After a long grueling car trip to New Hampshire we found, after a while, that we exhausted our best controversial conversational topics, discussed the year’s best movies, tired of the CDs we had brought along and lost interest in local radio programming. Everyone was bored and restless.
Our mood had to be elevated, so I suggested, “Here’s an exercise we used to play in our seminars. Everyone take a minute to think about this. Then we’ll each take a turn telling the group an adjective that best describes us. The point of the exercise is to prove that we don’t see ourselves as others see us.’
Mike volunteered to start. The first word he said was “kind”. This is an impartial exercise, but my jaw must have dropped. Mike, kind? Perhaps In a Ghengis Kahn sort of way. “Did you ever see Mike coach a Little League Baseball Game?”, I was tempted to say.
The next person to take a turn was Edith. She said, “generous.” Not that I’ve particularly noticed, but Edith, generous? She holds onto her money so tightly that her knuckles are always white. Who’s the one member of our faculty who never contributes to the emergency gift fund?
Tommy followed Edith. He said “fair minded”. Tommy must be referring to the color of his hair, because nothing about Tommy is fair minded. “That bum!” he rants furiously, if a person in political office makes a decision with which he disagrees.
Marcia chimed in with, ” my word is ‘private’.” Oh, yes; Marcia is private, alright. That’s why she ties me up every time I run into her in town, grabbing my attention to gab endlessly; describing all the pettinesses and disagreements in her family.
The eyes look toward me next. It is my turn to choose an adjective that most describes me. I will be honest, unlike the others. When I tell them my word they will immediately recognize me. “My adjective,” I say, “Is non-judgmental.”
As I told the group before we started this exercise, “Nobody sees you the way you see yourself.”