Some people think that acting consistently means always behaving the same. If we follow that to its logical conclusion, it requires that we draw a box around ourselves and stay within it. Doing so provides a certain illusion of safety and surety about what might happen.
Another way to think about consistency allows for greater breadth and depth of character. Imagine that people thought of you as consistent because they could count on you to express your perspective in a clear, passionate, and respectful manner; that they counted on you to bring your intelligence, your wisdom, the lessons learned from your experience, and your unique view of the world; that they enjoyed your aliveness and fresh look at any issue; that they never knew what you were going to add and looked forward to hearing your pearls of wisdom.
The round table affords the latter. That is, the more you open the stage closet door and let the characters whom you have disenfranchised sit at the round table, the more you will enjoy the breadth of being that your characters provide. This can be frightening, for sure. When you put certain self-styles in the closet when you were young, without attention, those characters become pests and saboteurs. However, as you befriend them and find their value, you can then use their positive characteristics to spice up your life.
Here's an example:
When I was 13 years old, I was able to beat all the boys in leg wrestling. I was a dancer and was all muscle. I remember my dad telling me that the boys wouldn't like me if I beat them. Not willing to pretend and let them win, I stopped leg wrestling. At the same time, I noticed that many of the boys liked the girls who were not as smart as me. So, I stopped raising my hand in class. I continued to do well but kept my answers to the tests rather than the classroom. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that my Creative Behavior teacher helped me see that I had dumbed myself down. It was a relief to reclaim my voice and my intelligence.
It seems like a strange thing to do—to put your intelligence in the closet. Yet we all put aspects of ourselves in the closet that we believe are getting in our way. Often, as young children, the parts we put in the closet are those that our parents and teachers have problems handling. Carl Jung is attributed with saying that the first seventeen years of our life, we put aspects of ourselves away. We then spend the rest of our lives attempting to bring them out.
The beauty of using many aspects of ourselves cannot be under estimated. I realized several years ago that consulting was one of my favorite work activities because I get to use so many parts of myself. Working with high performance teams, I have to use my intelligence to learn enough about the content of their work so that I can track their conversations. I have to use myself as an antennae, picking up subtleties of the dynamics with which people are relating to each other and then figure out what to do about it. I have to find effective and constructive ways of bringing out issues I've uncovered during pre-retreat interviews. My creativity is called upon as I look for opportunities to create experiences that enable team members to learn something that is relevant to where they are as a team. And as I'm doing all that, I have to keep moving the agenda forward, making sure that there are clear actionable steps with names and dates attached by the time we complete. And while all that is happening, I am connecting with individuals and creating an environment which makes it safe for everyone to open up and share their thoughts and feelings, without fear of humiliation or criticism. Humor, of course, is an added addition. The more that I am relaxed and having fun, the more easily the group relaxes and enjoys themselves. The more I support people in expressing appreciation and gratitude, the more the team is able to take credit for the work that they have done.
It is a tall order, indeed. However, the experience of bringing out and utilizing so many self-styles is deeply gratifying. When I see people relax, when I hear conversations deepening, when I hear people get curious and listen deeply to one and other, when the team makes decisions together, including all the viewpoints but being willing to make priority calls, I feel satisfied and well used. The characters at the round table are content.
The round table has had active conversations going among the various self-styles throughout but in the background. There is a pusher who is wanting to do more and more and more, unrelenting. The director has to negotiate with the pusher to get him (he feels like a male character) to quiet down. There is the stuffer who keeps wanting to give more and more, making sure that people have learned something new or experienced something satisfying—more than once. That character has to be quieted by reassuring her that less is more, that people need to integrate what they've gotten before they get more. Then there is also the character who wants to do it ALL, regardless of how brain dead people are. Success is only possible when these characters are addressed internally and are willing to take back seat. These internal dialogues that happen at the round table will be the focus of the next several months as we go into the various self-styles.