In September I started a new job at Episcopal City Mission. Most of the time my work there doesn’t look much like community organizing, but every now and then I encounter a challenge where my training as an organizer becomes invaluable.
Earlier this week I had a meeting that left me feeling really unsatisfied. It was a busy day, and I had rushed right from one meeting into the next. The meeting was to talk about the possibility of this guy helping out with a project I am working on – we got right down to business. I told him about the work and he said he was interested and would consider it. We talked for about 40 minutes and then he left. The meeting was fine, but somehow I felt uncomfortable with how it went. It wasn’t until about an hour later that I realized why I was feeling so unsettled – for those 40 min, I had forgotten everything that I had learned about building relationships during my time as an organizer.
I had forgotten how important it is to start any relationship by connecting with that person – entering the interaction with genuine curiosity about who they are and what they are about. We had failed to share anything real about what we valued and left the conversation knowing nothing more than we went in with. As soon as I realized that I thought “I have got to brush up on by one-to-ones.” I went straight to one of the resources that my coaches had given me – the toolbox at the New Organizing Institute and watched the video you will find at the end of this posting.
This experience taught me two things. 1.) How the skills I learned as an organizer translate into so many other areas of my life. And 2.) How important it is for us all to refresh our skills, even if we have been doing this work for years.