The grounds we stand on
The concept of ‘standing your ground’ refers to the unique mental and emotional position we take in any given situation, that is based on our own life experiences. Therefore, by its very nature, its meaning will differ from person to person.
For some, standing their ground reflects positive experiences that represent authenticity and alignment with values. This association can evoke a sense of stability, with little friction and a strong sense of self. In this light, the ground represents something stable and solid – such as our strongly held beliefs and values that provide careful boundaries to protect and even distance ourselves from others.
For others, standing their ground reflects negative, ungrounded experiences. This can bring up feelings of vulnerability, disempowerment and a lack of trust. In these cases, the ground is shaky, and provides no sense of stability from which to anchor values and beliefs. When we are uncertain about the ground on which we stand to be safe and secure, it becomes difficult to hold onto our own truth and trust ourselves and our experiences. We often see this sense of uncertainty emerge in cases of discrimination, bias and situations that challenge identity.
Finding the middle ground
We all have a place “on the hoop of life”, meaning that we all have a right to take up space and experience our world differently, but we have to do this with the knowledge that everyone has that right as well. So, how do we stand our ground in a way that enables the other person on the receiving end to learn from us (in a non-threatening way)?
Imagine we are all trees, anchored in the soil. Our roots are our values and the tree is our body. Using this metaphor, we can begin to understand how to find balance with this question.
As in nature, we can be both rooted and flexible. A swaying tree is still able to move without removing its roots or negatively impacting its ecosystem. Therefore, standing our ground doesn't mean we are bolted down and cannot be swayed – or persuaded differently. When we are rooted deeply in the ground, it is an opportunity to feel aligned and confident in our sense of self. In this way, it is not a matter of being right and everyone else being wrong, but rather about being connected to our beliefs whilst still listening to, and engaging with others. If we can tune in, and embody Nature in its harmony with itself, then we can learn to be better at compassionate disagreement and self-compassion when in conflict (see DavidAttenborough: A Life on Our Planet, to further explore how we can learn from, and emulate Nature, and how important it is to reconnect to this system of which we are a part).
Taking steps toward grounding ourselves
When we don't understand where identity comes from and what parts of ourselves are formed from social conditioning, values and experiences, it makes it harder to unpack and let go of ideas and even beliefs which no longer serve us. This can impact how we stand our ground (rigid). Our opinions can change based on our day to day experience, but our values are more permanent. When people learn to connect through values and flow through opinion, they open themselves up to constructive conflict, greater learning and understanding of others.
To improve our ability to stand our ground whilst being open to dialogue and change, we can:
- Be clear on our thinking having listened to differing opinions, looked at possible biases and given ourselves time and space to reflect.
- Focus on those who don't want to hate and don’t want to separate - D&I professionals need to work with people who are open to change.
- Empower ourselves to be better and lead others who are willing to be led and to journey with us.
- Learn to communicate and engage with others better (do we offer silence, patience, do we question, do we listen?). This impacts our ability to reach other people on different grounds.
- Draw on other skill sets, such as coaching, to better understand our sense of self and how we respond to conflict with compassion.
We will leave you with a quote that truly encapsulates how we can live together in harmony whilst standing on our own, very different and often conflicting grounds.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
If you are not familiar with the dialogue process, this quote by its architect and originator, David Bohm, encapsulates it perfectly.
“It is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today.Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.” David Bohm
This typeof facilitated dialogue we use is rooted in 3 core principles.
- Listen actively
- Be curious
- Suspend judgement
Bohm looks to the collective to create new meaning in an environment that welcomes productive conflict, silence and discomfort. Our facilitators are extremely experienced and understand how to manage multiple dynamics with the least amount of interference to new meaning emerging in the process.
**  Grounded: mentally and emotionally stable: admirably sensible, realistic, and unpretentious.