Context: Often/ideally used as a way to start a meeting, in a group of < 30 people when there's limited time, and the intentions are cooperative/collaborative.
Intention: An exercise in listening to others, an exercise in speaking and feeling heard by the entire group, an exercise in waiting your turn, an exercise in expressing and listening personal emotions, an exercise in wordplay.
(It's a little cheesy, but incredibly nice/effective/helpful, especially in a cooperative or classroom setting, and has a marked effect on how people communicate/listen to each other).
1. Explanation: "Let's do a one-word check-in ritual to start the meeting. What's one single word that represents (a shape that represents about how your body is feeling / a flavor to represent your past week / an adjective that represents your day so far?). We'll then pass it on to another person."
Example: "I'll start: my word is 'octagon / salty-sweet / juicy'. (pause) I'll pass it onto Taylor."
(This example step is the most important; without an example, other social norms will prevail. E.g. "I'm working on a startup about flavor, actually...". But by starting and setting an example that feels especially like a playful non-sequitur, there's a chance to suspend existing social patterns and establish new ones. By explicitly passing it onto another person, a social tone is set for everyone to look and listen to Taylor to say their word, rather than jumping in and interrupting each other. Also, if this is a new group that doesn't know each other that well, go clockwise in a circle, or open a space to be apologetic by passing it onto someone you don't know: "I'll pass it to you.. in the red shirt. I'm sorry, what's your name? Okay, I'll pass it to Astra!"
Everyone participates. Occasionally, the ritual creator may have to step in to remind people that they should nominate the next person to say their word "(Who do you nominate to go next?)", or in some cases, to reduce their response to a single word. ("Can you try condensing it into a single word?")
End. ("Great! I'm glad to be here with you all. Let's start the meeting.") Depending on the group, you can all take a deep breath together, meditate, or just start.
- Chris Chavez of Prime Produce
So female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.
“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.
No feigning surprise
The first rule means you shouldn't act surprised when people say they don't know something. This applies to both technical things ("What?! I can't believe you don't know what the stack is!") and non-technical things ("You don't know who RMS is?!"). Feigning surprise has absolutely no social or educational benefit: When people feign surprise, it's usually to make them feel better about themselves and others feel worse. And even when that's not the intention, it's almost always the effect. As you've probably already guessed, this rule is tightly coupled to our belief in the importance of people feeling comfortable saying "I don't know" and "I don't understand."
A well-actually happens when someone says something that's almost - but not entirely - correct, and you say, "well, actually…" and then give a minor correction. This is especially annoying when the correction has no bearing on the actual conversation. This doesn't mean the Recurse Center isn't about truth-seeking or that we don't care about being precise. Almost all well-actually's in our experience are about grandstanding, not truth-seeking. (Thanks to Miguel de Icaza for originally coining the term "well-actually.")
No back-seat driving
If you overhear people working through a problem, you shouldn't intermittently lob advice across the room. This can lead to the "too many cooks" problem, but more important, it can be rude and disruptive to half-participate in a conversation. This isn't to say you shouldn't help, offer advice, or join conversations. On the contrary, we encourage all those things. Rather, it just means that when you want to help out or work with others, you should fully engage and not just butt in sporadically.
No subtle -isms
Our last social rule bans subtle racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other kinds of bias. This one is different from the rest, because it covers a class of behaviors instead of one very specific pattern.
Subtle -isms are small things that make others feel unwelcome, things that we all sometimes do by mistake. For example, saying "It's so easy my grandmother could do it" is a subtle -ism. Like the other three social rules, this one is often accidentally broken. Like the other three, it's not a big deal to mess up – you just apologize and move on.
If you see a subtle -ism at the Recurse Center, you can point it out to the relevant person, either publicly or privately, or you can ask one of the faculty to say something. After this, we ask that all further discussion move off of public channels. If you are a third party, and you don't see what could be biased about the comment that was made, feel free to talk to faculty. Please don't say, "Comment X wasn't homophobic!" Similarly, please don't pile on to someone who made a mistake. The "subtle" in "subtle -isms" means that it's probably not obvious to everyone right away what was wrong with the comment.
We want the Recurse Center to be a space with as little bigotry as possible in it. Therefore, if you see sexism, racism, etc. outside of the Recurse Center, please don't bring it in. So, for example, please don't start a discussion of the latest offensive comment from Random Tech Person Y. For many people, especially those who may have spent time in unpleasant environments, these conversations can be very distracting. At the Recurse Center, we want to remove as many distractions as possible so everyone can focus on programming. There are many places in the world to discuss and debate these issues, but there are precious few where people can avoid them. We want the Recurse Center to be one of those places.
Why have social rules?
The goal isn't to burden everyone with a bunch of annoying rules, or to give us a stick to bludgeon people with for "being bad." Rather, these rules are designed to help all of us build a pleasant, productive, and fearless community.
If someone says, "hey, you just feigned surprise," or "that's subtly sexist," don't worry. Just apologize, reflect for a second, and move on. It doesn't mean you're a "bad" person, or even a "bad" Recurser. As we said above, these rules are meant to be lightweight. We've all done these things before. In fact, we originally adopted a no well-actually policy for our company because Nick and Dave well-actually'd each other all the time.