Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Stop Editing People

Humans want freedom.

Freedom to think.
Freedom to speak.
Freedom to just be.

It’s a natural motivator of engagement.

THE PROBLEM IS: Everybody’s got a red pen.

And the ones who use them to edit people are making this world a painful place to live.

Here’s a collection of ideas to help you stop editing people:
1. Give people permission to be remarkable. When I first told my parents that I wanted to wear a nametag everyday for the rest of my life, they responded with a four-letter word: Cool.

Not exactly the four-letter word you would expect, but that’s just the kind people they are: They’re fundamentally affirmative. They say yes to it all. And unless you’re doing something dangerous or disrespectful, they never ask you to edit yourself. Cool.

If you want people to brag about you the way I brag about my parents, try this: Instead of superimposing your prefabricated definition of who they should be, endow them with the dignity of self-expression. Let them inject their personality into everything they do. And respond to them with foundation of affirmation.

You’ll find that by enabling regular expressions of eccentricity and individuality, people will become more of themselves when they’re around you. And all you’ll have to do is sit back and watch the show.

Life is more than how people experience you – it’s how people experience themselves in relation to you. Have you removed all restrictions of individual expression?

2. Fixing is for plumbers. Editing isn’t limited to writing. It’s much bigger than that. Technically, to edit is to correct the core of something. And I don’t know about you, but any time someone attempts to do that to me, my heart goes batty.

Like the time I went on a date with an actual editor. Huge mistake. She constantly corrected everything I did, said and believed. She was like a giant red pen, but with boobs.

Here’s the reality: People don’t want to be fixed. They want to be heard. They want to been seen. And they want to express themselves fully and freely. Next time you feel the creeping urge to correct the core of someone, staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

Instead of trying to improve people, stand on the edge of yourself and salute them. Then, attend to whatever surfaces with deep democracy. And listen as loudly as you can. By engaging with this posture, you make it easy for people to show up as the best, highest version of themselves.

Remember: If they can’t express themselves, they suffocate. Whom are you trying to lock inside your editing booth?

3. Provide a safe haven for self-definition. During a recent newspaper interview, the reporter asked me where I received my creative foundation. I told him about Gifted and Talented Education, the extra curricular program where I spent six crucial years of my childhood.

It was awesome: We learned how to think, when to think, and most importantly, why to think. Plus we got pulled out of math class. Sweet.

But here’s the best part: Our instructor, Mrs. Ray, gave us an irrevocable license to create. Rules, schmules. For two hours a week, we had a permanent permission slip to be whatever and whomever we wanted, with zero consequences. And irregardlessliable of how crazy our ideas were, she greenlighted everything. Even when we made up our own words, like the one in the previous sentence.

We need more Mrs. Rays. Because she understood the value of letting people see through their own eyes. She created a sacred place of refuge where the eccentric kids always felt at home. And she promised that we could come to that home without any interference in expressing our own individuality. Especially during math class. Stupid long division. Who was the first person that let you live by your own definitions?

4. Let people stay loyal to themselves. I don’t drink. Ever. It’s not a religious thing; it’s not an addiction thing – just a personal preference. I don’t like alcohol, I hate being out of control of my body and I can’t handle hangovers.

Plus, I’m high on life. And occasionally paint thinner.

Anyway, what’s fascinating is how difficult it is for some people to wrap their heads around this choice. I’m reminded of another girl I dated who was so colossally insecure, that she once refused to order dinner until I had a drink with her. Swear to god.

But instead of making a scene, I decided to make a point: When my beer arrived, I chugged the entire pint, set it down on the table and walked out of the restaurant. And I never spoke to her again.

Lesson learned: The only thing worse than people trying to define who you are, is when they work overtime to make you believe their definition. Stop pressuring people into your idealized version of what a normal person should be – you’re jailing their truth.

Let them wear their own face, not the mask that makes you feel better about your own ugliness. Are you relentlessly requiring people to adjust who they are to accommodate your selfish insecurities?

REMEMBER: It’s hard to create value when you don’t have a voice.

On the other hand, when you show people that their voice is welcome, they will sing their hearts out for you.

Maybe it’s time to put down the red pen.

Who are you editing?

For the list called, "11 Things to Stop Wasting Your Time On," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!