Ever consider how huge the word “small” is? That thought came to me as I was participating in a writing / journaling workshop last night hosted by my good friend Jeanne Guy. She instructed us to ponder and write about the word “small” for five minutes. My first thought was, “What!?! Just five minutes???”
I wanted to negotiate for at least 10. But that Jeanne, she runs a tight ship.
It wasn’t hard to come up with thoughts on the subject of small. Immediately I remembered a Japanese word Kevin Hall wrote about in his wonderful book Aspire. The word is “genshai” (pronounced GEN-shy). It means “to never treat people in a manner that would make them feel small.”
What a great word to remember. In relationships, in communicating, in business, in networking. Anytime, really. Genshai.
I confess here and now: I know I’ve made others feel small by pure social clumsiness and via my sometimes introverted nature; by being thoughtless, distracted, and neglectful; by being fearful, frustrated, tired, or caught up in my own stuff; by being an arrogant know-it-all or by letting my mouth take over before my heart or brain was engaged; by being in a snappy or ornery mood I couldn’t manage or contain; or by simply being distracted or in a hurry. Lots of excuses, but for the record, if I’ve ever made you feel small, I am truly and terribly sorry! Please forgive me. I’ve been made to feel small many times in my life and it feels like crap. You don’t deserve that. No one does.
We’ve all felt small at one time or another. We can feel particularly small when we’ve made a mistake or are experiencing failure, loss, the searing heat of embarrassment, or the iciness of unworthiness. We can also feel small when another human has ignored us or treated us poorly or with disrespect. Feeling small also can happen when we walk into a room and don’t know a soul or when we’re “new” to a group and want to fit in. Or we can feel small when we seek buy-in to an idea or want to capture a new opportunity — and nothing we do brings the response we want. How about this one: when we take the stage or podium, our palms sweat, out mouths feel like cotton, our thoughts race, and/or the audience seems disinterested or disengaged. When we bleed from the forehead as we attempt to pen a blog that we’re certain no one will read or “get” or like or comment on or forward or retweet or even care about.
Small is human. Small is universal. But, you know what? We can become bigger through small. It just depends on how we think about it and respond to it. What are your thoughts on small? (And, yes, you can have more than five minutes.)
Feeling small as you’re out networking, trying to make contacts and friends? If you’ve not already read my book The Intentional Networker, I pinky-swear promise it can help you right-size yourself and give you lots of aha’s about how to Live, Work & Connect at a Higher Level(tm). Order it here. Or, let’s set aside some time to chat about how we can work together. Email me at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com.
Five minutes? Actually it was only two minutes, but who’s counting. 🙂 And thanks to you, after last night’s Re-Story Circle, I know that some things “small” need to be cared for. Realizing that, I have been a little kinder to and more protective of the “small” Jeanne that is a part of who I am. When something or someone makes me feel small, I’ll be sure to watch over and care for little Jeanne and we’ll both be bigger. Or maybe we’ll need to be treated for split-personality disorder. I’m not sure.
Was it just two? Really? Well, either way, they were important minutes! Small is important, whether it’s our smallest, most vulnerable selves, small gestures that set things right, or even smaller things could grow into something massive and epic. Thanks Jeanne for your comments and inspiration!
I like your point about becoming bigger through small by the response we make. I haven’t yet read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath, but from what I’ve read about it there’s a consistency here about how it’s not just size or other disadvantages, but what how one responds that counts. One article I read was interesting in that it said there may be some benefit to being smaller as you have to be more resourceful because your advantages aren’t as obvious. Thanks for the post!
Thanks for reading, Susan! And I like your observations. Who says small has to be bad or powerless? It’s how we view it, respond to it and work it.
People cannot make us feel small without our permission. We allow it to happen partly because we care too much about what others think of us. Or thinking myself into feeling small by making stuff up. Thought provoking again. Thank you, Patti.
Appreciate your remarks, Carolle. You are so right! Yet we all have our vulnerable moments and we can guard ourselves and be kinder to others fir when they are experiencing theirs. And from small things grow mighty things!
Patti, this is powerful stuff. I really had to stop and think about the times I may have inadvertently made someone feel small (with or without their permission), and how we can all experience a diminished sense of being when we feel vulnerable, even when we know we are perfectly acceptable. How easily we forget! Julie
Hey Julie- Yes, we humans are fragile and powerful- clumsy all at once. Worth stopping and considering. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!
Thank you Patti! This was a one-two punch with wisdom from both you and Jeanne. I love your thought about changing the paradigm concerning what it is to be small. It is the little things that can make a BIG difference.
There is nothing on earth more precious than a tiny baby and that is the smallest human! Who can resist small puppies or kittens?
I grew up being the “small one” and to top it off my maiden name was Fry… so yes, I was called “Small Fry” on many occasions. Those words caused me to look at my “smallness” and make a decision. I chose to embrace it! I decided that dynamite does indeed come in small packages so I was not to be underestimated because of my size!
Thank you for your reminder to be kind with our words and deeds… and forgive yourself… your less than perfect behavior just may have been the catalyst for someone’s greatness!
Hello Jan! Thanks for your comment and observations. I had not heard your Small Fry story – love it! You have taught me a lot about how to make others feel good in my presence so I thank you for that. Also how to think bigger. Lets see how that builds not just us up but also others!