Up until one encounter in my doctoral program, I had spent my life seeing things as black or white. For example,
- The answer was either right or wrong.
- People were hard working or lazy.
- Businesses were about making money and Non Profits were about helping people.
- I was happy or sad.
- The teacher either wanted to help me be successful or was trying to make it hard for me to be successful.
This particular day, it was my first opportunity to facilitate a family group session. I entered the Center with excitement and eager to put into practice all that had been taught. At the end of the session, my instructor, Dr. Betty, asked me “How did you think the session went?” My immediate response, “it was awful.” Not a surprising response since all I could see when she asked the question were the things that had gone wrong:
I didn’t handle the conversations well. I had forgotten to make sure everyone participated. I let one person talk too long. I hadn’t empathized with one of the participants. Now I was about in tears because the session hadn’t turned out like I had hoped.
Lucky for me, I had Dr. Betty. Recognizing my emotional state, she said in a comforting tone, “Now, let’s take a look at your session. Think about it. What did you do that went well?”
After much thought, I said “At the outset I explained the purpose and rules of engagement. I asked each person to introduce himself/herself and share with the group something about their family member that was special. I made everyone feel welcome and safe.”
Once I changed the direction of my thinking, I realized that there were quite a few things that had gone well. Dr. Betty smiled as she saw my ‘went well list’ expanding and about to outnumber my ‘awful list.’ “So what did you just learn?” she asked. Dr. Betty had a style of facilitating self-discoveries in a meaningful way. I began to recognize that style as one of her unique teacher characteristics. “Well, I guess the session was not totally awful. I did do something well.” At that moment I had moved from feeling a need to beat myself up to recognizing that while I did do something well, there was still opportunity for me to improve and get better. After all, this was my first session.
Happy that I had uncovered an important lesson, Dr. Betty then said, “You know everything is not black or white, there are shades of grey!”
Your B.E.S.T. thoughts
When has your change in thinking impacted your perception?
What perception did you change because of your teacher?
How does shade of grey help you to “be your b.e.s.t.?”