Random, hardly connected thoughts on a long stopping train from Cambridge

We like to think we’re relaxed parents but we’re uptight and we shout a lot. More than we ought to. We sound more like Kerry’s List on Radio4, than the laid back types we’d like to be. (Only three days left to listen to the first episode, but three more episodes to go.)

Our shouting serves only to momentarily release pressure and then make us feel ashamed of our ‘grown up’ selves. The children are – almost – immune.

My mum only had to give us ‘the look’ and we did what we were told. Same went for me, said the recovery man who drove me and my kaput car back from Warwick on Monday – his mum could do that too.

I don’t have that power. Is it imagined? A nostalgic creative memory? Did my mum feel like I do? I doubt it.

Myers Briggs is fuelled by momentum rather than scientific evidence. The psychology world discredits it. The business world loves it. Because we need a shorthand to help us communicate and get things done – people are tricky. And we want shortcuts and hacks. And because we love to put a label on something to help us feel like we understand it. But it is based on a series of polar opposite roles and quite apart from anything else, we should realise that life is far more complicated than that. If only life were as simple as black or white. It never is, no matter how much we crave it.

Given that people are complex, hard to second guess and difficult to gain consensus with, you can’t beat a face to face meeting. Its the only hope we have to understand people. You simply can’t communicate anywhere near as successfully by any other means.

Yesterday I saw a client I’ve never met before. Their communication style feels awkward and they’ve been potentially antagonistic on email. Face to face we could find some common ground. They wanted someone to listen to them, to discuss ideas with and essentially to understand and support them. This was not clear before.

Then I met up with an old friend I haven’t seen for a long time. Our busy lives, with young children, in fairly distant cities, puts us out of reach. She doesn’t use social media, so we don’t have the vicarious keeping up by looking at posts and photos online. We can only do face to face and increasingly we only manage this two or three times a year. That short meeting yesterday afternoon, offline and in the sun, was worth the mission of a long, late journey home. We could look at each other, be in each other’s company and understand.

Finally, time is a precious commodity. You can’t make the most of absolutely every moment. Who has the energy for that? But you can make the most of most of it. I have a four week break from work approaching this summer. Limited resources but a four week wealth of time. I have to make the most of that; to have some adventures. To look at my loved ones, be in their company, without the pressures to be up and out the door to meet someone else’s deadlines or timetables. To listen to them, speak in soft voices and take some time to understand.


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