In the last blog, we considered the notion of “stranger love.” Here I would like to extend the idea.
I was invited to speak to a group of mid-career people in a part-time doctoral program. I spent much time preparing to be “with” them. To do this, I needed to practice pre-contact collective empathy. Disciplining myself to imagine and orient to their deepest, shared needs, I prepared at two levels. First, I organized content that would hold their attention and invite dialog. Second, I prepared myself to hear what they might communicate at the emotional level. Responding to their deepest messages, I wanted to challenge and support them until they could hear their consciences call them to their highest purpose. This means I wanted to love these strangers into a renewed sense of purpose and vitality. I wanted them to be renewed from the inside out on a daily basis.
At the outset, I invited them to consider some provocative questions. The emergent conversation was full of humorous and skeptical remarks about organizational life. Gradually I moved them to the positive lens. We first examined leadership as they had never considered it. The conversation suddenly became positive and serious. This means we were co-creating a new medium, and the room was becoming sacred space, a place where deep learning could occur.
We then turned the positive lens to something central to their professional lives: learning to do research. We considered the demands on a part-time doctoral student, the notion of purpose, and the question of how to do research with passion.
I felt deep learning occurred, and this feeling was confirmed by comments afterwards. One woman said, “I have selected a topic that originally came to be through academic discussion with my advisor. This morning my mind was taken to a document I was once required to write. It was a statement of my personal learning history. I immediately realized that my research passion is not in my selected topic. Rather, my real topic is embedded in that history. I am going to make a big shift. Thank you.”
There were some similar comments. I left the building was a sense of profound satisfaction. Secular conversations of the world tend to produce intention without passion and efforts that tend to perish. I am grateful for the practice of pre-contact collective empathy and emergent conversations of love that allow the inner person to find purpose and then move through life with a sense of passion, learning, growing, and contributing.
- Is the work of your people driven by a purpose that creates passion?
- What would it mean to approach them with pre-contact collective empathy?
- What would it mean to hold a meaningful conversation in sacred space where they could engage in deep learning?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?