On the Art of Hosting list we have been having a conversation about using language of participatory process. Often the language of these new social technologies can be jargony and off-putting for people who aren’t used to it. That can cause unnecessary defensiveness among participants. So I had some thoughts about using good language AND holding to a core centre…
Don’t fall in love with your processes and tools and langauge and conepts: instead respond to people’s needs and offer what you can and when they ask what it is called, or wonder if you are just making it up, you can point to the body of work, research and experience to be found when you Google “Open Space Technology.” or “World Cafe” or whatever. That will give them comfort if they need it without “selling” them on what we think is good for them
When we put our tools above our client’s needs we are putting ourselves above our clients. When we join a field of learning and curiosity and possibility with our clients and offer what we can, we become co-creative and participatory.
But while we must be careful that in taking care to help people understand the processes that we are not abandoning our centre. So it is a balance, a dance between what is known and unknown. Working at the edge of fear and anxiety can help people come to the next level. Too much comfort is a poison for our times.
I have found that, ALMOST more important that the language I use is the centre I hold. If I am strong and grounded in my centre, the skeptics cannot knock me about, and in fact they are rather drawn to where I am, curious and a little cautious. For you to bring the new into a system – true for any pioneer or leaders – there is a firmness in conviction that comes with an undying trust in possibility and emergence and is helped by having the scars of battle upon you. For sure experience helps you to temper and hold your centre, but you will not get your experience unless you feel what it’s like to stand for something and take the buffeting of uncertainty around you. And occasionally you will fail and that will be your greatest teacher.
So I think you need skill in holding the centre and skill in speaking about it. And that skill comes from practice.
So my business card says: “Asking inspiring questions, hosting powerful conversations, harvesting for wise action.” To the unfamiliar eye that is a tricky set of words to understand, but I stay unapologetic in my use of them, and I have, over the year, developed some facility in explaining them in a way that invites whoever I am speaking to to join me.
In conclusion, practice.