Last year, I participated in the One Word goal setting for 2016 and chose to focus on the word Stretch. I was at a place professionally where I was itching to make some changes and try out some things outside my comfort zone. As I reflect on how I did on the year, I would have to give myself mixed reviews. I stretched, and it was uncomfortable, and at times I stretched too far, too fast (patience would probably be another good word for me sometime…I can always use more patience). But I also learned a lot about myself and what I could accomplish. “Stretch” was difficult, but overall, I’m glad I did it.
This year, I wanted to go in another direction. We talk a lot in education about the importance of building relationships with the people around us: students, staff, parents, community, colleagues. Building and cultivating relationships with individuals is a really big part of my job, and, if you are in education, probably your job as well. And I will keep chugging along with relationship building in all of the ways that I know: talking with people, getting to know them, collaborating with them, baking cookies, serving humbly, problem solving, relieving stress, providing direction/hope/a laugh/a hug/structure/support. Check, check, check.
Somewhere in the midst of my stretching, I came to a new realization. Building relationships is important, but it can become somewhat lockstep and one dimensional if we don’t also find a way to actually relate.
In the educational world, I’ve kind of looked at building relationships as a recipe that we are always adjusting a little and baking, over and over again. Add a new pinch of this or half a cup of that, stir it up, serve and repeat. Time consuming work, but satisfyingly tasty when you put in the effort (most of the time). But it is a recipe in the sense that it is largely at the mercy of the baker – a one dimensional creation. One that can be reciprocated, of course, but largely something that we set out to do to someone. The problem with this is that a one dimensional relationship can be ok but it is just…nice.
I want to figure out how to really relate to people that I am trying to build relationships with in my professional world. How do I get to know the real them? How do I actually help that real them? How do I show them the real me? How do I understand what the real barriers are in what we are trying to create? How do I honestly and totally look at where they are actually coming from and understand why they (and I) do the things we do?
So, I’m going to try to figure it out. I want to get beyond the building relationships checklist and do better at learning how to relate to the people I’ve been aiming my checklist at.
What’s your goal this year?