Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not My Favorite Meeting

I sometimes hate dealing with people who simply cannot move on from things. Obviously, there are somethings in life which are so life-changing that moving on isn't an easy thing. But in this case, I'm talking about everyday failures and disappointments. I was in a meeting today which was focused on developing and refining a management plan for a particular collection of heritage related sites and programs in the area. And one of the people went off on a 15 or 20 moan-fest about how it was never going to work in their town because a past government administration had done some stupid shit.

I wanted to say "Are you fucking kidding me?!?" You're honestly saying that your present government administration isn't going to support this because a past one didn't, and so it's not even worth trying? Yes, government administrations do some dumb shit and they make mistakes. But to refuse to even consider trying this plan because something similar - similar, not the same - had been axed about 10 years ago is just being a whiny little bitch.

I really doesn't do any good to just bemoan the failures of the past. Remember them, learn from them, but don't just sit there and whine about it. Situations change, people come and go, and you need to shift with those changes. To do otherwise is to throw your hands up and embrace defeat without ever even walking onto the field.

On a similar note, I hate trying to deal with people who are only going to hear what they have already convinced themselves of. Yeah, had one of those at this same meeting.

Just to back up a little, one of the things this particular management plan we're working on seeks to do is provide a group of themes, each with various subthemes, upon which individual communities can tell their stories. The consultants who have been developing this management plan evaluated the various communities and have provided recommendations on which theme is the strongest in each community. Community A has a particularly rich history in Theme 1, while community B is strongest in Theme 3, and community C is strongest in Theme 2, etc. Pretty straight forward, right? Of course, each of these communities also has stories to tell in each of the other themes, but they are particularly strong in one, or maybe two, specific themes.

Well this person heard all of this as "Because A is strongest in 1, A and only A will be telling the stories related to Theme 1, and they will only tell stories from Theme 1." They were convinced that this was the case, even after the consultants explaining several times that just because C was strongest in Theme 2 they couldn't (or shouldn't) tell stories related to other themes; and likewise, just because A was strongest in Theme 1 that other communities couldn't tell those stories.

I was watching other people around the table as the consultants tried to explain this, and it was clear that everyone else got this, but this particular person could not let go of what they had already convinced themselves of. I even jumped in and tried to help explain it - didn't work - and only received a "how can you be so young and stupid" look from the person in question. Yes, I'm quite a bit younger that them, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid. I'm actually quite intelligent (a few notable occasions aside, I will admit), and I happen to be very good at grasping organizational frameworks, which is essentially what these themes are intended to be - a way of organizing the management of a particular community's heritage resources.

What it really comes down to is this person had decided that they needed to "save" us from making some horrible mistake and then couldn't get beyond the idea that we were the ones in the wrong. They never stopped to consider that they might be wrong in their understanding of the situation. Had they done so, they might have been able to actually listen to what was being said. But we all know those who are the most zealous are the ones least likely to listen.

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