between-our-steps-09-26-18-doubleKnowing ourselves is important for teamwork. Awareness of how we work in a group helps things go smoothly. But there are things we don't know about ourselves. Let me talk about a tool I've used in team building: a circle, divided into four quadrants, that illustrates the different things we and others know about us.

At the top are the things that we know about ourselves, and others know about us too. For example, I'm comfortable speaking in public. I don't worry when called to take a place in front of others because I know I can do it. The group is relaxed because they also know I can handle the role.

To one side are the things that we know about ourselves that others don't know. These can affect the team. We may not share what makes us anxious. We suddenly get nervous, breaking the flow, because the next task is one we don't think we can handle or someone tells a story that triggers us. To make our place in a group work it helps to be aware of the things we know that they don't.

On the opposite side of the circle are things that other people know about us and we don't. If you think of people in groups you work with, you can think of someone who has a strong influence on how things go that they seem oblivious to.

Sometimes, there is a person who is so gentle and compassionate that when they walk into a room everyone relaxes. This is a humble person, though, so when they are told, they don't want to claim such an important role.

There are also disruptive people, folks who speak impatiently or aggressively, and these folks make working together difficult. They may know that they are speaking truthfully and with conviction. They don't know how their words push others away, how disruptive they can be. It is tempting to call them on their role, but because they don't see it, naming it can further disrupt the group.

One of the things I have learned is that most people experience the disruptive person the same way. The person who is curt will be short with us and with everyone else. I find this helpful. I take the brusque comments less personally. I know that if someone else over-hears, they won't take the comment too seriously. They are likely to be sympathetic in fact.

This can make it hard on the person who is disruptive, because they get marginalized by the whole group. Everyone discounts what they say because everyone--except the person themselves--knows what they are like. To keep them included, we have to find a way to be patient despite them.

In the back quadrant of the circle are the things we don't know about ourselves and no one else does either. The mystery. The unconscious. There are emotions and drives and dreams that are way beneath the surface. Psychologists like Freud and Jung highlighted the human myths and drives that are deep inside, but still affect the way we live each day.

In a deep therapy session, a psychologist will help uncover these mysterious urges and ambitions. In a team training session, we let these remain private but acknowledge that sometimes we act from a place that is hard to identify.

Knowing that people are complex asks us to be patient with one another. We get frustrated by people who we don't get, but remembering that they don't get us either, and we don't always have a grip on ourselves, reminds us to give each other a break.

One of the gifts of the Christian tradition is the idea that God became human in Jesus. The divine took on human form, flesh and blood. Jesus had to learn to live with the same mystery of human behaviour as the rest of us. For me, this idea of incarnation gives hope that there is a path to balance, to living a grounded whole life, to living in community with grace and comfort. The story of Christmas, with God born in human form, a vulnerable baby who grows into a wise and caring man, affirms the potential of living a balanced, peaceful, whole life, even when we deal with the obnoxious person or our own mysterious dreams.

Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.

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