Today we create World PEACE – One conversation at a time

Dr. Nancy Love, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

Today is an important day in the world, a day when peace can begin.  It begins at home and at the office, in our everyday lives as we choose to speak and listen to each other in ways that encourage dialogue and understanding.  In today’s world it matters less where we are and more what we do and say.  What I mean by that is in Calgary, Canada and in Abuja, Nigeria women are sitting at computers writing about how the world might be different … if only …

In the spring a year or two ago a Nigerian women came to visit us at PULSE.  She became one of the growing number of PULSE Practitioners living and working in Nigeria.  She and Marjorie spent time together.  She was invited to join Marjorie and her family for dinner at Marjorie’s home.  Although the two women have similar work interests and were becoming colleagues, it was the sharing of family that made both of them realize that where ever you are, the work of women in the home and the expectations of society for women is very similar, even half way around the world.  The demands of home and family are the same for working women in Canada and Nigeria and my guess is that the challenges and rewards are also shared.

A conference in Abuja designed to empower women leaders with requisite skills for promoting peace and harmonious coexistence has its counterparts in other areas of the world as women come together to dream in community of a world that is peaceful.  Women do play a significant role in the world.  They provide emotional and physical support for families and make sacrifices to do so.  However women remain underrepresented in the decision making rooms of the world.  Although women make up  a little more than 50% of the population, they are represented in political positions of power at between 10 and 20 %.  Many argue that women have power but choose to exercise it differently than men.  And although women are often most affected by decisions to go to war because they lose family members and are themselves the victims of violence and cruelty, they are rarely included in the decisions making process to go to war.  So where are the women? And why does it seem like they do not want to rule the world? And how would the world be different if they did?  As we consider these questions keep in mind that although we have had influence and exercised it when we can, we are not to blame for the state of the world.

Over the course of my life I have been a leader.  I was a school teacher in Alberta for many years and a principal of a high school.  I have served as a town councilor and have been a candidate for parliament more than once.  I like to be involved in politics because I feel that I am contributing to a greater degree to the future of my society when my voice is among those for change.  My first twenty years I spent in the service of myself and learning.  The second twenty years in the service of my children and my career and this next twenty years I am spending in service to the world and to my Canada.  For me service is leadership and leadership is service to others.

Women choose a path of service that is often different from the path of men.  Often … but not always.  There are wonderful men in the world just as there are beastly women.  Our gender alone does not qualify us as peacemakers. In fact, as I have studied People Using Language Skills Effectively at our Institute I have come to understand that the division of the world into male and female is more along a continuum of more or less male and female on a number of characteristics. More nurturing seems to be interpreted as more feminine while more aggressive seems to be interpreted as more masculine.  My own experience is that people are more nurturing or more aggressive regardless of gender.  It seems more to be determined by a person’s experience as a human being, their family of origin and upbringing which is directly related to cultural and even language.

Words Create Worlds.  We have a different response to the term “working father” than we do “working mother”. And for women over the centuries it is the socially constructed realities of our language that has constrained our choices.  Women are not exactly free to choose to go into politics or become leaders in the work place.  Characteristics associated with leadership such as dominance, authority and assertiveness are more generally associated with males.  Females are assumed to be more cooperative and collaborative and, lucky for us, the world of leadership is shifting toward cooperation and collaboration and the shift is ever so slow.  Even when women do show up in a profession there is a tendency for the profession itself to lose value or be marginalized or for women in the profession to take on or be offered opportunities in the less demanding aspects.

The biological differences between the sexes are to celebrated and the importance of the family is not to be undervalued but gender stratification and even segregation in the workplace and in positions of leadership and power is real and seems to me to be unfair.  Many well educated women are not employed or underemployed.  Women sacrifice to create work-life balance because of the gender inequalities in family responsibility.  Inflexible work place structures support the promotion of men over women and often women are seen as less than committed because of the possibility that the demands of the family will supersede the demands of the organization.  It takes energy to change people’s thinking and although we have made strides over the past decades, at the present rate we will need another hundred years to get to a place where men and women will be treated with the same kind of individual consideration, when they will be treated as individual beings, fellow members of the same human race.

The work of women, like the work of men, occurs in conversation.  Understanding the structure and the dynamics of conversation is a key aspect of skills for peace.  Whether at home or at work on in parliament, women have and can learn more about how to be heard and how to listen so that their influence is more strongly felt.  For the past seven years our organization The “People Using Language Skills Effectively” (PULSE) Institute has studied how people use conversation to accomplish change.  We have discovered a conversation frame that works; a pattern of conversation that results in sustainable and balanced outcomes every time.  We call it the PULSE Frame because it includes five stages – Prepare – Uncover the past – Learn the impact in the present – Search possibilities for the future – and Explain a plan of action.

 What is PULSE?

PULSE is an idea.  PULSE is an opportunity to have a conversation where everyone is heard, acknowledged and understood.  PULSE is an opportunity to share a story from the past, learn its impact in the present thereby identifying what’s missing so that the future can be different. It is opportunity to connect with others through conversation.  It is a chance to move from fight, flight or freeze to release, relax and relate.  PULSE is an opportunity.

The 11th Verse of the Tao Te Ch’ing speaks of the hole in the centre of a wheel’s hub as the point of power and the space inside a clay vessel as the part that is useful and the usefulness of a room in the emptiness, not the walls and doors and windows.  So it is with PULSE.  We see the Frame but it is the space within the Frame that is truly useful.

A PULSE Practitioner is someone who has become familiar with the purpose, process and protocol of the PULSE conversation.  PULSE Practitioners accept the future solution focused approach and the appreciative stance necessary within the Frame.  PULSE Practitioners know how to hold people capable and accountable for their own words and actions and they value people, knowing that they are all unique with their own combinations of vices and virtues.  PULSE Practitioners know that words create worlds so they are deliberate in their choice of words.  They are People Using Language Skills Effectively – PULSE.

PULSE is based on the premise that people are capable of resolving differences and solving problems.  The Frame is built so as to hold them capable and accountable for their own past, present and future.  It assumes that social reality is created through conversation and that by committing to and remaining in dialogue for 90 minutes people will generate a sustainable plan of action.  What is needed is an appreciative stance where people look for what has worked in the past or is working elsewhere, then look at why the successful approach is significant and ways to bring those good things from the past into the present and the future.

PULSE’s future focus expects that people will not dwell in the past once the emotion of the past has been successfully acknowledged. “This has been difficult for you” is something we say to acknowledge without agreeing.  PULSE’s future focus expects that people will recognize their criteria for a better future once they see or hear them.  Reframing the negative complaints into a positive criteria takes practice and can be as simply as identifying the opposite of what the complaint is about.  The deliberate use of and focus on positives in the PULSE Frame doesn’t ignore the negative.  It uses it as information for what NOT to do, what will not succeed.  PULSE’s future focus expects that people can imagine a better future and that once they articulate concrete actions with deadlines and details that they will move toward that future.

Each Frame within the Frame is deliberate and purposeful.  It is carefully structured.  The structure as indicated by its name is only something to look through.  It offers a new way of seeing the situation.  The guiding questions and the protocol focus attention within the Frame at the positive picture within the picture.  The possibilities for a different future, a peaceful future are recognized within the Frame and the result is a plan that no one would have considered separately.  The possibilities come from the opportunity to think together.

 www.pulseinstitute.com Click on the video to see a 5 minute introduction to the Frame.

PREPARE:

The PREPARE stage provides the foundation of the PULSE triangle that represents the Frame.  There are seven pieces within the Prepare piece of the Frame; purpose, process, protocol, confidentiality, authority, roles and time.  The presentation of PREPARE is often divided into two parts; one where parties meet individually with the PULSE Practitioner and then again when everyone meets together.  Alternatively people are given an opportunity to learn about PULSE before they enter into a PULSE conversation through such means as reading this article or watching the video on the website.  Let’s look at each of the seven parts of PREPARE individually.

1.       PURPOSE

The purpose of the meeting will determine the number of participants and their roles.  A PULSE Coaching Session will have only the Practitioner and the coached.  The purpose may be to resolve a particular issue or to generate a performance plan. If the coach is also the supervisor, that is a different kind of conversation than one with a personal or life coach.  If two people have agreed to settle a difference using PULSE then there will be three people including the Practitioner or two if one is a Practitioner and is negotiating a plan of action which includes the Practitioner.  Determining and stating the purpose of the meeting at the very onset puts everyone at ease.  The purpose is positively stated in measurable terms and serves as a goal for the meeting.  The goal and the purpose are usually related to designing a plan of action for a better future together.  Stating the purpose as if it is already in place, with no hesitancy or doubt will move people toward that goal.  The confidence demonstrated by the Practitioner in the process and in the participants waylays any fear or anxiety about the process or their own ability to write a plan of action.

2.       PROCESS

Depending on the purpose of the conversation a pre-meeting is scheduled to prepare people for the conversation or information is distributed ahead of time so that parties come prepared and so that there are no surprises. The idea is to value people’s time and intelligence, to let them know the process and how it works.  As a result people are more prepared to work within the process and to trust that if they use the protocol and the process they will come to a better solution or resolution than they may have otherwise.  So Practitioners state the purpose of the meeting as a positive goal.  Then they outline the process; Prepare for conversation, Uncover the circumstance, Learn the significance of the circumstance, Search possibilities to meet the criteria (what is significant – reframed) and Explain a detailed plan of action moving forward.

While explaining the process the Practitioner will also indicate the direction of the conversation and the guiding question at each of the steps.  In Prepare the conversation leader or PULSE Practitioner will do most of the talking explaining the purpose, process, protocol, establishing levels of confidentiality, authority, clarifying the roles and the time frame for the conversation.   They will answer the question: How will this conversation proceed?”  In Uncover, everyone gets a chance to answer the question “What are you here to resolve or decide today?”  Everyone takes a turn to explain what circumstance from the past has brought them to the meeting.  In Learn, there is open dialogue around the question “What about this circumstance is important to you?” In Search the question is “What could you do to meet your criteria and resolve the circumstance?”  Everyone offers suggestions that are recorded by the Practitioner in a brainstorm activity.  In Explain, the Practitioner acts as scribe while others dictate the contents, the details, of the plan of action. The guiding question is “What do you agree to do?”

3.       PROTOCOL

Once the process has been explained, the protocol is presented.  PULSE conversations rely on a GHOST protocol.  The Practitioner rarely uses the word GHOST but uses it to remember the five elements of the protocol.  People are asked to speak Gently to one another, to speak so that others can keep listening.  In PULSE we use Gentle rather than respectful because we have found that out of respect people hold things back or say things in ways that do not get to the meat of the issue.  That can be counterproductive so speaking Honestly AND Gently are encouraged.  The idea is to say what you are thinking in a way that allows the other person to hear it.  Honesty is also important because sustainable resolutions or solutions come from good information.  A missing piece of information could be the key.  People are asked to be Open to hear what is being said and to allow what they hear to influence their version of the story.  They are asked to be curious about the other stories and courageous about telling their own.  People are also asked to use Specific examples and events to bring clarity to the conversation.  Often people are talking about different things and using the same word.  It can be confusing.  Sharing Specific examples ensures that everyone is one the same page.  And people are encouraged to TALK.  Without Talk there is no resolution or decision.  Gentle, Honest, Open, Specific Talk leads to sustainable, mutually agreeable plans of actions.

4.       CONFIDENTIALITY

PULSE conversations can be held in confidence or not.  Usually the Practitioner will agree to keep the conversation confidential and to share the plan only with those that everyone agrees ought to see it.  People in conversation can decide whether or not they would prefer a confidential conversation.  Often if there are emotional issues then keeping the conversation confidential is a good idea.  It allows people to say what they are thinking with confidence.  If there has previously been a lack of trust then                                                                                                                                                                                                    hearing the other people state that they will keep things confidential may be the starting point for rebuilding the trust.  The trick is to have everyone agree on a level of confidentiality that is comfortable. Again, focusing on the future level of confidentiality rather than the past is important.

5.       AUTHORITY

PULSE conversations focus on resolving or solving things that are within the control or authority of those present.  What that may mean is that those present do not make decisions for others.  They write a plan of action that outlines what THEY agree to do.  Coming in, some people are not sure if they have the authority.  The Practitioner’s job is to reassure them that the conversation will focus on topics and decisions that are within their authority and that they will only make decisions for themselves.  Again this serves to relax people.  It is important because we too often have wonderful conversations and make magnificent plans about things we do not have the authority to implement.  This is not productive.   PULSE conversations  are  time well spent with outcomes that are sustainable because they are feasible, doable and within the authority of those present. 

6.       ROLES

It is also important at the beginning of a conversation to set out with some clarity the roles of those present.  People in the conversation are asked to participate and to work toward a mutually agreeable plan of action for the full time allotted. The PULSE Practitioners role is to manage the process.  Sometimes that means they are impartial.  Sometimes they are vested.  Both work but you have to be clear at the beginning which it is.  “Who are the decision makers in the room?” is a key question when you are outlining how the decision will be made.

7.       TIME

PULSE conversations are always scheduled for 90 minutes.  Physiologically that is the optimum time for engaging in productive conversation.  Psychologically it is long enough for people to say their piece and shift their thinking.  The 90 minutes also indicates a commitment from everyone present to deal with the circumstance at hand.  Sometimes resolution is reached sooner but generally a PULSE conversation moves through the five stages of the process in the 90 minute frame naturally.  It is enough time to have people uncover the circumstances from the past, learn the significance in the present or the criteria for a better future, search possibilities for resolving the circumstance in the future given the criteria and explain, in writing a plan of action moving forward.  PULSE happens even when we are unaware.  PULSE is a discovery rather than an invention and if you watch people in a 90 minute productive conversation, they will follow the stages naturally, moving from the past, to the present and on to the future. 

Once the preparations are in place, people are ready to move to the next stage, the UNCOVER stage.  The foundation has been laid.  Purpose, process, protocols are in place.  Levels of confidentiality and authority are established.  Roles and time frame are clear.  The Practitioner has predicted the process and the outcome for the people involved.  The Practitioner then may ask for a commitment to the process either verbally or in writing depending on the nature of the situation.  A Coach practitioner may use a listening contract.   A Mediator Practitioner may use a “Consent to Mediate” form. Or a simple “Are you ready to proceed?” may suffice to establish that everyone is all in, ready to follow the structure, to fill in the emptiness it creates, the space in the centre, with the important information that will lead to resolution or solution.

In UNCOVER the title of the shared story from the past is identified by asking the guiding question “What are you here to resolve or decide today?”  The next question in the LEARN stage is “Why is that important to you?”  In this stage the practitioner listens for the beliefs, expectations, assumptions, concerns and hopes of the participants which become their criteria for resolution or for a peaceful future.  Once it has been made clear, participants are asked to dream about “What if you did …..?  What could you do to resolve the situation and meet your criteria?” in the SEARCH stage.  Ten to twelve options are generated and from those the ones that are feasible and doable and within their control are selected for further consideration in the plan of action.  In EXPLAIN the plan is written with enough detail and specifics to ensure a sustainable and balanced resolution or decision.

Five guiding questions can change a conversation.  How will the conversation proceed? What is the conversation about?  Why is that important to everyone?  What could be done? And what do people agree to do?  Simply be focusing conversation on the past circumstance, the present impact or significance and the future options or possibilities we can change the outcome of any conversation.  Learning to take a positive stance and to build on the good from the past is also important in this kind of conversation.  If we focus on the negative we get more negative.  If we look for what’s working and pay attention to the positives we will surely see more of that.  And if we can accept that people are different from each other.  We each have a certain set of Beliefs, Expectations, Assumptions, Concerns and Hopes that make up our particular Frame of Reference, the way we see the world.  The good news is that people can and do change their Frame of Reference and a PULSE conversation is one of the vehicles that can be used to move people from one set of Beliefs to another; from one Frame to another.

If more people, especially women, can learn to use the Conversation Frame and become PULSE Practitioners it is likely that peace will be evident in more homes and more workplaces and in our society as a whole.  The Frame is a discovery.  When we study conversation patterns we notice that successful conversations naturally follow the stages of the Frame.  Unsuccessful ones go off track.   The PULSE Frame is a tool for structuring conversations that insures an outcome that is balanced and sustainable.  It is simple and it is complex because it is based on solid research and understanding of how people use language skills effectively.  Using the structure to Frame conversations in the home and in the workplace allows for the change in world view from one where war is the answer to one where peace is the answer. Using this kind of  conversation leads to a future where women are accepted as leaders in corporations, government agencies and in elected offices can. 

Politics is a conversation.  If the conversation is structured to include the Frames of References, the interests and criteria of all parties, women and children as well as men for a more prosperous and productive future then the likelihood of a sustainable, balanced and peaceful world is increased.  PULSE’s questions provide the answers to the “woman question” and the question of how to create world peace.  Women play a significant role in the affairs of the world and can influence the outcomes in families and parliaments on a day to day basis creating world peace – one conversation at a time.

I regret that I am unable to join you in Abuja but please know that my heart, my head and my body share your experience here in Canada.  Find strength in each other so that together we can all make the world a better place for generations to come.  For our daughters and our daughters’ daughters let the conversation continue.

 

 

Thank you.

 

Dr. Nancy Love

 

Dr. Nancy Love, PhD. is the Founder and President of The PULSE Institute.    Dr. Love is a workplace effectiveness consultant and an international trainer in workplace mediation and leadership who is dedicated to building leadership capacity and creating world peace – one conversation at a time. She has worked with many organizations to assist them with in-house programs and policy development.  Her discovery and development of the PULSE Frame for conversations for change evolved from a lifelong dedication to learning, leadership, accountability and change.  

Nancy has a Bachelor of Education in French and Social Studies and a Masters of Education in Administration from the University of Alberta. She received a Doctorate in Educational Research with a specialty in Leadership at the University of Calgary. A former High school principal,  annual instructor at the University of Lethbridge Summer Leadership Institute and the author of “Principal Portraits” (2001 and 2004), her interest in and research on the practices of high school principals in a climate of accountability lead her to write a dissertation entitled “Accountability and Change” (2006).

In 2002, after a career in Public Education and a Certificate in Mediation, Nancy founded The PULSE Institute. The Institute studies how People Use Language Skills Effectively.  It offers leadership and mediation training and development as well as direct coaching, consulting mediation and facilitation services and research based on the PULSE Frame. Nancy is proud to be the author of programs offered through the Mediation Training Institute International, based in Kansa City. Nancy is the author of PULSE Conversations for Change (2008), the first in a series of books that support the growing list of PULSE course and certificate offerings available at www.pulseinstitute.com.   

Because of her practical experience as a teacher and high school principal, Dr. Love’s classroom expertise is evident.  She is a dedicated instructor, leader, and entrepreneur. Her students consistently rate her programs and instructional style as exceptional, providing such reviews as “absolutely phenomenal” for every program she offers.  Her firm commitment and light hearted, inclusive approach blend to make learning both entertaining and educational in her workshop sessions.

Nancy builds on her experience as a leader and a mediator mediating disputes between employees and managers in oil and gas, education and health care, in both corporate and government settings, both union and non union.  She has served on the roster for the Provincial Court and Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta and Community Mediation Calgary resolving disputes ranging from wrongful dismissal to union grievances, from claims of harassment to commercial and contract matters, between neighbors, co-workers or with management. 

 

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