Generosity takes different forms.

This week in Working Out Loud (WOL), we were encouraged to share a list 50 things about ourself with the other people in our circle. We were advised that this would be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. I agree.

My list begins by stating that “I am Jewish.” This should come as no huge surprise to anyone who knows me. I also mention items such as “I am a runner”, “I play the guitar”, and that “I was a temple executive director for 10 years.”

Our Working Out Loud circle guide for Week 5 suggests that each item on our list can “form the basis of a shared experience with someone, especially if it’s framed as a contribution.” I confess, I was not so strategic in my list. I listed things that occurred to me, things that might be mildly interesting to the other people in my group.

Form of Generosity, #1:
But, the more I typed, the deeper I went, and I realized that every item I added was an exercise in generosity unto itself. It is as if I was saying to my WOL group “I would like to share an interesting aspect of my life with you. I want you to know this about me, because I think it will make us better friends and better colleagues. Please use this as another data point about me. Can this information help you? Does this information give you more insight into my professional and personal experience? It’s my pleasure to share this information with you.”

Form of Generosity, #2:
Conversation about our lists became questions, and we talked about questions. Questions, as it turns out, are also a form of generosity. Though certainly self-serving in nature, they do bring about unexpected “generosity benefits.”

  1. Questions will surface information for other people to learn from. You are asking for yourself, yes, but others will see the replies and those replies will most likely be helpful to you, and to them.
  2. Through your question, you are sharing openness and vulnerability. You are effectively saying Here is something I don’t know. Please help me.
  3. By asking your question, you are giving others license and freedom to ask their questions, and information and helpful replies will be shared with everyone.

Conversation about our lists continue in our private Yammer group. We are asking each other about our lists and the skills brought about by our experiences. We are all learning a lot, and our habits of curiosity and generosity are sure to continue.


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