Every Conversation is a Negotiation

A fleeting moment; 'Seen.'

A fleeting moment; 'Seen.'

Sawubona ~ "I see you."
Ngikhona ~ "I am seen."

(Zulu Greeting)


At the heart of my work is a will to offer witness and I'm always grateful that visual methods let me literally 'see' people.  Yet, like in any 'conversational' exchange, there is aggression and vulnerability implicit each time I make the invitation of a portrait.  As I raise a camera to my eye, I know that the negotiation, "...Is this OK..?" will take place in a fraction of a second.  

We all share a need validation and, as any therapist, coach, dialogue practitioner or even Oprah will tell you,  people want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’

This fundamental negotiation is often missed in business as we strive for faster, bigger, better.  Curt emails are the norm as we seek efficient brevity. New projects are announced by addressing who is in charge, what the task is and who will fill the required roles.  In our urgency, questions of identity and connection are ignored. Yet when business projects unravel, it's rarely because a team lacked technical capability; rather their relationships fell apart, competing agendas emerged, other priorities came to the fore, people decided they would be better off elsewhere.

High control, top-down management is becoming less viable these days.  In our complex, networked world we prefer to put faith in trust and relationship rather than transaction. As I convene groups, I use a process based on Jack Gibb's TORI model which places trust and mutuality at its core. The model suggests we should guide members of a team or group through 4 questions:

Who am I? (What is my purpose? Am I clear about what is important to me?)

Who are you?  (Can we work together? What will help us connect well?)

What will we do?  (Can we agree on a shared purpose and pursue our aims together?)

How shall we do it?  (What roles will we need? Who will be in charge? How will power, responsibility and achievement be recognised?)

As we foreground questions of trust, identity and connection, we set the ground for honesty and spontaneity which, in turn, enables the creativity and clarity that is critical groups to both find and successfully resolve their purpose.  

And, as we each feel seen and heard, we can begin to feel the sense of the Zulu term Ubuntu ~ "I am because of who we all are."



Jack Gibb's TORI model and references for his work can be found here.

I've probably risked cultural (mis) appropriation of Ubuntu but "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity" feels like an increasingly important philosophy upon which to base a shared vision for the world.