“Surprise Me”: One Easy Way to Bring Out the Best in Others

I spent the past week on vacation and so, had time for some frothier pursuits. While reading an article on Mike Nichols in Vanity Fair, I was struck by the following comment from Meryl Streep:

“If he cast you, he trusted you to bring it, and the only direction I ever remember him giving was: surprise me.”

Reading that, I thought how infrequently we make this request of one another…I mean– aside from abdicating control over our lunch order or our  snacks at the movies– how often do we actively ask to be surprised?

On reflection, I realized that surprise, here, is balanced by, “If he cast you, he trusted you to bring it.”

In a nutshell: in order for surprise to be requested—and effective—there must be trust.

Unfortunately, however, too many of us spend too much time neglecting/failing/refusing to trust one another. Instead, we micromanage, we second-guess, we put on our hair shirts, nail ourselves to the cross, and then complain that we are the only ones we can trust.

The trouble with this—as many of you know—is it results in anxiety/resentment/burnout.

“Well isn’t that sweet….” Many of you likely are thinking, “I should just trust more….Why didn’t I think of that? And if all hell breaks loose —then what??”

I don’t know. I imagine we both might be surprised….Because the thing about surprise is, it’s surprising – it has the potential to be better than anything you could imagine or accomplish on your own.

In addition to which, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, people who aren’t trusted, see no point in attempting to surprise/delight/amaze you—they feel pigeonholed/marginalized/judged….Why fight it?

(Before you disagree, think of someone whom you don’t think trusts you. Do you enjoy the sensation? Do you want to wow them? Or is it easier to write them off—to put your effort elsewhere?)

So, the next time you find yourself delegating only to yourself, look around and see whom else you might trust to bring it.

He or she might surprise you.