For the past year and a half I’ve been using Dr. Chené Swart’s Re-Dignifying Practices as listening tools and habits to deepen conversations and make them more connective, safe, and inspiring.

When we feel secure, moved, trusting, and truly connected with each other, innovation, motivation, adaptation, and working together through complex times becomes significantly easier. 

I’m noticing that there has been much meaning-making of the world throughout the pandemic, and at the same time, people are even more isolated than usual. This has created a need for balancing and strengthening relationships while being able to share how we are transforming and learning in these times.

The challenge for me has been to find out how we support fearful responses (freeze, flight, or fight) while still maintaining connective and respectful conversations. This is one of the reasons that my colleagues and housemates and I have been playing with the Re-Dignifying Practices. 

The re-dignifying practices provide the environment for conversations where we talk about things that really matter without thinking that we know what people mean. We create spaces where we welcome all the voices and respect the diversity of meaning and ways of seeing the world as gifts that can assist us to move forward together. – Dr Chené Swart

I’ve noticed when I’m facilitating group conversations and these practices are in place, they seem to break or reduce the cycle of feedback, assumptions, advice, concluding/judging, fixing, and debate within our conversations, all of which increase othering and separation. Instead, the Re-Dignifying Practices create meaning in a different way.

They are designed to avoid these conversational flows:

  • The “ping-pong of judgements” – for example: “This thing that is happening is bad, but this thing is good. Oh yes, this is good too. Oh, but this thing is bad”…and so on.
  • World and cultural generalizations that invite debate. For example: The world is this way.” “This is how it is. No this is how it is!” – as if it’s these things are fixed and not shifting constantly.
  • “The Shoulds” – we should do this, we should do that. 

Does this reflect what you’ve seen and heard on your Facebook feed, or during small talk with friends or colleagues these days? I can’t stop seeing these conversational flows. 

This is a cultural norm. From my experience and some research, some of these patterns stem from a survival instinct and some of these patterns are learned cultural norms. It’s totally normal to have these kinds of conversations, but we aren’t in normal times and we won’t ever be again, so perhaps it’s time to try something different. 

The Re-Dignifying Practices invite us to:

  • Connect and inspire each other by sharing how we are touched or moved by what people say or do in our community or the world. Express how we are feeling.
  • Share moments and stories of our lives.
  • Recognize how we are intertwined with each other and the systems we live in, and see the complexity of systems through story while inspiring and feeling grounded with each other.
  • Deepen our understanding of topics and truths through the richness of our stories and experiences.
  • Value each other and the unique gifts we share, and instill a sense of belonging.
  • Hold space for each other to process our feelings and increase our emotional intelligence.

This is what has happened for me:

  • I’ve deepened friendships on walks and online where I never expected to do so so quickly. I’m delightfully surprised constantly as conversations go to places I never expected.
  • I show up in spaces more full of energy to hold space for people who are struggling
  • I share fewer cynical all-encompassing generalizations about the way the world is.
  • I find myself in fewer debates about the state of the world.

Here are two diagrams of this practice, and how I’ve been using it:

Diagram 1 is from a presentation of Chene Swart’s that outlines a common cycle that tends to get our conversations stuck, and shows some suggestions (Practices) for ways to break free from it with the arrows leading out of the inner spiral. 

Re-dignifying-Practices-chene-swart-re-authoring narratives

 

Re-dignifying Practices for Re-authoring Conversations

This table shares the basic practices shared in diagram 1.

Avoid You are invited to
Judging, evaluating, concluding Be carefully curious
Assuming Ask questions that you do not know the answer to by using the vocabulary of the narrator(s)
Fixing, solving problems, intervening and interrupting Elevate the narrator to primary authorship
Giving advice and reframing Listen and be open to being surprised and transformed
Giving compliments, positive judgements, applause, feedback and affirmations Share gifts through the ‘offerings of our moved hearts’ (Carlson & Swart 2015-2017). How are you moved or touched?

 

Diagram 2 displays the suggestions I’ve begun to apply in situations where I have less time to introduce these practices, or if I feel like I may get pushback from the group.

 

practices for deeper connection

When I’m facilitating, sometimes I frame it up with this:

” You’ve probably heard of levels of listening. In our time together, I invite us to:

  1. Instead of Level 1 of listening (Listening to Respond), try:
  2. Listening to Understand – ask questions you don’t know the answer to and seek to understand (do more of this).
  3. Listening to find out how you are moved or touched (do more). “

Then I provide exact instructions for the activity (story sharing, reflection exercises etc.)

What practices are you using to connect more deeply with friends and colleagues? What has bubbled up for you as you read this?