How to be the bravest person in the room
by Meg Dedolph
Last week, I went into the city to call a contra dance.
There were a handful of enthusiasts who have been dancing for a long time and like to come out every time there’s a dance on. There were a lot of folks who have been dancing for a little while – this series has lots of young people who like to come – and there were a lot of people who had never done this before.
AKA, the bravest people in the room.
I was thinking about what to tell these folks during the introductory lesson I teach, and it always comes down to some variation on this message: Thank you for being brave enough to be bad at something new.
(I admit, I got that off an inspirational poster I saw on Instagram.)
It’s hard to find a way to tell someone that I don’t expect them to be any good at what I’m teaching them to do because nobody is any good when they try something for the first time. It’s one of those truths that sounds like an insult.
It’s especially hard to tell adults this, because we all have an idea for the kinds of activities we’re going to be successful at and it’s hard to get people to do something they think they're going to be bad at for a long time. I feel certain I could learn to weave on a loom; I am confident I would be no good in an adult basketball league.
(Interesting aside: I rarely have to say something like this to kids. They are better than adults at trying something new with no attachment to the outcome.)
But imagine the freedom if you know nobody in the room expects you to be good at this thing you're trying. Nobody's going to judge you for the questions you ask, or how fast you learn as long as you're trying.
And once you get that down?
What if you had the same expectations for yourself? What would you try if you weren't afraid of failing?