I once met a man who is blind. We were discussing what it was
like to be a blind person in a sighted world. This man was an advocate for the blind and worked as a consultant to help businesses and other public facilities become more accessible for persons who are visually impaired. For the most part he
found businesses were happy to make needed accommodations such as adding braille to signs throughout the building. However, he found some businesses to be quite resistant to making any changes at all saying it was much too expensive to make accommodations. One business owner told him it was simply too expensive to accommodate blind employees. The man replied with a chuckle "it is interesting
to hear how expensive it is to accommodate the blind with a few raised bumps on a sign but no one ever complains about how much it costs to light an entire building for the sighted."
Yesterday I co-facilitated an EAP/L workshop at the Sundance Center in Fennville, Michigan. One topic which came up in processing our activities was how difficult it can be for us to view the world from another person's perspective; especially if this person is very different from us. In EAGALA model EAP/L we focus on the art of "clean language" -- asking a question with as little judgment as possible. A "clean" question has very few words such as: "How was that?"
Words which carry any judgment are removed and/or changed to clean words: "How did the horse feel when you hit him with the pool noodle?" becomes "What happened when the pool noodle touched the horse?" The idea is to be curious, not judgmental in our questioning. Can you see the judgment in the first question? If someone asked you that question would you feel like you were in trouble or did something wrong? The point is the first question is being asked to "confirm" what the facilitaor already (thinks) "knows." The second question is being asked because the asker truly wants to know what is going on.
The lesson here in our EAP practice is to ask questions with genuine curiosity and without judgment. This takes lots of practice and requires a shift in our thinking. As you interact with people in practice and in your life, think about the words you choose…are you coming from a place of curiosity and empathy or are we unintentionally (or consciously) coming from a place of judgment and egocentrism?
Cheryl L. Eriksen, MSW, Equine Enthusiast, EAGALA groupie and writer of interesting, educational and entertaining blog posts!