Helena Clayton | Work as Love in Action 2: has love gone underground?
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Work as Love in Action 2: has love gone underground?

22 Oct 2015, Posted by Helena Clayton in Work as Love in Action

One of things I noticed when I first starting talking about ‘work as love in action’ is how many people didn’t like using the word love. It felt as though they wanted to steer me onto safe ground when I talked about my new blog. ‘You don’t mean love, though, do you? You mean compassion or empathy, don’t you’. No, I don’t, actually, I mean love. ‘Well it’s about engagement, I guess’. No, it’s about love, I guess.

I wondered why it appeared to feel so uncomfortable. And I was reminded what Bob Marshak says about what goes underground in organisations, what rarely gets spoken about. In Covert Process in Organisations, he names several things that are taboo subjects … emotions, our fears, hidden agendas. And also aspirations – it’s somehow not acceptable to talk about our hopes and dreams, and what we long for. If it’s true of aspirations, I imagine that the same goes for love, even though it’s not expressly on Marshak’s list.

Do you find it uncomfortable to talk about love? Even with friends and family, let alone within your organisational life? I used to, I think, but for the last year, I’ve been finding ways to get it in the conversation. When I introduce myself to groups or, if a coaching client asks what approach underpins my work, I might say something about the principles of self managed learning or the important of including intentional practice. But I also often say something like ‘but I am increasingly finding it all comes down to love’. I usually notice a reaction of surprise. And then usually a curiosity, and a softening … and people often tell me that they find it surprising, but also human. I feel it strengthens our relationship, in some way. Those people who say nothing to me about it, well, I wonder what they feel?

And so, if you’ll excuse the fruity language (turn away now, if it offends), I’ll quote Steve Coogan in a recent interview when he says “….My adage is that the edgiest word to use at the moment isn’t “fuck”,”piss” or “shit”. It’s love. That’s what really makes people’s buttocks clench. It’s about being vulnerable, it’s counterintuitive, it ultimately makes you stronger. And that’s a very hard thing to grasp.”

And so, as we set off on this journey-via-blog, a question for you, an inquiry, if you like…what do you notice in your own life – including your working life – about whether the word love is used? And an invitation, an experiment, maybe…try and use the word love in your organisation, in whatever context feels safe or possibly radical. See what happens. Then come back here and share your experience.

(This post is part of series on ‘work as love in action’. You’ll find the Intro post on my Blog page)

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