Engagement Over Efficiency

I keep knowing I chose to be here, am here for this very time our whole earth is in a huge shift. I saw this back in the seventies. Increasingly, my attention is called to what is mine to bring. Sometimes it words, concepts, specific skills. Sometimes I’m with other people, observing and experiencing what they are bringing, expressing, doing, often knowing, “No, that is not mine,” noting an opposite or different something is mine. It used to get me angry, until I began to use it to clarify mine and so know that we’re all in this grand orchestra. There part, their style isn’t mine either.

Today I’m thinking about engagement over efficiency.

There’s a lot to be said about the role of efficiency. Front line people are often so busy trying to keep the coast clear, the channels open. And, at what price? One size doesn’t fit all. Efficiency would say there isn’t time for differences. I used to be the person who would go to a fast-food place and say, “I want a burger with catsup and onion only, no mustard or pickles.” Or, “I want mine in a bowl, no lettuce please.” And so, I would have to wait longer, off to the side or something. And I would feel like the problem child. And oh, in some situations I was criticized for doing something different. “What’s the matter with you, that you can’t just be like everybody else?”

Our society does encourage us to “fit in.” So what about if or when you just go-along-to-get-along as my friend Donna refers to? That’s sometimes called “introjection.” Swallowing “the unconscious adoptions of ideas or attitudes of others.” I believe it was Fritz Perls who defined this as swallowing whole, without digesting. How often are we expected, under the name of efficiency, to swallow, to just go along to get along. Just put up with it. Just figure it will count less than to make waves. I’m not saying that the opposite is to make waves. I am saying that to always be efficient has a price. One-Size-Fits-All may lose more than it gains.

It does take energy to engage. Who has the energy, much less the time to hear the problem child who has something different to say? And what if it happens several times a day? It does take time and energy.

Wal-Mart has it right with its greeters! I think we need greeters in more places. Greeters who don’t assume everyone is in the same line. Greeters who don’t assume everyone is there for the same thing. People who show up, who say hello may not be wanting the “special of the day.” If there were more greeters, there might be better business, fewer lonely people in the world, more give-and-take, more people with something to contribute. Moving to engagement beyond efficiency might mean more connection between people, more people at the end of the day who will be glad to help…, More engagement might mean more community, less of the old assumption that there are only a few people who will do the work. More engagement might equal more kindness, more friendship beyond need, more resourcefulness. Engagement! Let’s ask people how they are as though it matters, instead of as though it’s just a colloquial phrase. And maybe it’s not having to ask, how someone is. “Hi, good to see you.” “Hi, can I do anything for you today?” “Hi, you look really nice today.” “Hi, is there any way I can assist you?” “Hi, would you like to sit with us?” “Hi, we have extra food, would you like some?” “Hi, we’re really glad you’re here.” Isn’t that last one like the Wal-Mart greeter? I wonder if there’s any research that’s been done on the influence having greeters has on keeping customers. How about, keeping friends, partners, family members talking. And, sometimes, it’s time for quiet, respecting boundaries. Engagement may not always be about talking. Perhaps sometimes it’s about being, not doing, not trying to get so much done, without trying to keep things moving. Engagement is about connecting. Perhaps it’s about recognizing we’re not here for someone else’s agenda.

I’m a broadcaster who doesn’t like to take requests. I’m a cook who may want to stick to my plan of what to serve. Still, to allow room in places beyond the boundaries, beyond the nonnegotiables, not be so agenda driven that I fail to engage, fail to find real opportunities right in front of me. That you, we each, find the real gems of opportunity right in front of you by engagement over efficiency!