How Do You Hide?
I’m always amazed at what my kiddo gives himself permission to do, when he’s hiding behind a mask. My beautiful little boy put’s on a skeleton mask, and horrific sounds start emanating from his core as he wildly thrashes about trying to scare anyone in his path. When he was really little, he would just whip off his mask and start laughing, “Mommy! Don’t be scared! It’s just me!” Now he just rolls his eyes at me and says, “Mom…it’s just a mask.”
Yep. He’s nine. Already I’ve lost any semblance of “cool”.
Thankfully, as we move into adulthood, most of us keep our skeleton masks in the closet. But don’t be fooled. We still wear masks, they’re just harder to recognize.
A few years back I had a chance to spend a significant amount of time with a company in Chicago. For months I would travel back and forth to teach communication skills to 200 people who seemed to have no interest in learning more about how to communicate. I would look out at the sea of vacant faces, month after month, and decide about them. I would decide they didn’t care. I would decide they weren’t very nice. I would decide that weren’t “my-people”. I decided a lot of things about that group, most of which was wrong. Turns out, they cared a great deal, they just weren’t willing to show me. It took four months for me to see them. Four months! They were just hiding behind their masks. Turns out that most of them wanted to learn. Most of them are very nice – some of them even “my-people”. Yes. I was wrong. (Husband. Take note of this admission.)
Once they felt safe and the masks came down in the room, I watched the group transform. They connected with each other. They laughed a lot more. They were no longer hostages to learning – they became energized by their own growth. It was really cool to see.
We decide about people all the time. Decide wrong. For a whole host of reasons many of us don’t feel safe to show the world who we really are and what we really feel. And corporate cultures wrought with change and fear and uncertainty compound this very-human tendency to hide. It’s scary to be seen. I know because I get scared too. But if we don’t want people to “decide” about us – decide wrong – we have to give them more to go on. Connection cannot happen from behind a mask.
What does your mask look like? How do you hide?
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (originally posted in July, 2013)
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