There’s a person in my sphere who desperately needs to be heard. He knows a lot of things but, to quote THE APPLE TREE*, they’re mostly wrong.
Or incomplete, or designed to show off what he knows or thinks he does, even when it’s outside the realm of the current conversation. He has the habit of guiding and directing every encounter, thanking other students when he decides that they’ve finished their presentation/work (in notable cases, when they’re not done yet) and the like. Not this person’s job, there are teachers at work here, but the teachers are too polite to point out that he’s usurping.
For me, this is a big button-puncher for reasons you might glean on your own. It’s also the way a certain cadre of Cleveland actors behave, which makes for the ubiquitous state of under-rehearsal we see here (seriously, don’t go to Cleveland opening nights at less-than-AEA houses). When I’m directing, I’m very clear that those behaviors are my job, not theirs. Hard to disabuse those folks, but that’s for another column, another time.
Rather than letting it get my goat any more (since I’m not the teacher either), I’m electing to project compassion. The person I’m describing needs so desperately to be heard that he usurps others’ power – and kisses up so blatantly that even the kissee is embarrassed. Again, another topic, another time. My silence, my compassionate silence (rather than last year’s bristling silence) releases us both. Is it difficult to hold my tongue when things are represented incorrectly? And is that just my opinion – incorrectitude – or is my thousand-times-his-experience worthy of a voice of rebuttal?
That’s where I’ve gotten sucked in at earlier occasions, and where I’m learning to slip out of the argument despite, well, everything. It’s not up to me to ensure that my classmates get correct information. Or to emulate him and needily make people think that I know what I’m doing. My job is to just do it, do my work, ask the questions I need answered and filter the responses through my intelligence, knowledge, and experience. But there’s another step in all of this. I can be compassionate toward someone who needs to be heard, whether or not I deem his contributions to be worth more than yet another needy pile of poop.
And guess what? That person, who blathered on for about 15% of a recent class, came forth with something that may well be true and, if so, that I hadn’t known before.
Hmmm. Giving the gift of compassion not only permits me to be generous, but also – in keeping my own counsel – means I’ll hear things I may not have known. In this day and age of specificity – searching the Internet for stories in which we’re interested rather than having newspapers that cover all topics delivered to our doorstep daily – keeping one’s mouth shut and allowing bullshit to be spewed can yield up a pearl.
You just have to enter every encounter with bogometers** in place.
**a word I learned from the actor Andrew May, and a very useful word indeed