Desired Outcomes Need to Be Directed
My mother (as well as most everyone else's mother) told me that it's important to "share." Sharing was a sign of breeding, generosity and inclusion. Being an obedient child, I followed my mother's instruction, and even expanded my sharing portfolio: I would share to get people to like me.
Clearly, I was not the only one to adopt the concept of sharing as a platform to ingratiate. In the business world, I hear time and time again, especially during presentations, "I am here to share with you the results of the great work we are doing on...," or "I would like to share with you the figures on...," or even more ubiquitous, "I appreciate this opportunity to share with you the latest plan to ..." It seems that everyone wants to share, but in reality, they want much more, and are too ingenuous to be transparent.
Case in point:
Being a working mom who travels a great deal, I missed many of my child's typical "mommy/daughter" experiences, and by the age of six, Avery was really beginning to resent my absences. Clearly, I had to do something, so I decided to kill many birds with one stone. Becoming a class trip chaperone at my daughter's school was, for some reason, a big deal and in a pool of helicopter parents angling for the prized role, I had prevailed. So, in addition to spending some quality time with her, I was going to show all those other parents how a real "super-mom" could perform. I was going to milk this for all the missed everythings for the last two years and show these stay-at-home moms that we working stiffs really could manage work life "integration." I got to write the invitation letter detailing the purpose of the excursion, set forth the rules of conduct, dress code and snack. I purchased the orange T-shirts and collected the money, determined drop off and pick up -- this was my parental zenith. I counseled my six-year-old daughter on her role as my surrogate (peer leader). I had pretty much covered all the bases. Small problem, however: notice how none of the aforementioned had any benefits to the kids or reference to fun, but no matter, I was on a mission.
The day had gone better than expected. We were visiting the Bronx Zoo. The buddy system worked -- nobody got lost, no one had any "accidents," everyone got a souvenir, I smelled victory. That is until the moment when I announced on the bus ride home (as we crawled over the Triborough Bridge) that it was time for snack. Many of the girls looked at me in dismay as they, in fact, HAD NO SNACK. Their stay-at-home moms hadn't packed any! Score one for the business professionals! But the win was Pyrrhic as reality set in. I was the CLASS TRIP MOM and I had failed them. Somehow, I should have foreseen this or at least reminded the other mothers. I had to salvage any success of the day, and while I couldn't save them all, I could make Avery an example of generosity. At least there might be an opportunity to demonstrate the spirit and benefits of giving (clearly my agenda, not my daughter's, I assure you). You see, as super mom, I in fact HAD packed a generous bag with an assortment of sweet, savory and healthy treats. While I couldn't feed the entire bus, I could at least provide for Avery's seat mates.
As discreetly as I could, I leaned forward and whispered to my progeny, "we need to share." She ignored me and began foraging in her bag. I announced my directive again and then finally took her to the back of the bus. "I'm not kidding, you NEED to share" I bellowed. At which point she returned to her seat and offered her bag to the little girl to her left, who helped herself to a considerable amount. Avery then handed her bag to the little girl on her right, who took the remainder and handed back the empty bag to my daughter. OMG, if looks could kill!
We continued the rest of the trip in silence. When we arrived back at the parking lot, Avery waited until every other child had filed off the bus. She then skated by me, turned around and wagged her finger saying -- "You made me share, they ate all of my snack, I'm hungry and they don't like me better! Are you happy???" She turned and left me standing, inhaling bus fumes while I ruminated on the overall failure of the experience. "So, Johnny, tell our loser about today's consolation prize!"
Don't get me wrong -- this is not a plea for selfish and stingy behavior. I'm a big believer in being gracious. However, when you share, that should be its total intent and outcome -- to redistribute an imbalance of something (assets, possessions, food). But more often than not, we share not to redistribute, but really drive some sort of collateral action (feel a certain way, do something a certain way, regard the "sharer" a certain way). And in this ADHD world we live in, this use of the term "share" is disingenuous, passive and ineffective. If you want people to listen and appreciate you, take your advice, follow your direction -- then the transparent approach is always the way to go. State upfront the benefits (to them) of what you're about to discuss and why they should care. This will prompt the action you want them to take, or at the very least, strongly consider your desired outcome. Sharing makes it optional, sharing makes you passive and sharing masks your true intent.
In retrospect, I probably should have let Avery have her snack while the other girls enviously watched. It wouldn't have hurt their relationship (it wasn't that great to begin with) and you can bet that the next time those girls went on a field trip, they would make sure their mothers packed a snack -- and that's a lesson worth sharing!!!