This is one of series of blogs that are a retrospective reflection on Integral City Community of Practice’s experience in taking the In This Together (ITT) course on basic facilitation skills taught by Diane Musho Hamilton and Ten Directions.
In the third module of the course we turned from listening (in week 2) to expressing. We explored the value expressing ourselves with clarity and congruently. Diane asked us to consider that the voices we bring to the conversation impact the perspective we take. Therefore, it is critical that we develop some dexterity in using the voices of “I, we/you, he/she/they/it/its”.
In terms of Integral City these voices are situated in the 4 quadrants like this (which is also Map 1 of the Integral City).
What was the ITT homework?
We received this homework assignment:
- Pay attention to how you communicate (and others communicate) in the 1st person (I/me), 2nd person (you/we) and third person (he/she/they/it/its).
- Notice what you notice.
What did we experience in accomplishing the homework on communicating with the awareness of our 1st, 2nd, 3rd person voices?
As we practised communicating from the 3 voices, we remembered earlier lessons in this course. To choose a voice requires attention and intention (class 1). To initiate or respond to another’s communication we must listen actively and intently (class 2).
We were also surprised that being attentive to the voice we chose, brought back other teachings. One practitioner remembered Anne Wilson-Schaef’s injunction to notice “what I feel, what I want and what I need”. This practice often demanded special focus to discern the differences between what I want and what I need.
This also reminded her of the 1980’s when she was actively involved in the feminist movement where two practised a reciprocal exchange by sharing with the phrase “I want … “. The listener would respond by saying “I want …” , and thereby both persons would utilize this ground rule to get clear on alignments or differences in their “wants”.
Another participant remarked that becoming aware of the voice she uses helps her get out of the habit of taking the same stance all the time; e.g. “being an authoritarian bossy self.”
Most of us agreed that it is both confusing and annoying when someone talks in 3rd person (he/she/they) when they are really talking in the 2nd person (you/we). This substitution dissociates the speaker from what they are really expressing. One participant even remarked, that she considers this practise demonstrates a lack of skilful means. She always wants to ask, “are you talking about me – if so, say so?”
In many Romantic and Germanic languages, the 2nd Person has two forms – formal/polite and informal/intimate. One of our group located in the Netherlands, noticed that in practising this week’s homework he had not used the formal/polite form of expression. This form of expression invited more familiarity.
This remark lead to one person sharing that using 1st person to tell a story demonstrates a level of vulnerability that can feel uncomfortable – especially in public gatherings. But we all agreed, by using 1st person with a genuine story in these circumstances, listeners will tend to listen to your story with more attention – and perhaps sympathy.
Finally, our discussion on expressing with clarity and congruence, surfaced the observation that a speaker can only express authentically from their own experience. Speaking from the 1st person tends to drop the barriers of dissociation that arise by using the 3rd person. In addition, it can protect the speaker from the dangers of projection that arise by assuming you know the experience of the 2nd person without inviting them to tell their own story.
So What does the topic/homework on communicating with the awareness of our 1st, 2nd, 3rd person voices have to do with Integral City practice or training?
As Integral City practitioners, we realized that we have the power to choose what voice we use. Each voice offers us a different expression of reality
We also related the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person voices in a fractal way to the 4 Quadrants of the Integral City and the 4 Voices of the Integral City. At the scale of the city those voices transform into the voices of the Citizen, Civil Society, Civic Manager and Business. Recognizing the fractal nature of voices expressed through linguistic expression helped us to associate them to the power of the 4 Integral City Voices as spokespeople. It is usually important to consider that the 4 City Voices want their Voice to be represented by one of their own. This enables a more natural and powerful connection to what is expressed.
We remembered as a Community of Practice who had undertaken the authorship of a chapter in the book Cohering the We: xxx that we learned how challenging it was, as we wrote the chapter together, to progress through distinct stages from a group of individual “I’s”, to an aggregate of “I’s” and finally to a “We”. As one practitioner expressed we experienced a kind of alchemical change from I to We, “We started as “I’s” … then became a We with still an ability to have “I’s”.”
This experience helped us appreciate that in the city developmental stages emerge at all scales – in the individual, groups, organizations, communities and the city as a whole. So, we came to see that intentionally selecting the voice of expression can be supported developmentally with noticing, attention to the options, mutual coaching and practise as a group.
Now What will we do as a result, of our homework experience, sharing about communicating with the awareness of our 1st, 2nd, 3rd person voices?
- We realized we could put the use of the 3 person voices into effect in our training. This would help us to give participants in our Integral City training a deeper experience of the 4 Voices in the Integral City.
- In our training, we could design 1st, 2nd and 3rd person experiences into learning about the 4 voices of the Citizen, Civil Society, Civic Manager and Business.
- We observed that 1st and 2nd person voices give us qualitative (subjective and intersubjective) exchanges (and data); wile 3rd person voices give us quantitative (objective and interobjective) exchanges (and data).
- Each voice is valuable but partial. We can be intentional in our facilitation and training to seek input from all voices to gain a fuller picture of the whole human system – at any scale in the city.
- A profound learning that we all gained was that in using any voice I/you-we/it/they create a relationship with others. Each of us has great power in choosing the voice we use and thereby creating separation or inclusion of our Self and Others in the conversation.
- The pronoun I choose in my expression defines the relationship I will have. This is a fundamental insight for practising the Master Code.