Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Girl Scout Law: What it looks like in the grown up world

I have spent most of last week in training. During the last part of the week, I spent the majority of my time in a room with 70 other teachers, either new (like me!) or coming into the system. On Saturday, I spent the  my day in a Girl Scout training. In the afternoon, the highlight of my training was a conflict resolution class.

I was given a list of classes to choose from and I just thought this would fit me perfectly. After all, skills you learn at Girl Scouts never stay in Girl Scouts. I mean, that's the whole point of Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

We don't expect our girls to take what they learn and hold on it, never to use it. No! We expect them to take it out into the world as they grow to be courageous and confident women of character. But, in order to do that, we have to model that behavior (Do you see what I did there? Just throwing some educational jargon into the mix for your reading pleasure :) ).

And as such, as adult leaders, we need to take the Girl Scout Law to heart.
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
And because I work with Junior girls who learned the promise and the law in kindergarten, I don't typically break it down for my girls (or myself). However, during this workshop, we did. In fact, we focused on this, specifically:
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
I can tell you, for those that don't know me in person, when I think of myself, the last thing I think are words like "courageous" and "strong". And in conversations? Forgetaboutit.

I am the peace keeper. The non-confrontational person. I will do anything I can to make sure that everyone is happy - often at the expense of my happiness. I've gotten better as I've gotten older and entered into the work place, but I still find myself wearing my heart on my sleeve and getting my feelings hurt, easily.

And why do I get my feelings hurt so easily? I didn't know exactly. But I do now. In a nutshell, I read too much into things. If someone snaps at me, they must be mad at me. I never stop to consider they why behind the behavior (I can do it in the classroom all day long - with adults? Not so much.) It's actually a quite selfish approach, but I think it is the knee-jerk reaction that most of us resort to (especially us women). Instead,
...we need to slow down so we can calm down.
Our thought process actually goes through a series of steps so quickly that we tend to jump to conclusions and react, either with sadness or anger and react or withdraw. They call this process The Ladder of Inference.
Photo: Julio Munoz
To put this in layman's terms:
  1. Something happens
  2. You choose what facts/happenings to see
  3. You put meaning behind those facts/happenings based on your own experiences
  4. You come to your own conclusions
  5. Where you create your own personal truth
  6. And you act accordingly
What I found extremely interesting was the workshop after "the workshop" where we all sat around relating personal Girl Scout stories. While listening to everyone share, it dawned on all of us that "background knowledge" (educational term alert) shaped how we saw and reacted to the world around us.

Of course after realizing it, it makes so much sense now. And good teachers realize that their students come from a lot of diverse backgrounds. They're kids. We get it and most of the time, we don't take their actions personally. But adults? I don't think many of us actually "walk" in another person's shoes; and certainly not in the middle of a conversation that is getting heated and is not very productive. (Have we all been there or am I just journaling my words, here?)

I can attempt to walk in another person's shoes until I have callouses on my feet. It is not going to change the fact that we're coming from different places. I can't think my way into another person's shoes. I can generalize but that may backfire. Instead, we need to talk to each other. About everything. Even the really hard stuff. (The facilitator said there is a tendency to sweep the hard talks under the rug which, in the end,  only furthers resentment and frustration. The courageous thing to do is confront it and talk about it.)

What does this look like?
  1. In a conversation, a person says something to me in anger.
  2. I bite back a scathing retort.  No! Take a deep breath and instead...(see: respect myself and others)
  3. Restate what is said to you.
  4. This puts the "ball" in the other person's court (see: responsible for what I say and do)
  5. The person then has a chance to clarify what they meant (the hope here is to defuse the "heat" in the conversation and make it more productive)
Will this work all the time? No. There are difficult people in the world and there are just some people that, for whatever reason, you don't "mesh" well with. (Do you want to hear a secret? Most of the time, the things we don't like in other people, we don't like in ourselves. It's that whole mirror thing. Keep that in mind next time you think poisonous thoughts about someone.)

So, this Peace Keeper who tends to jump to conclusions (which remarkably, revolve almost entirely around me) has learned that she needs to slow down, not take things so personally, and genuinely converse with people. That includes doing more listening - real listening - and less talking.

Think about it...
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