Greater klamath river basin community tulelake conference the situation, short and long term vision and strategies


Everyone thinks they have the whole story



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Everyone thinks they have the whole story: I have Rob and Crista step out in front of the story tellers, turning to face each other. I encourage them to repeat their sentence to each other, to let the other know what the “true” story is.
Rob: “The porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
They both look at me, and I encourage them...... “The other person has not got it yet.” Keep repeating it until he gets it.
Rob repeats to Crista: “The porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Crista repeats: “There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.” with a tone of voice that is impatient.
Rob repeats with more vigor: “The porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Crista, her hands on her hips leans forward and repeats firmly: “There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life!”
Rob: “NO!!! The porcupine walked into the meadow!!” He speaks with steely confidence.... this is the truth!
Crista, before he is done, loudly with emphasis and pointing her finger into his chest: “There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
Rob, leaning forward now, with more emphasis and a loud voice: “The porcupine walked into the meadow.... and that is all there is to it!!”
Crista, now leaning nose to nose with him, and just as loudly: “There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
The group laughs, often applauds, they recognize themselves, they have seen this in many meetings. I ask them, rhetorically, “Have you ever experienced this kind of argument before? They all nod their heads.

Everyone wants the group to repeat their story line: I have Rob and Crista return to the story teller group. I turn to the others:

What Rob and Crista both want is to win this argument, and have everybody else repeat their sentence as the entire story line.”
I ask Rob to repeat his sentence, and for the others to repeat it exactly as he said it.
Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Kathy: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Laura: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Jon: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Debbie: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Dawn: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Crista (resisting): NO WAY! There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
Again, the community laughs. They understand the implications of this activity. Now, they know, Crista wants everyone to repeat her sentence, because she has the truth.
The story is all mixed up: In addition to everyone wanting to be right with their “story line,” when the group meets, they are seated out of order. I move the standing participants around, mixing their order. Then I ask them to repeat their sentence:
Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached.”
Laura: “He saw another animal in the meadow.”
Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Dawn: “This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.
Kathy: “It was a warm and sunny day.”
Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
Jon: “It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap.”
Now, this discussion doesn’t seem to make any sense, especially if you are the manager who needs to make the decision. These people all appear to be in conflict with what they are saying. There is no similarity. Who should you believe? What can you base your decision on?

In the consensus process, we encourage each person to express their view, and, we record as it is being expressed. These are the different perceptions of the entire community. Then we take that information from this group, and any other group, and write a collective statement. When we do that it sounds like this:

(I move the story tellers to their original position and have them repeat their sentences)
Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Kathy: “It was a warm and sunny day.”
Laura: “He saw another animal in the meadow.”
Jon: “It was a bear, an angry bear just waking up from a winter nap.”
Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached.”
Dawn: “This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.
Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
This collective statements tells the “whole story” and is inclusive of everyone views. Now that you know the whole story as a manager, you can begin to take action to do something about what is happening. “It sounds to me like we have an angry bear up in the meadow. We better tell other humans about this to keep them away. Or, better yet, have the bear removed to a safer place, so the porcupines can climb down the tree and return to their home.”
If We Exclude Others, We Don’t Get the Whole Story: I then remove 4 members of the group. Rob is removed because he looks like a hippie, and we certainly don’t want to give him any recognition. Jon is always looking for the negative in things, so leave him out. Then, Deb is a member of the public, what does she know about these things? Finally, don’t include Dawn, she is part of that rabid environmentalist group. So, we are left with this story:
Kathy: “It was a warm and sunny day.”
Laura: “He saw another animal in the meadow.”
Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”

Now,... is that the same story? It is certainly a warm and positive story, but it is incomplete, and leaves out important information. If you made a decision to send a group of people up to this meadow, would they have all the information they need?

Coalitions Form and a Battle Begins: The four people who were excluded find they have a common purpose. They were not included, acknowledged, or their information listened to. They form a coalition to get the attention of those who make the decision. They form a line facing the “included group” and begin shouting their sentences at the same time to the others, wanting attention and acknowledgment of their views.
All Rob: A porcupine walked into the meadow.”
Spoken Jon: “It was a bear, an angry bear just wakng up from a winter nap.”
At the Dawn: “This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear.
Same time Debbie: The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached.”
This causes the “included group to come together as a block, expressing their point of view just as loudly, and at the same time. No one listens, if they did it would just sound garbled.
All spoken Kathy: “It was a warm and sunny day.”
At the Laura: “He saw another animal in the meadow.”
Same time Crista: There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.”
Again,the message is visually and intellectually clear to the larger group. If you exclude people, do not hear or acknowledge their information, they will form coalitions and oppose you. In doing so, while all the needed information is expressed, little of it is actually heard.

Including everyone, hearing the whole story, results in community. I bring back the excluded members and they are integrated into the whole story. I remind them that the collective statement includes all words expressed by the individuals in the group. The purpose of the collective statement writer is to write the story.

A porcupine walked into the meadow. It was a warm and sunny day. He saw another animal in the meadow. It was a bear, an angry bear just wakng up from a winter nap.
The bear growled at the porcupine when he approached. This frightened the porcupine, so he climbed a tree to get away from the bear. There he met a female porcupine who became his mate for life.
When this is done, Kathy sees her statement is in the story. It is between Rob and Laura’s statements (I have Kathy hold Robs hand and Laura’s hand). She is part of the story connected with them. In like manner, Laura is connected by the story to Jon, and Jon to Debbie, etc. Soon, all the storytellers are connected with their hands.
This,” I emphasize, “is community.” Everyone has had their say, been listened too and acknowledged. And, what they have said has been put into a collective statement, linking them together. Now, they can decide what to do about this story they have created.”
I ask those standing to take a bow, still holding their hands, and then ask the members of the group to honor these people for helping them learn. They all stand and applaud.




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