Monday, March 05, 2007

I/Thou Communications

Personal Responsibility and Inclusion in Groups
By Patricia Lefave, Labeled, D.D.(P)

When you read the title of this do you tend to think this is about you or about "them"? If it is one or the other to you, you don't yet understand the topic or the principle needed to integrate these "opposites."

I have been talking to several people recently (Synchronistically?) about the same often repeated problem. How do we behave responsibly as a member of a group, without sacrificing our individualism, or dealing with our sometimes profound differences without resorting to exclusionary methods to do it? What principle do we use to create an atmosphere of inclusion without letting everything go to the point of creating chaos or or meaninglessness at the same time?

What I think a lot of us are really trying to do is recreate community, without belonging to a commmunity which overshadows or negates us as unique individuals. That can seem like a pretty trick balancing act much of the time.Shall there be rules of procedure or not?

This can be a particularly touchy topic for those who have been controlled by others and "ruled" into a state of near non being. Still, we also know the tendency of some individuals (often those creating the rules too) to try to take over completely and invalidate any point of view that questions of disagrees with his or her own.
So for me, I believe the community playing field must be levelled from the start so that all participants know exactly what they can, and cannot, do in such a community. I believe there must be minimal rules but very clear and concise. If not adhered to, the results must be the same for one and all, for only under such circumstances can true equality exist, grow and thrive.

Perhaps such groups which desire this kind of integration of opposites (for we are one AND we are many) should start the process with a simple statement.

"There IS an "I" in this Tieam."

This team includes: Thou, I, Each, All Members.

So, how do we act on that idea?
here are the rules:

Each member on the team must or may:

1. Offer abstract ideas to the group when they have one and/or
2. Question abstract ideas offered by others and/or
3. Offer his/her own FEELINGS and/or
4. Speak at all times when offering specific examples in the first person singular only.

When responding to the offering of another, and when not in full agreement with the ideas offered, the individual responding must offer his or her own experience as the example by speaking while using exactly the same rules.

We keep the words "you" and "they" out of the communication completely. Using this communication style in a group is hard to get used to at first but can accomplish two things simultaneously.

1. The speaker hears and self validates his or her own experience apart from the details of that of others, just by the act of speaking it. It also leaves some room for the speaker to change his or her mind on any or all of the narrative without any pressure from, or obligation to, others to do so.

2. It freely offers information to other group members which each one of them can also accept or reject without any pressure or obligation to do so either.

3. It leaves "debating" out of the presentation and keeps the flow of ideas going. In this way we come together as one unit since we all accept the same principle, at the same time that we are all protecting the rights of the individual to perceive his/her own reality from a unique and valid point of view. It also will keep the individual from being overwhelmed by the group, or pressured into acceptance of something he or she does not really want as the price of "belonging." It creates intimacy rather than enmeshment.

How is this enforced?

A facilitator removes any communications that are outside the stated parameters of inclusion based solely on communication STYLE, not content, personality, or status etc. The same few simple rules apply to all.
The person whose communication has been removed but who wants to continue in the group can do so at any time, without censure or even comment on any previous communications, simply by adopting the simple rules and contributing again by using them. He or she may be saying basically the same things and presenting the same ideas as far as content goes, but only be changing the form of presentation to a non threatening, mutual respecting one.

We could think of it like cooking up a new plan of action. As with cooking, it may not be any real difference in ingredients that makes one dish more popular than another. It may only be the presentation.

The greatest changes in the world are not brought about by those who lecture to others from a 'superior' position about how those others should be and what they should do, but rather by those who have offered themselves as examples for others who are looking for new ways of BEING in the world, while fully acknowledging the right of all others to do the same.


Anonymous said...

I like your ideas about ideals for managing a forum. To insist that offerings be given, and responded to with respect for each others right to hold beliefs, or to make up beliefs.......ultimately acknowledging that is all they are. accepting ownership for the creation, and the holding onto whatever beliefs one has, and not in anyway attempting to convey anyone else is wrong or bad for their choice of simply encourage, respectfully, each other to explore how and to what extent the make beliefs serve themselves, and others, while taking complete responsibility for each others choices...for me the challange is to insist on encouraging each other to be responsible and charitably disposed towards others that for their reasons choose to think or see things differently....Less confrontration, attacking, can only lead to less defensive attacks, and apprreciation for the self involved in every flavor of each our experience of life....Learning to stop being a victim of externals, and accept being responsible for each our feelings as determined by our our interpretation of what is going on.
*smiles hugs* IMHO each of us is awesome.........BenevolentWarrior Larry

Patricia, L. said...

Well BWL,
I posted your comments but I must say I don't quite agree with them all. I want to point out what the difference is: I don't think for example that everyone's beliefs are just vapor or just "made up." I think we must look at concrete reality in all cases but not judge someone else's reality which we did not share. The line "taking responsility for EACH OTHERS choices" kind of threw me too. "Learning to stop being a victim of externals" doesn't sit too well either. Sometimes, some people ARE victims of "externals" and the victims don't choose to BE victims they get chosen by aggressors.
I agree we are all awesome but I think we have something to learn yet before this gets straightened out.