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Bare-assed Consulting 1.1: The Normals

We live in exceptional times, just like our forebears did. Living seems to encourage a deep sense of exceptionalism; understandable, I suppose, since alive seems so mysterious and unpredictable. In this space we presently inhabit, exceptional qualifies as normal.

Maybe it just comes with the territory, but we seem awfully interested in fitting in, in following the trends, in adopting the most up-to-date. Perhaps we don’t want to be left behind. The ensemble’s performance, though, masks remarkable variety. Nobody lives like the population average, yet that average might be the most reliable reference to what’s normal and what’s not. The result can be an awful (with particular emphasis on ‘awful’) lot of theatrics: going along to get along, fitting in, passing as, mimicking, and the thousand other artifices, small and large, which seem to separate us from our preferences, from our selves. All perfectly normal.

If individuals are easy prey for such quagmires, organizations seem to encourage second-order versions, where individual adaptations tangle together, producing genuinely Gordian results. The popular term ‘dysfunctional’ might aptly describe every individual, every organization now, but I prefer the more normalizing term ‘differently functioning.’

The bare-assed consultant holds one exceptional belief, that his clients are not broken, never adequately characterized as dysfunctional, but supremely adaptive and fully capable of choosing, then choosing again; in otherwords, they’re each ‘normal.’

Some, for certain, suffer from their normality. A few exhibit particularly extreme cases of ‘the normals,’ as we each sometimes do. What most often passes for dysfunctional in the language of organizational development professionals qualifies as no more than temporary stuckness, which, I’m delighted to report, qualifies as a perfectly normal, entirely human experience. The very best way to get unstuck involves getting good and stuck first.

Our language easily sabotages our mobility. We live as verbs, describe our experiences with nouns, then find ourselves stuck in static, lingusitic casts of mobility. We claim to be when we’re becoming. We say we are when we’re not quite yet. We claim to have been when we were never more than passing through. Like baby birds, we are fully capable of imprinting on our explanations while losing the fluid sense of experience. We never were hopping from branch to secure branch, but flying in between.

Inducing stuckness seems simple. Escaping it, even easier. Both require no more than a small shift of perspective. For stuckness, I simply replace my ‘I’ for another. For mobility, I just reconnect with with my ‘I’ again. Where does that missing ‘I’ come from when another’s taken its place? For me, My Muse intrudes. For others, some smart-assed, bare-assed consultant asks The Miracle Question: What do you want?

It requires a Muse or some shamelessly bare-assed consultant to properly ask The Miracle Question, because nothing annoys better, nothing more fully pisses off the severely normal. Anyone diligently chasing any normal should find perplexing any invitation to connect with personal preference.

We regain mobility by invitation only. No command could accomplish it; no clever instructional video required. Normal is touchy and feely. We adapt by feeling our way through.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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