The Gatherings

I haven’t even read this book yet and I love it.

I think this book is about bridging divides; about understanding each other. “The Gatherings provided an opportunity to learn “from” rather than learn “about” Indigenous experiences and perspectives, a subtle but powerful distinction that disrupts the colonial legacy of objectifying Indigenous peoples.” That’s from the Afterward by Frances Hancock.

This is what we tried to do at Make Shift Coffee Houses; places where liberals and conservatives came together to learn “from” each other rather than “about” each other. And it disrupted the labels they otherwise put on each other.

Here’s from the jacket flap: In a world that requires knowledge and wisdom to address developing crises around us, The Gatherings shows how Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can come together to create meaningful and lasting relationships.

Thirty years ago, in Wabanaki territory – a region encompassing the state of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes – a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals came together to explore some of the most pressing questions at the heart of Truth and Healing efforts in the United States and Canada. Meeting over several years in long-weekend gatherings, in a Wabanaki-led traditional Council format, assumptions were challenged, perspectives upended, and stereotypes shattered. Alliances and friendships were formed that endure to this day.

The Gatherings tells the moving story of these meetings in the words of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants. Reuniting to reflect on how their lives were changed by their experiences and how they continue to be impacted by them, the participants share the valuable lessons they learned.

The many voices represented in The Gatherings offer insights and strategies that can inform change at the individual, group, and systems levels. These voices affirm that authentic relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – with their attendant anxieties, guilt, anger, embarrassments, and, with time, even laughter and mutual affection – are key to our shared futures here in North America. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we come together to reimagine.

The book is authored by Shirley N. Hager and Mawopiyane. Shirley Hager is a retired from University of Maine Cooperative Extension and is a Maine Quaker active in Tribal-State relations. Mawopiyane, in Passamaquoddy, literally means “let us sit together,” but the deeper meaning is a group of people coming together, as in a longhouse, to struggle with a sensitive or divisive issue…..  Mawopiyane is a word that is recognizable in all Wabanaki languages, and it reflects the collaborative nature of our efforts [from the book].

Here are the names of the contributors: Gwen Bear, The Reverend Shirley Bowen, Alma H. Brooks/Zapawey-kwey, gkisedtanamoogk, JoAnn Hughes, Debbie Leighton, Barb Martin, Miigam’agan, T. Dana Mitchell, Wayne A. Newell, Betty Peterson, Marilyn Keyes Roper, Wesley Rothermel.

You can get the book through your local book store. They are in stock at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick. Or you can order online direct from the publisher.

Thank you Shirley and Mawopiyane for writing such an inspiring book.

Please stop talking

“Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?”

If you have been watching Hemingway on PBS, or if you know his essay Hills Like White Elephants, you might recognize this quote. It’s a woman to a man.

I know there is a danger in categorical judgments but I’m going to make one because this is something that I have seen over and over again in my meetings. Men tend to talk more. Women tend to defer more.

I bet that if you tracked the data in the last 100 meetings that I have been in……looked at the proportion of men and women in those meetings and the proportion of time spent talking by each gender, you would find that a disproportional amount of the time is dominated by men.

If your goal in the meeting is to get your way — to get the whole group to affirm what you already know to be true, without even having to hear from anybody else — then interrupt others and dominate the airtime. That’s a good strategy for that goal. But if your goal is for the group to make a good decision with the best available information and the very best chances of implementation due to buy-in, then spend more time listening and less time talking. Make room for everyone.

Now if you’re a man you might be thinking, “Well, if a woman doesn’t speak up that’s her fault; it’s her responsibility.” I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s a shared responsibility. Your part is to yield space. Her part is to speak up.

If you are a man about to make a comment — you know exactly what you want to say and you’re about to jump in — I’m encouraging you to pause, look around the room, especially at the women in the room, and give a chance for one of those women to take your turn.

And I must add, there is something uneasy about asking my fellow men to give over space to women because it comes with a presumption that the space is defacto ours in the first place, to be conceded. A woman actually doesn’t need my permission or concession to speak. The space among us is not defacto mine to control.

Talk or Text

Older people like phone calls and younger people don’t. In general. Maybe the line is around 40 give or take a few years.

It’s well documented that millennials (age 25–40 or so) think phone calls are inefficient. The younger you are, the more you think phone calls are dumb. If you have a question for someone you bang out a text message – sent – done. Probably the answer comes back in seconds. How easy was that? Phone calls are so tedious and a waste of time.

“And if you want to talk on the phone with me,” the under-40 is thinking, “schedule it. Calling someone without warning is so rude.” The idea is that a text or email allows the recipient to respond at their convenience. A phone call is an instant demand for attention.

A phone call is an instant show of respect, thinks the over-40. I want to focus exclusively on you. And if I miss you I will leave a message and you will call me back; another show of respect. Without even talking yet, we are building a trust relationship! And when we do talk I will get my questions answered, get more questions answered instantly, and clarify anything I’m unsure of. Doing business in real time is so efficient.

Here’s the problem: when one generation puts expectations on another that they didn’t volunteer for or consent to. What seems respectful and efficient to one person is not the same for all people. And different communication styles are more pronounced now than ever before in human history. This is because some of us grew up with texting and some of us didn’t.

It’s like some of us grew up in a foreign country and some of us didn’t. Over-40’s are the immigrants. We grew up in a different world of communications technology; with a different native language and a different culture than the world we are in today.

If you are a text native (under-40, grew up with texting), take pity on the immigrant and help them adapt and thrive in the new world. Don’t take it as “disrespect” when you get approached in weird ways or talked to in broken English.

If you are a text immigrant (over 40) try your best to adapt to ways of the new world. If you are in a boss/parent role you get to prescribe if/when/how people call or text you. But if you need to get along with natives you don’t supervise, best to conform to their customs as best as you can even if clumsy.

As a text-world immigrant, it’s hard to let go of my old world cultural norms. I want to insist on phone calls and returned calls. Yet new world inhabitants never agreed to take phone calls or return my phone calls. And it’s not fair for me to expect them too.

Some practical tips? (1) If in a work relationship, establish norms for when you will talk and when you will text. (2) In any kind of intergenerational relationship, mention that you grew up with different ways. Just naming the differences is a huge start to bridging the differences. (3) Don’t judge that your way is best or that you know what’s best for someone else. (4) Get a mentor. Or a translator. Or at least ask people different from you how best to say things or send things. Ask, “If I were to launch this, how might it land?”

As a practical matter, if I want something from someone it’s best to approach them however works best for them. And it never works well to project my expectations on others without their consent. Yup, it looks like I’m being asked to be open-minded and considerate of others, again!