We > Me, but we still need all ‘I’s’ on board and on the prize…

Collaboration, engagement, the world of facilitated interactions, it’s all soaked in ‘we, us, the group, our society, the world’.

And for good reasons, because there’s enough egoism going on, and people focusing on just themselves.

And yet… for ‘us’ to thrive’ we need all ‘i’s’ on board and on the prize, ready to support the collective ambition. Perhaps there’s a hidden wicked question here: “How is it that in collaboration we try and focus on what matters for the collective, and at the same time we have to make sure that everyone, individually, finds their place in there.

If we don’t invite individuals properly in the group, we may remain in the cushy world of platitudes that give a fake sense of a coherent collective. Phrases like “we all know what’s best for us” (NOT, because what might be best for you might not be best for me) or “That’s your opinion, but that’s not what the rest of us thinks” (OH, and how do YOU know what ‘the rest of us’ thinks?)…

So we need to give proper attention to the individuals that are forming the group. It’s a matter of a) acknowledging who is in the room, b) appreciating our unique profile and qualities (and how they get to complement each other as in the S in STAR), c) understanding our experiences and deeper motivations, d) processing our own thinking, e) expressing our individual opinions on the way the group is going… so me is indeed totally meshed up with ‘we’…

(Photo credit: Dewey Ambrosino)

Here are some examples of how we can invite the many ‘I’s in our collective interactions:

  • By doing activities and exercises that draw directly from who we are (whether icebreakers or icemelters that reveal more of our own private world and personality) and help us reveal ourselves… to ourselves first of all (remembering who we are) and to each other. A spiral journal really helps in this individual grounding, among many other options…
  • By celebrating the diversity, complementarity and individuality in the collective, so we appreciate all the shades of the rainbow we are composing together. My comfort questions there are ‘what is your unique hidden superpower?’ or ‘what do you think you are best or uniquely placed to contribute to this gathering?’ etc.
  • By focusing on the experience of the other person, deeply, attentively listening to what they have to say, not interrupting them, not guiding them in our own thinking but staying with their train of thoughts. This could be as part of e.g. Heard Seen Respected, a celebrity interview, or simply any interaction where one person asks the other person to share some moment, experience, reflection…
  • By asking everyone to compose their thoughts by themselves (one of the go-to design decisions in Liberating Structures, starting for instance a 1-2-4-all with some time thinking alone);
  • By asking everyone to voice their individual opinion on a matter, whether in converging towards a possible solution, even further in a group decision making moment, or simply by organising for instance a structured go-around to hear everyone’s opinion, or inviting people to share their opinion in writing (even anonymously).

This stuff matters, because it allows us to find ourselves, our space and time, our thoughts, our voice, our confidence, our role, our energy as part of the wider orchestra that is the group we are interacting with/in. The orchestra is only as good and strong as every instrument plays its part -individually- well and is collectively supporting the whole. At the same time, paying attention to every individual in the group helps us move away from the ‘we’ language (who is ‘we’?) towards each individual person, which brings more strength and authenticity…

It makes all the more sense to pay attention to ourselves individually when we are change-makers and we know that every individual is actually contributing in big and small ways to any change process ongoing or desired.

This element of ‘meshing me in the we’ will be one of the themes that will no doubt surface and be unpacked at our upcoming Liberating Structures immersion workshop in November.

Come and explore this and many other aspects and structures mentioned above.

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