You Can’t Harsh My Mellow

I am sick of being heckled. When someone yells at me to “get some exercise” when I’m on my Segway, and they are yelling from their butts in the backseat of a fossil fuel burning car, or when they say “get on the sidewalk” when that would actually be breaking the law. When I’m on my bike huffing my way up a steep hill and a pissy car driver beeps at me because I am in the road we must, by law, share, and I am going too slowly for his schedule. When a colleague comments on how ridiculous it is that I use paper to advertise sustainability events. When someone gets on their high horse and doesn’t share info to educate and inspire others because “this stuff is so simple”…

I especially can’t take it when someone says that all we are doing is not working, and this “greeny” stuff is just a way for a few to feel good, while many end up paying more, only to have no significant improvement in our climate change scenarios. Damn. I really hate that. What’s the point? And by that I don’t mean that I’m questioning what we’re doing.  What I mean is why does anyone bother to heckle, deride and undermine?!  What is the point of that?

I’m all for comments and curiosity and honest challenges that make me and others work harder. Lay it on me. Help me to see the errors or missing pieces in my knowledge and approaches. But few, if any, want to put that effort in. It’s easier for people to break things down than to bolster them and feed them energy, info and direction.

I am against heckling just to deride people or to defuse efforts. You think nothing is working to address climate change? Well, what should we be doing? How can we improve? Is there anything in what you see so far that is creating traction, familiarity and progress?

I have written in the past about the prevalence of the Blame Game in life and work, and I now will introduce you briefly to the concept of re-framing.  Google it and check out some deeper resources.  In my work-a-day-world the process has always been to identify the current system and then do a gap analysis, i.e. talk about where it didn’t work, so that we can fill those gaps. This is hard and frustrating, and many participants get defensive. It also grounds the work in duct tape and spit solutions. When we patch and repair systems without truly understanding their relationship to goal achievement, we are potentially doomed to remain in a truly unworkable process.

In re-framing, the focus is on the progress made so far, what worked in the efforts to-date, and how to build on those successes. 

In re-framing, the focus is on the progress made so far, what worked in the efforts to-date, and how to build on those successes. This means that the team’s efforts are positively reinforced and they see they are powerful and capable. They are more secure in their position of assessing the work so far, and reassured that no one will seek to blame them in any way. Finally their minds are open to possibilities and energized for innovation, allowing them to spring with confidence from the established successes into transformational approaches that may not already be contained in the work to-date.

Back to heckling. I need to re-frame the heckling I receive, and this is a true challenge. I suspect I cannot do this well when a stranger shouts out at me in the street. I’m not that clever and it’s probably safer overall for me to just ride on home. In discussions on sustainability that occur in person or on social media or in team meetings, however, I will strive to re-frame. When someone points out how electric cars “are not working” I will ask them to help me identify some ways in which they are working, and how we can improve understanding and growth from those successes. When someone says everything we are doing is not fixing climate change, I will not get defensive, or ask them to explain why it’s not working. I don’t really need to know those things. Instead, I will talk positively with them (or at the least with myself) to reaffirm facts such as reduced use of fossil fuels is having positive effects on air quality and health, that we have created more jobs, and that we are finding more and more ways to improve the user experience in buildings.  And then I will talk about how we can do more of THAT.

I recommend you do not come up to me, ever again, and fixate on how none of this is working. I will re-frame the conversation, and perhaps re-frame your perception and your efforts.

Actually, I take that back.  I welcome your heckling…it gives me an opportunity to re-frame our future.

Power to me!


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