The Holiday Sweater complex

In an informal conversation, one of my clients told me he was filtering a lot of his thoughts before spelling them out, both at work and at home. That makes sense to him, which I respect. I am only concerned about what his interlocutors miss out on, and I am one of them. Do I have to guess because he is trying to be polite? I first thought my divergent approach was cultural: it is “easy” to hide behind a stereotype, yet it makes me fall into what I work on staying away from. And believe me, my being French has brought me a myriad of remarks over the years.

So, what is the deal if I want (and likely expected) to contribute to the people I work with/for? I am familiar with social rules, and what some call “company culture“. Although it is interesting to point out the fact that most of these are actually difficult to find in writing, anywhere. How can I guess what is in the back of my client’s mind if s/he does not lay it out fully in a language that we both speak?

I am frequently asked to think out of the box and bring creative ideas or strategies to the table, which I do. Then, when presenting them, I get the look: it feels like I am wearing the ugliest holiday sweater to a party I was not even invited to. It is the season, is it not? I checked everything though and introduced possibilities to the board of deciders. What have I missed? Was the Pantone 199 red the preference the main investor never shared, assuming everyone knew? Or was the 032 C the last idea?

Here I am, standing with my reddish holiday sweater, trying to understand where the shift in thoughts came from. Where the two-way-street communication switched to a one-way, now leading to a slashing dead-end, with a jingle bell wreath, a glitter snowflake and some candy cane? Now we are both lost with mismatching styles and ideas. Which box was I supposed to think out of again?

It sounds simple to speak eloquently enough to be understood: it does indeed. Maybe too simple, and we (I am as guilty, and working on not being anymore, or less anyway) still make it complicated (I heard it is a human tendency) for some strange reason. To look good? To impress? I am not sure what drives it. All I know is that I am happy to wear an ugly holiday sweater outside of the “proper setting” (speaking from experience too) as long as I get to cheer and celebrate the latest contribution to a project I am part of. And the person I am speaking with agrees to be specific and genuine with her/his words and intentions, so I can contribute and share the best way possible in return. There is no need to wait to wear a funny holiday sweater to actually say what we mean when we want to build and create.