If I was introducing myself to a predominantly Māori audience, it would be customary for each person to say a mihimihi or introduction; to state their credentials if you like from a genealogical perspective. Telling others who your ancestors are and where you call home are powerful indicators of your place in the world. It entwines you to the land and all its richness. It weaves connections with others so that you are never truly alone, no matter how much you may wish for it!
In a Pākehā or modern European context it is customary for introductions to include your name and where you work, or your job title. Independent individuals are valued; people who can make their way in the world by their own devices; people who are capable of creating their own wealth and caring for themselves. Education, qualifications and a competitive nature is also important if you want to do well, especially today, when employment is tight.
These are two different world views.
Earlier this year, I participated in a discussion on LinkedIn which reinforced how different my world view is. The discussion was about how your email style influences how your messages are perceived. We discussed its importance as a first point of contact and the need to make an immediate connection, to create a rapport, and continue meaningful conversations. However what struck me was that using email as the only source of communication was the norm for most people participating in this discussion. And that, in my opinion is where my Māori world view differs.
Making connections, creating rapport and having meaningful conversations requires more than email. Meeting face-to-face is such a core element of who I am that it seems unusual when others say they haven’t got time, or it’s not possible in today’s global world. And when, not so long ago, I recently posted an update on my LinkedIn profile saying that I had met face-to-face with over 55% of my 400 connections. I received a number of comments asking me how I managed to fit it all in. I don’t fit it in, it’s what I do.
Have you ever asked someone where they’re from, what school they went to, or who their parents are via email? How else would I know that an award-winning businessman spent his summer holidays in my home town, or that the general manager of a recruitment company prefers his seafood straight from the sea to the BBQ, just like me, or that a marketing consultant and I share a similar love of cooking, when we discussed whether her upcoming trip to Britain should include a visit to River Cottage or The Fat Duck. These conversations don’t naturally occur during email exchanges. Email communicates information; a face-to-face conversation embellishes that information with the rich tapestry of our lives.
People are more than just a job title or a box in an organisational chart. The Māori world view recognises this. People matter.
A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 29 June 2011.