PQ 5.6 — What values are the most important to me in myself and in others?
Like a lot of people, I have multiple important values that mean a lot to me. But for years, I’ve been envious of people who could distill their top value into a single word. Working in organizational development, I run into this a lot, in teambuilding seminars, icebreakers, what have you.
“Fairness,” one person will say without hesitation.
“Honesty,” says another.
And it’s at this point that I’m glad I’m a facilitator and not a participant. Because I never know quite what to say. No one’s obvious answer has seemed to encapsulate what’s most meaningful to me.
My first reaction to PQ 5.6: Huge question, why are you so huge?”
I was, of course, complaining to Skyspook about writing. One of my favorite activities.
I could pick something tiny to write about, I ventured.
His Mona Lisa smile was a yellow emoji. As always.
I’m Not the Person You Call in an Emergency
“I’m not the person you call in an emergency,” I say.
“Oh?” she says. “But you seem like a helper type.”
“Sure,” I say. “But I’m like a 5 year-old with my phone. I read messages, smile, and then forget to write back. And my sound is never on.”
“Really? I just… wow.”
“That surprises you?” I say.
“You care so much about people. Like I do. And that’s something I take a lot of pride in. I’m really accessible.”
“24/7 though?” I ask.
“Of course. People need help when they need help. There are no business hours for that.”
She smiles. “I don’t discriminate.”
“More power to you,” I say. And the conversation rays off in another direction.
But I’m still thinking about it the next day on my commute.
I don’t judge her for being so available. I don’t think she’s doing the wrong thing. So why does it all sit with me so wrong?
And it dawns on me. My big value? It’s choice.
I choose who I’m accessible to and when. It’s part of what makes those interactions valuable. I actively choose to interact with people. I don’t just catch every ball thrown my way.
And conversely, it’s important to me that those close to me interact with me because they choose to. Not because they’re beholden to, whether due to formal commitment or the idea that it’s right to help everyone or give everybody a chance. I want them to choose to include me in their life. Actively.
I’m like this with holidays, too. And especially the idea of mandatory gift-giving? It takes all the meaning out of it. Holidays can be a good reminder that time has passed and that we should take some time to relax and celebrate with those we love. But when expectations surrounding them become oppressive? Well, I’d rather not have a holiday at all. (Evidence: I’ve formally celebrated only 1 Valentine’s Day with Skyspook of the 6 that we’ve been together, and it was humorous but kind of weird.)
My family of origin’s culture surrounding holidays, birthdays, etc, was particularly difficult. A lot of pressure was put on finding the perfect gift. And spending a lot of money in the process. If you didn’t spend enough money on someone, it meant that you were selfish or didn’t care about them. The thought was never what counted.
So these days, I like gifts given at random times. Whenever I think of it. Sometimes this coincides with holidays, sometimes not. And treating every day as an opportunity to celebrate.
Because what matters to me? It’s not getting what I want.
It’s giving people a choice.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.