Practice: Appreciative Hosting©
Appreciative Hosting ©
I am often asked how you make children feel better in the face of perceived injustices and disappointments in life.
My answer was that it is not our job to make people feel better, but rather to help them to feel bigger.
Expecting to be made to feel better is approaching life like a guest demanding that the host to create the world in which you can participate purely on your terms. This attitude results often in people treating approaching life as very demanding and inconsiderate guests, taking no responsibility for the effects of their participation on what happens in life or any inconvenience, discomfort or damage they cause.
They never bother to fix anything they damage or clean up their mess at the end. They feel betrayed and resentful when they do not win, regardless of whether they followed the rules or victory was deserved.
Maturity is about being bigger-approaching the world as a host. Being a host means being responsible for the world that you create. It requires being willing and able to put your own immediate needs aside in order to keep focussed on what you are creating and acting in service the greater good as opposed to self-interest.
Being a host means having an invitational approach to relationships, being open, receptive and welcoming as opposed to self-absorbed, demanding, expecting, controlling and imposing.
Hosting is about containing what is difficult and painful rather than always expressing or acting out what you feel expecting that others should carry the discomfort with your or for you.
Containing means being able to accept feelings like frustration and disappointment with grace and equanimity, not living in constant pursuit of your own satisfaction and ideal of a perfect world. It means accepting that good and bad live side by side and that everything is a mixed package.
Every relationship is ambivalent to some degree. The closer the relationship the deeper feelings’ of both love and hate gratitude and resentment, admiration and envy.
All decisions we make are made with limited information and therefore always involve risk. Sometimes you get that perfect pomegranate and cannot believe that anything could be so perfect. At other times you get the one that looked perfect and ended up being full of worms. Contradictions and ambiguities are part of the human condition.
Being a host means being able to forgive yourself and others, to look at yourself and others with a compassionate eye.
A sense of humour in the face of the absurdity of the human condition mitigates the potential bitterness and cynicism one can develop in a seemingly confusing imperfect world where so many people might appear to be getting it wrong a lot of the time.
Hosting Inner Experience
Perfect moments in life occur when all of who you are shows up at the right place at the same time. This is what is poetically referred to as “being in the flow” or being fully present. Often you have thoughts on an issue but not know how you feel about it. You can act without thinking or feeling, or act on a feeling without thinking the matter through.
When aspects of yourself are in disharmony your experience of life is fragmented. A person can be divorced from the person with whom they share a bed and married to someone they have not physically met, seen for years or shared a relationship in their youth. A loved one can be alive to you long time after they are dead, or dead to you despite being very much alive.
Modes of experience arise and move at very different speeds and intensities and often in opposing directions. Your mind may be one place, your heart somewhere else and your actions in yet another realm. The death of a loved one can register quite soon intellectually, but emotionally take years to sink in to the point where you accept and make peace with the objective reality. You can feel awful in a relationship, know that it is not and will never work, yet take years to act on that knowledge. In children, the urgency of impulse and the knowledge of unpleasant consequence are out of sync. Intellectual precocity and emotional maturity are similarly often out of kilter. So much of life depends not just on timing, but also on pacing.
Consider the speed of relationship against the pace of business; the rapidity of hurt, the timing of apology and slowness of recovery and the readiness to forgive. Similarly, the urgency of lust balanced against the pace of building trust.
The ability and capacity to host one’s own and other peoples inner experiences in a ways that allow the time needed for different facets of experience to come together, is essential to having good relationships. This means being aware of the directions in which hearts, heads and desires to act or avoid action are pulling.
Hosting experience starts with hearing the voices of your own inner experience, as well as to the signals and meanings that you receiving from others. You need to give yourself and others space and support while inner experiences become aligned and become expressed in effective appropriate action.
Masterful hosting requires the expansiveness to allow people to experience their own reality, developing compassion to allow the working through of pain, patience to time for maturity to happen, and respect to allow judgments and decisions to evolve at their own pace.
The Choice to Be Secure
Feeling secure in the world is a choice. You support this choice, unconsciously by placing your attention either upon what makes you feel safe, on your faith, trust and hope or your vulnerability and the ever present dangers then determine your reality.
Your placement of attention and the stories that you tell yourself about what you choose focus on in the world often becomes habitual. Placing attention in ways that keep you feeling secure and at ease with the world often needs to be practiced.
The practice begins with the practice of gratitude. Teaching children the practice of gratitude for all that they have in their lives is one of the greatest gifts that anyone can give them and is one of the primary foundations of their feeling secure in the world.
When you are able to acknowledge daily and at every instant all of your gifts and blessings, you will feel overwhelmed with a sense of how much goodness is bestowed on a person.
If you look at your life through eyes that seek to find the good then you find that your life is being supported and guided at every instant as opposed to being victims of random events. This understanding will bring you to the realization of you have intrinsic value and worth and that events in your life can be imbued with significance and meaning in terms of how they invite you to learn and grow through them.
In observing how the process of your life has ultimately moved towards good, you are also able to recognize that you have all been blessed with gifts and talents, resources and skills that allow you to be an effective human being.
You come to recognize that while you have the capacity for great pain, that you are often subjected to profound loss and seemingly unbearable circumstances, you have the corresponding capacity to recover and to grow wiser and stronger through the embracing and working with the potential inherent in our challenges.
You even have the power to put more goodness into the world, because our pain further enlivens us and connects us more profoundly with our shared humanity.
When you host our world in an appreciative way, we also realize the abundance with which we have been blessed. This will move you to want to give of our goodness and gifts to the world.
In so doing your experience of personal power and effectiveness gives you further reason to feel secure, realizing that rather than being a sitting duck waiting for fate to deal you a harsh blow, you are a partner in creation and thus in a sense invincible. Herein lies your ultimate source of security as well as your most profound challenge.Freedom Means Taking Ownership
Have you ever been asked, or asked someone how they are and received the following reply: “Things are just great. I craft my own destiny and am doing a good job!”
Social convention has it that when you ask people how they are, they say, “fine, thank you”.
Fine might just be an acronym for “feelings inside, not expressed”.
Some are brave enough to hint at this by saying: “You don’t really want to know.”
So often one gets the impression that people wish to complain but don’t believe they count enough to warrant saying what is truly on their minds.
The implicit, taken-for-granted understanding is that unless you say emphatically that things are good, they are not.
Complaining, blaming, criticising and describing problematic circumstances and challenges is to implicitly place yourself in servitude and bondage .
When you engage in such cognitive and verbal tactics, you imply that you are a passive object being acted upon by other people and life events without any volition or power to shape your own circumstances or reality.
Of course, if you believe it, then it is undoubtedly true.
Methods of self-enslavement include, but are not limited to, using personal, family or cultural history, the possible reaction of others, the power and intention of others or simply using intellectual laziness in not thinking of creative alternatives as an excuse for not acting in creative ways and changing your circumstances.
When you use the logic that you would be different if the constellation of people and events in your life were different, then you know that you have abdicated your prerogative to be the author of your own life story.
Servitude is being merely a player on the stage set by others and following a script dictated by them.
Freedom is the freedom to define and not be defined by your circumstances or other people.
It is the power to think critically and creatively about alternatives, to choose your role and to follow a preferred course of action, based on your values, objectives and ideals.
Freedom also means respecting and hosting others in ways that respect and support their right to freedom.
This means, for example, not confusing surrender with submission, or concession with capitulation.
Admitting error, showing generosity of spirit or being the bigger person and showing compassion are not signs of weakness. Sacrifice is ennobling, giving, enriching.
Ultimate freedom lies in the realisation that while you are the shaper of your own reality and are responsible for how you participate in that reality, life is not only about you.Responses Make Your Relationships
People show up fully in relationships when they feel invited, welcomed, valued and wanted. People disappear or become a nuisance when they feel shut out, rejected, looked down upon or unwelcome.
The behaviour of a person who feels excluded and disenfranchised inevitably makes them become someone you don’t wish to engage with.
Your behaviour and their response to you become mutually supporting and the assumptions that you made about them appear to be confirmed in this self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you believe someone will not competently perform a task, you might give them grumpy or half-hearted instructions. Alternatively, you might continually check up on them.
Either way, you will make them insecure and too fearful to take initiative and perform the task in ways that show their full capability. They will be constantly asking for clarification, become more insecure and demanding.
How people show up or not in your presence is a mirror of how you invite them in to participate or keep them peripheral in your world. Showing up fully is termed in business as showing a sense of ownership in respect of one’s work or the organisation. People show a sense of ownership by their commitment, loyalty, and active wholehearted participation.
Ownership is taking responsibility for your participation in the relationship. People show ownership in relationships when they in turn feel owned. Feeling owned gives people a sense of security in the knowledge that they are valued and appreciated. This knowledge makes it safe for them to take risks, to open themselves, show candour and by being creative and expressing their full potential in the relationship.
You make someone feel owned by showing a sense of concern for their wellbeing, by being curious about their experiences, knowledge and opinions framed by an approach that shows reverence and respect.
In such an atmosphere people feel comfortable to make demands, claim space and resources in the relationship. When people feel respected it becomes safe for them to be vulnerable and frankly reveal their differences and even idiosyncrasies.
When people experience your interest in them they become interesting. When they feel liked and valued, they feel comfortable to be authentic. Respectful curiosity invites the other person to engage with you and express their true impressions, thoughts, needs and feelings. Security relaxes people into playfulness, creativity and gives them the safety to risk-taking initiative. Admiration invites them to show their brilliance.
If you make people feel embraced, valued and appreciated they will show their loyalty. When you sincerely invest in people they show you their potential. Invite people to teach you their wisdom, knowledge and their skilfulness and then sit back and watch them surprise you.
The Choice to Host Appreciatively
What each of us most want in life is to feel a sense of personal significance and that your presence and participation in the world makes a difference for good.
The way in which you listen and respond to others shows an early fundamental choice that you once made and have continued to act upon. The choice is reflected in whether people to leave encounters with you feeling enriched, as if they have gained more substance and value, or diminished by the encounter, robbed of their substance or worth. The choice to adopt an appreciative approach to hosting relationships entails being committed to adopting re-humanising practices in speech and behaviour.
Enriching people does not mean that you flattered them or gave them something in order to win their admiration or for some other essentially selfish motive. It means that you invited the other person to show up in ways that allowed them to shine, feel embraced, heard, felt, understood, appreciated, admired and to discover new richness and resourcefulness within themselves.
There is also nothing more validating and affirming of another than to be invited in to share your inner thoughts, inspirations and creative musings and wisdom. People show up in relationships when they feel invited by a respectful, caring and interested host. They recoil or withdraw from people who by their communication styles show the opposite of hosting which is controlling, dominating or exploiting.
Many accusations and retorts have become so much part of everyday communication that most people are habituated to them and thus desensitised to the effects that they have on others and on relationships.
There are practices that suggests that the other is not qualifies and therefore does not have a right to express needs, feelings or opinions. These disqualifying practices take the form of not referring to all calling people by their titles but by just one of their names. Saying to someone” you are like your crazy mother”, or making a fascist salute in response to the other persons assertive request or admonition, calling them hypersensitive or accusing them of playing a race or gender card. Dehumanising practices rob people of worth at this most fundamental level, rendering them powerless and invisible.
There are de-legitimising practises that suggest that what the other person is saying is not valid or allowed and can therefore be treated with contempt or dismissed. These de-legitimising practices are often heard in relationships. Stop whining or nagging is a favourite amongst men who dismiss their partners voices by equating their expression of sentiment or requests to get needs recognised and met to demanding manipulative children. Saying to someone “what do you know” or “who asked for your opinion” is tantamount to saying that you are not entitled to a voice.