Sometimes, those who tell us that they are coming for a meeting or an event do not show up. As a result, we tend to get a little disappointed and even blame them for not honouring their word. However, it would be apt to ask ourselves, “How have we contributed to this very situation that we are complaining about?” “Did we actually give people the space to honestly decline our invitation without feeling that we would think less of them or imagining that they would be penalised in some way?”
The “conversation of dissent” is one of 6 conversations in a framework by Peter Block that informs our practice. It is based on the premise that refusal is the foundation of commitment and one’s “yes” has no meaning if one could not say “no,” in the first place. As such if we want to build sustainable communities, we must encourage dissent and listen to it gracefully and sincerely with a view of strengthening mutual trust and respect. We must be mindful that such authentic conversations are the measure of good work and when people can honestly tell us why they do not want to come to an event, we are making progress.
Last Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting 16 visitors from the Executive Leadership and Organisational Change Programme of the North Kentucky University. After, getting an overview of what we do and why it is important, they returned the favour by facilitating the practice of 6 conversations for our staff and interns. These conversations were at times awkward because they are not commonplace in our daily lives, but the experience was meaningful as we conversed with each other in a way we normally would not.
A meaningful conversation uplifts us and enhances our well-being. A father of 3 children who is visually impaired was all smiles after hosting some of the visitors at his home. He took much pride sharing about the sporting achievements of his children, his hobbies and his voluntary work in his neighbourhood. He elaborated on the neighbourhood savings scheme that his children were a part of and a boat trip his family will be making to visit his wife’s family who live in a village off Batam during the Hari Raya holiday.
Whenever we visit someone, it is only good manners that we bring a gift, and a conversation that enables people to share and learn about each other’s’ abilities, achievements, aspirations and activities would be a satisfying exchange of gifts. The experience that we co-create when we are with each other is the gift we give and receive.
Enjoy your weekend.
All we have to do to create the future is to change the nature of our conversations, to go from blame to ownership, and from bargaining to commitment, and from problem solving to possibility. – Peter Block