This is cheating on the 10-day Inquiry challenge, but I feel, first of all, that I want to practice at least some kind of inquiry, even if it is only on paper and, second of all, in writing I was able to find a lot of questions and I think that is helpful. So here goes.
I mentioned that over the weekend I was visiting friends. One topic did come up that we really don’t see eye to eye on, namely how important appearances are especially in business. I come from a part of the world (New England) where in certain circles a very fashionable and polished appearance can be interpreted as giving too much value to superficial things and not enough to what lies underneath. After all, we only have so much time and energy–and money. What goes into the exterior cannot go into the interior, is our reasoning.
To illustrate: Once I was walking down the street with my mother in the college town I grew up in when we saw a woman coming towards us who looked as if she had just finished shooting the cover of Vogue. My mother’s comment? “Probably somebody’s secretary.” That just about sums it up for my old neighborhood. The friends I spent the weekend with see appearance, or perhaps I should write Appearance, as essential to getting ahead. I’ve made some compromises on this point and pay more attention to my appearance than my childhood prepared me to, but I’ve pretty much reached the limits of what I am willing to invest. This led to a fairly vehement discussion.
This morning I used this discussion as material for my Inquiry journal to explore the basic premise we were talking about: “Up to a certain point, more beautiful people have greater success.” The results of my Inquiry (in reverse order to what I usually do) look like this:
Data selection step
- Who are some of the beautiful people you’re thinking of?
- What are the elements of beauty as you see them in this connection?
- What studies are you basing that on?
- What do you mean by success in this case?
Added meanings step
- What do you think creates the connection between beauty and success?
- How do you react or feel when you encounter less beautiful people, especially in a professional situation?
Conclusions step (where you try to identify the deeper, underlying question or point)
- What is important in life?
Actions to take step
- How can we promote what we believe is important in this case?
- What concrete steps do we need to take?
I was a little sad writing this journal entry because it showed me how we could have gotten more out of the discussion, both sides understanding each other better, if I had been able to do this in real time. One friend in particular is very good at explaining his reasoning but even so I don’t know (because I didn’t ask):
- What his definition of beauty is
- What his definition of success is
- How he emotionally reacts when he sees someone in business who does not look good
- What his priorities are in life
Even now, I’m not sure I feel strong enough to go back and re-open the conversation to find out those points. And–always an issue with Inquiry–I don’t know if he would want to answer those questions, especially not in such a structured, formal way.
This is not getting any easier yet.