“Who grew me? I listened to you.” Sister Joan Chittister.
Change is happening around us! What am I doing about it?
This is the question that is playing in my mind 24/7 these days…and getting louder and louder. Confession: I do not have the answers but thought that writing through the inputs might help get to a better question. This blog is, after all, a learning journal.
I invite you in a spirit of openness. The goal is not to convince you of a way of thinking. The goal is to walk together to begin to inspect some assumptions, to shine a light on some elements that seem left out of the immediate discussions and to begin to understand a path forward.
It is never my professional role as a Change Management Lead to choose strategy so I am pretty conditioned to be passive and wait for leadership to develop and inform on the vision and approach. Unless you are on the leadership team it may be your role to wait too. Even if you are on the leadership team you may be leveraging last cycle’s plan and may not be looking back and forward very far for context.
Understanding what is happening in the world today and deciding on our personal actions requires an active approach, perhaps a bit foreign for us. It’s important to recognize that we have to change gears.
What is the most relevant CM capability?
We have many deep capabilities we can bring to the table to improve our current situation. It seems to me that facilitation is probably the most important one.
Why facilitation? Because while it matters what you and I each think separately, it matters more what we think collectively.
It matters that everyone, and I mean everyone including those we disagree with so much as to even be tempted to treat contemptuously, joins in the discussion. Everyone must feel heard and respected. When any group feels isolated and left behind we get the very dangerous situations we are facing today. I admit that this pushes the limits of my integrity and I believe that anyone committing criminal acts forfeits the right to be part of the conversation however that does present significant challenges that I will not take up here.
Yes, we each need to do our own research and develop our own informed positions and stake out our own key lines. I am in no way suggesting that we dilute our own beliefs and values. Nor I am suggesting equivocating. Our own moral positions are critical. However, I am dismayed that many people with whom I thought I shared some values and beliefs seem so far removed. I discovered yesterday that Psychology has a term for this: “separate realities”.
I found this article insightful: “Resolving Conflict in a Relationship” Psychology Today, Jan 9 2019. In particular the following quote resonated: “The first step in dealing with a disagreement based on differing emotional realities is recognizing that there is, in fact, a difference based on differing realities—not a contest with a bad person.”
We can draw on capabilities in our profession not to convince others of our point of view rather to develop a shared view forward (that includes our own view).
This will require a new level of skill that most of us do not have right now.
I expect we will all need additional education on facilitation techniques. Please do share your favorite resources in the Comments.
Where to start? What can I do (keep doing)?
You know that we have a wonderful exercise to apply here – Start, Stop, Continue. Of note, it is represented in three lists so the items are not in implementation order. Here’s what it looks like for me:
- Remember context every day. Action item: recall the long arc of change and the key moments of impact in it
- Practice active optimism. Action items: Create a list of quotes that resonate for me in these times. Create a music play list to start my day and lift my spirits as needed. Plan for the future.
- Get more engaged in local politics. Action item: find out who my local representative is and follow their activities
- Remember we are ALL in this together. Action item: Check in with friends and family with different points of view – make sure they are okay first.
- Develop more advanced facilitation skills. Action items: Focus on things like agreeing to disagree and lowering the emotional load on that; learning how to ‘hold space for each other’ and remember that we can listen without agreeing; asking questions to move dialogue forward; finding shared values – they are deeper than the issues of the day (we probably agree that ‘everyone should have opportunity’ – we may not agree on whether that’s true today or how to get there. Let’s start from where we left off). This might be one of the harder and more important action items. We have become so entrenched in our own narrow worlds that we no longer find our commonality. We must do better to go forward together.
- Know your line and know what “hill to die on”. It’s important to know the values you don’t share and fair to express that however if you stop a discussion there you break the relationship. Action item: Find a new language – maybe “that is not consistent with my experience but I acknowledge that it is your experience – can we allow that all situations are not the same?”
- Stop giving in to fatigue and apathy. Action item: add in more active self talk and self care, including disciplined exercise (if health care workers can go to Covid wards it’s the least I can do)
- Stop binary thinking. If we take the position that every issue, point of discussion, is right/wrong then we are probably minimizing context, over simplifying complexity and increasing polarity. Action items: Broaden conversations with more context. Seek solutions (experiments) that are contextual.
- Active education (including opposing view points)
- Bear witness (including hearing opposing view points) – don’t look away
- Engage in conversations with those with different views, perhaps begin with those adjacent – that is, where we have something in common but our colleague is further ahead or to left or right or our own views on topics of the day
- Add my voice, respectfully, on the issues that I believe are important
Starting with resources and quotes
It’s remarkable how the universe operates! After I wrote the above, a post showed up on my Facebook. If you are interested in ‘why are these things happening’ and ‘what should I do’ then have a listen.
Interview with Sister Joan Chittister on her book “The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage”. If you wonder “how do we get out of the swamp we are in?”, if you relate to Christian values but wonder how we have drifted from share values of “human unity and care for one another”, then this is a great conversation.
Here are some key points (paraphrased):
- “anxiety and passivity” … that people who are doing okay right now are worried about the future but “we were trained to be nice not to be good” … passivity leads to the silence we are seeing now” and “all hoping that the storm won’t hit here”
- “Stop … Not only are we going in the wrong direction we have simply abandoned the right direction. The right direction is where we came from. We came from civility. We came from a place of common good. We came from compassion… we came, as a democratic nation, from the honor of compromise.”
- “…we have partisanship tearing us apart and embedded in our national framework” … “both sides”…”talking about a contrary attitude”
- What to do? “It’s not so difficult” … “become aware of what’s happening around you” eg if there’s a bill before Congress on Medicare then:
- Pick a cause
- Study! Call family together, call club together and discuss “what are the implications of this? Who will be advantaged / disadvantaged?”
- Do something. “When was the last time you donated $5 to the whales?” Don’t complain if you are not taking action
- “The pressure to be quiet.”
- “It’s finding the courage to utter the first word of truth in public that takes all the strength we can muster. It’s learning to say quietly, unequivocally: ‘I think differently about that.’ … It’s the most subversive thing you can do.”
- “We’re not here to win… We’re here to grow… to leave the world a better place. You only do that through civil discourse.” “My mind gets to open up. My heart gets more open.” “Who grew me?” “I listened to you.”
- Your choices:
- “Not me. Not my problem. Let others handle that. I don’t get into that political stuff as if you really are an independent member.
- Roll over. Succumb. That’s the way it is right now. Let them do it. I’m sure it will all turn out alright.’
- Deal with it. Study it. Form / join a group. Support something. This is how I want to do my part. Get engaged.”
- “Left and right are equally hysterical … and solving nothing.”
- “Discovered two things … either you don’t say anything for fear of splitting the group and then you find yourself without a home, a country a planet. I hear many saying I can’t watch anymore. Debating has become win or lose. Simply saying read and study and get involved.”
What are the topics top of mind? Here’s a few for me:
- What is happening to democracy in the US? Here is an insightful opinion “We are falling on our face because we are jumping high. A dash of perspective in a dark hour” from Anand Giridharadas TIME editor-at-large, author and MSNBC political analyst. And the video at the end is equally worthwhile.
- Advancing diversity and becoming anti-racist
- Balancing freedom of expression on Social Media
Well, that’s a LOT. Much to continue thinking about, researching, deciphering.
What issues are keeping you up at night?
What are you all thinking about on these issues?
How are you engaging?
How are you meeting these moments?
Change Whisperer by www.gailseverini.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.