Day Four – Dialogue? It’s a Whole-Body Thing


Last week I ran a “Bring your Body to Work” session in a leadership programme. The invitation to participants was to pay attention to how interactions at work generate physical responses (altered breath, tension, knotted gut, racing heart) and how learning to work with that can help us respond well or differently in-the-moment.

It’s my challenge to the whole “sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” adage. Actually? Words can hurt and wound. Or lift and inspire. There is a physical impact, often, in the talking we do. Pretending otherwise kind of seems counterproductive, especially if you are striving to be a leader. So dialogue absolutely has an embodied element to it….

Body Works
I have been privileged to work with the deeply wise and generous Amanda Ridings, author of Pause for Breath, for over 3 years now. She is mentor, friend and teacher. Amanda brings together her experience in business, her t’ai chi and mindfulness practices and the embodied/ somatic work of Wendy Palmer; linking these elegantly with dialogue and leadership. Her work is fiercely powerful.

You know you’ve worked with Amanda when you find someone pushing gently against you (physically or conversationally) and your body becomes rock-like and unyielding, stubborn and unwilling to budge (in my case) and you suddenly realise you’re not quite as flexible and open as you’d have yourself believe….

The work throws up great questions: How does my body respond under pressure? Or under praise? What effect does this have on my capacity to talk well or respond well to others around me? What’s my body up to when I feel fight-y and scared? What working conditions help me to be expansive and generous? How can I understand these and work with them more often?

Bring Your Body To Work
Amanda’s work really forced me to understand that I work with head, heart and instinct. I am not a “brain on a stick” as she would say. How people speak and respond to me and how I speak and respond to others has an impact. It matters. If I want good outcomes for me, for my business, for my family, some awareness of my-whole-self-in-conversation is not just useful… it’s absolutely bloody essential.

I was a little shy about explicitly using body work in leadership and management programmes for a while. I thought clients would see my work as being slightly “out there” if I wasn’t using the appropriate models and giving due attention to the brain….But how can you run a Presentation course without due consideration for breathing and posture? Is it OK to train managers how to performance manage without dealing with the physical reality of nerves? How can we ask someone to lead a team, without equipping them with an understanding of what it might physically do to them when they step into the limelight? I’m not sure it’s wise or productive to work in this way.

So I talk about body work now. It is a firm part of my practice. These days? I bring my body to work…

And in this is an invitation – fuchsiablue is running two 2-day workshops on 5th & 6th Feb and 20th & 21st March this year designed to encourage attendees to think well and talk well together.

You’ll find more details about Exploring Dialogue here:

If you are interested, please sign up – if you’re not, please pass this on to someone who might be – and no matter what, I hope you enjoy the blogs over the next few days.

4 thoughts on “Day Four – Dialogue? It’s a Whole-Body Thing

  1. Julie, your blog is great – and I know this because my body tells me. This knowing develops as I read, with a sensation deep in my gut. I notice this sensation and get curious about its presence. My curiosity leads to greater awareness and I come to understand that this feeling is a warm wave of recognition and appreciation for what you are saying and with it comes a need to affirm what you value and what you are trying to achieve. I gather my energy as I contemplate what I can do to meet my need. The action I decide upon is to respond to your blog.

    So I agree, why wouldn’t we bring our bodies wherever we go? If we slow down and pay enough attention, we can hear truly amazing insights as our whole self speaks to us. In terms of leadership and management, it’s about trusting our bodies ability to inform us of our fear, excitement and knowing an idea is brilliant or otherwise. It’s the place where passion resides and resistance to change hangs out. Leaders and managers need to do bodies if they are to be even more effective.

    The concept that helps me understand this whole body business is the Gestalt cycle of experience. Partly described above and as you know it’s Sensation, Awareness, Mobilisation of Energy, Action, Contact, Assimilation and Satisfaction.

    My satisfaction is I’ve recognised my need to reach out and respond affirmatively.

    • Paul – I really really enjoy reading this comment. It is such a moment-by-moment description – evocative and compelling as I read it. I’m so drawn to the Gestalt way of being in the world – working to pay attention to my own responses and actions… seeing where others’ affect me…

      And I notice that I’m not being critically evaluative of what you have written because it fits well with my world-view and you have affirmed me. Where would that put us in dialogue, I wonder? Would we move through the world agreeing well? What then would we miss? Can we invite a dissenting voice in to help us see differently?

      How enticing….

  2. Having also worked with Amanda and Wendy I have to say it never ceases to amaze me the lessons we can learn from paying attention to our bodies. From too young an age we are encouraged to listen to words to inform us (initially those said by others and then to those we create in our minds) and dampen down the other infomation that comes to us from other parts of our bodies. How many times do we refuse to give attention to our intuition; to really feel and acknowledge our emotions; and to give kudos to our reactions to the energy in the space around us and then we wonder why we get that feeling that we are missing something somewhere in a conversation .

    If we can re learn to tune into this information and balance it along with the ‘head messages’ imagine how wholesome our talking together would become, imagine what the outcome might be, and how satisfied and content those involved would be. No longer would we walk away from meetings/presentations/debates thinking ‘what a waste of time/they just dont get it / Ill sort it myself/ next time Ill say nothing…as the tension in our neck and shoulder muscles increases ,our hearts harden and the knot in our gut tightens…..

    • Beautifully put… and we live in a world that appears to value head-based rationale over deeper, more connected ways of being. I was going to say we have lost contact with ourselves and the wider world, but of course, that’s only partially true. The work that the likes of Wendy & Amanda under take, the growing interest in Mindfulness at work, the increased interest in connected Gestalt thinking, the growing environmental movement and awareness – all these things point toward our work and life world seeking to access something bigger and more connected – less about rational head stuff, more about heart & essence.
      The stores we tell ourselves? It’s about the head…. but you & I know different.

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