Musings on descriptions, labels, and identity in the early morning
As I was thinking ahead to my session on Appreciative Inquiry this morning for FacWeek, I reflected on my plan to ask people about their understanding of the term, AI, as it would become the foundation for the work we were going to do together.
The Back Story
At Positive Pivot: A Global Virtual AI Jam, the conference I attended over the weekend with over 170 people from around the world, we were all asked that question, what does Appreciative Inquiry mean to each of us. The answers formed a giant Venn diagram with both overlapping circles and some concentric circles too. Some people saw it exactly the same way, other people saw it rather differently.
As I thought more about this experience, I wondered,
- How do people come to know who we are—really understand us?
- What do we reveal about ourselves (consciously and unconsciously) through words, stories, drawings, and pictures?
I remembered an activity from a class I had taken earlier in the week. We were asked to make a list of adjectives that described ourselves. I kept wanting to add nouns to my list of adjectives, which included, sunny, cheerful, determined, persistent, creative, thoughtful, reflective, caring, enthusiastic, high energy…
So, of course, I began a list of nouns that give quite a full picture of who I believe myself to be. I then started to think of representations of myself that I have used in my work—in drawings, on websites, and more.
- What do you understand about me from the pictures you see here?
- What more do you learn about me by reading the labels I have given myself?
- You can see that I have smudged out some words… Are you curious about that?
- What if you only saw half these words… or just one or two? What would you think?
Depending on how we meet, what will I choose to reveal to you? What might I leave out of our conversation because I’m unsure about the stories you’ll imagine about me, or maybe I don’t (yet?) have the trust or relationship to share more fully (remember those smudged words)?
I’m nuanced and complex not just complicated. And so is everyone else.
How do I ensure that you understand that? Maybe more importantly, how do I make sure that I remember that about others?
How does what we share with each other create our conversations and relationships? Are labels ever helpful to us? In what ways might they get in the way of our understanding of each other ? I have ideas and opinions about this. What’s your thinking? Please let me know!