My days are filled with communication distractions. Like many of you, I’m bombarded by messages via email, text, and phone. Even spoken conversations are often focused on a quick exchange of information before moving on to the next scheduled thing.
These experiences have motivated me to dig deeper for a better way of engaging with others: In a world full of noise, how do we invite meaningful conversations, the conversations that matter? And the follow-up question: Why are these types of conversations important? For human connection? For getting things done? For leading through social complexity?
I think the answers to the latter is yes, yes, and yes.
At Reach Partners, we’re always practicing and studying the patterns of meeting (see here, here, and even more here) for the benefit of ourselves and for our clients. Anita and I value connection both as individuals and under the Reach Partners umbrella of services. As a result, we look for resources that can build connections for our clients, as well as interactions with our own friends and family.
In essence, we are always looking for ways to invite people to show up, speak up, and contribute.
It’s not just for connection. I believe that a group can co-create ideas that could never be imagined alone. When space and time together are held carefully, we can allow people to speak their own truths, address real fears, take the time to create possibility.
The Art of Hosting is one of those approaches, an open-source practice to introduce and allow individuals to contribute through meaningful conversation and interaction. This practice leads to thoughtful contribution in the midst of complexity.
The Art of Hosting exercises has four basic conditions which anyone can practice any time, in any meeting, gathering, or interaction. Longtime practitioners of the Art of Hosting (AOH) call the following the Four-Fold Practice:
3.Host and Be Hosted
Be present – A simple tactic, yet in times of uncertainty, tension, constant distraction, and the multiple ways we’re needed or called, being present may be a challenge and even downright radical.
Being present means being willing, in a moment, to scan yourself. Take a breath. Notice what you’re feeling and what emotions are present.
Chris Corrigan, longtime art of hosting practitioner, artist and facilitator, encourages the following questions to help you become present: “What am I curious about? Where am I feeling anxiety, and how can I let it go? What clarity do I need? What clarity do I have?”
Participate – The practice of participation in the Art of Hosting is different than business-as-usual. I grew up where participation in school meant frequently raising my hand and jumping into discussion. In the Art of Hosting, participation includes the vital act of listening.
Yes, participation means listening.
Our lives, our media consumption, our work doesn’t regularly allow us to practice the kind of listening that’s essential in an Art of Hosting conversation yet is so valuable when achieved. Participation (in the Art of Hosting way), means being open to others, open with curiosity, and listening without jumping to rationalizations or judgement of what others share. It’s about dialogue, learning and discovering together. While getting to the result may mean moving at a slower pace, it’s worth it.
We must start with ourselves if we want a gathered community to be one that learns and gains clarity together. The practice of listening without judgment pays dividends in nurturing relationships and connections in our lives and within the space of shared conversation.
Host – Hosting is about the container of the gathering, the mechanisms. This includes everything from the gathering’s purpose to the design of the conversation to the physical space. While the container can and should be designed by the facilitator, invite those gathered to take responsibly for the energy they bring to the group and how they interact with each other.
When each member of the group agrees to host, they take responsibility for the experience. When you host within this sense, you come prepared. You are ready to participate (listen!) and most importantly, are invested in the outcomes.
Co-create – A core value of Reach Partners is possibility. We believe almost anything is possible when we work together rather than alone. It’s not you, it’s not me, but it’s how we move-grow-build when we listen and learn from one another. The results are co-owned, the process is collaborative, and product is co-created.
An example of this kind of shared authorship outside the office comes from Jackie Brookner (1945-2015), an ecological artist who demonstrated this generous co-creation through her work as a creative placemaker, specifically on The Fargo Project: World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park. She harvested the community’s shared ability to solve problems and design elements for a transformed stormwater basin.
What’s different about the Art of Hosting style or approach? People are encouraged to come as they are, accept others for who they are, listen with an ear of non-judgment, make room for learning, and to create together.
Perhaps it’s because of our work in creative placemaking and the Fargo Project that kindled a flame for this more collaborative approach, or it’s because Reach Partners craves meaningful engagement. We’re happy to meet people as they are and we strive to co-create community. We hope you, too, can bring The Art of Hosting practices into your work.