If you can follow me?

Image of communication by ChatGPT

Doubting is normal, thinking is absurd. We try to end doubt, volatility, ambiguity, complexity or uncertainty through thinking. Have some clearity. Unfortunately, it’s the thinking that is introducing these very concepts.

You’re not absurd. Thinking is inherently paradoxical. The seemingly absurdism of life emerges from thinking – or the way we’re thinking we’re thinking. Our dominant way of thinking excludes paradoxes. Please note that paradoxes and absurdity invoke each other. It’s the mother of humour.

We think we’re thinking in language – one doesn’t. I’ll explain later. We think we communicate meaning through language. One doesn’t. Because our current way of using language implicitly requests compliance with the speaker or sender. If you can follow me?

Watzlawick (Pragmatics of Human Communication, which starts to my delight with paradoxes) writes: “the relationships classify the meaning of the content“. The same sentence – “do you want a cup of tea?” – contains (excuse my metaphor) different meanings depending on the relationships: during a job interview, with your mother, in a café, … .

With every message you communicate (also) meta-communication: communicating the relationships.

We are educated to think a message contains meaning and this is meaning-as-intended-by-the-sender (the conduit metaphor of communication). At school, university and organisations, – and also with any field of science – one is supposed to comply with “definitions” by “the teacher”, “the professor”, “the boss” and “the method”. (You can see, why I’m a fan of the record https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Guru,_No_Method,_No_Teacher .

Most of our teacher – including Shannon, Information Theory – exclude paradoxes, because they invoke ambiguity. So in the theory of information transfer, “meaning” is excluded. Funny enough, the very word “define” means to completely limit.

We’re supposed to follow the speaker, the leader. I like to use this quote from Life of Brian: “You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! Youve got to think for yourselves! Youre all individuals

Implications for facilitation

Always be aware about your position. In communicating strive to be at the same level with the participants. Sit when they sit, stand when they’re standing. And when sitting or standing, position yourself next to them and preferably not opposite.

As a facilitator, I never define my definitions. I just ask what they make of what I’m saying. Interestingly enough, many times, people get angry with me. Even fellow facilitators. I understand their anger, I’m requiring them to think for themselves. And also, implicitly, question their power position.

If participants ask for an explanation: let them explain themselves. If you’ve explained yourself, and they don’t understand, repeat your message with the same words. Don’t paraphrase or use another metaphor. If you do, they have to compare something they don’t understand with something they don’t understand either.

If you’re feeling stuck, participants may also be stuck. Try moving to another position.

About Lelie Jan

Met diversiteit kom je verder, wanneer je elkaar beter begrijpt.  Jan Lelie kan helpen. Ik faciliteer besluitvorming met behulp van mijn mind@work methode. Sommigen noemen het agile, anderen lean of serious play. Het zit er allemaal in. Daarnaast geef ik workshops en master classes aan professionals die zelf beter willen faciliteren.
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