Creating wholeness in collaboration.

(Continued from here.)

Feelings are most primal, and hardest to ignore.

They are powerful triggers to action, and also trigger cycles of thinking, interpretation and meaning.  The “most important facts” then become dominated by whatever triggered the most powerful feelings.

Interpretations are heavily influenced by feelings because feelings focus and filter thinking to derive interpretations.  The interpretations also loop back to explain or justify the feelings, and to justify the actions that the person has taken or wants to take.

Feelings are important and have to be recognized and understood.  But feelings shouldn’t dominate thinking and action.

The only way to break the dominance of feelings is to step back and see them in the larger context of a group of people who have different feelings and interpretations about the same set of circumstances – and whose help is needed to create solutions..

The dialogue process intentionally trains participants to both listen to others, and to suspend judgment in order to make listening possible.   When people stay with the process long enough to get the hang of it, the process can present to everyone a bigger whole that no one person was seeing before.

The focused-conversation method has a similar result by taking the whole group through a process of collecting facts, expressing (and listening to) feelings, and stating (and listening to) interpretations before attempting to reach a decision together.   They get to see not only how other people feel about the situation, but also how they are all coming up with different interpretations based on different experiences and knowledge.

David Bohm’s On Dialogue especially explains how the evolution of individual consciousness is closely related and essential to development of collective consciousness. For example, he relates the ability to suspend and step back from ones own feelings and biases to the process of meditation.  Both dialogue and meditation involve a method of suspension (drawing back) to help individuals expand their awareness to greater wholes than they were previously capable of understanding.  The dialogue process trains individuals to think in more expanded ways by suspending personal judgments and getting a taste of the greater whole that comes from multiple perspectives.

Other references:

One of the best books on the practice of dialogue, by William Isaacs.

A pdf and book describing the Focused Conversation method, by Brian Stanfield and ICA Associates.

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3 Responses to “Creating wholeness in collaboration.”


  1. 1 dholmes April 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    You say “The only way to break the dominance of feelings is to step back and see them in the larger context of a group of people who have different feelings and interpretations about the same set of circumstances – and whose help is needed to create solutions.”
    — yes and not the only way. We focus on what is it that triggered the feeling or association. (As a side note, I tell my classes that as a facilitator, i do not care how you feel about something. I want to know what triggered that feeling — so the group then has something to deal with moving forward.) if you only have the feelings, it is hard to go anywhere and the feelings still have hold on you — even at times in a larger context.

  2. 2 duncanwork April 20, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks, DH. Very good point – there are a number of ways to ‘step back’ and get perspective on feelings. Your method is very helpful for helping both the individuals and the group make sense of things and get beyond the raw feeling level. Simply seeing that everyone in the group has wildly different feelings and interpretations can be very confusing, and can make people want to fight or flee. In order to work, the dialogue process likewise has to deal with those tendencies.


  1. 1 The Deep Structure of Collaboration « 100 Trillion Connections Trackback on April 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

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