I'm reading an excellent book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson. I like it because it taps into some of the things that Peacemaking Circles do even though it isn't at all about Peacemaking. And, let's face it, not everyone is going to want to sit down and have a Peacemaking Circle with me.
It's important because it taps into an experience I recently had. Without giving too much away, it went like this:
Person A, Bill, does something that is in conflict with organizational goals and with other people. Bill does not contact anyone so ill will festers. There are feasible reasons for the non-contact like extensive travel. Finally, a conference call is had. Bill keeps talking about the decision in the third person. Such as "they did this" and "they did that."
Person B, Terri *cough*, asks some questions like, "Why are you referencing it as "they" when you should be using the language of "we?" And other questions. At one time, interrupting him and not letting him finish his extensive, off-topic, response, pulling him back to the question.
At the end, the conversation was unsatisfactory for most everyone. Also, almost all the other speakers were silent.
I should've read this book prior to the call. I also should have centered myself more squarely and been prepared to be patient. There are a couple reasons that I wasn't-I was literally getting ready to return home while this portion of the conference call was going on and having a mini panic at the thought of missing my bus from Spokane to Seattle. So there is that.
Looking back, using this book as a guide, two things were happening in this point: Both Bill and I moved into violent conversation. Now, violent conversation doesn't include yelling and being angry all the time. In this case the violence was:
- Me interrupting Bill
- Bill trying to persuade others to come to his viewpoint without having the full pool of shared meaning in the room (what it means to everyone)
Also, in general, most of the others moved to another form of dialogical withdrawal: silence.
Silence and violent conversation are indications that people do not feel safe. For a leader, then, the question is, "How do we create safety?"
The answer is complex. But the first step is working on myself (which is a core Peacemaking Circle principle). Here's the summary from Crucial Conversations on how to simply start the conversation. My summary does not include the strategies to move through the crucial conversation - those will come on another day!
1. Work on me first, us second (the only person I can control is myself)
2. Focus on what you really want
- When you are moving towards silence or violence, stop and attend to your motives.
- Ask yourself, "What does my behavior tell me about what my motives are?"
- Clarify, within myself, "What do I want for myself? for others? for the relationship?"
- Finally ask yourself, "How would I behave if this is what I really wanted?"
3. Refuse the fool's choice
- This is the binary between peace and honesty, my way and your way.
- Clarify what you don't want for yourself and ask your brain to start searching for healthy options to bring you to dialogue
- Parker Palmer refers to this as the Creative Third Way
Basically, it is asking the we become observers of our own behavior at the same time we are in the action of how we are behaving. This is complex stuff because our adrenaline and biological systems get all revved up. But, as I tell the kids in detention all the time, "You can have your inside your brain words and your outside your brain words. Make good choices."
What crucial conversation will you have? How will you have it?
The complete practice today includes:
- Centering with BIBO,
- Breath prayer,
- Music from Cage The Elephant - "Back Against The Wall"
- Reflective quote from Kerry Patterson
- Links to scripture in the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions
- Prayers for the world
- Photo by Lucas Pimenta on Unsplash
Let my heart rise up to meet mercy, my voice to meet compassion, my hands to meet action.
BIBOLOVE: Breath In, Breath Out--hum(repeat for one minute)
Breath prayer (repeat 3-5 times):
(inhale) Author of Life,
(exhale) Help me speak.
You've got me where you want me again and I can't turn away
I'm hanging by a thread and I'm feeling like I'll fall
I'm stuck here in between these shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away
I need to get away
Buddhist Daily Reading: Daily Zen
Jewish Daily Reading: Daily Study from Chabad
Christian Daily Reading: Revised Common Lectionary Daily Reading
Muslim Daily Reading: Daily Verse from The Only Quran
Please bring your own sacred readings to the daily pattern. If there is something else you'd like to see, please share!
“People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool--even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs. Now, obviously they don't agree with every idea; they simply do their best to ensure that all ideas find their way into the open.”
― Kerry Patterson, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Weekly prayer focus comes from the World Council of Churches prayer cycle. We know the world needs to be surrounded with prayer and positive thought. This allows us to work through the world country by country. We focus on one set of countries per week with the same prayer, lifting them up. I encourage you to fill this in however you see it.
Let us pray.
We know that we fail to live up to being makers of peace. Let us bring in rather than push out, be invitational rather than confrontational--seeing signs of life while mourning for the desecration of hope.
This week we pray for the countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama.
For signs of hope and peace, we pray for
the mercy workers working so hard to put out the fires
those faithful who practice nonviolence
the rains that come to refresh the land
our political leaders, that their hearts may be softened and sensibility will prevail
For the oppressed and weary, we pray for
those seeking food and shelter, especially those whose homes were destroyed
those affected by hurricanes, especially Puerto Rico
those who have been harmed by violence, especially those in Las Vegas and Texas Tech
those who suffer in systems of domination, especially the earth
For those we love, those we hate and those we are indifferent to, we pray.
For the transformation from ME to WE, we pray.
Let peace prevail on earth.
So mote it be.
Translation by Neil Douglas Klotz, Sufi
O Birther! Creator of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us— make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now-
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly— power to these statements—
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow: Amen.