Every year, towards the end of winter, we hold an all-day 8 Limbs admin staff retreat. Studio Managers and those of us working in the back offices gather at Owner/Studio Director Anne Phyfe Palmer’s house for a day of reflection and a home-cooked meal. We talk about what we did well in the past year, what we didn’t do and where we’ve got room to grow. We also make commitments around how we’ll direct our energy in the coming 12 months to best serve our mission.
For 2016 that day fell on March 2nd, and included some extra food for thought. As you may be aware, we dedicated 2016 to the year 8 Limbs would hold difficult conversations. We’ve come to recognize the role that our willingness, behind the scenes, to hold difficult conversations has played in getting us to where we are today – a business doing pretty well halfway into its 20th year.
What does it really mean though, as a business, to make a public commitment to holding difficult conversations? What are we asking of ourselves and what are inviting from others? These are the questions I have been asking myself the past couple of months.
Trust is what keeps coming up for me. To willingly participate in difficult conversations involves a willingness to risk vulnerability. And a willingness to risk outward or public vulnerability, in a manner that is constructive and healthy, usually requires some semblance of trust.
We’re still fine-tuning the Trust Agreements we collectively created during our retreat, I hope to share them with you all next month. For now I’d like to share the reflection practice I led at the opening of our retreat that laid the groundwork for our Trust Agreements. This practice helped us determine how 8 Limbs will need to show up to facilitate trust with our community and how each of us behind the scenes is willing to show up to foster trust in day-to-day interactions.
Conditions of Trust – A Reflective Practice
I recommend setting aside at least 10 minutes and finding a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. You may want to begin by settling your energy with a few grounding breaths or silence. You may also find it helpful to have a journal and pen on hand.
- Imagine a time when you were asked to be vulnerable, or you felt vulnerable, and you DIDN’T go there – you didn’t open up, you didn’t feel safe enough to be outwardly vulnerable.
- What does that feel like physically? Where do you feel it in your body? Pause with these sensations for a few moments.
- Looking back, what conditions (or lack of conditions) do you feel contributed to that feeling of not safe enough? It could relate to the location, something someone said, the way someone spoke, or the condition of your own mind. Take a few moments to notice what arises.
- Now imagine a time you were called on to be vulnerable, or you simply felt vulnerable, and you DID go there – you did open up, you did feel safe.
- What does that feel like physically? What sensations arise in your body? Take a minute or two to feel in your body how safe, or safe enough, shows up.
- Reflecting back on the situation, what conditions do you feel contributed to that experience of feeling safe? Again, the setting may have made a difference. Something someone said or did could have played a role. Your own state of mind might have helped. Spend a few minutes noticing what comes up for you.
Staff did not need to share what came up for them during this practice but they were encouraged to let their reflections guide them in our work the rest of the retreat. They were encouraged as well to listen to their bodies for clues about how safety and vulnerability present themselves. I also invite you to consider, for yourself, what conditions make YOU feel safe enough to be part of a difficult conversation. And what does that feel like in your body? If you would like, please also feel free to share what would make your ideal Trust Agreement list with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the spirit of holding difficult conversations, Ashley will be hosting the April 8th installment of our Many Paths Book featuring the book It’s Not About the Money by Brent Kessel. 7:00 – 8:30pm, @ 8 Limbs Wedgwood. This is a free event, tea & treats provided! Click here for more details.