The Rolodex of Stella Ella Ola


When I became the chairperson of the Support Committee 5 years ago, it was, admittedly, a mutiny. The person who had this job before me offended many people in the community – people with whom it was important to get along. We lost benefactors, and we didn’t have a good reputation.  The previous chairperson belonged to the “F*ck’em if they can’t take a joke” method of interpersonal relations, and it didn’t do the corps any favours. When I took over, there was a Hearts and Minds tour that had to happen to repair relationships and forge new ones. But in time since, my team has made great strides to win over many people who have been great resources to us for many reasons. We have, in turn, tried to return those favours whenever possible. Paying it forward is never wasted effort, right?

This year I’ve realized how extensive the network is, and how well equipped we are to facilitate introductions between people who need something, and people who can help fulfill that need. A cadet asked me earlier this year, how I know so many people. How do I remember parents’ names? I think the question was more like why do I bother learning parents’ names, but his question was valid. I told him that if you look someone in the eye when they speak to you, it makes them feel like you care about what they are saying. If you remember something that you can bring up again later (like how their vacation was, or what kind of dog they ended up adopting), then it makes them feel like you have a social contract. It makes it so that when I need something from them, or they need something from me, the relationship is established. It’s more like a favour, and people don’t generally mind doing their friends and peers a favour.

This week, I was able to both do a few favours for people in the cadet family, and request some from others in turn. Finding the right conduits for what I need isn’t always easy. I’ve asked the whole of the Cadet Parent family for 3 things in the last month, and only got one person tentatively accept one of them. That’s frustrating, given the amount of time I spend chasing things for them (or their kids, or cadets in general).

Rewind to over half a lifetime ago. I went to the Theatre Aquarius Summer Theatre School (when it was a theatre school, and not just drama camp). I loved that time – there were vocal classes, dance classes, and acting classes. Much of what I learned there I was able to bring to high-school drama classes and drama club shows.  We were introduced to things way outside (for most of us) our ability to fully digest the gravitas of our lessons. I read Caucasian Chalk Circle at 12, and didn’t get it until I auditioned for it again in University, but the seed was planted. One of the things I use more often, outside the realm of the theatre is my ability to read people, and my ability to say “Yes, and”.

“Yes, And” is a skill one learns in relation to improv, and specifically one of my favourite parts of the Theatre School experience – Theatre Sports. Say Yes to what your stage partner is  adding to the scene, and then say And to add something to move forward the scene/game.

I love it that people think I’m this font of cadet knowledge. The conversation goes like this:

New Cadet Family: “We’re new”

Me: “We were all new once”

When cadet parents ask things of me, I could say that I don’t know the answer – and sometimes, I really really don’t. In the spirit of  “Yes, and” I can still move things forward by pivoting to “No, but” and create a connection between the Asker of Things and another Knower of Things. Or sometimes, the Potential Knower of Things who can create a different connection.  It’s like an adult game of Stella Ella Ola, where the request gets passed on until someone knows. And I get the benefit of those newly created clap-clap-claps to put into the Rolodex of Destiny.

So my method of interpersonal relationships is very different from my predecessor. Mine is to be grateful to people who do favours for me. Or chase favours for me. Or chase favours for people for me. And it’s easy for me to say that now, when it’s been a good Stella Ella Ola week.  It’s good to also have a section of Prone to Shenanigans folks in the Rolodex, because networking with those kind of people make hard weeks good.  And my contacts are all the boss at their specialty.

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