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As facilitators of Generative Dialogue, we teach group participants to pause and silently ask three questions prior to speaking:
- Have I heard what’s been said? (Understand before being understood)
- Is it truly my turn to speak? (Am I paying attention to my Ego?)
- Is what I am going to say in service to the group? (Will my influence help the group to learn?)
These three questions act as reminders for us to be attentive when engaged in Dialogue. To be mindful in Dialogue means that we are paying attention to what is happening inside, providing opportunities to not only consciously choose our words but how we react to the words of others – noticing the Voice of Judgment — especially when we find we don’t agree with what’s been said. I often refer to this practice as “mindfully holding space” — holding the tension that exists in those moments.
David Bohm spoke very often to the Voice of Judgment and the importance of suspending it. This is why we must be mindful in Dialogue. Actively listening to another requires genuine curiosity with a true desire to understand before being understood, necessitating the capacity to release our own assumptions, opinions, thoughts and beliefs and the identities we link to them. In short, we need to release our need to have the right answer and to defend our own position. Instead we need to listen to others in a way to fully understand them and at the same time listen to ourselves — being mindful – paying attention to how our beliefs and assumptions play a role.
We need to hold the paradox. We need to hold the tension. And this is a beautiful thing; because tension is the point of creation. Nature gives us a stunning example of this. From the seed that pushes through the earth to the delivery of a child to the birth of a star, tension exists. In Dialogue, as individuals and the group express multiple positions and possibilities, tension is created because our preconceived positions come from the very beliefs residing in the subconscious. Yet if we can hold these inconsistencies – if we can hold this internal struggle – it is then that possibilities not initially considered can be birthed. This is where the practice of holding space becomes increasingly important.
Author and speaker, Daryl Conner, defines mindfully held space (+free book) as “unique, non-physical reality filled with possibilities for resolving struggles that reflect a singular focus and reside within a container amenable to influence.”
Now, that’s a mouthful. So let’s break it down.
Mindfully held space is:
Unique because it is a field of potential; it is intangible but “verifiable and its impact demonstrable.”
It is filled with possibility – unrealized outcomes that can be explored through inquiry, based on “what the space allows for – the possibilities that naturally appear” — what I refer to as natural rhythm.
It resides within a container. “We don’t actually ‘hold’ space as much as we build and maintain…a vessel…ideal for harvesting and processing possibilities” in a safe, exploratory environment.
And it is amenable to influence, providing the right mix of conditions for optimum learning.
Holding space comes with profound responsibility and the capacity to be present, operating with neutrality, providing grounding for individuals and the group to simply be where they are – without judgment, criticism and blame. This requires you to be mindful. It necessitates that you open your heart and at the same time make a commitment to the unfoldment of what is occurring, allowing each person to have whatever experience he or she is having.
Image: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay
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