Awareness and Mastery Skill
of a Metalogue
Sometimes we need to
forego the desire to get something done, to make a decision, in
order to get below the layers of assumptions that keep
individuals disconnected from each other and from their own
wisdom and power.
his book, the "Fifth Discipline," Peter Senge
discusses the concept of "Dialogue" in these words:
"During the dialogue process, people learn how to think
together--not just in the sense of analyzing a shared problem or
creating new pieces of shared knowledge, but in the sense of
occupying a collective sensibility, in which the thoughts,
emotions, and resulting actions belong not to one individual,
but to all of them together."
I believe this is an operating state many of us wish we could
reach in the groups and teams with whom we work with or are part of. Some
part of us knows this is a possibility, but we haven't a clue as
to how to get there. Instead we feel helpless as we see people
(including ourselves if we look hard enough) defending their
ideas, opinions, and perceptions as if they were protecting
their children from a raging fire. We become almost like
religious zealots on crusades defending our ideas to the
death...of relationships, mutual respect, expanded awareness,
creativity, harmony, and understanding. Why are we so attached
to our perceptions?
Most of us are intelligent enough to know that we are operating
on very limited perceptions of reality, viewed through filters
that only let in a little bit of the world. Yet we're dead set
on the righteousness of these perceptions. It's almost like if
we don't get others to accept them, then we might not
exist--probably because we've identified so closely with them
that we think we are our perceptions and ideas.
I think that sometimes, if we can show people the value in
communicating about how we communicate and relate to each
other, and how fabulous it would feel to be a free-thinking
individual in a group that has incorporated this free thinking
into its own group mind, that people might be willing to do what
it takes to reach this level of working together. (Please note
that I'm not talking about group think here. On the contrary,
I'm talking about freedom from it through the "honest"
expression of our fragmented perceptions.)
For me, a group operating in this fashion is like a collection
of individual rivers of meaning. They flow in concert with
one another, sharing amongst themselves in a dynamic
fashion, engaging in a process of creating a collective wisdom
and consciousness free from old limiting beliefs and resultant
assumptions, acting based on a dynamic flow of meaning making,
which Senge refers to as "Metalogue"-- meaning moving
with and among.
enclosed a model of the "Evolution
of Dialogue," that illustrates the process
addressed by the following discussion. You may want to view it before reading this section.
Dialogue seeks to produce a "cooler"
environment of shared attention where groups can enter
"containers" of inquiry that may uncover sources of
unrest and disagreement, deeper understanding of existing
problems, and more powerful and creative solutions.
The dialogue process begins with Phase 1--Instability of the Container.
Here, people have brought with them the problems,
disagreements, assumptions, and communication styles that
have led to the problems they're currently having. Typically, at
this stage, people try to understand each other or reach
a decision based on compromise.
An alternate option, if the group seeks to enter dialogue, is to
suspend their views and assumptions. The facilitator's
job in this phase is to help participants learn to observe their
own process, to look at thoughts, feelings, and assumptions that
produced conflicts among group members instead of reasoning to
support their positions.
In Phase 2---Instability in the Container, the group
will oscillate between suspending their views and discussing
them. A crisis of suspension befalls the group. Chaos may emerge
as people get frustrated over the fragmentation and incoherence
that emerges in everyone's thought patterns. At this point
extreme views may be presented, chaos will ensue, and this is
exactly to be expected. In this phase, the facilitator's job is
to support and encourage the ongoing suspension of viewpoints as
they ride out the storm but do not try to impose order on the
emerging chaos. Instead, continue to model suspension of
assumptions by pointing out objective reality, e.g. this part of
the group is getting quiet and seems to be distancing from the
rest. The group simply needs to sit with the questions,
"What is the meaning of this?"
In Phase 3--Inquiry in the Container, if the
group makes it to this point, they will begin to function
collectively, to inquire as a whole into the issues before them.
The quality of the energy changes such that there is an emerging
sensitivity to how each input impacts the group. New insights
may emerge spontaneously in the presence of this new
environment. A new sense of feeling separate and seeing past
behavior patterns clearly may cause pain in a "crisis of
collective pain," a major characteristic of this stage. The
group may not have the capacity to move to the final stage for a
considerable period of time.
In Phase 4--Creativity in the Container, a group
will experience "Metalogue," or meaning flowing with
it. In this stage, the group itself becomes the meaning they
were after and mere words may fail to express the understandings
that emerge. Yet in the silence, healing happens and the group
is in a position of power like never before to solve together,
with their collective wisdom, compassion, and understanding,
whatever challenge stands before them.
assignment this week is to look objectively at your underlying
assumptions around the one big problem in your life that's
currently causing you the most grief. Imagine that you really
don't have a clue to its source and begin to explore its aspects
as if for the first time. Get help from a friend if necessary to
help you stay objective and simply look at the facts and your
assumptions about them. Iím
interested in hearing what happens for you. Please email
me. I'd love to hear
How do you handle difficult participants as a Facilitator?
We received the
following request from one of our readers, Carol
A situation involved a member of a working group that I was facilitating as part of a larger project. This individual dominated and tried to facilitate the group despite the presence and work of a "legitimate" facilitator, i.e., she seemed to be trying to assert her power and undermine the facilitator. She had a reputation for doing this (I was forewarned!) so I probably should have been prepared better. I pride myself on my facilitation abilities and thought I could handle it, only to find that this individual had a very strong and negative personality and no one in the group (who were well aware of her tactics) was prepared to challenge her. She simply ignored me and my attempts
to keep the group moving--ultimately we did get the agenda back on track and accomplished what was needed but I have never felt satisfied with that experience.
Any thoughts about handling such difficult people would be insightful and instructive. Thanks so much for your consideration of my request.
All those who respond
will be sent the entire collection of responses.
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