I don’t really read women’s magazines, but I did read a teen magazine or two in my day. I remember these quizzes where you were given a situation and you had to pick one of the responses. At the end you’d add up all the As, the Bs, the Cs, etc and then the magazine would pronounce you some sort of something (a good friend, the perfect girlfriend, and on). This is going to be kind of like that, except there’s only one question and a few answers.
Have that picture in mind?
So, imagine, if you will, that you have this talent and you’ve been working at it for quite awhile. You’re passionate about your talent – so much so that you joined up with other people who are just as passionate about your talent as you are. It’s a social club in part because your talent isn’t necessarily mainstream. I mean, it’s pretty big business, but it was only recently that young people and other new folks started trying out your talent.
Now let’s say this group of your fellow talent-ees has been together for awhile and you’ve become more organized. You’ve elected to call yourselves a “Guild” and you hold monthly meetings. Granted most of you are still on the north side of older after all this time, but in spite of this these young and new folks show up at your regular meetings. Imagine if you will that they are just as excited as you are about their beginning talent and bring along one of their pieces to share with your meeting. Because that’s what new folks do, yes? They love to share with others because they’re new at it and there’s only so much blathering their talent-less friends and family can take.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that the person is a beginner or maybe they’re more experienced, but proud of the progress they have made. They bring an early piece because they like the subject matter or because it’s been a labor of love, etc. Let’s say you, being the wiser and more experienced person look at their project – their labor of love – and notice some….flaws. Maybe it’s not your taste or maybe you think it’s shoddily constructed. However, you don’t know this person. You are not friends with them. You have no other relationship with this person except that you both decided to attend the “Guild” meeting. What do you do?
- Tell them just how terrible their work is. I mean, really, don’t these people know there are rules to this talent? You tell them that you think it looks like they’ve just gone all willy-nilly all over the place. Can’t they see that work is just terrible and why haven’t they thrown it out already? You then suggest that they sign up for your beginner’s class because really, it’s clear that they and all these other young people don’t understand the rules.
- You say nothing at all to them. You have no idea who they are or why they insist upon crashing your perfectly wonderful social club. I mean, yes, you all did decided to advertise the meetings as open to the public, but you didn’t really expect that anyone would show up. You prefer to pretend as if they don’t exist figuring that maybe they’ll get the hint and go away.
- You barely acknowledge them. You and your friends all sit at the back and on the ends of the rows as if there is assigned seating. Let the new people sit up front for goodness’ sakes. You’re also annoyed when people try to walk in front of you across the row to get to the seats in the middle that are still open. You are certain to mention to your first time visitors, however, that because there was a special guest today, they owe you money for the meeting.
- You try to greet new people as best as you can. You don’t want to be overbearing, but you try to keep an eye out for the people who look lost or unsure. You introduce yourself and help them get acquainted with the Guild. You even make sure they have a welcome packet and tell them that you hope they enjoy the special guest speaker. You don’t always catch everyone, but you’re only one person.
- You may not be very outgoing when it comes to greeting new people, but you always try to engage people in conversation about their work when they bring pieces in to show. You learned a long time ago to say “Tell me about your work” so that the other person has a chance to share and shine. You know the meeting isn’t all about you and are mindful of the fact that it can be difficult to bring something to share with others. You are gracious when commenting on another’s work. You talk about the things that you do like or the things that you think they’ve done particularly well. You can notice a few mistakes or imperfections right away, but figure everyone has to start out somewhere. You keep these things to yourself unless asked. When you are asked you point out a few things as gently as possible, keeping the focus on the share-er. If they ask, you offer solutions or suggestions. You offer your help, if they’re interested, but make sure that they know that there is no pressure. After all, it’s not about you.
Picked your answer? Time to tally up!
If you answered #1, congratulations, you just crushed another person’s spirit. You have stolen their joy and made it less likely that they’ll want to return to your monthly meetings. They’ll probably leave the meeting early given how you’ve trod all over their enthusiasm. You’re a jerk, a nosy biddy who really needs to work on that inner censor, and a self-important brow beater who missed the memo that it’s not about you. Sound blunt? Now you know how that other person felt! You may have talent or skill or think you’re the bees knees, but no one died and made you rule-enforcer. My advice? Listen more, talk less.
If you answered #2, what did you expect? If you want to keep your meetings private or exclusive you really should stop advertising them to the general public. Try prying yourself away from your friends and introduce yourself to some of the new people. That is, unless you’re going to act like #1 when faced with a new person. In that case I’d suggest inviting a few friends over to your house for a cup of coffee or card club instead. I’m not sure that this “Guild” thing is your cup of tea.
If you answered #3, really? You want new people to come, right? I realize there is a sizable number of the old guard there, but if you’re really serious about the group growing or being open to the public, you’re going to have to try harder. See disclaimer on #2 above.
If you answered #4, way to go! You’re welcoming without being overbearing and you really helped that new person feel at ease in the group. Perhaps you might consider starting a beginner’s class for #s 1-3. They could use a little help in learning the rules of social interactions. You might want to call it Kindergarten and suggest they need to work on their socialization skills.
If you answered #5, bravo! Really fantastic! You’ve mastered the art of knowing when to keep your mouth shut. You know when to offer constructive criticism and your kind words to that person just now was a big encouragement. Of course, I didn’t have to tell you that, it’s written all over the other person’s face. If I could make a suggestion, though? You might want to consider talking to #4 and starting your own group. #s 1-3 are killing the group dynamic.