Charles Starrett


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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.


Attentive versus rote

Rituals require attention. When we brush our teeth, we need to pay attention to the teeth we’re brushing, the force we’re using and how long we’re brushing to make sure we do a careful, through job.

This is something we do multiple times a day for our entire lives, and it can be easy to fall into “rote,” or just going through the motions. But then we won’t get our intended result: clean teeth.

It’s the same with interpersonal rituals. Things like greeting each other in the hallway, reading out the agenda at a meeting, or saying goodbye at the end of a phone call. If we say the correct words but do it in a perfunctory way, without really paying attention to the other person or the relationship, people feel it.

If anything, speaking by rote has the opposite effect. It sends the message that we don’t care about the person, the relationship, or the work that we’re doing together.

As an experiment, try to notice whether someone’s speech is rote or attentive. And notice how it makes you feel.

Then ask yourself, how do you want to make people feel?

14 May 2022

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