Generative Listening and Speaking

Day three was devoted to the skills required to use Theory U effectively.  David explained the seven principles of generative listening:

  • Slow down and be present
  • Pay attention to the words of the people
  • Pay attention to the words and images used by the speaker
  • Become aware of their feelings
  • Suspend judgements
  • Seek clarification by asking questions
  • Pay attention to your own feelings.

Donal then went on to explain the four stages of generative speaking or responding.

  • Say what you heard
  • Say what has been triggered as you listened
  • Say what you don’t fully understand
  • Say what you found missing in the other person’s talking

Donal formed a ‘fish bowl’ of Brothers who tried to put generative listening and responding into practice.  Finally, the group broke in groups of four to practise some generative speaking and responding.

Profiles of Leaders

The morning continued on from yesterday where the Brothers concentrated on the various toxins that may be preventing the Brothers from moving on.  Donal then explained the four types of leadership: Traditional, Participative, Visionary and Co-Creative.  One could say that the order listed here reflects the development over the years as to how our leaders and leadership teams functioned.

David continued the conversation, introducing the work of George Kohlreiser who classified leaders as courageous, controlling, closet and cocoon.  The Brothers formed groups to discuss the observable behaviours of each of these leadership types, and to identify the qualities that each of them might have.  David stressed that the move in the type of leader – from hero to host – is more suitable to a world where the issues are complex and cannot be managed by one person.



The last day of this interesting workshop on Transactional Analysis focused on how communication can be improved by using such models as Anita Mountain’s ‘Concept for thinking’ which goes from Basic safety through positive reinforcement, clear communication, productive activity, integration to final celebration.  David Rock’s SCARF model was also briefly explained:  Safety, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness

Karen also introduced the idea of the cultural script, and the group spent considerable time in discussing how the culture of religious life can often require a person to make a choice between the values of religious life and the values of other cultures.

Finally, the group spent some private time, reflecting on the learnings of the week’s workshop, and then gathered in open forum to share the fruits of their reflection.

The Energy that Moves Us!

The day found the Brothers engaged in developing further understanding on the concept of energy, proposed by Diarmuid  O’ Murchu as an important concept in our understanding of life and spirituality. Sr. Alba shared with the Brothers the different manifestations of energy, impacts the universe and the different ways it can be used positively. The energy within the human person was explained through the Chakra System. They were also given hands on experience on how to use, colour and sound in meditation, energy for healing self and others, in practicing forgiveness and in blessing self and others.

Conflict Management

Kathy Vaughan began the workshop by getting the groups to mingle and share their hopes and expectations for the workshop as well as sharing their learnings about conflict from their past.  Then, she invited the group to list the norms for the successful running of the two days.  She defined conflict as ‘An expressed struggle between two or more interdependent parties related to real or perceived incompatible goals, differing interests and ability to frustrate my interests and or ambitions in the present or in the future.’

She introduced a game where she invited Brothers to attempt to bring a partner to the other side of a line.  In this she explained how we find it difficult to see solutions to a problem when we take the message from only one perspective!

She outlined the relationship between the achievement of a task and the degree of relationships involved.  There are, according to Kathy, five approaches to conflict which she described as competition, accommodation, avoidance, compromise and cooperation. Each approach is valid at certain times. She emphasized how each one also is based on a world view, on certain beliefs about self and others and on what one wants to achieve.

She outlined how often conflict can be analyzed by using SBI.  S describes the situation that is happening.  B refers to the behaviour that is taking place. I stands for the interest that each part has in the conflict moment.  I also stands for the intent of the conflict meaning that each incident explains why we pay attention to the happening and what this event tells me about myself.

Kathy then invited the Brothers to practice listening (to a subject like a moment when I was proud etc)  without making a comment.  Then she repeated the exercise where we asked questions that would further the conversation. And then finally, she repeated again the 90 second conversation with the listener summarizing what they heard.

Finally Kathy offered some handouts on self-reflection on a critical incident and on preparing to engage in a difficult conversation.

The Prophetic Dimension of Religious Life

The sessions of the second day blended well with the prayer of this morning: “Do this in memory of me.” The three topics addressed on the second day were Religious Life as Prophetic, Being an Adult Christian in God’s Household and Today’s Missionary Landscape

In the first session   Diarmuid O’ Murchu, explored with the group the prophetic dimension of religious life. Tracing the history of the prophetic call, back to the OT Prophets and to Jesus,   he showed us how the new understanding of our prophetic call today needs to be seen, more as communal than personal. In this context, the Christian Brothers were affirmed for jointly witnessing to this new evolving understanding, now made visible in the vision of Journeying Together and the practical efforts being made to live in a new way.  The liminal role of the prophet today was described as a commitment to  being counter cultural to the values of power and domination, speaking the word prophetically, criticizing in order to energize,  keeping alive the hope through the power of imagination, going the extra mile no matter what the cost, and networking for effective action and radical transformation.

In the session, Today’s Missionary Landscape O’ Murchu, shared with the group the evolving understanding of being a missionary over the years. He proposed a downward up or an incarnational and inclusive  model of missionary involvement,  that begins with experience, followed by dialogue and story, a way that involves  discernment, building communities of empowerment,  leading to a joint effort at global transformation. We are invited to take into account  the missionary horizon’s for the 21stcentury while planning for future ministries. Taking up ministries that involve systemic change, eco-justice, reconciliation and healing, working with people suffering the plight of social dislocation and discerning, empowering, befriending and partnering with the lay missionary of the future is a way of living liminally in our present times.

The day ended with a bread and wine ritual where the community of 32 Christian Brothers gathered to break the word of their lives by celebrating the miracles that daily touch our lives and by sharing bread and wine in a fellowship meal.

Theological Reflection

The morning was taken up with a group session of theological reflection. This practice of taking a significant issue or event and sharing this event with the rest of the group can be a very powerful way of getting insights into the significance of the experience.  Following the sharing of the event, the rest of the group offers either an image or a gospel passage that throws light on the experience.  Following this group contribution, the person has some time to reflect on what he has heard and then a moment of sharing the enriched insights gained through the process.

In the afternoon, the Brothers continued the conversations especially on  the life of the clusters in India and Africa.  This was a good moment for all to express their hopes and fears about the community life and ministry of the Brothers.

Communication Skills

Sunil continued with his workshop on Nonviolent Communication.  He introduced the idea of ‘Hard Conversations’ inviting the Brothers to act out various reactions to moments of conflict.  He offered various responses that people can have in such situations:

  • Reactive and blaming
  • Self blaming
  • Self-awareness and feelings
  • Awareness of the feelings of others

Sunil also continued with the four agreements and presented the aspect of not making assumptions and always doing our best. The Brothers integrated the techniques of nonviolent communication and the four agreements.



The Importance of Feelings

The morning prayer took the poem of Rumi The Guest House which emphasized the importance of welcoming emotions in our lives. He says, ‘Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Sunil introduced the aspect of nonviolent communication (NVC) that deals with judging the behaviours of others.  He pointed out how easy it is to judge behaviour of someone, givng interpretations that may not reflect the reality of what the other person is doing. “Observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence”, says one Indian philosopher.  However, we are hardwired to sense danger, and our primitive ancestors needed to sense the dangers that faced them.  The problem, however, is that we tend to jump to conclusions and judge.  The challenge is simply to observe without judgement.

The next aspect of NVC was the idea of not making assumptions.  Making assumptions causes a lot of problems when we act on the assumptions.  Often assumptions can lead to conflict that need not have happened if we hadn’t made assumptions.

Later Sunil went on to show the importance of making requests instead of making demands. Making demands often leads to conflict, while making requests softens the approach and has a better chance of succeeding.

Sunil then went on to explain how the person behaves from a fight, flight or freeze standpoint.  He pointed to the triune brain to show how we respond in different ways depending on which part of the brain kicks in as it responds to difficult situations.

Nonviolent Communication

The morning prayer focused on the fact that we are mid-point in the Orientation Programme.  The video that had been produced of the Opening Ceremony was projected, and the Brothers were invited to share their feelings around the journey they have travelled so far.

This week’s workshop is called, Non-violent Communication (NVC).  Sunil introduced the theme NVC, the work of Marshal Rosenberg. He stressed how violence often comes from the struggle to compete, and therefore nonviolence involves more cooperation. Brothers had the opportunity to role-play violent behaviours with underlie the fact that feelings emerge (especially uncomfortable feelings) when our needs are not being met.

Sunil introduced the four agreements, showing a video on the agreement: Be Impeccable with your Word.  The four agreements are the work of Miguel Ruiz.

In the next session, Sunil explained the difference between feelings and thinking, offering a repertoire of emotions for the Brothers to use in various situations. He invited the Brothers to sculpt the various emotions and thus explaining how different people express an emotion in various ways.  The connection between emotion and facial expressions as well as gestures was acted out by the group.

Finally, Sunil explained that when a person’s needs are met, they have pleasant feelings while unpleasant feelings result from unmet needs.  By needs he explained that a need is a quality which we value, a quality which is universal.  Needs are close to values.