The Story of Why and the Why of Story.
In any training that aims to effect change I feel we have to start with the question, why? Why are you a teacher? Why are you a leader? Why do you believe what you do? Why do you want to change?
If you look at these questions one can see the answers are essentially the start of a story - so the why gives the story and the story gives the why.
In my recent work training educational leaders here in Sweden I have realised the importance of the question why. I use it at the start of all my sessions to re-connect the respondents with why they started their work, with where and how their passion began. It gives instant emotional engagement. They all share their story of why. I find time and time again, that people are so busy looking at their next task, looking at the things they have not done, that they forget to look at what they have done and why they started the work they are doing. Remembering re-connects us with what is important, it connects us with the why.
I have also started to become increasingly aware of the why that lies behind the stories we carry. Here in Sweden there is a concept called Jantelagen that I feel is still prevalent in the shaping of the behaviour of many Swedes. It was described in the work of the Danish/Norwegian author Askel Sandemoose and focuses on the individuals need to subsume their identity to the group. He identified the following 10 laws:
Do not to think you are anything special. Do not to think you are as good as we are. Do not to think you are smarter than we are. Do not to imagine yourself better than we are. Do not to think you know more than we do. Do not to think you are more important than we are. Do not to think you are good at anything. Do not to laugh at us. Do not to think anyone cares about you. Do not to think you can teach us anything.
Although it is less strong now, especially within places like Göteborg, it still impacts in much of Swedish life. When I first came here I asked my husband, (who is Swedish) how I would tell someone they look great in Swedish. He answered that they don't really say that, you might say someone's shoes are nice, or their bag, but not the actual person as some people may think, "who are you to tell me that?" This has not stopped me saying it, (usually in English I will admit) and the responses have been, on the whole, positive. In fact some Swedish people have responded by saying they wish they could say those things ... I tell them to throw the Jante out and be bold.
I was training one group of Swedish people who worked for a company based here and when I asked them what was one of the main threats to the success of their company they stated the Law of Jante.I am not saying there is a big problem with it as long as you are aware of it and why it exists. However some people will carry it as a truth; as the main and right way of behaving, as the main code for conduct. What does that mean when you meet groups from other countries who have very different 'codes' on what it is to be sociable and successful? I speak as a British woman who absolutely realises that it is the Brits who drive on the wrong side of the road, not the rest of the world! My knowledge of my own culture has come mostly through living in other cultures, whether it was the 6 years I lived in Ghana or the 2 years that I have lived here in Sweden. I am keenly aware that in order to understand the stories of 'other' we need to deconstruct the story of 'self.' ( I could do a whole piece now on deconstructing colonialism within the curriculum but I will save that for another time!)
So, I want to start with the why. The why do I believe this? Why do you believe that? Why do I think politeness and the P's and Q's essential in the upbringing of a child? Why do you not think that? I want to know the why of your story and the why of my own. I want to know the story of why.