Unforgiven Transparency

Audrey writes the following comment on this post regarding Social Networking for Teachers:

Wishing that we lived in an ideal world where being transparent or making mistakes on the big screen will be forgiven and will have no consequences does not make it so. You can control how you respond to prior information, but you can’t control how other people will deal with it.. whether it’s a boss, a friend, a potential mate, an electorate… The real truth is that you have no control over how other people will perceive your disclosed self, and full disclosure can cost you more than you expect. Too bad, though.

This certainly seems right. We really don’t have control over how others perceive our disclosed self, whether they will like the transparent you. In fact, they may find the act of being transparent repulsive. Not everyone believes you should share your opinion, your thinking with other people. Some do not believe that when at a negotiating table, you should share what you would like to see, what your fears are. In fact, sharing how you feel about the conversation is problematic since it forces everyone to deal with messy feelings rather than just the facts. Yet, I have also seen master manipulators mix facts with fiction so well that they are indistinguishable, spinning a story that is incredibly believable, however wrong. In fact, I believe that such spinning is evil, not just bad or wrong.

By their openness, people dedicated to the truth live in the open, and through the exercise of their courage to live in the open, they become free from fear.
M. Scott Peck

That exercise of courage reminds me of Tom Friedman’s quote (The World is Flat, 3rd edition) about using your muscle in publishing online. Friedman writes, The act of participating is like a muscle, you have to use, and we are so un-used to being active participants in the process that even though the tools are there now that many people don’t use them…there are also still deeply ingrained habits of deference to authority and institutes. People like to upload and that is why of all the ten forces flattening the world, uploading has the potential to be the most disruptive. Just how many people will exercise that ability to be in the game, and how soon, is what will determine just how disruptive uploading becomes.


So, exercising my ability to be open, transparent exorcises my fear, but also can be disruptive to others…a reason why people are nervous about transparency?

Audrey combines two points here, though. One is being transparent/open and the other is making mistakes. Making mistakes IS a normal part of human development. My children make mistakes, my spouse, my neighbor, my team, each of us makes mistakes on a daily basis. These mistakes, if they go without acknowledgement, without recognition of what they are, become opportunities for bitterness, anger, and can develop into barriers to growth. I struggle with sharing my mistakes, even if it’s only to acknowledge them so that I can improve. So, my perspective is bound by my experiences. As such, mistakes are often concealed or shared only with those they immediately affect.

Yet, what happens when I bring transparency to a mistake I’ve made? What happens to the learning potential–not the right description for what I’m trying to share here but…–of that mistake when transparency is enabled, like turning on the light in the oven? (let’s follow that a bit). In the heat of the moment, whatever will happen, will happen, especially in the dark of that oven.

But, if you turn on the light, doesn’t that make it possible to take action? If what is being heated is under stress, won’t it be to our mutual benefit for all of us to know? If we can–for a moment–set aside our personal ego, our embarrassment, can’t the learning that occurs in that moment redeem our embarrassment? Furthermore, wouldn’t the ongoing learning that comes from reflecting on that mistake yield tremendous power to the individual? I’m reminded of Edward Hays’ parables. I cite the story here (again):

From my position high on the dragon’s back, I noticed that the dragon’s body was covered with old wounds. WHenever the dragon breathed forth fire to light the path in front of us, I noticed that the wounds glowed golden-red in the dark. When I asked about them, the dragon replied, “Oh, my friend, I have been slain a thousand times, but I have always arisen again. These old wounds are the source of my power and my insight. Our greatest and worst enemies are not the monsters who roam the forest or even wicked witches or evil wizards. No, it is our scars, our wounds, and old injuries that we must fear.

As we journey through life we have all been injured–hurt by parents, brothers or sister, schoolmates, strangers, lovers, teachers. Each wound has the power to talk to us, you know. They speak, however, with crooked voices because of the scars.

All of us have wounds–old ones and new ones–and whenever the monster appears, when hell breaks loose, we know that our old wounds are talking guiding us. It is these wounds that must be confronted (Hays, 1986).)

One of my favorite writing activities–and when I was teaching folks how to use multimedia presentation tools–was to ask them to share their most embarrassing moment. I’m not sure where the activity came from, only that sharing your most embarrassing moment was a great activity for workshop participants.

Folks would dig through their moments, not unlike a person digging through a backpack trying to find a certain item, and share them. Some picked moments that were obviously embarrassing to them but that you and I wouldn’t bat an eye at. Others, they would pick moments that were particularly embarrassing and had the rest of us rolling on the ground laughing. Obviously, these folks picked their moments to share. That’s the non-transparent approach, isn’t it? They’ve had the luxury of time, friends/family, a safe environment to share their moment of embarrassment with us.

Transparency still accords me the choice. I am not forced to be transparent, rather I choose it. It’s not a standard, but an ideal. I want to be as transparent as possible, but that “as possible” allows me to set some limits. If others do not appreciate the transparency, the transformational power and learning from old wounds is still valuable to me as a human being. It would be ironic that the learning that moves me forward as a human being, derails my advancement as a professional in my field. But given no choice in the matter, I’d rather the growth that moves me forward as a human being…and that’s not easy to say.
That’s why blogging is so critical, essential.

When I consider how many bloggers find themselves engaging in profound reflection, I see them moving quickly out of their comfort zone. In some cases that means advancement professionally, in others, it means personal growth. In my blog, I’m not quite sure how I found myself writing about transformation, only that i know that transformation always seems around the corner and that I made a choice to do so.

As I reflect on this post, I often wonder how my Transformation series of posts are perceived. I re-assure myself, but then remember that this is why blogging is often for myself. I am writing and sharing and publishing for myself. That’s what makes it so inviting, so powerful. It is, like Peck’s quote above, about banishing fear…i just didn’t realize when i started blogging how much fear there was! <smile>

In regards to considering audience, Dean Shareski also makes a point I hadn’t considered, or frequently forget, even as I stare at the ClustrMap in the top corner of the blog you’re reading:

I too often make the assumption that most of my audience is like me…Probably for the most part that’s true. But when realize your Uncle Bill, a retired veterinarian, Jim, a radio disc jockey and Willem an technologist from the Netherlands, read your work, occasionally comment you begin to think more deeply about what you write. To ignore it would be presumptuous.

When I go to give a workshop, I usually begin with finding out as much as I can about the audience.

Like Dean, when I teach a workshop, I want to know as much as possible. In fact, i ask my audience, “What’s ONE thing you could learn today that would make today’s session a success for you?” When folks tell me, I either tell them that’s beyond the scope of today’s session or that we’ll definitely get to that. I keep a list, writing things they say down and then check it during the presentation to make sure “I covered it.”
I guess, with my emphasis on transparency, I should say, “We uncovered it.”

Aside: In writing this blog entry, I found out that Dr. M Scott Peck had died in 2005. Writing in this blog has kept me dredging up old friends who influenced my thinking, whose books still grace my shelves. Often, when I reach out to find the authors, online sources for their work, I discover that they’ve passed away. It’s at that time that I realize two things–why have I lost touch with old friends like this? and, what do I need to be reading now that impacts my life the way they did then? So, to better remember Dr. Peck, here’s the image from the link above…

I recommend you read The Road Less Travelled, People of the Lie, and The Different Drum. I’m going to read Denial of the Soul since I haven’t read it, and I’m not familiar with In Search of Stones either.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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