The craze of being " normal "
If you are in the habit of reading my articles, you probably KNOW I am not here to preach what’s good and what’s bad. Rather I’d like to prompt you to ask questions in places it, probably, never occurred to you to ask them. I’d like to lead you to a different thinking path toward finding solutions to problems you have encountered habitually, perhaps all your life. To thinking outside what is considered “normal”.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
So I endeavor to change the way you think of familiar problems, in order to widen the thinking you use to solve them.
As an example, let us consider autism
As you probably know, autism is considered a “communication disorder” (or deficiency). Meaning, put simply, that the autistic person’s communication skills are deficient. He/she cannot communicate with us (or has some sort of communication problem). He/she is not “normal”.
Therefore that person is subjected to endless “treatment” of all sorts. They are never left alone, all the time jerked rudely out of their own inner world… just so we may communicate with them “properly”. In a “normal” way.
Is it only me who find that it sounds insane?
A couple of years ago I was giving a series of lectures at a plant. One of the workers, (who later, influenced by these sessions, has changed his life) told me he had an autistic son. He spoke to me about him. For the first time I heard this inner feeling I always had inside me articulated so accurately and brilliantly.
He said that when he communicates with his son, he feels that his son has to make a huge effort to un-complicate, downgrade himself. As if he needed to come down several levels to communicate with him.
Research shows that in 97% of problems between two or more people today, the problem is… (surprise!!!) communication. Let me put it another way: when we take communication between non-deficient, “normal” people, then, in 97% of the cases of problems, the cause is poor communication.
And what constitutes poor communication? In the simplest (and shortest) terms it is inability to ensure that:
- the message you wanted to send out is indeed the message you send out;
- the message sent out is the message received;
- the message received is understood correctly at the other side.
How hard can it be? Well, according to the above statistic – pretty hard.
These non-deficient, “normal” people must be able to perfectly express the idea they wish to convey, in words. They must be all speaking precisely the same language. This means all these words and their combinations have precisely the same meaning. They must have the same cognitive and creative ability, to be able to rebuild the idea from the words. And all this assuming they are open to communication and are even listening for the message.
Now, we know this is a complete impossibility, in so many ways.
What did you mean?
How many people do you know who can express themselves with ease? Can you? How many times a day do you have to say: “no, no, what I meant…”? How many times do you hear it from others? I am a pretty articulate person, and still have to do that way too often for my liking.
Do we really, any of us, speak precisely the same language? I think we never have, but surely not this day and age. Certainly not in Israel, where society is made of Jews from diaspora all over the world. Add to this 20% non-Jewish population from several different cultures. Certainly not in Europe and USA, with a great deal of immigration for many decades, again, from all over the world.
It is best to read a book in its original language. But how many people, even speaking that language fluently can truly understand all the nuances incorporated into it? All the cultural and historical details inherent in a language we are unaware of? I love, even prefer, reading in English. And yet I would never get Dickens, for example, the way the English do. And I bet they all understand something differently from each other. It is not at all certain we’d understand the author perfectly even in our native language.
You and your friend have read the same book, seen the same movie, heard the same lecture or speech. Yet, when you discuss it between you, it’s as if they weren’t the same at all!
Then, there are cultural differences. In one language, in one country, for one people, something is acceptable. Yet in another – the very same may be nonsense, disrespectful, or even an insult.
In Israel, in Hebrew, it is considered perfectly normal for a person to ask for something in a form of: “Would you like to give me…?” In Russian, it is bad manners. But most of the Russian-descended Israeli-grown children don’t grasp the endless nuance of Russian manners. They simply translate their request from Hebrew.
My youngest brother, for instance, used to drive my father nuts, coming to him with: “Would you like to give me the car this weekend?” My father was always complaining to me about it later: “What an infuriating question! Of course I wouldn’t! If I liked to I would have offered! He wants something, why can’t he just ask for it, like a normal person?” He expected my brother to say: “Please, give me the car for the weekend”. Or: “May I have the car for the weekend, please?” So here we have two frustrated people. The father thinks his son is ungrateful and disrespectful. And son thinks his father is unjust and treats him unfairly. He cannot understand why he wouldn’t want to give him the car he doesn’t even intend to use over the weekend himself. Familiar situation?
And what about authority, instruction, honor and witnesses to the exchange? In the Arab sector, for example, male dominance is very high. Lately the women in the Christian Arab and the Druze villages have grown somewhat more independent, though they still have a long way to go. But in the Muslim societies restrictions are abiding. Male egos are, for some reason Westerners no longer understand, tied tightly to female compliance. Imagine an Arab team leader is instructed by, say, a Russian-born Jewish woman. Where she comes from, such things were all but forgotten a hundred years ago. The exchange is witnessed by, say, a work-floor of workers, and he will, probably, feel a blow to his honor. So we are certain to have a communication problem. No need to imagine, it is a real, daily occurrence.
We may continue in great length on what may go wrong with communication. Numerous books are written on the subject. Various models are derived, whole professions have grown in order to improve it. But the point here is:
Remembering that this total disaster with occasional successes is, in fact how we, the “normal”, the non-deficient communicate.
Returning to the example of autism
And yet, it is inexplicable to me how the following is accepted without question. When we cannot communicate to someone, with unbelievable arrogance we call them deficient.
Just listen to this girl describing what she feels inside her mind. Does this sound deficient to you? Does she sound like someone needing to be… I don’t know, healed? made “normal”? Does she sound suffering?
What is normal and what is deficient?
Some may tell me, sure, she is not the sort of autistic person who does need our help. Well, she speaks of her brother and sister. Do they sound like it?
But most of it, I appeal to your common sense on a different question, because it is the better question to ask. In your opinion, is there any possibility that we’ve got it completely wrong? That our so-called “experts” on autistic children actually don’t understand them at all? That they really have no clue?
And if so, then wouldn’t that mean that all the solutions to the problem (absolutely well-intended) are missing the issue completely? For we have said it in the “Cause – target – effect” article. If the basic assumption, the problem definition, is wrong – we cannot find an efficient solution.
And if so, is it at all possible, do you think, that we may extend this same question? To people with ADD/ADHD (some more “deficient” people, like myself, for example)? To “wonder-children” prodigies, to schizophrenics, to… Whatever their non-normalcy is labeled?
And who, exactly is “normal”? Where does this standard of “normalcy” come from? Are you quite certain that, given enough time at the psychiatrist’s office, you would be considered “normal”?
OK, but how is it relevant to Quality Assurance?
I’m glad you asked. 😛
Quality Assurance requires standardization. But we must also:
- Be ready to question the standard;
- Be flexible enough to change it, when it does not answer the right question.
- Never apply standards to people. And QA being about people, first – this is something to remember on a daily basis.
Being normal is not the target of QA. In fact – quite the opposite. The target of Quality Assurance is being exceptional.
By definition, “normal” people are not exceptional. If we strive for “being normal” – we might survive, but we shall never lead.
There are no “normal” leaders in any field. It is against the very concept of “normalcy”. Make a list of all the leaders in any field you like, and you will see it is true. “Normal” people hide, they do not lead.
However, from what you have already read, you could probably see I don’t believe there are any “normal” people. I believe we are all exceptional in some way, in some area. But most are afraid to seem non-normal. So they do not act on their special talents, on their special strengths. They lock them away and never develop them. They live against their own values, in low spirits and mediocrity. They perpetuate the cycle by passing the same fear to their children.
What “normal” people need to remember, to become exceptional again, is someone to believe in them, to remind them of that on a daily basis. Not just in words, but in action. Give them space, give them responsibility, stop micro-managing them, place your trust in them… And their extraordinary abilities will shine forth. Naturally, not right away, it will take some work, but that is the only way. Empower them! And then stand back and see the everything change around you.
Imagine a team of exceptional people sitting with you to solve any problem at your organization. Imagine the cooperation, the empowerment, the results. Imagine what you can do!
I can hear some of you say: “She’s delirious. My management is not exceptional, and they won’t let me do anything”. Well, the question, then, is: when do you expect this to change? Oh, you don’t?
Then – don’t wait until your management is fully replaced by exceptional people. Most of them already are, they just hide in the “normal” zone, and so you don’t see that. Don’t wait! If you go out there with the empowering attitude – the others will join you, sooner or later.
Dare to not be normal, be exceptional! And this whole house of cards, built on thin air, on a stupid invention called “normalcy”, a desperate attempt to control people, will come tumbling down, and we shall all achieve whatever we want. At our workplace and outside it.
The top picture in the article is (c) Little Star Center, this is their website.
This post is available also in: עברית