speak, or just going to a weekly small group, I want to pull out my phone or a piece of paper and spell out some social parameters. It’s amazing how twenty seconds of strategizing can set the tone for an entire week of interaction and keep you from putting your foot in your mouth.
Try it and let me know how it works for you. Before your next business meeting or small group, write down that you want to be quiet, or talk more, or find a way to be servant hearted in the meeting and watch how much it changes the way you interact with people. I promise you’ll enjoy your interaction a great deal more.