Yesterday, Sunday, was about the exploration of stories and roles. When you have some important information, how do you share it in an ethical way? It would be easy to stand on the street corner with a sign that says, “WE ARE ALL GOD!!!” but that’s not going to work. You can’t force messages, and the messages would be meaningless anyway without the person actually experiencing something.
Sunday I spoke at Anne’s ministry in her Woodinville home. (Thank you so much, Anne!) Here are some things I learned from that:
1) It was a situation where people came together by choice, which gives permission to speak about these touchy subjects.
2) I’ll learn as much new information from the audience as I put into the speech.
3) Everyone has their own thread of a story going on right now. Some of it will make no sense to me and I’ll have to listen closely to empathize, but some of it will make perfect sense.
4) Public speaking can be a trap. If this is the way I’m choosing to help people heal, then I need to make sure I’m approaching this as a conduit for the healing and not as the source. That is, don’t get an inflated ego from helping people.
After that I went to the Occupy Seattle protests with Ben. We did an interesting role playing game where one person acts as a banker or police officer, and the other is a protestor. Ben and I were each paired with a person we didn’t know. Here’s what I took from that experience:
1) an effective way to communicate when you anticipate a confrontation is to ask, “Why do you think I’m here?” This takes the attack element out of your side, it asks the person to empathize with you, and it also shows them that you care about what they think. Brilliant little maneuver. However,
2) I discovered, to my disappointment, that most of the people there had warped views of what the upper-middle class thinks. Which isn’t to say that I know what they think exactly, but I’m pretty sure they would never say to my face, “I’M RICH AND YOU’RE POOR AND YOU CAN GO FUCK YOURSELF.” Many of the protestors seem to believe that this is the position of the rich. It’s fucking ridiculous. They are putting all people with jobs & comfortable lives into a box, not giving them space to play a role in something they might actually agree with. They assumed that $=lack of compassion, and of course that’s wrong. The upper and middle classes are playing roles in a game in the same way we are.
3) Clothes are important. So many of the protestors were dressed as the counter culture. Here’s my question: If you are presenting yourself in a way that is a statement about separation from the mainstream, then how can you expect the mainstream to identify with your movement? I have no doubt that – say – 80% of Americans think that a major change needs to happen. But if my window washing clients can’t see themselves in the protestors, they’re not going to think there’s space for them in this movement. Not a lot of people want anarchy, but many people want corporations and government to be more separate. When putting on your costume for the day, consider channeling the “no corporate government” self, not the “destroy all property” self. Then when you have a stronger movement, hijack part of it and destroy all property, if that’s what you want.
4) Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of vision at the protests. Many people have positioned themselves as the enemies of “bad people” when I know in my heart from traveling and being a window washer and coaching and spirituality that there’s no such thing as a bad person, only a sick person, and you don’t heal a sick person by attacking them. I’m disappointed that this movement isn’t taking advantage of this moment to INVITE bankers to come have a genuine dialoge without wearing costumes; to INVITE middle class people to speak and offer their insight; to INVITE the Tea Party to try to find common ground and work past all the perceived conflicts.
The word I kept coming back to was COMPASSION.
Where’s the compassion in this movement?
It just looks selfish when all the talk is about money. This shit is about JUSTICE. We should be positioning the UNJUST and their defenders as our opponents, not just “the rich” or “the bourgeois.” This isn’t us against them. It’s all of us against a story that tells us we all have to be this way. We all – every single one of us – can benefit from shedding a story that doesn’t serve us well.
5) I learned that in a conflict, the people who are trying to impose new boundaries will inevitably fail to accumulate support, even from me, who is very very friendly to the movement. The people who are trying to dissolve boundaries, who are inclusive and have compassion for their “opponents” have a better chance at success.
Suffering = pain * resistance. If we remove the attacking dialogues that demand resistance, then the pain of a major shift will be bearable.
Finally, Ben and I were talking about humor and music. I told him that I think music is a technology that allows people to communicate spiritually with one another. He said that humor (for example, a joke) is less of a construction and more of a transmission of an emotional state. We’re saying the exact same thing.
Effective communication focuses on the transmission of an emotional state. You need to use all your tools (body language, context, clothing, props, listening skills, facial expressions, content, audience participation and words) to that end.