For those of you who don’t know me, I live in Spain, but lived most of my life in Venezuela. And I’m sure most of you know how crazy the situation is there. There is no way of explaining what happens there because there is no previous historical reference to the bizarre situations that are happening there. It’s a first, and I’m sure there will be many amazing books telling stories of what happened.
But this story is different… this is a story of working the Genuine Contact way. This happened in 2010, in Venezuela, when things were bad, not half as bad as they are now, but bad enough. Our society has been divided between those who support the government and those who don’t, and I’m sure you can all related to what this means. However, only during the Colonization were differences so profound. I had never feared using a red or a blue t-shirt in the wrong place in my life. And that is part of what has been happening over the past 18 years, it could be dangerous to use red or blue in the wrong place or at the wrong time.
Amid this divided situation, I had the strange opportunity to do some training and workshops for both, the red and the blue, at the same time. The subject of these trainings was not about Genuine Contact. One was an NLP Practitioner training and the other was about communication in general. The wonderful thing about this was that ever since I did my Genuine Contact Training in Raleigh, NC with Birgitt Williams and Ward Williams, I’ve used Whole Person Process Facilitation (WPPF) to facilitate everything and anything.
Using WPPF helped me stay grounded and focused… strangely happy to be working in these polar situations at the same time, knowing that if I hadn’t the GC tools and strength I would have broken down. And I have some anecdotes to share with you.
Developing A #1 Fan
In the government entity where I was teaching NLP, we were sitting in a circle, approximately 30 government employees and myself, and they all looked at the circle and I could hear the murmuring… ‘what’s this all about? I thought we were going to learn NLP… I’ve never sat in a circle to learn NLP!’ And the bells!! Wow, was that a filter to see through. One of the participants, and anthropologist, who did important work with the Venezuelan indigenous people, said at the first closing circle: “I really don’t understand all this corny thing sitting in the circle and passing bells, and I don’t like it!” I let the bells go around the room and when I finally closed, I just said it’s strange that she wouldn’t understand the importance of the circle, especially with her work and sitting in a circle with our Indians… Ahhh, after 16 weeks, she became fan #1 of the circle and the bells, and my work, no matter what I do.
Of course, there were some who left, and there was one person who I believe (not so sure, this is an assumption) had some emotional influence over the group. He left after the first class, never said why, and the group was anxious… NLP, American, circles, bells… too much. And I just sat and watched and said: Whoever is here is the right person. Not because it’s a cliché, but because I know it is so, and they could sense I meant it. It was like using a magic wand, they relaxed, and we could continue.
The Magic of Silence
In the other group, in a very anti-government sector of the city… the circle was ok, the bells and the silence not so much. The silence! I was speechless during a great part of one workshop, where everybody was very loud about how and why the “others” had to listen to what they had to say. In silence and listening until at last, I had a chance to say something. I just asked them to be silent for a couple of minutes and then launched a question for discussion… “What if the ‘others’ also wanted them to listen to what they had to say?“ And yes, this was not well received, and the noise began again. But, I was silent. I understood that this was the only thing that could happen at that moment. I am sure there will be moments for shared storytelling in the future, even if the moment is not here yet.
Long Process in a Short Workshop
And one last GC anecdote to share with you during this period, was an eternal transfer-in I had in a two-hour workshop, working with the elderly citizens. I had prepared a great short workshop with a couple of exercises. And the transfer in took well over an hour and a half, so when this finally ended, I decided to close with a round reflecting on the importance of silence in communication. It was a beautiful and short closing circle.
Shifting from “Other” to “All of Us”
I have kept in touch with some of the participants from both sides, red and blue, some are not in Venezuela anymore, and I know their perception of the “other” shifted a little to “all of us”.
I am not sure how these trainings and workshops affected all the participants, I can talk for myself and say that I am so grateful for the strength and power that GC gives me, to understand that what happens is truly what could’ve and that I can be in a calm place in the midst of chaos, where I’d be trying to control the outcome a few years ago. And just so you know, I still have nightmares where I am trying to control the outcome of a situation, and then I remember (yes, in my dream), and I let go.
For me, this is the great power of working the Genuine Contact way.
This post was motivated by a conversation with our dear Doris Gottlieb. Thank you Doris!