Friday, August 28, 2009

Listen, Respect, Build Relationships

Watching CNN this morning and the author of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, spoke about his time visiting rural villages in Afghanistan. When asked what he thought would bring about a solution to the conflicts in Afghanistan he shared that the US Army General had communicated to him three bullet points that were of central importance.

1. Listen - listen to people and understand what they think, what they want, what they think would help

2. Respect - treat everyone with respect, no matter how different they are from you and your values

3. Build Relationships - the key to change is building relationships. Why three cups of tea? Local Afghan folklore says after the first cup of tea you are no longer strangers, after the second cup of tea, you are friends, after the third cup of tea, you are family.

It takes time to have conversations that are deep enough to create a changed relationship and a changed reality but it is possible. It is not a quick fix but it can be a lasting tranformational cultural change.

As Meg Wheately articulates in her book: Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future "There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about."

“Good conversation connects us at a deeper level. As we share our different human experiences, we rediscover a sense of unity. We remember we are part of a greater whole. And as an added joy, we also discover our collective wisdom. We suddenly see how wise we can be together.” (page 28)

As community facilitators -- for community organizing, network weaving or community of practice facilitation for learning -- these same three bullet points apply. They are the core of our work.

Is it easy no? This is very hard and complex work. Is it worthwhile, always!


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