Art of Hosting – is it all about being nice? This question has my attention right now, following my recent adventures in and near Sao Paulo, Brazil for a four day Art of Hosting training followed by a one day Community of Practice meeting with mostly young practitioners in that country who are holding the field there with intentionality and integrity. It is a question that has arisen a couple of times now post the training, I know it comes up in other places and it is one that is fundamentally important to the work we do.
Is Art of Hosting just about being nice? And, why do we feel the need to ask that question? I wonder if it has something to do with the field we create when we come together in ways that for many are different than their usual day-to-day experiences and which beg the question of how to show up differently.
In my experiences, when we really pay attention to what’s happening in the Art of Hosting training field (and beyond too), we will know that it is not always “nice”. There are things that come up within host teams – issues, questions, disagreements, shadow – that sometimes get addressed and sometimes don’t. We know that unresolved issues on host teams can and does impact the training field to large and small degrees depending on the issues and the capacity of the individuals to host their own field. Sometimes what happens in the field of the training influences or impacts the host team.
Because Art of Hosting trainings are just that – a training ground – and people are courageously stepping into hosting portions of the training using methodologies they are not yet familiar or comfortable with, it is an imperfect practice and not always “nice”. The intention the host teams I work with carry is to support and encourage learning and growth by helping people see their own learning and growth. In Brazil, I was part of some really powerful debriefing sessions where participants shared their learning in ways that were far more comprehensive than anything I could have shared with them.
I learned some things. I learned how challenging it is for people to leap into the challenge of hosting when they don’t know each other, they all have great ideas about how to host the session they signed up for and they are carrying their doubts with them as they work with others and step into a very public part of the process, doubts that can very easily and often unintentionally be triggered by themselves, by others and by the work. I am even more aware of how important it is that they feel encouraged and supported and that as part of the overall hosting team, we create space for them to grow, experiment and risk – which may also mean that they “fail”. But if that can’t happen in the training ground, where else can it possibly happen?
Art of Hosting is about creating space for meaningful and relevant conversations and it is about relationship building. The better we are able to build the relationships the better the conditions for the conversations we are wanting to have in our organizations, networks and communities. The more we care about the other people involved and the purpose for which we are working, the more we are willing to stay in conversations that move us toward different results – and particularly the necessary, often difficult conversations – the ones that when we don’t have them, they get in the way of change, impact or progress and hold us back. The more we care, the more we are willing to risk – even imperfectly.
We can only truly be in those conversations when we personally are able to find our voice – a voice we often dismiss before others can or bury deep inside ourselves by believing there is no space or room for us, that we will be judged for what we want to contribute or that we do not have enough credentials, experience or credibility to say what is on our minds and in our hearts. And this may be the thing we all most need to have voiced.
Learning, growth, risking, finding voice are not about being nice but it is a lot easier to tap into these things when we feel encouraged and when the environment is welcoming of all that is showing up. This is not always easy to do and, for me as a host, it is a constant learning journey – and I know this was true of others on this particular hosting team.
Ultimately, the purpose of this work we do in the Art of Hosting field is to make a difference, maybe even to change the world, if I may be so bold. And I do see it happening – in individuals, teams, organizations and communities. I see this work being used very strategically in all kinds of places to shift the shape of communities, organizations and systems. These trainings help us create foundations – within ourselves and with the work – to generate this shift.
The theme for this Brazilian Art of Hosting was the dance between inner and outer self – the impact of doing deep inner work on how we work in the world. This theme came about because friends and colleagues of our Brazilian host team were asking for it and the response to the invitation was strong – thirty-nine of us altogether from a range of backgrounds and experiences, mostly in their twenties and thirties. The host team modeled well the theme. We had strong, caring relationships that allowed us to compassionately and honestly voice the full range of fear, uncertainty and contradiction that was showing up for us, as well as the joy, appreciation and gratitude for what we saw emerging, building a stronger field for the participants and greater opportunities to flow with what was wanting and needing to happen in the field we were holding.
No, it is not all about being nice. But how wonderful when we feel the foundation to be able to speak and address the things that are not so nice coming from a place of caring deeply, opening us up to more attentive listening and responsiveness and growing our capacity to shift the shape of the things that are most important to us in the world.