One Word

I remember a meeting that I was sitting in where the facilitator had us go around the room and say one word that best described what was most important to us in relationships.  What did we value most?

Participants shared one by one, mostly saying words such as love, understanding, kindness, etc.  As the words were said everyone nodded and smiled.  All very worthy values.  Most of the people in the room related to each other.

When my turn arrived, there was no question in my mind which word towered above all others.  What I have valued most as a child and still carries the most weight as an adult is “loyalty.”  There seemed to be a silence that came over the room.  Oddly, I didn’t see any head nods.  Smiles transformed into quizzical looks of uncertainty.

The facilitator responded with, “Tell me more about that word.”  Why didn’t he ask anyone else to explain his/her word?  A sudden awareness came over me.  No one else in that room was Italian.  Any other Italian would have given me a head nod or said that word prior to my turn.  I responded, “The word speaks for itself.”  After an awkward pause, the facilitator moved on to hear the rest of the participants share words like thoughtfulness, empathy, etc. The nods and smiles returned and comfort levels resumed to normal.

If you ask any true Italian what they value most in a relationship, he/she will state without hesitation “loyalty.”  By the way, that word applies to intimate relationships, friendships, and colleagues.  It is pretty much a no-brainer.

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11 thoughts on “One Word

  1. I think I might have asked for more thinking about that response as well. “Seek first to understand” guides me and when something isn’t obvious to me, I tend to ask. As you write this post, it makes perfect sense. Your slice offered me some insight! Thanks.

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  2. maryannreilly says:

    I felt a great pause when the facilitator asked you to explain and an even greater pause when you said, “The word speaks for itself.” your post makes me think about the ways we value (or fail to value) cultural differences.

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  3. vendija723 says:

    So interesting, and as an earlier commenter pointed out, you do a great job putting us in that moment of feeling “other” to the crowd. I was surprised to realize as I read and thought about your post that I really DO value loyalty, yet I had an initial taken-aback response to your choosing that word. Maybe it has more baggage than the other words–like, do I have to be loyal to someone who is toxic? Does loyalty outrank right and wrong? Can loyalty to “my group” be used as an excuse for xenophobia? Yet upon reflection, loyalty truly is something I value in my relationships, and a standrard I hold myself to as well.

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  4. Well, first of all, welcome to the Slicing Community (even though I feel like you’ve somehow been a part of it the whole time).

    Second, I love the way you wrote this. You masterfully captured the entire atmosphere of the room which is a hard thing to capture, I think. I loved when you wrote: Why didn’t he ask anyone else to explain his/her word? A sudden awareness came over me. It made me wonder how many times we’ve asked kids to ‘say more’ and all of a sudden they become more self-aware.

    Thirdly, I think your explanation should have been, “Well, I’m Italian.”

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