Had my least favorite brand of meeting the other day – a get-together with an angry student about why they’ve decided to leave the school. I must confess I’m not predisposed to be effective in this type of thing – I hate the idea of “convincing” someone to stay at BHP, and would much rather spend a precious hour helping someone who feels great about staying. This particular student, a 5-year veteran, was seething with anger about the way certain staff members had handled a project that she was recently part of. The list of grievances seemed to consist of the usual bullshit that has been present for every theatre production I’ve ever done: this personality didn’t match with that, such-and-such an email was misinterpreted, so-and-so said such-and-such would happen and it didn’t, an argument about who should clear sets or props. Yawn. I mean, YAWN! Most of it revolved around two people who work for BHP/Camelot – let’s call them A and B. It was a real festival of what Milton entitled in Dreams Into Action, “Blame Heaven.”
So I asked the student to tell me the story again, but with the caveat that she couldn’t mention either A or B. She would only be allowed to tell me what she did wrong, not what other people had done wrong. Milton’s definition of responsibility: “Here’s what I did to screw up, and here’s what I’m going to do to fix it.” Ouch. That’s a bitch, right? Well – she wasn’t having much of that. The best I got was a polite version of that distinct brand of non-responsibility, which basically goes like this: “I take responsibility for not recognizing earlier that the people who fucked me over were total assholes.” There are innumerable variants of this non-responsibility version of responsibility, but that’s the bottom line of all of them.
So, the meeting was a total failure – couldn’t move this student an inch. Hate that! I guess the only thing to do is to go back to A and B to see where we fucked up, and go from there and try to do it better the next time.