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They Just Don't get it!Changing resistance into understanding
By Leslie Yerkes Randy Martin
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Leslie A. Yerkes, Randy F. Martin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThere once was a woman named Julie who lived in the very best apartment atop the very best building in the very best city in America.
Julie's apartment was filled with the very best things she could buy.
She owned a top-of-the-line high definition television set with theater surround sound, a treadmill with automatic memory and thirty-five presets of the most famous terrain in the world, and a chrome espresso machine that her father said reminded him of the '58 Buick he used to own.
Julie had the very best job anyone could imagine. She was the senior vice president and chief account executive for the very best advertising agency in town.
She had the very best clients and produced the very best advertising in America.
Everything that Julie did was superb; everything she owned was better; every idea she had was the very best. In short, Julie got it.
All her friends said so. They said things to each other like, "You know why Julie does so well? It's simple. Julie gets it."
Which is why this morning was so troubling to Julie.
Julie wasn't interested in watching television. She wasn't interested in making espresso.
And she certainly wasn't interested in running up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro, although she could have.
And she wasn't interested in doing all these very best things because her head hurt.
Julie's head had hurt since she woke up two hours before. Before her alarm even went off.
Julie woke with a headache caused by a question that had been bouncing around in her brain all night long while she tried to sleep.
She had this awful, annoying question because for the first time in her life, Julie had come face-to-face with something she didn't get.
It was a simple question. One that all of us ask, all the time, of far too many people, far too often.
It's a question that causes us to lose sleep. And to not understand. And to not finish projects. And to lose friends.
And, although it really is a simple question to ask, it's one of the most difficult ones in the world to answer.
So what is this simple but profound question? The question that was bouncing around in Julie's head?
Here it is.
This is it.
This is the question:
Chapter TwoJulie's head hurt. It hurt so bad that she did something she had never done before in her life: She called in sick and climbed back into bed.
When did this pain first begin? she wondered, as she rolled her pillow into a ball and pulled her very best linen comforter over her head. Was it last night, or did it start sometime even sooner?
Maybe my journal will have the answer! she thought. She reached over to the nightstand, pulled the journal to her, and started to read what she'd written the last several days.
And there was her answer ... in her own handwriting.
Of course! It was yesterday! During The Doodley Sauerkraut Company presentation.
She had just gone through all the elements of the new campaign and was finishing up with the TV spot about the alligator eating a Reuben sandwich without the Russian dressing when Doodley's president, J. Worthington Swag, said, "I just don't get it, Julie. I thought this was supposed to be funny!"
"What do you mean, you don't get it?" she had said, shocked not only at the question but that anyone wouldn't understand the obvious symbolism.
"The alligator loves your sauerkraut so much he doesn't want to spoil it with the dressing! It's hysterical!"
"But why an alligator?"
"Because alligators are funny!" she'd told him, her voice climbing a few pitches toward high C.
"Look at Wally Gator! A laugh-a-minute!"
"I didn't care for him either," JW replied without even a smile.
"I just don't get what's funny about alligators. Do alligators eat corned beef?"
"Can they hold a sandwich in their claws? And even if they could hold it, could they reach their mouth with it? I just don't get it!"
That's where it had started, all right.
With J. Worthington Swag.
What was wrong with clients like him? Why didn't they get it?
The alligator gambit was so obvious, and hilariously funny.
Why was old JW so clueless?
Though, to be honest, it wasn't just JW who didn't get it. John, her assistant, wasn't sure alligators were funny either.
Now that she thought about it, she hadn't really been able to get John on board from the beginning. Nothing she had told him seemed to convince him or even make him understand.
Maybe she needed to rethink John's role in the creative group.
And Mary Sue, too!
As the head writer on the campaign, Mary Sue wanted to make the lead character a koala bear, for heaven's sake!
Talk about not getting it!
Koala bears aren't funny! They're cuddly!
They only eat eucalyptus leaves and no one puts sauerkraut on eucalyptus leaves!
What was wrong with these people, Julie thought. Why don't they get it?
I DON'T GET IT WHEN THEY DON'T GET IT!
Julie was having a hard time with this simple question. All this thinking was making her head hurt.
She was confused, and it was all their fault!
So she did what she always did in tough times like this.
She rolled over and went back to sleep.
Chapter ThreeNot getting it was taking its toll on Julie.
She slept the rest of the day.
When she finally awoke, it was just around midnight. Julie was hungry and her head still hurt.
And still, she didn't get it.
Not that it mattered if she didn't get it. It wasn't her problem; it was theirs. They were the ones who really didn't get it. They were the problem.
My problem, she thought, is that I'm hungry.
So she got up and went into the kitchen to find something to eat. But all she had in her pantry was a case of Doodley's Sauerkraut.
And she certainly wasn't that hungry.
So she ordered Chinese.
While she waited for her dinner to arrive, she went online to see what she could research about people not getting it.
She was surprised at what she found.
It seems that people have been not getting it for some time.
Ancient people didn't think it was possible to create fire. They thought that fire existed only as a gift from the gods.
The King of Portugal didn't get it when Columbus wanted to sail around the world on the king's dime.
The King and Queen of Spain kind of got it.
But they were more interested in finding treasure than in knowing whether or not the world was round.
Nobody got it when Galileo claimed the earth revolved around the sun.
Although, Galileo got it later for trying to make everyone else get what he got.
And nobody got it when Thomas Edison said he could make a light bulb or record the human voice singing a song.
Until he made it happen.
Then we all got it.
The list of people who didn't get it, like the result of so many online searches, went on and on and on.
While Julie ate her Kung Pao Chicken, she thought about how Mom and Dad didn't get it when she was a teenager, and she wanted to drive her friends to the beach for the day, and they wouldn't let her—but she did it anyway.
Or how they didn't get it that she wanted to have a career in advertising instead of working in the family bookstore back in Wooster.
She wondered if they got it now that she was successful in her chosen field.
But if they didn't, too bad.
It always was their problem.
She was certain that if she were going to get some guidance in figuring out this pain in her head, it wasn't going to come from Mom or Dad.
And it certainly wasn't going to fall from the sky like a gift from the gods.
Maybe she'd better make an appointment with Professor Rudolph for tomorrow.
Chapter Four"It's something that happens as we mature, Julie. The older we get, the more fallible we become. We know less compared to how much there is to know, but more about what's important and what we need to know.
"How you learn to deal with this reality determines how well you get the things that go on all around you all the time."
What does that mean? she wondered as she walked down the cold and windy canyon-like streets of the best city in America. I thought you were supposed to get smarter and better the older you got.
What Dr. R said sounded like just the opposite.
Now I really don't get it—even more.
Or is that less?
I guess if I got it, I'd know.
But I don't.
Why is it that some people get it right away? she wondered. Like Joel, her artist, got the Doodley campaign thing. He even understood the alligator concept. But no amount of telling John and Mary Sue the same concepts over and over seemed to make a dent.
Some folks get it, some folks never seem to.
Julie walked and thought.
She thought she needed to find out what was going on. And information, she felt, was the key to discovering why some people got it and some people simply didn't.
One thing she thought as she continued walking was that she'd have to write all this down in her journal once she got home.
But where was she now? She had been so focused on the inside of her head that she had no clue what was going on outside all around her.
When she looked, she discovered she had walked all the way to the sea.
Or at least to the boardwalk that goes along the shoreline of one of the greatest lakes in the world.
And right past the door of a fortune teller, Madame Nosall, The Cajun Seer.
"How did you know my name and what I wanted?"
"Do you think Madame Nosall knows nothing? Now, sit you down and 'fess up. What is this thing you don't get, child?" "Come in, Miss Julie, and tell me what it is you don't get."
"I don't get it when they don't get it. It seems so obvious to me. Yet, when I try to explain it, they act like they don't even hear me—much less understand me."
Julie waved her hands in exasperation and slumped in her chair.
"Honey, I know more than that. Everyone I deal with don' get it. That's why they come to me."
"But when they leave here, do they get it? Or are they upset with themselves that you had to tell them what they didn't know when they walked in here in the first place?"
"They ain' upset at all, no. They may not believe me, but they don't be dissettled none. An' you know why? I tell you why, you.
"See, when they come to me they already tol' themselves they don't know.
"So they willin' to listen."
"Why doesn't that work for me?" Julie asked, sighing audibly.
"Cuz when you see they don't get it, you don't listen to them, no, you start talking a li'l louder, a li'l faster.
"And pretty soon you make it clear that you tink they not too smart, them. That you think they either stupid—or dumb.
"And when they think you think they dumb? Well ... that make them not wanna listen no more, and they get furder and furder away from getting it theyselves."
"Oh, honey, you don' gotta say it wit' you mouth. You body got attitude, and you attitude say all they need a know, them.
"All they need a know, for sure."
"I really act like that?"
"Don't know why not. Everybody else seem to."
"But why, if I can see the answer so clearly, why can't they see it like I do? Why don't they get it, too?"
"Honey, it's like Desi say to Lucy,
Chapter FiveBefore I talked to Madame Nosall, I was certain that it was all their fault that they didn't get it, Julie thought on her way home.
Now that she had been to see the gypsy and had her fortune read, she wondered if maybe it wasn't their fault after all. It just might be both their faults.
And maybe them not getting it was connected to her not explaining it very well. Maybe she needed to listen more to them and explain it their way and not hers.
Maybe them not getting it was a result of the way she was giving it.
And if all this were true, she thought, maybe I'm the one who has to make changes!
Just like the way my parents tried to tell me how to live my life made me rebel even more, Julie recalled.
That was true, wasn't it?
My rebellious teenage years were their fault and not mine—weren't they?
I mean, they wanted me to be Miss Goody Two Shoes, after all. I tried to tell them that simply wasn't me. But I don't think they ever understood that, she mused, walking back into the city deep in thought.
I simply don't know any more, Julie thought. Maybe I'd better go and ask Mom and Dad right to their face. Yeah, that's it. I'll ask them what's going on. Maybe they can help me now that I'm a little older.
It couldn't hurt to try, she thought.
And she raised her arm and began yelling at the top of her lungs:
Chapter Six"Julie, dear. Do you remember those Chinese handcuffs your Aunt Lulu brought back from Singapore that time?"
"Yes, Mother, I do. Why are you asking me that now?
"I'm trying to find out why nobody in the world gets it but me, and you're asking me about souvenirs that Aunt Lulu gave me years ago."
"Dear, this is about your question. Do you remember how they worked?"
"How what worked, Mother?" Julie said distractedly, and with a fairly healthy touch of annoyance in her voice.
Just like always, she thought, Mother's not only on another page, she's in another book.
"The Chinese handcuffs, dear. Really. Stop thinking about yourself and try to remember when you were eight years old and Aunt Lulu put your pointer fingers in them.
"How hard did you have to pull before they came off? Do you remember?"
"Of course I remember, Mother.
"At first, I pulled hard and I couldn't make them budge. So I pulled even harder and still nothing happened.
"Eventually, I got so tired that I just relaxed and moved my fingers slowly, and the handcuffs also relaxed and stopped fighting me, and then they came off!"
"That's right, dear. But strictly speaking, the handcuffs couldn't fight you because they weren't alive. They were only resisting your effort. They were designed so that the harder you pulled against them, the more resistance they generated.
"It's the same with the people around you. If you pull them or push them too hard, they will resist you and any effort you make to change them. If you ease up and give them time, and make an effort to include them in what's going on, they'll eventually come around to your point of view. Or at least they'll begin to listen to it. We all need consideration. Nobody likes to have their feelings or their ideas trampled on.
"And it's the same with you."
Julie was near tears. And, like a little girl in Chinese handcuffs, she was too tired to continue fighting, so she relaxed.
That's when her mother's message finally started to get through.
"Are you telling me that people around me don't get it because I push them too hard? That I don't listen? That I haven't explained it well enough for them to get it?
"Getting it isn't an easy thing," her mother said. "We thought it was our duty while you were growing up to tell you how to do everything in your life, so that's what we did. The truth was, though, that even while we were telling you, we were learning. Getting it is something that takes all your life. It's like
Ethel Barrymore said, 'It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.'" "Ethel Barrymore was an actress a long time ago," her dad said, even before Julie could say a word. Then he asked her to sit down and tell him some more of what she'd learned from Madame Nosall.
Julie and her parents talked for hours, sharing their stories about getting it. Slowly, Julie began to realize that everyone in the world was having the same problem getting it as she was.
I think that's what they mean by "Misery loves company," Julie thought. We're all in the same boat together.
Excerpted from They Just Don't get it! by Leslie Yerkes Randy Martin Copyright © 2005 by Leslie A. Yerkes, Randy F. Martin. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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