On Defensiveness: Breathe, Listen, Reflect

I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about this week, especially since a lot of the topics I really care about are being covered by really awesome authors elsewhere.  But this one thing keeps coming up for me in my discussions with friends and family.

Defensiveness.

So I figure now’s as good a time to write about it as any.

Last week I got into a rather silly facebook argument about the level of snark and pretentiousness in a film review article that my friend wrote.  I thought the people who read the article as dead serious were missing his point, and, especially knowing the author, I feel strongly that he’s using pretension to mock pretentiousness in film criticism.  I found it hilarious.

My friends didn’t.  They found it snarky and rude.  So we went round and round about what we thought the tone of the article actually was and what the article accomplishes in turn.

And we were assholes.  I found the ways that I was being talked to demeaning and frustrating, but to be fair, I started it.  In my frustration, I was incredibly rude.

Then one of the folks I was arguing with said this to me in a private message: “You sounded very ‘mansplainy’ like we just weren’t smart enough to get it and that’s why we were offended by something we shouldn’t be offended by.”

DefensivenessIf I wasn’t defensive before, I got SUPER defensive in that moment.

I’m thinking, “Wait, WHAT?  So now I’m just a sexist, mansplainey asshole?  What a copout!”

I couldn’t help but feel like useless rhetoric about male sexism was being used because it would hit me, a man who tries to be pro-feminist, harder.

But then something simple happened.

The mail carrier knocked on the door, and my dog went bonkers.  I got her in control, and answered the door, signed for something, and came back.

That time allowed me to step back.  Then I took a deep breath, and I looked back over my comments.

I was being a jerk.

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From a Consultant: Why Your Business Doesn’t Need a Consultant

I originally wrote this essay as part of a GRE practice test, and as I completed it, I couldn’t help but think of the corporate clients I’ve worked with who could benefit from its sentiment.  In some ways, it departs from my usual content on here, as I rarely write about the business world, even while I am occasionally consulting within it.

In the end, though, the lessons here are ones for people in any industry or field: bring on board a tremendously diverse workforce, empower them, listen to them, and you will be the most successful entity in your field.

—————–

From a Consultant: Why Your Business Doesn’t Need a Consultant

There’s an old business adage that says, “If you want someone to state the obvious, hire a consultant.”  Yet business consulting and organizational development is a billion-dollar industry in the United States.  Often, though, these consultants are hired before the organization even looks to the brilliance of its own team for solutions.  In the knowledge-based economy, businesses that rely on outdated, top-down structures of leadership are being left behind.

Businesses that maximize the power of the team through effective feedback mechanisms while encouraging and fostering creativity in their team are far less likely to need a consultant to help them grow and prosper.

Listen to Your Employees

Listen to Your EmployeesFor the vast majority of consultants, the consulting process begins with a period of data gathering.  This data can range from expenses and profit margins to personnel files, but more often than not, it draws upon the experiences and voices of every member of the organization to diagnose any problems that may exist and to help the business create a plan forward.  In short, consultants are hired to tell businesses what they should already know.

Through interviews with employees, surveys with clients, and an analysis of the leadership structure, effective consultants can determine with little effort whether a business is exploiting the collective brilliance of all of its team and easily offer plans for doing so more adeptly.

Notably, then, businesses that have a structure for listening to team members and for fostering creativity in employees are those least likely to benefit from the services of a consultant.

This is because those that need consultants to tell them how to proceed are far more likely to be operating from outdated business models based on top-down leadership structure where creativity is seen as primarily driven from those “appointed” as leaders within the organization.  The problem, though, is that this business model was designed in the time of a different economy.  The strictly labor-based economy dictated that “creative” employees designed products that the “labor” would simply execute and build.

To Succeed in the Knowledge-Based Economy, Empower the Creative Brilliance of Everyone

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Stop. Breathe. Unplug. A Reminder for Self Care

This morning I was sitting in a comfortable chair, simultaneously looking over a beautiful mountainous landscape in Vermont and staring at 36 pressing, unanswered emails and another 15 that needed attention but weren’t as important.  I took a heavy sigh before slogging through them…

And the power went out.

I’m visiting the heavenly, rural retreat that my dear friend refers to as her “Bit of Earth,” recovering from a few stressful days: ten 1-hour+ presentations or trainings in two days at three schools in Vermont, all at least an hour from one another, all on some of the hottest days these un-air-conditioned school buildings have seen this year.

Thankfully, my friend opened her Bit of Earth to me to relax for a day before I get back on the road and back to my busy life in Minneapolis.

Ironically, last night we had a long talk over delicious local salads and wine while tremendous thunderstorms raged outside about the need to step back from the hectic demands of our “plugged-in” society.  We waxed poetic about the importance of simply taking our time in responding to emails and of unplugging regularly from the world.

Then, as if the conversation hadn’t even happened, I sat down this AM to fight my way through some very stressful emails.

But it’s as if these stunning mountains and the storms that poured over them last night said to me, “I’m sorry, Jamie.  You speak well of what you need, but you don’t take your own advice.  So we’ll help you.”

Zap.

No more internet.

So I am simply writing this short reflection before I sit down in a hammock with a book, a few words that I hope will be a reminder to my readers to

Stop.

Breathe.

Unplug.

Whether our lives are weighed down by the pressures of classes or job responsibilities

or whether our hearts are weighed by talk of wars across the globe or hurts here at home

or whether our minds are occupied by endless status updates, inbox *dings*, or voicemails,

it is so vitally important that we take some time, no matter how long or complex, to care for ourselves.

This is my self-care for today:

My dear friend Karen at her Bit of Earth

My dear friend Karen at her Bit of Earth

Booze, Booty Shaking, and Back Room Hookups: Making College Party Culture Sex Positive

I get to participate in some pretty awesome conversations as part of my work.

One of my favorites, though, is when I get to talk to college students about what makes for a mind-blowing, talk-about-it-for-years party.

I ask the question, and students just start shouting out things like:

“The perfect DJ!” “Everybody’s dancing!” “Booze.” “Drugs.” “Some non-alcoholic drinks/mixers.” “Sexy ladies!” “Sexier men!” “No drama.” “Food.” “Sex!”  “Everybody’s gettin’ lucky!” “SEX!”

Let’s be honest: By and large, one of the only things that college students love more than partying and sex is talking about partying and sex.

What’s phenomenal about this conversation, though, is the opportunity it provides to extend the dialogue beyond beer bongs, booty shaking, and backroom hookups.It provides an entry into a conversation about positive sexuality and sexual violence prevention.

With rare exceptions, no one who is throwing a party spends the time, energy, and money so that people will get assaulted. Yet there is a clear connection betweencollege party culture and sexual violence.

After all, 74% of perpetrators of sexual violence on college campuses were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the assault, and 55% of survivors of sexual violence on campuses were under the influence of alcohol when assaulted.

Unfortunately, on college campuses,  this dialogue translates too often into shaming and blaming of survivors for their decisions to drink or approaches to“prevention” that place the onus on potential “victims” to keep themselves from getting raped.

And to mitigate the risk, most colleges simply take a punitive approach (with varying levels of alcohol education – which is fantastic – thrown in) to alcohol on campus.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, we need to see college partying and the terrifying link to sexual violence as an opening to a different kind of conversation about the social time our young people are spending on college campuses or anywhere for that matter.

Shifting to Sex Positivity

Most of the college students that I work with have never heard of the concept of sex positivity.  I know I sure hadn’t when I started college.

But in any conversation about sex with young people, when I introduce the definition I work from, the tone shifts considerably, no matter how we were discussing sex before.

Here’s the definition I’m working from:

Sex positivity refers to positive, affirming, consensual sexual relationships, characterized by open, honest communication and attention to the needs and desires of oneself and one’s partner(s).

Sounds amazing, right?

Well, most of the young people I get to work with on college campuses all over the US think so, too!

So when I tell them that it’s possible to make simple changes to your average party environment that make it more sex positive, they are pumped!

But every now and then, I have the skeptical workshop participant (usually a dude, but not always) who says something to the effect of “It sounds like one giant cock-block to me.”

But without fail, whenever this sentiment is expressed, I don’t even have to respond!

Last time this happened, a young woman explained, “Unless you’re looking to rape somebody, this sounds like the opposite of a cock block. Nothing sounds hotter than dancing with someone at a party only to learn that they are a great kisser who asks first!”

Undoubtedly, we have to spend some time and energy thinking about the worst case scenario, understanding and exposing predators, and taking preventative precautions.

But sexual violence prevention, particularly as it relates to parties, can (and must)be so much more than that!

What Does Sex-Positive Partying Look Like?

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.