...reflections from a Compassionate Listener

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Transparency & Healing

I have had a keen interest – one might even say a fascination – with the topic of transparency for many years now. It has emerged as one of our deep values within the Compassionate Listening facilitator community, and informs my life to a significant degree.
There’s probably no other venue where we model transparency as profoundly as in our Advanced Training. Every year, the senior facilitators come together to team-teach at our two Advanced Training retreats, totaling nine days. We're often joined by 4-6 other facilitators from our community, who come to support us all, and immerse in the beautiful learning community that is created as we all come together with the participants as students and teachers, evolving our curriculum and practices together.

At times when we facilitators feel tension or become triggered, we often share our process openly in ways that participants sometimes feel surprised by at first. Being transparent means that we open ourselves up for others to witness. When we are honest with ourselves and with one another, we can learn to take responsibility for our actions.

In reflecting at this level, we share our vulnerabilities and open ourselves up to judgment. It can be scary. Did we make the right decision? Did we intervene too early in a group process? Not soon enough? Did we model the core practices of Compassionate Listening that we are trying to teach?

When we risk transparency, we risk showing others our complete humanity. It can be a powerful and unplanned teaching moment when we admit something we’re not proud of – even a minor transgression, and apologize for it out loud. The apology may be to the group, or to a fellow facilitator, or to both. Whoever said that just because I’m in a leadership position, I will never screw things up? It’s enormously liberating to realize that we don’t need to uphold an illusion of perfection. There’s liberation in our honesty.

The past couple of years, the evaluations from the participants in our Advanced Trainings have expressed great appreciation – and a fair degree of surprise – for the degree of transparency that we facilitators have modeled. They express the relief that they feel to see that they can release themselves from the crippling standard of perfection they may have held for themselves. How much easier to envision oneself as a facilitator, teacher, coach or leader if we know we can be fully human, and share our strengths and our vulnerabilities.

I think that many of us suffer from the “I’m not ready” syndrome – thinking that there’s always more training, more preparation, more degrees that we need, in order to step more deeply into our leadership capacities. I remember reading that Martin Luther King never felt ready before his talks. If transparency can help us all to step into leadership while holding onto our precious humanity, what a great contribution to the world. I’ve always appreciated this little quote by Dorothy Bernard, for those shaky times when I feel called to go beyond my comfort zone: "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

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