Dance – Written by: Nick (UK)

Dance ‘What are we not talking about?’

The question dance intrigued me. I was taking part in an Experiments in Gestalt workshop when, at the start, the tutor invited us to sit directly opposite another participant.

Nobody knew anyone else in the room so we quickly glanced around, tried to make eye contact with someone, felt a sense of relief when a person smiled back, then got into pairs.

How you make the Choice

The tutor posed a question: ‘What was it about that person that made you choose them?’

A fellow participant looked puzzled and responded, ‘It was random.’ The tutor looked thoughtful, then asked, ‘Are you sure?’

Next, the tutor gave us one minute each to introduce ourselves to the person sitting opposite.

At the end of the 2 minutes, we were asked to reflect back to the other person,

‘This is what I notice we are talking about…’

And then, one stage further, ‘This is what I notice we are not talking about.’ The tutor then invited us to feed back into the group, the content of our conversations. It all sounded quite ordinary, safe.

So the tutor now invited us to take a risk…the greatest risk we could muster ourselves to take…and now to convey back to the other person,

‘This is what I notice about you.’

It was a breath-taking moment and, after a slight hesitant pause, people began to speak: e.g. ‘

You have beautiful eyes.’ ‘Your values matter deeply to you.’ ‘You have the most amazing curves!’

The astonishes

We were astonished at what we said to one another, at what happened between us.

It was as if we had found the courage to speak the felt-unspeakable, to acknowledge the unacknowledged, to reveal something real.

As we then shared in the group what had just happened, I remember thinking I had rarely felt such intimacy and closeness in a group…and we had only been together for 2 hours.

The power of personal and cultural filters

I have often thought, since, about the power of personal and cultural filters; how we suppress, hide or silence those inner voices or feelings that somehow feel too inappropriate, risky, or dangerous to express.

As a consequence, we all too easily dance around relationships and issues, avoid genuine human contact, feel deep spiritual-existential alienation, collude with inauthenticity, lose out on radical breakthroughs; and chastise those who dare to cross the lines.

How often do we step out of our safety zones, challenge conventional patterns and norms, and engage in true transformation?

Tara (USA)

Nick wrote, recently: “…we filter and interpret signals we receive from others based on our own experience; including our hopes, expectations, and fears.”

I am reminded in these words of how our way of living can influence the way we connect with others.

In what we rely

Many people rely on the world we live in to tell us how to think, speak, and act. 

This is the same reliance that determines our personal boundaries: the fences that define relationships, whether of acquaintances or intimate partners.

The relationship could be the connection you feel with a stranger at a conference or your estranged childhood best friend.  

Relationships should be as unique at those involved, yet, sadly, many people simply follow the relational-cultural constructs they are exposed to.

They mimic the dance steps of those who have gone before them in order to avoid being the one that is avoided.

It’s a risk

The risk of standing alone can be frightening for those that have been told being alone is bad.

In the opportunity that Nick described, participants were not just given the ‘safe space’ to speak their minds without ordinary filters – they were encouraged to do so. 

There was permission to share thoughts that would otherwise be cloaked by ‘acceptable’ words.

This permission breathed life into human connection and the truly amazing experience that ensued. 

People mentally danced with each other and everyone left a bit more emotionally wealthy than when they arrived. 

Everyone transformed a little bit, with permission and support to do so.

When working with clients who have the desire to change, more is needed than just the pathway to a goal.

Desire and awareness for change are pivotal to change, but something more is needed. 

The permission and the dare

Something that others have deemed powerful and motivating and something that drives others to succeed no matter the sacrifice.

That something is permission – perhaps permitting themselves for the first time; permission to engage with themselves and to dance a new dance with others.

Nick Wright is a psychological coach, trainer and organization development (OD) consultant, based in the UK (www.nick-wright.com).

Tara Parker is a change agent, organization development (OD) consultant, and soft skills coach, based in the USA (elegantdiscourse@gmail.com).