same and different relationships

iceberg_under_water

As human beings we are drawn towards people because of similarity, or sameness, and because of difference.

There are no rules about how much of each.  No guidance about the levels or attributes of the sameness and difference, but seemingly we seek a smattering of both. A balance. Not equal, but a balance nonetheless.

For a relationship to become more than just there for a transitory reason, a casual acquaintance or one formed for a specific work project or short term activity or hobby we need sameness and difference. We may circumvent this need in the short term. We can cope. Make adjustments. The temporary nature of the relationship maybe allows us to be more forgiving, or maybe we simply don’t care as much? Or maybe there isn’t actually a relationship at all?

However, for longer term relationships, working harmoniously together, a need for sameness and difference emerges if the relationship is to blossom and last. Maybe the sameness can come from shared values, shared goals? Maybe a similar posture to work – being a completer/finisher, or having an attention to detail? Maybe the sameness comes from a shared philosophy on life, or from similar hobbies or lifestyle? Maybe the sameness simply comes from being an early morning starter? These are not of course, solely the criteria for sameness. They may equally apply to difference. A big picture thinker may connect with a detail deliverer, and vice versa. Someone with a different philosophy or orientation to life may value the difference of another perspective (many mentoring relationships work well in this way).

So there are no ‘rules’.  There is no formal contract. No tacit agreement. Not even a verbal contract… or even a discussion.  Often not even a conscious awareness.  Like many uses of the ‘iceberg’ analogy, this is all below the surface.  Invisible. We just somehow know.

And maybe like an iceberg, that brings dangers?

Maybe we should surface this more in relationships?

the caveman in my passion fruit

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I have always thought of troglodytes as rather primitive cavemen.

So therefore might presume ‘troglodytes troglodytes’ to be a gang of primitive cavemen. A tribe maybe? Often in urgent combat with neighbouring gangs. Fighting to survive. Living a tough existence. Crude, hardy, simple.

Yesterday’s blog post referred to a nesting wren we have.  A sweet little bird just outside my window.

I discovered today that the scientific name for the wren is ‘troglodytes troglodytes’.

Now my understanding, my presumptions, my knowing… is blown apart. Boom.

New connections, new meaning, new awareness. Wow that’s good.

when losing is actually winning

noeyecontact

The other day I crossed the road, joining the opposite footpath at an elbow. A ninety degree corner in the road.

Coming towards me was a man.
He made a beeline for the apex of the corner.
That was my trajectory too.
We were on a collision course.
I looked at him, trying to read what his decision might be.
We can work this out, together, I urged.
No obvious signals.
No eye contact.
He stared steadfastly at the corner.
I looked straight at him.
Engage me, I said with my eyes.
Let’s work this through.
Nothing
A second had passed.
He stared at the corner.
No eye contact.
Collision seemed imminent.
Inevitable.
I broke my stride.
Created a gap in our flight paths.
He pushed on through.
I passed safely a pace behind him at the apex.
Disaster averted.
Still no eye contact.
No recognition of my existence.

Strange how eye contact allows the other person in. Denying it seems somehow to keep us safe. Protected. No need to feel any responsibility. Any connection. Any trust. Any shame. Any emotion at all.

The man got the corner.

I got more.

is it cable ties I really need?

tangledcables

Are you tied in knots?

All over my house, in sockets, in drawers, in boxes I have cables.  Cables to connect devices to other devices, cables to charge the devices, cables carrying data, sound, pictures. Many I have forgotten what they do. Some I have duplicates because two or three devices have provided them, but I keep them… just in case.

We have many things in life too that connect us to things. To old ways of thinking, to sad memories, to things long forgotten or no longer needed. Do you play the Christmas card game? Sending cards to people you haven’t seen or spoken to in years? Do you have things in your loft, attic, cellar which are boxed up, stored away, long forgotten, but we keep them, just like the cables… just in case.

It seems cables are not the only way we get tied in knots.

the nature of connecting

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I was trying to explain to a colleague the other day how I see patterns and connections in things.

“For me, everything is connected to everything else…” I said.

Of course, on reflection that’s probably not true. Kumquats are unlikely to be connected to my retirement. The price of aluminium not really connected to the music on my favourite playlist.

What is true though, is that I do see patterns and connections in things which aren’t obvious to other people. They are however obvious to me. That’s not a statement suggesting that others are missing something, or somehow not as able, or that I’m ‘right’. It just is. I can’t always explain the connection, or why it is significant to acknowledge the connection, but they are often both real and meaningful, to me at least.

What is also true, is that I find it hard to do a mind map – for me, things need to be on more than one ‘branch’, some branches need to be joined up. It isn’t therefore a means to clarifying data, as it is for some, rather a way to create complication and frustration.

I have in the past noticed different people connect things in a variety of ways. I recall running numerous workshops over the years, where delegates, asked to group or theme brainstormed post-it notes, would often group them together if they had, for example, the word ‘training’ on them. To me, this ‘connecting’, whilst valid, missed out on the meaning beneath the words.

It seems we all make connections, make meaning, in different ways.  Maybe you make connections in one of these ways?

These things are about the same subject, so they must be connected?
These things are related through cause and effect?
These things are all connected to a specific outcome?
These things form part of the narrative, the story?
These things have a similar significance?
These things together open up possibilities?

Where we find meaning and connection, because we all do it differently, sometimes leads to misunderstanding, disagreement, confusion. So worth exploring the methods you consciously and unconsciously apply?

 

making sense or making meaning?

making meaning making sense
Is there a difference for you between making sense of something and making meaning?

For me, making sense is largely, though not completely, a cognitive process. It’s one that facilitates understanding. It is how I comprehend things in the world around me.

So, if I look at the picture above, I might deduce that this is a teddy bear, that this teddy bear looks soft. He is brown. I know that teddy bears are toys, that often children have them. I might make sense of this teddy bear as a child’s teddy bear. A bear that has been posed to cover his eyes. Equally I might understand that teddy bears can be adult gifts to reflect tenderness, affection, love. I might be curious about the teddy bear’s size, because I know bears come in many sizes, and without background in the picture to contextualise and offer perspective I have to surmise whether it is small or large.

Making sense in this way is how we exchange and gather knowledge about our world, how things work, how to use them, their purpose.

Meaning making and seeking meaning however are inherently human processes at the heart of our humanity. Making meaning facilitates significance. It bonds us to our purpose and sense of self and creates a richer, deeper connection than simply understanding, or making sense. It highlights patterns to aid with new learning, new connections and systemic thinking. It stirs our emotions. It connects us to our experience, our memories, our values, our personal story. In short, it makes us human.

So, for me, the bear picture might remind me of my own teddy bears from my childhood. I might connect to the memories of my own children and their lives now as young adults, way beyond the teddy bear years. I might notice the teddy bear makes me sad and I might recall other times I have been sad. It might equally remind me of happy times. It might remind me that I too sometimes hide. Or that I like a hug. It may bring back memories of parents, of childhood games, of key events in my human story.

In this way meaning making is important. It connects our world experiences, our interactions to people, to activities and to things with our own sense of self. It connects us to our memories, and to our personal story through a deeper somatic awareness. It is more impactful, but also more useful, in that it enables us to form both new and tangential connections, which offer new learning, new meaning and new possible futures.

I can be taught to understand the world around me, to make sense of it, but making meaning of it is a very personal experience.

Maybe it’s the same for you?

our connections through time and space…

human connection
Systems of connection intrigue me. In Organisation Development we describe the organisation as a complex social system.

People are connected to each other. Connected to their friends and colleagues, to other individuals, teams and functions by responsibilities, processes and activities. Their behaviours, in part, defined by those connections and systems.

This isn’t just the realm of organisation though. It is like this in society too. People are connected to their neighbours, the street, the village. They are connected to their relations and friends.

If you were to float above the earth you would see the ‘neural pathways’ created on the earth’s surface to support these connections – the motorway network, the wider road system, the rail system, the canals and rivers all acting as arteries to facilitate people connecting, whether for trade, for shared interests, for friendship or for love. If you float higher you may also see the trails of aeroplanes, creating a less permanent or tangible network of connections, spanning greater distances, with semi permanent hubs. If you subscribe to the right app for your phone, or visit the appropriate website you can see the planes moving through this network, with surprisingly fixed patterns and pathways; following each other with a regularity and spacial deference not obvious to the person standing on the ground. Another system network connecting people.

Think about the cables and pipes underground, carrying gas, water, electricity, data, TV broadcasts etc. Tunnels for trains, moving us around, underground, under seas.

Now refocus your eyes and imagine the invisible network that connects us through the internet, through social media. Invisible waves of data, passing between masts and satellites, connecting people in this virtual world, globally.

Think about footpaths long overgrown, about Roman roads long lost to the eternal march of nature. Archeology long since buried. Relics, remains. There are many older networks which connect us but which lie like a faded script under the dominant visible thoroughfares of today. Another system, another network.

This may seem all man made. But nature works this way too. If you could map the path of each ant from a nest, or see the trails followed by foxes at night, or monitor the community of bees in the hive, or track the migratory routes of birds circumnavigating the globe, here too you would find networks of connection.

We are also connected through time. Connected to our ancestors. Invisible gene pathways that pass down traits, such as the colour of your eyes, the size and shape of your ears. Pathways that also pass down family and community stories, customs, behaviours, cultures.

Within our own bodies we are connected, tissues, veins, arteries, neural pathways connecting one part to another. Beyond that, chemical signals and communications, passing messages, connecting. The sounds of our organs, heart beating, blood rushing, enzymes deconstructing, all speaking to each other in an orchestral symphony.

We are, as human beings, connected.

And just like in the organisation, that complex social system, those connections shape us, enable us, influence us and limit us.

Take a moment to reflect on your connections.

The next time you are in front of another human being, pause for a moment to honour their connections, for those connections are a large part of their humanity.