Confession time: for the first time in a long while, I was actually sorry to see my children go back to school this morning. Although my clients, collaborators and other work-related partners will be relieved to see me head back for my computer, coaching sessions and training courses. Not to mention the relief of my bank account after an income-less week!
Yet I actually enjoyed this half-term holiday, achieved a good combination of external and home-based activities, barely screamed at the children and just relished their remarkably well-behaved, helpful and amusing company. So what was different? I suppose the answer was ‘my attitude’. Instead of looking upon the holidays as a nuisance interruption of my work and forever being with one eye on my Inbox, I deliberately chose to keep my laptop switched off. I threw myself wholeheartedly into playing, laughing, chatting and doing silly things with the children. The result? I felt like I had swallowed some Wonka-Vite pills and turned twenty years younger.
I don’t think the comparison is entirely forced if I say that I felt I had fully embraced their culture and their world, instead of judging them from my grown-up perspective and culture. I had entered their perception of time (i.e. we have all the time in the world), their concept of value and status (i.e. you may play tennis better, but I have superpowers). It wasn’t an entirely one-way process either. We played lots of board games and by winning some and losing some, by crying some and laughing some, we all learnt to cope and move on. I like to believe that some of my grown-up messages were thus reinforced.
I don’t think that this ‘total immersion’ thing is possible or even desirable all the time, but, while it lasted, it refreshed us all, created even stronger bonds and mutual understanding. Now, let me think of a way or replicating this in cross-cultural coaching and training…