Oh my goodness!
We’ve continued with our lessons throughout the past sixteen months through the wonderful world of Zoom. But no matter how wonderful the world of Zoom is, it’s nothing like dancing together in person. In our dance group, we perform all genres of dance, always in lines. When we are alone in our homes, we don’t have the pleasure of these lines. In person, we almost always have someone in front of us, behind us, and to our sides. When we face a new direction, we still have someone in front of us, on each side, and behind us. This makes an incredible difference to our dancing. We can dance with more confidence, knowing we can pick up cues from the others if we need them. We can also count on each other to notice if we are out of step; often one of the girls will quietly speak the steps until we fall back in place. When I dance with these women, I am a better dancer. They provide the support I need to be my best. It’s a gift.
This past week, on Father’s Day, one of my coaching friends, Kerry Woodcock, created a post on Facebook about her father. She shared many wonderful memories of him but the one line that has really stuck with me is this:
“As I got older, he used to say, “I don’t need to speak a lot to your friends - and boyfriends - to know who they are. I can know something of who they are, by who you are with them.”
It’s one of those comments that brings me up short. It’s a conversation stopper. And starter. It’s simple. And profound. And so true.
We behave differently around different people. Some people allow us to show our intellectual side, some our witty side, some our compassionate side, some our confident side, some our open-hearted side, some our vulnerable side. Some let us show all of our sides. Others bring out our guarded side, our show-off side, our critical side, our insecure side, or our less-than-best side. Kerry’s dad could likely tell us a lot about our friends by observing how we are with them.
I’ve been thinking about this comment, and I’ve been trying to observe myself, noticing how I am with different people with whom I ‘hang out’.
I am lucky to have many people in my life who, by their very presence, encourage me to bring forth my best version of myself. By best version, I do not mean my ‘stage version’. I mean my authentic self. With these people I can let down my guard and show up as myself. I do not have to worry that a little mis-step or a small comment, will oust me from the group. I am enough. They do not need me to look a certain way, have certain opinions, or behave in any way other than how I would naturally behave. With these people, I am free to become even more of the best parts of myself. I always know when a group I am doing leadership work with is a good fit with me – I am relaxed and free to bring my whole self.
I also acknowledge I have others in my life, some on the periphery, some in a professional context, some closer, with whom I find myself thinking very hard when I am around them. I think about what they might be thinking, I wonder how my words will be taken. I’m not sure quite where I stand.
The more I think about the comment, made many years ago by Kerry’s wise dad, the more I recognize how multi-dimensional it is. It strikes me that if others can influence me to act a certain way around them, it must be true that I too, influence them. I want to be the kind of person who is a good influence. I want people to feel relaxed and unguarded around me. I want them to know they are fine exactly as they are. Sometimes my quick tongue, and my judgements, may not give this feeling of safety. I wonder who is guarding themselves around me. I’m watching myself, as Kerry’s dad would have watched her friends, to see what impact I am having.
What I know to be true about my dancing friends is that Kerry’s dad would think these are the best kind of people. With them I find myself being a very good version of myself. In our group everyone is welcome just as they are. This is not just lip service; it is the carefully cultivated culture of the group. Our instructor, Reba J, walks her talk one hundred percent of the time with this one, and we are expected to do the same. This group brings out the best in each other. We want to show up as our best, and at the same time we fully accept that we are not always at our best. This is key. There is no posturing with us. We prop each other up from all sides. Using friendship as a container, we are safe to be good versions of ourselves. It’s a feeling I wish everyone could have at least somewhere in their life.
I’m keeping Kerry’s dad’s comment foremost in my mind as I walk (and dance) through this week.
My inquiry for you this week is twofold, ‘What is being brought out in me?’ and ‘What am I bringing out in others?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to surround yourself with those who bring out your best, and how to bring out the best in others.