Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Toolkit Tuesday: Make People’s Contribution valuable

Or perhaps, make a big deal of each person’s value.  I am good at doing this with kids, “wow, thank you so much for picking up the markers, that was a really big help!” but less so with adults.  Perhaps it feels strange to fawn over adults, but one of the things that comes time and time again from user interviews is that people say something awesome and then they say “I’m not sure if that answers your question…”  Telling people about the value they bring builds report, which in turn leads to deeper information gathering, longer attention spans, and more meaningful interactions.

Ok, great, so telling people their contribution is valuable gets them more involved in usability research but what does it have to do with kink?  Maybe this is a show don’t tell case…

The Words:
“wow, thank you for sharing that perspective with me!  When you told me about how uncomfortable that person in jeans at the play party made you feel because you thought you were being watched by an outsider, I could really relate even though I don’t like dressing up.  I think that really highlights a safety concern we’re not talking about; that’s great to know.”

The Message:  
I heard you, I respect what you told me, and it is valuable in how I address the issue.

The Breakdown:
Sure you said jeans, but look how awesome you are – you gave me a whole new perspective on safety!  Is safety a concern for you?  Me too…lets talk about safety and connect about common ground and avoid dress codes all together.

The Words:
“Thank you so much for setting out condoms, it’s nice to get everything prepared so people don’t have to look for that stuff!”

The  Message:
Hey you did a simple and probably boring party setup task, but it’s actually really important to making a play party run smoothly.  Thanks!

The Breakdown:
The world needs way more clerks than super heros so you can’t always do the big awesome thing, but if you thank people for doing the clerical stuff that’s kind of dull, and relate it back to something cool, you might not lose all your volunteers after one shift.

The Words:
“Thank you so much for telling me, I know that’s not always easy.”

The Message:
Thank you so much for telling me, I know that’s not always easy
The Breakdown:
I know I’m letting the cat out of the bag on this one, but this is my response pretty much any time my lover/play partner shares something personal, sets a boundary or limit, calls a safeword, or otherwise does some awesome communicative thing.  Why?  Because before I react to the information, I want them to feel that I value what they tell me, that I heard them, and that I am grateful for being trusted with something personal.  It also buys me time to swallow my first response and make the words I direct at my partner kind or at the very least thought through.  Of course, this is only for partners or friends, which is to say in the real world I try to respond neutrally – “That’s great, thank you for sharing!  What did that experience mean for you?”

So, to recap, this tool is about being explicit about the contribution people are making, and allowing people to feel valuable.  Try it and tell me what happens.

Written by kinkinexile

November 10, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Posted in advice, toolkit

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2 Responses

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  1. This post is really interesting, thanks for writing it and publishing (sharing) it publicly. I have a question and a disagreement.

    The question: In the first example you give above, how do you go from “lets talk about safety and connect about common ground” to “avoid dress codes all together”? I.e., what is the “and” that links these two in a chain of actionable items obscuring, if anything? It seems to me that the latter (“avoid dress codes all together”) can not reasonably directly follow from the former (“connect about common ground”) without at least some additional intermediary step.

    The disagreement: In the last example you give above, your breakdown caveats the phraseology you use by saying you “respond neutrally” to people who aren’t partners or friends, but you show this by saying “That’s great[…].” But “great” is neither neutral nor explicit about the contribution someone is making, it’s actually positive and very ambiguous. The referent of “great” in such a situation is far, far too often misunderstood or vague, and so I’ve often avoided that fragment and instead start directly with “thank you for sharing.”

    When people say stuff like “that’s great” to me in situations like this I often end up expending an awful lot of energy gauging the level of “certainty” or “confidence” I have in the communiqué itself, because statements like “that’s great” without a clear referent in a tough emotional situation feel disingenuous to me.

    Or maybe that’s not really a disagreement but rather a nitpick. But it makes me feel better to call it a disagreement so I’ll do that anyway, while being explicit about that intent. 🙂


    November 11, 2011 at 12:20 am

  2. May, thanks for your question/challenge! I realized after sharing this as well as the “bonus” post that follows that I actually want to keep toolkit posts to really practical, actionable things rather than intuitive “feeling” or experiential things, but you were right, I had to post it and see.

    To your question; it’s basically a reframing. Rather than have a conversation about dress code, which in the example above is based in competing wants, I push the conversation to be about shared wants by opening it up more. So the micro/personal/competing conversation is they want everyone to dress in fetish wear and I want to wear jeans, and this is in direct conflict. By coming back at the person with “oh but I want to wear jeans” I ignore their concern all together and don’t allow them to feel heard or valued. Reframing the conversation as “it sounds like you didn’t feel safe in that situation lets take it apart using this great insight that you bring to the conversation.” you can get past the micro point of friction and instead focus on the fact that, actually, we both want to feel safe…that looks different to us but once we establish that we want the same thing we can bring other options to the table because we’ve built report and don’t feel like our needs are pitted against each other.

    And to your challenge; you’re absolutely right “great” isn’t neutral. I had to think about this for a while, and what I realized is that in that example “great” is just a pause…sometimes when people are sharing something personal they aren’t sure if you understand so they start to ramble and repeat themselves…in this case think of “great” as a period. As in, “great, I got what I needed, I heard you, this is super helpful, lets now zero in on this one point you made.” I could say “ok, and how did you feel?” But when people share personal things I tend to be affirmation shifted. Ok sounds like “oookaaay, you’re a little strange, lets move on” or worse “ok, whatever, what about this other thing.”

    Why does it make you feel better to call it a disagreement?


    November 11, 2011 at 10:22 am

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