Small talk

Americans are famous for wanting to just “get down to business” in meetings.  Maybe a few minutes of chit-chat about the Yankees game or the weather, but otherwise, let’s get to the important stuff.

The misconception is that the meeting is just that – a meeting.  What if the person you’re meeting might be an incredible individual who maybe, just maybe, is going to become an important part of your life (starting today!).

Reflecting on yesterday’s post about generosity, we know that generous action increases when we expect to have repeated interactions.  The expectation of repeated contact makes it more likely that our kindness will be reciprocated, and makes it more likely that it will be witnessed by others, so the rational / optimal thing to do is to help others.*

So the question becomes: if the person you’re meeting just might be amazing, how do you act?  You’d want to make it more likely that you’ll see that person again in the future, of course.  And, going in, you don’t know who is and isn’t amazing, but I’d bet that there’s a lot more amazingness out there than you think.

To get us yankees to make a shift, instead of shouting (ineffectually) about how we should all “spend a little more time getting to know people,” let me instead propose that we reframe each meeting as one moment, the first moment, in a much longer-term relationship.  And that relationship is just latent potential until you activate it with real human connection at the outset.

Oh, and how IS the weather?



*(let’s park the question of the motivation behind generosity for a minute…that’s a post for another day)


The fragility of generosity

I was talking to Katya Andresen about our preliminary plans for Generosity Day 2012, and she made a profound observation.  “Generosity” is a fragile thing: it’s impossible to talk about generosity without being vulnerable, impossible to be truly generous without opening yourself up.

It’s so easy for me to live in a safe place, to plan and to analyze and to do things that make a difference and that don’t expose me, that don’t run the risk of making me look silly.  The easiest way to cut down Generosity Day is to ask, “Yeah, but you work at a nonprofit that’s all about accountability.  I don’t get it,” or to be snarky about the soft-headedness of the whole undertaking.

The fact that Generosity Day (and my whole generosity experiment) cut against all of my analytical instincts was and is exactly the point.  It is a personal exploration of letting go in the face of wanting to hang on; of abundance in the face of scarcity; of connection in the face of separation.  Generosity Day doesn’t “make sense” any more than a work of art or a smile or something surprising and delightful make sense.  It’s not designed to withstand analytical rigor or flowcharts.  It can’t – I don’t think – be overplanned or over-designed or over-managed because it belongs to no one, because it is nothing more and nothing less than the expression of an idea whose time has come.  It is permission for people to act in a way they want to act.

With that in mind, what would you like to see happen on Generosity Day 2012?  Comments below are welcome or just email me here.

Better yet, in the spirit of the #Trust30 initiative, what are you ready to commit to for Generosity Day 2012?