Hannah was a young person volunteering at a community dinner. She sure seemed like she didn’t want to be there. She was listening to her iPod and had earbuds in both ears as she served peas to the public. She was surrounded by about twenty adult volunteers.
At one point, Harold, one of the adult volunteers, finally said something. He scowled, and growled “get that outta there” and reached over and yanked them out of the girl’s ears. Rattled and rebellious, Hannah put one back in; the one that Harold couldn’t see.
And she scowled herself now, Harold’s behavior reinforcing her belief that the older generations just don’t “get” her. Her aura said “leave me alone” now; and no one said anything.
Todd, another adult volunteer, walked in. He knew nothing of what had come before. He was confused to see Hannah serving food to an unending line of people while listening to her tunes.
Todd: “Are you actually listening to music while serving?”
Hannah: “Yeah. Gotta do something to keep happy around here.”
Todd: “And all these people are okay with this?” [gesturing to the dozen or so volunteers who had been surrounding her for over an hour]
Hannah: “They don’t have a choice, now, do they?”
Todd: [dumfounded – this was a volunteer, after all, who had chosen this task] “Well, when you’re representing our cause, having earbuds in sends the message that you don’t care about the person you’re serving. That’s kinda the opposite of what we’re about. That’s why it’s inappropriate to have those in right now. But you’re right; it IS your choice.”
Hannah: [silent and sullen]
Todd went back into the other room.
Hannah then, after Todd was out of the room, stopped her iPod, removed her earbud, and put them all in her pocket. And left them there.
(True story – names changed to protect everyone.)
Sometimes the rebellious need to be given a reason why, along with the autonomy to make the right choice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; but Harold’s approach will never result in lasting change. “Role” power rarely works. “Relationship” power nearly always does.
Figure out a way to let people know “why.”