Shedding our Sumo Suits

We’re always bumping into each other.

Not literally, of course, that would hurt.

We’d have to wear those big sumo suits you see during the funny, between-inning antics at a minor league baseball game.

But come to think of it, maybe it really is kind of like that, only the suits are invisible and all the bumping and crashing is going on in our heads.

My insecurity bumps into your need for control.

Your desire for autonomy bumps into my fear of failure.

My pain bumps into your offhand comment.

Your drive to succeed bumps into my quest for balance.

Think of the sumo suit as this kind of protective outer shell we use to cushion the blows and hide what’s on the inside.

An emotional costume.

A mask for our true intentions.

It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

Imagine if everyone came to the office today dressed in a sumo suit.

Morning staff meeting — sumo suits.

Big project meeting — sumo suits.

Hanging out in the break room — sumo suits.

Your boss stops by — sumo suit.

Office dog… OK, no sumo suit.

She doesn’t need one.

So here we are every day, bouncing around the office in our sumo suits.

Avoiding real contact with people.

Measuring up our fellow sumo.

Watching their moves.

Checking the size of their suits.

Looking for an angle.

Trying to keep our balance.

Bracing for impact.

Carefully bumping someone over the nearby cubicle wall.

But not so anyone would notice.

Or maybe we don’t wear our sumo suits all the time.

We just keep them under our seats like the inflatable emergency vest on an airplane.

Ready to pull the cord when we sense danger.

The problem with sumo suits is that they make everyone look the same.

They turn collaboration into competition.

They keep us all at arm’s length.

They dictate the stories in our heads.

Taking off our sumo suit makes us vulnerable.

It’s a risk.

Someone has to go first.

Then others will follow.

That’s leadership.

Now we can see one another.

We share our stories.

We learn to understand.

We turn our differences into strengths.

And save the sumo suits for the Christmas party.

Originally published at on October 27, 2015.