When I taught classes at MIT, I learned that I should always give participants a WIIFM: What's In It For Me? What were they going to learn or experience that would be useful and relevant to them? Why should they bother to come?
It seems like it should be so easy to come up with, but often it's not, especially now that I'm teaching on my own. The WIIFM is different depending on how I think about my audience, and my role.
This evening, for example, I'm facilitating a mini-workshop on expressing condolences. If my role were to be an expert on the subject, I might suggest that you'd come away from the workshop with:
- An appreciation of the importance of grief, and the different ways that people experience it
- Validation for how challenging it can be to support people who are grieving
- Practice in "sitting with" grief, and having compassion for it, without having to fix anything
- The opportunity to write a condolence card that you've been putting off, and feel good about what's in it
For people who want those things, I think I can deliver on them.
But then again, maybe you don't need an expert. Maybe you know grief all too well already.
The truth is, I am far from being an expert on grief or condolences. All of my close relatives are still alive, and honestly I often struggle with not knowing what to do in the face of other people's losses. I'm not totally ignorant on the subject, but it is a conversation that I need to be part of just as much as anyone else.
What I am an expert in is creating safe spaces for people to connect honestly and openly with one another. I help people remember their common humanity and recognize the gifts they have to offer. I facilitate small exchanges of love.
When I focus on that, the WIIFM is different. It includes not just things a person would want to learn, but also things they can offer. For example, tonight you might share:
- Your experience of grief -- what it was like, what you needed, what you got, what you learned
- Your experience of supporting people through loss or hardship -- what it was like, what questions you had, what you did, what you learned
- Your curiosity and questions -- your willingness to listen and learn from others
By offering those small gifts of your humanity, you gain as well: a sense of connection and belonging; the experience of being heard, seen and appreciated; a reminder that you matter.
Whoever you are, whether you come tonight or not, I hope you experience those things.