Malibu Man

During work today, Pascal reminded me of Malibu Man. Hey! I had not thought of him in quite a while.

Malibu Man was a figure I created years ago portraying certain stereotypical traits of character of a tree grunt. Not in a nasty, finger-pointing way, but rather as a means of allowing us to reflect upon the fact that in certain situations all of us can display Malibu Man-type behavior. I reckon that Malibu Man is close mates with Don Blair’s Euc Man! They are probably drinking buddies and have epic bouts of arm wrestling!

Take, for instance, the “I hope Susi is watching this” image (see above).

Yes, of course, we talk about safety, but let’s face it, despite that those Rock’n’Roll moments happen regardless: working in exposed, public locations, performing spectacular climbing or rigging feats, people will stop and watch. This is the kind of situation in which the Susi factor can kick in…which, whilst not necessarily bad per se, is worth looking at a bit more closely.

Before delving any deeper into the Susi moments, I would like to introduce you to Schultz von Thun’s communication model. You are switched on people, so a lot of you probably know this already, it is standard stock of any sociology or management course, but very briefly, what Schultz von Thun basically did was to expand upon Paul Watzlawick’s five metacommunicative (that is easier to write than to say) axioms, which essentially boil down to the fact that from the moment on that we are born, we cannot not communicate and that every communication contains a factual and a relationship level.

Schultz von Thun proposed this head with four ears that hear and interpret each communication…

Pretty self-explanatory, really: The first ear considers who the person talking to me is – without yet establishing a link to myself (self-disclosure aspect), the second assesses how the person is talking to me, the quality of the relationship between us (relationship aspect). The third ear hears the content of what is being said (content aspect), and finally the fourth ear decides what the consequence, or the appeal, of the communication is.

When we go into Rock’n’Roll mode what is happening is that the second ear, the one that hears the relationship aspect, becomes disproportionately large…  Am I looking good?. In fact you can even get t-shirts that portray this kind of behavior, with the lumberjack guy sitting on top of the stump waving to some girls walking by. Huh. That is pure Susi stuff! And indicates to me that this phenomenon is wider spread than one might think…

So, essentially that is what Susi moments are, most of us have probably experienced this kind of situation, a fact that, as I said above, is not terrible in itself, as long as we are aware of the fact and how it changes our perception by creating a one-sided bias towards the relationship aspect – and may therefore have a negative impact on our awareness towards the occurrence of unexpected eventualities.

One thing is for sure, if I were operating in Susi mode all the time, I might want to re-consider my style. My policy in regards to all this tends to be to stay focussed on the task at hand and to limit the Susi moments to homeopathic doses.

Oh, by the way, here is one of Malibu Man’s idea of good rope care…

Yes, definitively room for improvement there.

Our conversation at work today got me thinking about how in my mind we had put that phase of tree care behind us, where we came up against folk like this. I do not mean to sound elitist, but I feel strongly that as a community within arboriculture climbers have so much to offer, so many people with so many skills, that it upsets me when people degrade themselves to knuckle-draggers. Surely it makes more sense to learn to express ourselves in a clear, coherent fashion, to take pride in what we do and to go to lengths to ensure that we do it well. That way we become a central part of a process, a voice within the industry that shall be heard.

But I realize that Malibu Man-tendencies will probably resurface again and again, depending upon geographical factors and groups of peers. Probably if someone comes along as a strong character within a group or a region, portraying this kind of behavior as acceptable then this will have a knock-on effect and encourage others to behave accordingly.

For this reason, I believe strongly that it is important for each of us to stick to our guns, to be diligent and display professionalism at all times. There is nothing wrong with getting things right and doing them well.