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APRIL 2001
Success Harmony Newsletter


I believe in being sensitive and I love being dealt with in a sensitive way. That being said, I believe that sometimes, our societyís insisting on dealing with everyone with an" "negative" trait as if that trait did not exist, may in fact sometimes end up hurting and distancing the very people who were intended to benefit by these sensitivity rules.

This past summer, I learned a neat lesson from a man I met at the National Speakers Association convention in Washington, DC. Michael McKellar is about 35 and he is in a wheelchair. He has a TV show, "Extreme Mike", in which he shows people, disabled and able-bodied, how to overcome physical limitations. I found myself sitting beside him during one of the luncheon presentations and, before the first few minutes of our introductions were up, I already managed to put my foot in my mouth. We all stood up for some reason, a standing ovation for someone maybe, and I looked at Michael and said "why wonít you stand up?" As these words were leaving my mouth, I wish I hadnít said them. Somehow, my brain "forgot" he was in a wheelchair.

Yikes. I started to sweat and apologize profusely. Michael, thankfully, just laughed and said it was no big deal. We started to talk more and swap notes about the convention. By the next day, we knew a lot about each other and started a friendship.

The last night at the convention, there was a big gala and Michael and I were "walking" to it together down one long hallway. Well, I was holding us up because Michaelís electric wheelchair was something I definitely could not keep up with. He was bugging me about speeding up. At some point, I cracked a joke and said that Iíd be going faster too, if I had a cushy chair like him to whisk around on. His response was quick.

"Why donít you hop on?"

Ayayay. Never mind how I stuck my foot in my mouth at the lunch introduction to him. My political correctness training was whispering in my ear that I have already done enough to be blatantly obvious about Michaelís position in life. I was thinking that I have already been far too insensitive. I didnít know whether to pretend that his chair doesnít exist, or whether to go out of my way to be helpful to him and to make his life easier. I would assume that I am not the only one who doesnít know how to behave in that situation. And now I am being asked to cross the ignorance barrier and take a ride on his wheelchair? How rude. How insensitive to even think about accepting.

I did accept. I did worry about whether a member of the PC police may see me in the hallway and arrest me. But instead, the experience has turned out to be one of the more memorable moments of the convention - for me and for Michael.

For a few moments, we became two little kids with no barriers between us. I sat on Michaelís lap and held on for dear life. Michael was showing off and he was driving fast and maneuvering the chair in and out of corners like a well-trained car race driver. We arrived at the gala, Michael hit the brakes and the chair screeched to a halt. What an entrance.

I think that there are times when pretending that others are the same when they are not (cultural differences, gender differences, etc.), or treating them as only different, divides us even more. Maybe it is naÔve and I donít think that affirmative actions of any kind can solve this, but why not just acknowledge our differences but not let the differences divide us?

"We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh."
Friedrich Nietzsche


I figure that the surest sign of getting older is feeling the urge to stop the world and lecture about how things "used to be when I was young." I guess I must be getting old. And it may be a little hypocritical to complain about email and technology when this exact newsletter gets distributed that way, but here I go...

There were not too many good things about growing up in a communist country, and some of the things that were good seemed like a disadvantage at the time. One of those were the connections with people. Hardship and the nonsense of the communist government seemed to bring people and families together in a way that I often miss. Even more so, the lack of high tech communication tools somehow got us to be a little more high touch.

We had applied for a telephone line twelve years before our escape. We never got it. I figure that there would have been more lines available, unfortunately it seemed like there were ten communists eavesdropping per every residential line installed.

Not having a telephone was a nuisance but it was also a blessing. People got to see each other more often, face to face. We played more games together, came up and told jokes about the government, laughed a lot together and sang together (well, some of us did. I was prohibited from singing as that would tend to make people leave rather than stay around.

I know that email, fax, and other impersonal ways of communicating are convenient, much more so than picking up the phone or (heavens forbid) showing up at someoneís doorsteps. I am just as guilty. But, having been reminded of the pure joy of connecting with family and friends face-to-face, I am changing my priorities a bit.

I am making it more important to meet my friends for coffee. I have asked my Mom to have weekly family dinners. Funny, the stress in my life is less. Will you try with me and connect with your loved ones more often, too?

"Travel light - preconception and prejudice are unnecessary luggage."
David Baird


Have you ever been in this situation before? At work, in your relationship with your spouse, maybe with a parent. You did something that upset someone because they expected you to do something which you had no idea you were expected to do. Not only are they upset, sometimes they wonít even tell you why they are.

"If you loved me, you would know why I am upset." "If you were committed to your job, you would have known that it was important." All of us have been a victim of this "passive-aggressive" way of blaming. I would venture to say that all of us. What to do in these cases?

No matter which side you are on, there will be bad blood and bad left-over energy if expectations are not clear, and this affects the future. Whichever side you are on, talk to the person. If you are the perpetrator of this, apologize for not having been clear with your expectations and state what your expectations are for next time.

If you are the victim, talk to the other person and state clearly what your expectations were, classify the conflict as a misunderstanding of expectations and ask for feedback regarding how you should know the other personís expectations in the future. The most important things are to apologize for the misunderstanding, no matter which side you are on. Saying sorry will get you talking. Talking will clarify the rest.

"Travel teaches how to see."
African proverb


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"Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity."
Joseph Addison






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© 2002 Pavla Michaela Polcarova, CPR Coaching Services, Vancouver, BC, Canada