After a workshop

Reflections after last weekend’s workshop on “Three-way communication”

Satisfied with the workshop, or amused by the photographer’s joke?!

After giving a workshop, I am usually very tired, even if I have slept well. There’s a lot to juggle when holding a live space and presenting radical material which everyone in the room will relate and respond to in different and unpredictable ways. That’s part of what makes it such fun as well as so challenging. But when I get home afterwards, I have a final treat which I save until I am alone and at ease: reading the feedback forms I’ve collected from the workshop participants.
This time – after an introduction to Needs-based Communication (NbC) at Braziers Park community in south Oxfordshire – I was especially eager to read what they had written. That’s because, late on the Sunday afternoon, I had for once broken my usual practice of closing a workshop with a round of verbal feedback. There may be ups and downs during a workshop weekend, when confusion and ah-ha moments alternate. I always hope that by the end, some level of clarity and understanding will have been arrived at, but I never really know until I hear the final feedback.

On this occasion, I sacrificed the chance to have another live check-in; I figured that I had their written testaments, already safely stashed in my briefcase, and that would be enough. I know it’s different when you ask people to share verbally, and can put a specific question like “How are you feeling now, and what will you take away from this weekend?” You get much more emotional connection, you see from people’s body language and tone of voice whether they’re really satisfied or not. And often they speak more freely than they write. When we sit down and think about what words to use, most of us are already cramping our style, limiting and directing our flow …

… So, anyway, I skipped this because I was so enjoying acting out some real-life challenges from participants’ lives: difficult conversations they wanted to have, scenarios in which they could practise the techniques and ways of connecting we had been learning about. I’d planned to work through just one or two examples, but they were so rich and meaningful to the issue holders that I wanted everyone else to get the chance, if they wanted to take it. So we worked right up to the line and took 4, or was it 5, more dialogues. It was worth it, but next time I will leave something else out, because I really want both of these units in an introductory workshop!

Then when I got home, an hour and half’s drive away, I found that I had left my briefcase at the venue. No feedback to read, not one sentence! And so it has been that the workshop has stayed ‘open’ for me, incomplete and unfinished, all this week. Whatever remains hidden in my briefcase is hopefully on its way back to me soon, but meanwhile I am in a curious state of unknowing, a limbo, with no visible signals of how all that I verbalised and demonstrated, the experiences I stage-managed, the awareness and focus I tried to bring, how all this actually landed. I think I did a good job (even if I can do better next time!). I won’t feel ashamed of myself, whatever is written in Schrodingers briefcase! And still, I want that tangible response, that evidence that something has been received, that something has shifted in somebody’s world, that I have made a small difference.

Thus it is that I was delighted to receive this photograph from our host at the community, who also took part in the workshop. It may be that everyone was just amused by something he said while framing the picture. But, for now at least, I choose to believe that they were happy and having a good time!