Provision #579: A Beautiful Mosaic
by Bob Tschannen-Moran
It's easy to love people who are similar to us and who are doing what we
want in the way we want them to do it. Most of the time, however, we are dealing
with those who are different from us and who have their own ideas and strategies
about how to go about things. That's when the going gets tough when it comes
love, understanding, and respect. The more we object, however, the more conflict
ensues. The more we appreciate the needs people are trying to meet, the more
community emerges. I, for one, hope and strive for the latter. Read on to learn
how to make it so for you as well.
I was speaking last week with a client in Vietnam who informed me that, yes, the
Olympics are as big a deal in Vietnam as they are in the United States. There's
something about the idea of competing nonviolently across nations, cultures, and
races that is incredibly attractive, and incredibly needed, at this point and
time. Here's to the Olympic spirit in all areas of human endeavor!
In watching some of the games, I have been impressed as to how people are
approaching different cultural and personal preferences with respect and
understanding. That's the way it should be. Instead of objecting to or taking
offense at those differences, it is better to appreciate and accommodate them.
When Roqaya Al-Gassra of Bahrain, for example, competed in the women's 200 meter
race, she did so wearing a neck-to-ankle suit and hijab, a full Muslim
headscarf. And she ran that way into the semifinals.
Did her choice cause any problems? No. She found it personally motivating to
represent her country and her tradition in such fashion. And she celebrated the
fact that at the Olympics there are no obstacles to participation. American
Allyson Felix, wearing the more common briefs and singlet top, did not find Al-Gassra's
garb to be distracting in the least. She was focused on the competition, the
crux of the matter, not the
On the human-interest side of the Olympics, perhaps some of you saw the story
regarding the Panda baby-boom in the wake of the recent Chinese earthquake.
Although two Pandas died in the earthquake, the rest were evacuated to a new
Panda reserve where they been recovering both physically and emotionally.
Through the adoption of a policy called "loving-heart action." This policy
-- pairing up keepers with no more than two Pandas,
-- staying with the Pandas every day until they feel safe and secure again,
-- calling them by name, and
-- patting their fur and head
One keeper, Xie Hao, came with the Pandas to the new reserve. He knows every
Panda by name, include the nine newborn Pandas. When asked how he could tell
them apart, he said, "From the face characteristics, but I cannot tell you the
details. That's a feeling. I just feel every Panda's difference and I can tell
which one, one by one." To get them to where they can be reintroduced in the
wild, Xie Hao concluded, "We have to have a relationship just like best friends.
I must love them and they must love me."
You can watch the story yourself by going to:
Life is like that. No two creatures are the same. Everyone and everything is
unique. Yet we all need genuine caring and love.
That's what empathy is all about: authentic connection. Xie Hao has an authentic
connection with those Pandas. Allyson Felix had an authentic connection with
Roqaya Al-Gassra. Through noticing and respecting differences we shift from
judgment to appreciation, from fear to affirmation, from appearance to
engagement. That is the spirit of the Olympic games and that is the spirit our
world needs today.
So how do we do that? How do we cultivate genuine love and caring for all,
regardless of differences and disagreements? It helps to recognize the
universality of human needs. Although everyone is different as to their
preferences, cultures, traditions, and talents, everyone is the same when it
comes to the needs they are trying to meet. However well and however poorly we
choose to express ourselves, the underlying intent of all our actions and words
is to get our needs met.
To understand human needs, many have come up with descriptive frameworks.
Perhaps the best known is the framework developed by Abraham Maslow, one of the
founders of humanistic psychology. Maslow created his now famous pyramid, with
basic physical needs at the bottom (e.g., air, water, and food), followed by
safety needs (e.g., security and stability), social needs (e.g., belonging,
love, and acceptance), and self-actualization needs (e.g., fulfillment and
Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist, developed a more robust taxonomy
involving nine fundamental human needs (subsistence, protection, affection,
understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom) each of
which can be satisfied on four different levels (being, having, doing, and
interacting). This creates a 36-cell matrix which Max-Neef uses as a more robust
measure of a society's development than strictly economic models. Kath Fisher
reproduces the matrix as follows in her essay on
and Human-Scale Development:
plan, take care
make love, express
sense of humor
peace of mind
relax, have fun
places to be alone
get to know
run risks, develop
Marshall Rosenberg has incorporated Max-Neef's distinction between needs and
satisfiers in his model of
Communication. We often confuse the two, he notes, which contributes to many
misunderstandings and conflicts. People with different backgrounds and
personalities may use very different strategies at different times to satisfy
their needs, but they are all trying to meet the same, universal human needs.
Looking for the needs behind the strategies is one way to approach people with
respect, caring, and love even when their strategies are confusing, foreign,
off-putting, or even repulsive.
That is the framework to come from if we want to cultivate greater respect,
understanding, and love in our lives and in our world. We have to see the
differences as a beautiful mosaic and we have to pay attention with as much love
as the Panda keepers. Then, and only then, will we get beyond reactions of
hostility and defensiveness to reactions of appreciation, affirmation, and
engagement. It really is possible to see the beauty of the needs, regardless of
how well or how poorly someone may be expressing themselves, if we choose to do
so and if we practice accordingly.
Wonderfully, that choice and practice can make love and respect a more common
experience in our world today. Until someone feels heard at the deep level of
their needs, no progress is possible when there are differences over strategies.
Everyone will just keep fighting over how to satisfy their needs, without
recognizing the needs themselves as the bond we hold in common. By choosing to
see the beauty of the needs, and by practicing our communication of that choice,
it's not beyond us to make the Olympic spirit more prevalent than an every-four-year occurrence.
Coaching Inquiries: When have you looked for the beauty of the need even when
you have not understood or endorsed the strategy being pursued? How have you
chosen to communicate that intention? What happened? How could you learn to love
others, even when they are different from you? Who could you practice with
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After reading your Provision on "Who's
Right?" I was moved to congratulate you on how well you explained the
ideal of responding with empathy and example, especially when someone is
behaving in a way you don't like or understand. Thank you. More so, I know
you practice this yourself whenever you can. Thanks for being the change you
want to see, and sharing it!
I loved your Provision on playing the game of "Who's Right?" - very powerful
stuff - I "check" myself (often) when I get sucked into that game but never
with the option of not playing. I usually just play a little more cautiously
but allowing myself the option of not playing should be very empowering. I
am going to try it the next chance I get.
Wow! Did you write your Provision on "Who's Right?" before the SaddleCreek
Forum with Obama and McCain? I think that your thesis is exactly what I
concluded at the end of this forum. John McCann definitely had the rapid
fire, "I know what I am doing answers" and Barak Obama definitely had the
contemplative "Let's think about this and come up with a solution that will
be in the best interest of all."
I applaud the SaddleCreek Church for such a great attempt to bring some
civility to our national conversation; I did not change my mind but I did
spend 2 hours listening to both candidates, when my previous response would
have been to just listen to the person that I was supporting. Once again
LifeTrek is on the cutting edge of the kind of thinking that resonates
within my life. I am thankful that your Provisions are a regular part of my
life. (Ed. Note: Yes, it was written before the Forum, which I did not have
a chance to watch. Glad the Provision spoke to you!)
I just want to say I enjoyed your Provision on "Who's right?" as well as the
on running. I am running again myself. I am now training for a 10k that I
have done the past two years in a row and I am totally enjoying it. Hope you
are still running strong.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International,
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation,
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching,
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time,
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 •
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