I stood at the beach this weekend with my daughter, her best friend and my sister-in-law. We joined about a hundred other slightly sweaty people doing the Electric Slide under the evening sun. We had people from the age of 6 years to 80 years old dancing together, everybody smiling, laughing, stepping on each other, and looking pretty uncoordinated. But to me, it was a beautiful dance.
On that dance floor, for about 2.5 minutes, there was no age, no political preferences, no egos, no family feuds, no gossip, no fear. There were only smiles, outright laughter, and a sense that we were all in this dance together, and we liked it.
I thought about some of the possible reasons why we were willing to do something we might not be particularly good at in front of about one hundred others watching, and I considered how we could apply this knowledge to helping people change in other arenas. Here’s what I came up with.
1. Dancing creates a wordless conversation that brings us all together. . .
Margaret Wheatley, in her book Turning to One Another says “Conversation is the natural way we humans think together.” I think music weaves through everyone’s soul and brings us together in a conversation that needs no words but declares who we are.
2. while still allowing us to be individuals. . .
Everyone dances differently (not always well, but differently). I know that my moves were out of date and I was jiggling parts of my body not meant to jiggle, but I didn’t care, because they were my moves.
3. and creates a group effort by erasing ego-centered differences. Dancing brings joy – it’s a natural state that drives us back to the essence of who we are. Suddenly we’re not worried about who will benefit from the latest change, or who agrees with our opinions, or if we will shine brighter than someone else. In that moment it is simply enough to dance. As Margaret Wheatley says, “It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do.”
Music breaks through our fears and dance is our expression of the joy felt when that happens. The next time you’re leading a session on some initiative that requires change, try putting on some upbeat music. Get everyone in the room to stand, and tell them they can simply tap their foot if they want but you want them to move without concern about what anyone else in the room thinks. Play the entire song, and dance yourself.
Once you’ve done that, then approach the new topic. You’ll find barriers broken down, smiles on people’s faces, and a new sense that this change moves beyond each individual and encompasses the group as a whole.
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance!