Recently our friend Mark – who’s got no shortage of opinions and articulates them quite well – put up a post indicating that he’s trying to “practice saying no” when it comes to getting into positions where his safety and/or comfort level with the outing feels compromised (http://www.skibikejunkie.com/). I am a big fan of taking responsibility for your own safety and - as I alluded to in an earlier post about the Stevens Pass avalanche – I think it takes a lot of courage to go against the tide of popular opinion.
|Would you follow "this guy" on his mission?|
However, I think that there’s an important tangent to Mark’s point: it’s not simply an individual decision.
Early on in our relationship, if Ash felt that a (typically backcountry ski/avy terrain) decision that I was making was unsafe or she was uncomfortable with it, she would say “that’s fine, go ahead and do that, I’m going to go do this.”. Her point was “I’m not comfortable with that, but I don’t want to rain on your parade, so I’m going my own way.” However, I took it as “I think that’s dumb, we’re not really a team but a couple of individuals making our own decisions, and whatever happens to you, well, I don’t want to be nearby when the shit goes down.” Which was – as stated above – NOT the case.
Over time as we discussed it, we realized that we were indeed a “team”, that I respected her opinion, and that our collective thoughts and resulting discussions resulted in safer/happier outings. So now what ensues at decision making time is a discussion, bantering around ideas/thoughts as to what are the best options for our team. And the option of “do whatever you want, I’m uncomfortable with that, I’m outta here” is rarely/never an option. This kind of communication typically comes with time as we get to know our partners better and understand their strengths/limitations, but we’ve been finding it works pretty well even with new partners. Everyone appreciates candid, open conversations – especially when it comes to safety – and these can(though not always, if there’s a large gap between skills, risk tolerance, and/or expectations of the participants) lead to better experiences.
|Did we talk about the wisdom of this?|
As I also mentioned in that post about the
avy, group size is super critical, because those kinds of candid conversations get way more difficult when the group gets much larger than around 4 people. With 5, 6, or more I’ve seen that individuals’ propensity to speak up is squashed somewhat, or there’s the equally-incapacitating “I don’t care, what does everybody else want to do?” both of which occur because people seem to naturally become more reluctant to exercise their opinion as the group size increases. Stevens Pass
So perhaps instead instead of simply “saying no” we should practice saying “What’s our plan? What’s our goal? How do we feel about this? Are we sure this is what we want to do? Are you ok with this? I’m not altogether comfortable with this. What are our other options? Why do we feel that this is safe? What are we doing next?” etc.
It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as “practice saying no” or “practice saying yes” but it might lead to more fulfilling outings for everybody.