Around a month ago I wrote a post on Nonviolent Conferencing. Central to that idea – well, more of an appeal, really – was the use of the four steps of Nonviolent Communication as a framework for the conference and the delegates’ participation:
- Say what you saw, or heard (a simple evaluation-free statement)
- Say what you felt (it can help, initially, to pick from a list)
- Say what you need (again here’s a handy list)
“…because I need/value…”
- Make a request (the concrete actions you would like taken)
“Would you be willing to…?”
Having set through a number of meetings this week, I’m minded of much the same dysfunctions in meetings as I see in the more traditional formats for conferences:
- Speakers not in tune with their own needs nor the needs of their audience.
- “Push” of more-or-less random information – often of little interest or relevance to the audience.
- Tendency to talk about things that work well, rather than air problems that need fixing. Whereas a Solutions Focus is nice, often things that could benefit from others’ positive solutions do not get mentioned.
- Failure to engage with the emotions of the audience (cf Emotioneering).
- Little or no fellowship – limited sense of collaboration and mutual learning.
- Fear, obligation, guilt and shame preventing anyone leaving the room, or even saying anything about their frustrations with the meeting.
- The prospect of future meetings following just the same format, with just the same frustrations.
And in the same vein as Nonviolent Conferencing., I can see nonviolence bringing much improvement to the standard meeting experience.
How would this work?
Basically, the Nonviolent Meeting would bring together
- folks with specific (topic-related) needs, and
- folks who might be able and willing to help meet those needs.
Each participant would:
- Share with the meeting one or more observations (things seen, heard or otherwise observed at their places of work, and related to the topic at hand – free from judgements or evaluations).
- Share what they felt about the thing(s) observed.
- State what they was needing, needs which caused them to feel that way.
- Make one or more specific requests (non-demanding, positive, actionable) of the other folks in the meeting), in the hope that someone (or some number of those folks, together) might be able to meet their request(s).
Following a request (or requests), the folks in the meeting can then, together, consider how they might contribute, singly or in fellowship, to the satisfying of each request.
Aside: This approach might also serve to encourage some focussed thought in preparing for the meeting. I know from my own experience with Nonviolent Communication how difficult it can be sometimes to go from an observation, to a well-identified feeling, to an underlying need, to a specific request, particularly on-the-hoof. Having some preparation time beforehand to follow through the four steps of NVC might be helpful, especially if one could have some colleague or coach to help in the preparation.
Seems to me this could cut out a whole passle of la-la yadda-yadda talk, and get to the crux of the issues on the table – needs that folks have, that they need help with, help from the other folks around the table.
I’d be interested to hear if you’d be willing to give it a go in your next meeting? And to hear your feedback on the idea.