Learnings from the Collaborative Way – Yoshin Dave Klaus
For the last seven weeks, the clergy of the order have been engaged with The Collaborative Way (TCW), which is “an intentional and designed way of working together that harnesses the collective intelligence, imagination and spirit” of a group. TCW presents five practices with a series of exercises and presentations and group discussions to delve more deeply into their meaning and impact.
The five practices are Listening Generously, Speaking Straight, Being For Each Other, Keeping Commitments, and Acknowledging and Appreciating.
When I started the process, I admit that my ego, ever full of hubris and over-confidence, assured me that I already knew all this stuff. How predictable!
When I actually began working with the practices however, I realized how much more I had to learn.
For example, in exploring the practice of Speaking Straight, I quickly realized that I felt a real tension between Speaking Straight and skillful means. As a public defender attorney for many years, I learned to be diplomatic and cautious in the way I spoke to the “players” in the criminal justice system.
Many times I wanted to yell or shout in anger at a judge or a prosecutor, or even my own client, but I held my tongue and found a different way to say it. I assured myself that this was just good advocacy, but in looking deeper I saw that I have a tendency, if not a habit, of doling out certain bits of information at certain times. The goal of this curation was of course in part to try to get what my client wanted. But I also saw that I use this way of communication commonly in my life.
An example: Say I have a bit of bad news to tell my wife about a money issue, but I decide not to tell her this evening because she had a rough day and she might get angry at me. I assure myself, I will tell her tomorrow when things are more calm.
This is not speaking straight. Instead, I am attempting to manage her reaction to the news, and to manage the way she feels about me in the moment. I am letting myself off the hook by withholding data that she deserves to know, but telling myself that somehow its for her own good.
I notice that I do this a lot in my life. I speak and act in a way which I think will have a certain effect on other people, in order to make them like me or think well of me. Of course, this is perfectly natural, and I do not mean to say this is “wrong,” and yet in doing so I am controlling and manipulating my communication in order to get what I want.
The spirit of speaking straight is instead to give both parties in a conversation the information and the context to be able to have their own feelings, beliefs, and sensations, and to them choose their own response, which will hopefully be wise and compassionate.
When I deprive them of the information they need, I put them in a vulnerable position without their knowledge, and I do so for my own benefit. Surely, this is not skillful means, or wise and compassionate.
There are many other examples that may come to mind, and I invite us all to consider where we are speaking straight in our lives, whether to others, or ourselves.
Practicing the principle of Speaking Straight thus offers us a beautiful opportunity to practice our vows and precepts, and to enact and embody wisdom and compassion in every encounter.