People move at different speeds through life. While some are imbued with a constant get-up-and-go attitude, others take a more circumspect approach. These rhythms play themselves out in everything from individual days to whole years – and learning about our own natural rhythm can have a hugely positive impact on our interactions with those around us.
Communication is the foundation of good relationships, and good communication is borne of mutual understanding. Empathy, imagining ourselves inside the mind of the other, is an essential part of this process, yet our capacity for empathy is in turn built on a thorough understanding of our own self. The more we know and understand ourselves as multifaceted, complex individuals, the more possibilities are open to us in imagining the interior lives of others.
Learning about our own rhythm and tempo can be a profoundly enlightening way to live – acknowledging our responses to external rhythms to see how different speeds of life affect us. What sort of pace allows us to feel energised, content or secure? What makes us feel drained, depleted, stretched too thin?
Of course, when people operating at different tempos are forced to work together the result can often be one of frustration, tension and conflict borne of a lack of understanding. Where one person thinks they are operating at a speed that suits them, the other might perceive them as lazy and irresponsible or uptight and overzealous.
In such situations the problem may not necessarily arise from one approach or the other, but rather in a failure of both to conceive of a way of working that is different from their own. Conceptualising an approach as the ‘right’ way rather than ‘my’ way serves as a block to meaningful communication and cooperation.
Being alert to our own rhythm – and thinking about it as such – gives us a framework for understanding our friends and colleagues, observing when situations cause them to thrive or struggle. Better still, we may begin to recognise times when we actively need input from those with a different perspective; when our own mellow pace may benefit from someone giving us a high energy push, or our non-stop attitude might need someone to show us how to relax a little.
It’s easy to conceptualise rhythm as something that is merely external to us, generated by organisational or relational contexts that are bigger and more important than ourselves. Yet if we can learn to recognise our own tempo, we can exist within our social environment in a way that serves us and remains true to who we are.