The power of feeling ‘got’: 3 ways to do that for others19 Jun 2016, Posted by Work as Love in Action in
There’s nothing quite like feeling ‘got’.
Friday night last week. And not a normal start to a weekend. At a weekend workshop, I was in a closed eye visualisation exploring how I experience the world through the four Jungian archetypes of Magician, Lover, Warrior and Sovereign. The rest of the weekend unfolded in a blur of emotions and insights … like I say, not my usual weekend.
I was doing Shadow Work, a form of personal growth work that invites us to look at the aspects of our self that our conscious mind has repressed, denied or hidden, but that still live in our unconscious.
And, coincidentally (or not) the previous week, I’d been reading Lawley and Tompkins’ Metaphors in Mind, about using metaphors and Clean Language with clients.
From the combination of these experiences, I was reminded of how wonderful it was to be really heard, understood and ‘got’. And of 3 things that we can do with our clients to help them feel that too:
- It doesn’t have to make sense to you
One aspect of shadow work I love is that it helps us understand our inner world by translating it into metaphors that we then embody in one way or another. That way, we get to see something more clearly so that we can work with it.
It recognises that we are poetic beings. We make sense of the work through an intuitive lens – a felt sense – rather than a rational lens. ‘It’s not if someone can operate from a metaphoric perspective but rather under what circumstances and in what manner…’ say Lawley and Tomkins. We define our reality in terms of metaphors and then proceed to act on that basis.
Last weekend, I found myself working with a complete jumble of images, metaphor, bodily sensations, gut feel…in a way that made utter sense to me. But would do to no-one else. And the facilitators never tried to make it make sense to them. They didn’t need to, because it did to me.
So when a client uses a metaphor to describe their experience, it doesn’t have to make sense to you. In fact, it probably won’t. Don’t even try to understand the internal logic. Just try and enter the client’s world and explore the metaphor alongside them. When working with metaphor, our role is to ‘bless its characteristics – acknowledge it, see it, validate it, see its truth…’ say Lawler and Tomkins. They say ‘you’re asking questions on behalf of the metaphor’, asking questions of the metaphor, and not the client.
2. It’s not about you
In the workshop, we were facilitated pretty much 100% of the time with non directive questions, starting with ‘what would you like to have happen here today’. And it reminded me of the power of that approach.
I was free to explore my metaphors and my inner world in a way that was completely free of outside influence. I never felt that I was being told how it was, or being suggested to see things a certain way.
One of the books I recommend time and time again, is Ed Schein’s book Humble Inquiry. It’s patronising to tell, he says, to do anything other than to inquire into something. So why would we offer anything other than a question? Or have any attitude other than curiosity? Who are we to imagine that we know any better than this this person in front of us. How dare we assume that our view, our interpretation will be of any value?
3. Their words, not yours
Following that line, shadow work draws on Clean Language using the client’s words directly a lot of the time. It’s so powerful. Not paraphrasing using some of my words. Not adapting what I’ve said in order to try and add something to the mix that might move the me on. Not offering an alternative word that seems to make more sense to them. My words, no matter what they are.
One of the most startling moments on the workshop was when I heard something I found very challenging repeated back to me. A word that shook me to the core. But one that I had to own because I knew it had come from me.
When working with my clients, this approach can really challenge my listening and concentration. I tend to work with themes and patterns and connections more easily than I do with granular detail. But accuracy and very close attention to detail is what’s needed here.
So what, indeed? All of this stuff I already knew and do with clients. But the experience of being facilitated this way on the shadow work workshop – where I felt deeply understood, respected and affirmed , ‘got’ through these three simple practices – was such a powerful reminder of the benefits of working this way. And something shifted in my practice.
I often suggest a metaphor to a client but this week I didn’t: I asked about their metaphors and worked only with that. I paid more attention to working further down the non-directive end of the helping spectrum. And I listened more closely and stuck to the discipline of using the clients words a lot more .
You’d have to ask my clients, but I felt a difference.
Love in action
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’m looking for ways that organisations and leaders can do what they do and do it with love.
Lawler and Tomkins say, of working with metaphor, that our role is to ‘bless its characteristics – acknowledge it, see it, validate it, see its truth…’. I’d go further than that. How about that our role with clients is to bless their characteristics – acknowledge them, see them, validate them, see their truth.
Helping people feel ‘got’ is an act of respect and generosity. It’s an act of love to accept people’s inner worlds exactly as they are without in any way trying to make them (even the slightest bit) wrong. Many approaches to development try and change us, tell us we’re (even slightly) wrong and try to correct our course. I’m all for an approach that works with someone exactly where they’re at. That’s love, in action, at work.
Wouldn’t you agree?
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With thanks to Nick Klyne, Liz Remande-Guyard and Sascha Kriese for such a great workshop. You can find details of other shadow work workshops that they and others run in Europe here.