We would do well to surround ourselves
with people who care about us—
but won’t allow us to skate by with minimal reflection and action.
I first read about the Clearness Committee (Quaker tradition) in Parker Palmer’s works. This powerful tool allows the “focus person,” along with a selected group of people, to tap into his/her inner truth to gain clarity on a vexing personal or professional challenge. No advice is allowed. No leading questions. No pontificating. Only genuine, honest, and clarifying inquiries may be presented by the group.
I’ve attempted to model this in reflective practice sessions I have facilitated—and it is extremely difficult to do. In our fast-food-give-me-a-quick-fix society, allowing someone space (within a group) for reflective deliberation may be viewed as a waste of valuable time. Silence can be awkward. Advice and here’s-what-worked-for-me-so-you-should-use-it-too-so-we-can-get-back-to-work strategies seem to be the default position.
One of the functional, yet challenging, structural components of the Clearness Committee is it’s two-hour meeting length. All members commit their undivided (read: no texting, emailing, technology) attention to what the group is saying and doing for 120 minutes.
Last week I had the opportunity to address the opening session of the Florida Developmental Education Association annual conference. Our topics during the keynote were resilience and passion. As a follow-up , I facilitated a session on the power of reflective practice for a professional community. Throughout the day I often thought about the Clearness Committee concept. What a wonderful way to gain insight and clarity about one’s direction. Participants readily listened to one another about their respective journeys.
If given the chance, who would you place on your clearness committee to help you gain clarity about a personal or professional challenge? In the spirit of the Clearness Committee, allow me to pose a few questions:
- Who do you trust with information about your challenge?
- Who would you not trust to be on your committee? (The Clearness Committee process allows the focus person to name those she would like on the committee—and those she would not want.)
- Can you clearly and succinctly describe your challenge?
- What steps have you already taken to address the challenge?
- Are you willing to accept (possible)long periods of silence during the group meeting? (Silence, as Palmer states, “… does not mean that nothing is happening or that the process has broken down. It may well mean that the most important thing of all is happening: new insights are emerging from within people, from their deepest sources of guidance.”)
- When will you implement your Clearness Committee?
Video recommendation for the week:
Listen to Parker Palmer‘s explanation of what a clearness committee is and does.
I’ve written here before about No B.S. Friends and a personal Board of Directors. The Clearness Committee is one more alternative to help one gain clarity and focus. One commonality that I see is that each possibility depends heavily on choosing your surrounding people with care.
As I mentioned to the conference participants, we would do well to surround ourselves with people who care about us—but won’t allow us to skate by with minimal reflection and action. While they don’t tell us what we should do (in the true sense of the Clearness Committee), they will hold up a mirror and allow us to come to grips (sometimes emotionally kicking and screaming) with what our inner self knows and is struggling with at the moment. Some might call it tough love.
I like to think of it as having people around me who will have my back and be ready to kick my butt when needed with hard honest questions.
Choose well, my friend.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.