Not 'How?' but 'Why?'
Ah, yes! I started in the wrong place. I wrote a piece on how our Aberdeen AMED group is set up and run. I was hoping to encourage others to establish new groups. I had forgotten that it is not obvious why anyone would want to. I imagined it was self-evident. How hard it is to discover those tacit assumptions. nyasaland
“It took me about 6 times before I finally puzzled out how I was supposed to take part in an AMED evening.”
This comment was a disappointment to me because I misunderstood it at first. I thought it implied that our group was not the warm, inclusive and creative place I imagined. Here was a friend, someone I’d known for nearly 20 years, discovering that a special code of behaviour was required for attending our meetings.
It was some time before I saw he was echoing my own experience of finding AMED slowly. Helping him to discover unexpected new ways to behave might be a good thing. It might be exactly what the group is for.
Curiosity and respect
Speaking for myself, the nature of my discovery was that I was a whole and equal member of the group. I was not subordinate or superior to anyone else in the meeting, whatever their age, wisdom or background. My own contribution was encouraged and considered with complete respect.
So here is the behaviour my friend was alluding to. Members of the meeting attend to the conversation thoughtfully before formulating and sharing their response. This sounds rather obvious on the surface but it is not a common experience. It is more usual to find people either promoting their own ideas or passively keeping their thoughts to themselves.
So it takes time, first to notice and then to appreciate that something unusual is taking place. Your initial position might be critical. (“This isn’t a proper meeting.”) So you don’t feel inclined to contribute and yet you find yourself unexpectedly engaged by an unfamiliar idea.
No selling, no dogma, no 'expert' advice
If bold enough to describe your surprise or puzzlement or disagreement, the thoughtful (and not the reflex) responses of others help a wider and deeper shared understanding to emerge. Actually, reflex responses are great too. They often help to reveal tacit assumptions – those uncharted rocks that render the channels of our understanding so hazardous.
Many times I have discovered to be unsound something I previously knew with certainty. It was unpleasant in the early stages. I had been taught that if I paid attention I would acquire knowledge and was rewarded for apparent success. Now I was discovering that the acquisition didn’t amount to much. Slowly I have learned that the loss of old certainties is outweighed, no, overwhelmed by the thrill of new insights.
My theory (which I should test) is that AMED members share this experience. We thought we knew something which turned out to be wrong. Our error was revealed unexpectedly. This happened more than once.
Recognising how little I know clears my decks for new learning!
It seems natural to suppose that our picture is complete or, if we see gaps in our jigsaw puzzle, that we know where they are. My typical response to early discoveries of the type I’m describing here would be: “NOW I see it all.” It took me a few repetitions to realise that I see hardly anything. I don’t even know where the corners are or whether there are four corners or none at all.
So revealing tacit assumptions is what AMED is about for me. I value our meetings because they help me to examine my own thinking. I would love to hear from anyone who agrees or disagrees. If you find this kind of support and challenge elsewhere, please tell me. If you would like to set up a group in your area or for your special interest, give me a call.