Monday, September 30, 2013

What happened at Dare

Last week I witnessed something special. I don't even know how to describe it. It was Jonathan Kahn's labor of love, the inaugural Dare Conference. A group of around 150 people (I should note I'm really bad at quantifying things, so don't take my word on that number) came together to talk about how to be better workers, better coworkers, better humans.

It was hard work—not just for the organizers and speakers, but for attendees as well.

I sat in my chair and watched speaker after speaker open themselves up. They shared fears and failures and struggles, and they revealed their fragile humanity. Some of them were friends. Some were strangers. Some were speakers I've admired for years. And there they were, examining themselves and asking us to do the same.

To see these strong, brilliant people standing alone and exposed was tough. I wanted to rush to them and comfort them. I wanted to take away their vulnerability. I wanted to fix and soothe and say it will be okay.

Of course, that wasn't the point. The point was that we are all facing enormous challenges, and just knowing that, being willing to be okay with our imperfections, is the path to compassion and better working relationships.

I'm still working to get my head around that—the cognitive dissonance between what I logically know to be true and what I actually feel, which is an overwhelming urge to flee and hide my own failures and flaws.

But what I particularly loved about Dare was that it combined personal, vulnerable stories with some really practical tips for managing yourself and your relationships.

I learned about identity contingencies and body language and psychologists' tricks for overcoming fears. We were given tools to map organizational culture and tips for better project management.

In the most excellent improvisation workshop, we got to role-play scenes from participants' real-life work struggles. It was incredible to see the effect minor changes had on the outcome of conversations. Rather than meekly looking away when you deliver bad news (as if to agree, "Yes, this conversation is hard"), maintain eye contact and a relaxed posture, and suddenly everyone is comfortable and happy.

So even though the conference left me overwhelmed by the mountain of work ahead of me, it also gave me some great new tools to help me do it.

I feel grateful to have been a part of something as special as Dare. I'm proud to know so many wonderful people who took great risks to bring this conference to fruition—by dreaming it up, by doing the work, by sharing their stories, by showing up—and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Many thanks to Jonathan and his team for bringing this to us.

No comments: