The Individual’s Tools of Making Meaning

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What are the keys to effective group communication?





Suspending Judgment


How can you find value in all the members of your team?

Mutual Benefit

Diverse Perspectives

Business Relationship



How do you help members who need support?

Clear Concise Communication

3rd Party Stories

Telling the Truth

Being Dependable



Looking for Mutual Benefit

Emphasizing Similarities


How can you influence other team members? Why?


Being Dependable



Looking for Mutual Benefit

Emphasizing Similarities


What gets in the way of team learning?

What investment could you make in yourself to help us learn?


Advocacy & Inquiry











 Guidelines for Making Meaning through Dialogue


Make the group a "safe" place for everyone.

Use emotions as indicators of importance rather than as outcomes.

When thinking:

What are the shared meanings we need?

What are the assumptions or inferences about those meanings?


If we had to draw a picture of all this what would it look like?
Am I just thinking about my ideas?
Am I just thinking about my problems?
What might stretch my thinking?

When listening

Suspend certainty.

Be aware of what is going on internally and externally.

Checkout your own listening.

Welcome differences or opposites.


Who is going to want praise? Am I sure about this?
Who is going to want to improve this process? Am I sure about this?
Who is going to want to fight? Am I sure about this?
Who is going to raise objections? Am I sure about this?
How am I hearing this?
What ideas am I using that influence my listening?

When talking

State your assumptions but don’t defend them.
Inquire into your own and other’s thinking and feelings.    
Slow down.
Allow silence for reflection.
Speak from "I".
Speak to the center not to a particular person.
Inquiry and


Typical talk

What if we imagined that...
I’m intrigued by what I just heard and I’m wondering....
This is so important maybe it would be good to hear briefly from everyone.
What is the underlying belief that’s the source of how we’ve thought about this?
What is it about this assumption that’s really important to our understanding?



Making meaning is about behavior change, BUT the first behavior we need to change is our own. To do this we must first change the meaning (to us) of the experiences we have.


It is "natural" for us to see what we expect to see even if it is not real. We need to change the meaning of what we see if we really want to learn together.


Why do we stick with old meanings when they are not the "best" way to help us learn?




Sometimes they are the best way to help us learn.

Sometimes they were the best way to help us learn.

Our most trusted friends tell us it is the "best" way to handle the situation.(or they agree with us and reinforce us when we tell them it is the best way; even when they suspect it isn’t)

We tell ourselves it is the "best" way to handle the situation.
(even when we suspect it isn’t)

We don’t know what else to do.
(or that is what we tell ourselves)

We don’t have time to think up a "better" way.
We also don’t have time to clean up the mess made by handling things the wrong way.)

Sometimes we are tired.

Sometimes we are lazy.

Sometimes we are just too distracted.


All of these things are just a part of being human.... the real issue is not if we do or don’t do them, we all have and will again. The issue is knowing when it is happening and being able to work with others on getting better. We can do this by asking ourselves a few questions to help us SUSPEND our judgment and change the meaning of experience.


How to SUSPEND our judgement


What are some examples of these meanings that you have inside your head?

How do these meanings get up there?

What are two problems with the existing meanings?

Sometimes we change information coming in to match our existing meanings.
Sometime we put irrelevant information in with good information to help make "sense" of it all.

When can information be distorted by existing meanings?

When it goes in.
While it is in there.
When we take it back out.

What can we do to make sure our meaning or significance we give to an experience is helpful to achieving mutual benefit?

SUSPEND JUDGMENT -- when you look at the picture of the old lady and the young girl you have to suspend your decision about what you are seeing so you can see the image from another perspective. You have to change the meaning of what you are seeing and here’s helpful mnemonic:

Image15.gif (10650 bytes) Suspend judgment, stop deciding and seek information
Understand other points of view by listening to others talk about their point of view
Seek confirmation of your understanding by asking about feelings and about content
Prospect for new perspectives in unfamiliar territory as well as familiar territory
Expand ideas to create new perspectives
Nurture relationships with those who have different opinions so you can understand   their perspective
Decide what’s the "best" meaning by testing your ideas on a small scale before you store them away.


and the skill used in overcoming the tricks of the mind:


Ideas for members to consider?

Develop a guide for participants in meetings that helps the in making meaning for themselves and others.
Show up
Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
Tell the truth without blame or judgment
Be open to outcome, not attached to an outcome (from "The Bridge of Healing: Discovering  Universal Themes of Human Culture by A. Arrien)

Can members answer these questions:

who is dependent on me and on whom am I dependent?
How is this good for me and for you?
If we do this what will be the result? (Now and in the future.)

Do members realize that people see things in different ways (create different meanings) because they:

have different experiences
focus their attention on different aspects of similar experiences
concentrate mostly on evidence that supports their view
filter and label information in different ways
remember information so it fits their story
reshape previous information so it fits new needs

and that we cannot rely on reciprocity (just because we are doing the "right" thing i.e.,
struggling to make meaning that is helpful to me and to others, there is no reason to
believe anyone else should or will.)