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Staying in dialogue while ‘charged’

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Written by Mayvin Directors Sarah Fraser and Martin Saville. We are having regular discussions within Mayvin around race and privilege. It feels right, responsive and wholesome to be doing so. We fear that if we did not have these conversations we may be left behind, with the surging wave of change, or maybe intention for change, across so many organisations and institutions. Our conversations […]
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Written by Mayvin Directors Sarah Fraser and Martin Saville.

We are having regular discussions within Mayvin around race and privilege. It feels right, responsive and wholesome to be doing so. We fear that if we did not have these conversations we may be left behind, with the surging wave of change, or maybe intention for change, across so many organisations and institutions. Our conversations have been instigated by our work with clients around race-equality, a shared felt need to explore these issues further in our own back yard in the current movement for change, and from a keen desire to understand our own lens and privilege better in order to challenge ourselves and our business around these issues. 

For us, this work is also personal. Mayvin’s founders are Jewish, and while we no longer describe ourselves as a Jewish business, this remains an important part of our story – it is no coincidence that the word Mayvin has its origin in Hebrew. We have been exploring where ‘Jewishness’ fits into our business, our brand, our values and our identity in our current context: these days the majority of Mayvins are not Jewish. And where does Jewishness fit into the anti-racism work we have been leading which focuses on discrimination against people of colour? 

What we have been noticing in our conversations is how suddenly we can feel ‘charged’. It appears as a tension, a change in tone of voice, a sharp edge like catching a nail and not being able to get rid of the rough edge. The charge comes from different places, at different moments for all of us, and for very different reasons buried deep in our identities and personal histories. In embodied terms it might be described as a ‘contraction’ or ‘being knocked off centre’. We find ourselves in a more reactive place, feeling the need to defend our position or make ourselves heard even if that means no longer listening. 

As we have talked together and inquired together, we have noticed how the phenomenon of being charged has become increasingly figural. We are concluding it is less about ‘working it out’ and instead we have been trying to work with it. Our questions have become: how can we work with others in charged conversations? What is it that helps move everyone forward and release the grip of that charge? How might this be useful to ourselves and our clients? 

Here are some of the ideas that are emerging for us.  

  •  Stating where we are, where we think the charge is coming from, how it affects us 
  •  Collectively re-configuring and unpacking interpretations of language and definitions that may have been the rough edge that caught the nail 
  •  Using this to re-orientate ourselves in relation to the issue, noticing and describing how our feelings or position have changed  
  •  Not trying to resolve the issue but finding a way to stand in our differences together  
  •  Honouring the causes of our charge, but not acting into these charged moments 
  •  Exploring the different ways we are the same and different to offer a sharper understanding of what is happening between us 
  •  Working to understand what to foreground and what to let go of in our individual and collective stories as we grow and change. 

Ultimately, it seems to us that there is a choice. To create safety and clarity by pulling up the drawbridge or to have another go at staying in dialogue even in these charged moments, with all the confusion and vulnerability that this entails. As a community of practitioners and as a consultancy business our commitment to staying in relationship is clear. And with our depth in Gestalt and other relational practices we believe it places us well to support our clients to develop their own practice of staying in dialogue while charged. It is not always easy work but it is important. 

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