I spent the last week in a really intense, amazing seminar on diversity and inclusion in independent schools, about which there is much to tell. But for now, I just want to record my last lesson of the week, a lesson I have been exposed to over and over but keep not learning:
Just because an individual is quiet doesn't mean that he/she isn't thinking.
Just because an individual is holding him/herself somewhat physically withdrawn from the group doesn't mean that he/she isn't connected.
Just because someone's face is consistently neutral doesn't mean that he/she isn't feeling deeply.
All of which is to say that, on the last morning, in our focus groups for the last time, a person who had been quiet, withdrawn, and neutral-looking for the entire week started speaking fully for the first time, and then started crying, and it became clear to everyone that he had been deeply affected and had been thinking non-stop about the work we were doing. In fact, he had been feeling so deeply and had been thinking so hard that he couldn't put any of it into words until Saturday morning. I think I wasn't the only one in the group who had kind of written him off and who was therefore shocked at realizing just how much he had clearly gotten out of the whole week, both personally and professionally.
I was telling D. about this last night, and she said, "well, he wasn't an extrovert." But it actually went beyond that, because there were other folks in the group who were clearly somewhat introverted and yet talked openly if briefly and quietly about their thoughts and feelings. This guy told us on Saturday that he had cried multiple nights about things he had heard this week, and he clearly had so much to process.
When am I finally going to learn this lesson, not to judge so quickly? I think I want to put a note to myself next to my desk this year -- "Remember [Todd]" -- so that I am reminded of this lesson that I keep forgetting.
Also, I'm a sympathetic crier, which means that it was kind of a rough week on my tear ducts!