This is my definition: Weaving is the intentional practice of helping people to build – and connect to – more relationships of trust and value., mostly by virtue of being genuinely interesting in building and connecting oneself to more relationships of trust and value. The generosity inherent in the act of weaving can only come from one place – the genuine caring and curiosity of the weaver…the motivation to want this person in your network. If that is the case, the weaver is able to open up all kinds of space for relationship building, action and reciprocity.
In weaving, as in all else, we need to be mostly conscious of the need to “create space” for good things to happen. The act of weaving threads or yarns into fabric is an apt metaphor in this regard; the action of weaving happens in and through space! So, the prerequisite for weaving among human relationships requires first – the opening of space. All “rooms” (spaces, moments) speak to our aspirations and fears in very specific ways. When I enter a new environment (room) – a meeting, a building, and event, a classroom, a program – as an aware human being I am both ‘feeling’ and thinking but feeling happens a lot faster than thinking. Literally I am sensing clues to figure out whether this is a good place for me; Am I welcome? Do I belong? Is this place safe? These spaces and moments are best understood simply as ‘human environments.’ All environments feed certain things and starve other things. Weaving is a critical element of the room in that it can be something that helps feed aspiration and mitigate fear, opening space for good things to happen.
For instance, when I go Christmas shopping I usually have to go to the mall 3 or 4 times. The first time I go it must look hilarious because I am walking really fast in and out of stores. I go in with a degree of curiosity and a general sense of pursuit of value yes? But those sensibilities quickly get snuffed out by a whole host of things…. the most powerful of which is my own fear. And Fear closes space more than any other single thing. Fear forecloses options and opportunity. In this case my natural fear of the retail environment gets quickly amped up by the smiling sales person who makes a bee line for me. Aggressive movements, facial expressions that are out of proportion to the situation (ie the salesperson “so happy to see you smile” ) the sense that this person is going to make me make a choice before I am ready etc. – all these things conspire to close space and foreclose my ability and desire to stay, linger, taste, look, smell , engage, buy. So…. I book it out of there as fast as possible.
Now our organizations are not retail stores and our weavers are not salespeople, but we are trying to create environments that people will linger in long enough to find value a bring out their best stuff. In a retail environment – bringing out our “best stuff” means spending a lot of money. In our environments, this means something very different – our time, our energy, sometimes our money yes. But even more importantly, our best stuff is our generosity of spirit, our hopefulness, our trust, our tolerance for difference and change, our caring selves, our not fearful selves. Weaving is the genuine human caring and love that feeds and encourages these good things.
So…Here are some of my core reflections about weaving:
First rule…weaving is not about acting..it is about being. Our aspiration is that Weavers don’t do…. Weavers are, and weaving is a practice that comes from a genuine place of curiosity and caring. In my view the most important thing about weaving is that it is a practice..not a program. As a practice it is something we can all/should all experiment with, get training in, get supported doing – so that we can all get better.
This leads directly to the Second rule…As a weaver…as I meet you and get to know you….”I am not an expert…I am not a friend..I am not a professional..I am not, not a professional.” This is what I am - “caring and curious and here, right now.” Lucky you, lucky me, lucky us!
The Third Rule of Weaving is: practice Reciprocity. Treat people as you would be treated. This includes having expectations of the person you are engaged with. Expect respect/offer respect. Egage with your whole person as a way of inviting engagement from a whole person.
This leads to Rule Number 4: The core capacity for weaving is self-knowledge; Understand and work to break down your positional power. As a Weaver you do carry positional power – if for no other reason than you occupy the space that others are coming into for the first time…you wear a special shirt etc., you are sitting at a table that they have to approach..you are a different color…you are already an inhabitant where they are a visitor. Positional power dynamics close space – if you are perceived as the powerful one and they as the needy one you have already foreclosed dozens of opportunities for good things to happen. You have taken small measures of space and closed it up. You must move quickly and genuinely to break down the positional power/one-way-street expectations and assumptions that they might have and that you might fall into and open space. There are many of these expectations and assumptions we can explore, but the most seductive of these is the “expert-learner” dynamic. You are the expert in this environment, I come to you with a question.
Because of this dynamic, our practice of weaving starts with one essential mantra: “Your question is my question.” If we practice nothing else, the practice of feeling this, believing this, expressing this at the point of contact will do so much to shatter the ‘expert-learner’ dynamic and open space for relationship, growth and reciprocity. This can be very subtle.
Ms. Palombo comes into Our House. She has heard there is a youth program but knows nothing about MC. She comes in and – expecting this to be the usual social service place – starts asking the guide about “how to apply…how much it costs…when does it start…etc.)
Scenario #1 – Guides expectation is that he/she has to be the expert. Starts answering questions…but a little unsure of some things…will (as we all do) get somethings wrong..state things that may not be true..get flustered….go internal, where the voice in the head starts saying “what do I say next” as opposed to ‘what do I want to know about this person – this situation next.” This quickly becomes an unsatisfying conversation for both parties AND we still don’t know anything about Ms. Polumbo.
Scenario #2 – Guides expectation that they are a weaver. Starts by saying..Hmmm not sure, been wondering about that myself…maybe we can find out together what the situation is. I call this “going sideways”: using language and physicality to open up space for a variety of encounters to take place, as opposed to closing space. So the weaver says..lets go find out together, and starts asking Ms. Polumbo questions about herself and kids. The weaver also gets active…gets up and walks her around to the computer. Moving together, talking together, exploring together.
Scenario #1 closes space by establishing or reinforcing a static power dynamic, one way conversation and dependency. Scenario #2 opens space through invitation – to walk, talk, explore.
Stay tunes for the next installment – a reflection on the nature of space and description of things that open space and things that close space.