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John Lodder

I worked ca. 20 years on a FIA project for European Auto Clubs with the goal to bring the quality of Central and Eastern European Auto Clubs at the quality levels of the Western Auto Clubs. That meant working with different subjects at different levels in the different organisations. There were several meetings and 3-4 days workshops a year with management and marketeers.
We managed e.g. to have no issue during the Balkan war between the different countries present in the workshop, nor with the participants from Macedonia and Greece.
In this context I had groups from ca. 40 people from ca. 30 clubs / countries as an average. We had huge cultural and language differences and then you realize the importance of language, (active) listening and helping each other to understand, exchange and learning from each other.

Yvonne Bonner

I chose: “Sous les pavés, la plage”- Yes, words are worlds. Prophetic or not, words do change the world. Today, it is probably true in Hongkong and not only. Moreover, commercial publicity knows the tricks of word-trapping.

I appreciate the poetic stance of the slogan “Sous les pavés, la plage”, it is a soft way of expressing a deep desire for a better world. 1968, was a year with just a few months of overwhelming hope during which words were hard as cobble stones and hope as romantic as a beach. “Sous les pavés, la plage”. These words now resonate, distant reminders of a lost revolution, or more precisely of rolling social developments: gender liberation (women and LGBT) and children’s rights (1989). Words that opened the doors to a gradual transformation of the collective world-mindset.

A few words such as “Il est interdit d’interdire” created the mental space for anti-institutional protests against psychiatric asylums and prisons. Words do change worlds, one renowned example is, “I have a dream”; however, worlds also change words and create new words such as “Make America great again”.

Language in fact moulds human history, yet it is useful to remember that words are reversible, worlds are not. It is easy to change words, less so to change worlds.

Joep C de Jong

My story emerged in the conversation with Christine whereby we spoke of the Dutch culture which is intertwined with its struggle with the water. AS a result I found out a number of years ago when I started to do a ‘watermanagement tour’ with the students of the master program on OD of the American University that there are many words that have no direct translation but are an integral part of the Dutch language and culture. Words like ‘kwel’ (water that is coming ’through’ the dykes at a deep(er) level), ‘dijkgraaf’ (a person that is the chair of a water board), ‘waterschap’ (water board), ‘wipwatermolen’ (a special kind of windmill to ‘pump’ water out of the ‘polder’. It was interesting to see how the Dutch landscape and culture emerged from our conversation around these untranslatable words.

Getraud Wegst

Amazing English Lessons
When I studied Facility Management we had the mandatory subject “Business English”. I was not too fond of attending because I thought my English was ok, others needed more, especially those from Eastern Germany who had to learn Russsian. What a surprise. Our professor was a genius in English, our class always full and every student, even the beginners, passed the final test. How was that possible?

The professor, a nice, charming man who could speak 8 languages fluently,knowing the basics of many others. But the most impressive: He was kind of a genealogist when it came to what words come from what language family, how the words spread with the migration of the peoples at what time. He was a real storyteller making words and grammar really real and understandable.

Students were glued to his lips when he made history come alive and language fealable as living and developing – still ongoing. To love the English language and even language as such became really easy. I can still feel his love for and his excitement with language and humankind.

Switch on Appreciation
We were training 10 leaders in Appreciative Inquiry over a period of 5 month in bi-weekly telephone calls. It was about in the middle of the training where everyone had started to create and lead his own Appreciative Inquiry process with a team of their choice. So going out and applying the learned content especially asking appreciative questions.

One day in the sharing round one of the trainees, a board member whose tasks included monthly visits to their different offices said: “Guess what happened. Yesterday, I paid my monthly tribute to this particular office where I mostly feel like the Jerusalem Wailing Wall. Like a waterfall they came: complaints, complaints, complaints also this time. Well this is part of my job but I had thought that this was unavoidable. Not so this time, I just was fed up and did not want to only hear complaints.
So I took a deep breath and said: I got you and I see your point. But now I want to ask you: What did go right, what can you share as good news from this past month?

Utter silence, shocked silence for more than a minute. Then one of them cautiously raised his hand and then started to share something that went really well just recently. And as if this man had turned a switch, one after the other came out with a really good story about what went well during the past month. And within minutes the whole atmosphere changed from almost depressed, complaining mode to one of reassurance, joy and even laughter. I will never do it differently again. This was so relieving. And I could really witness: Wherever you put your awareness on, grows.”

Vera Hofmann

It’s a story of creating consciousness, gender roles, and staying away from the guilt-question. Let me start with a bit of context. I come from Germany, a culture, that I learned in my studies on intercultural psychology, scores high on the dimension masculinity. Until I had heard about the work of Hofstede and McCrae on Cultural Dimensions, I was not even aware of that and back then, I also could not really feel what it meant in my life. However, after having lived my first year in the Netherlands about 1 year ago, I started understanding this concept of a more feminine vs masculine culture better. Because the more feminine, dutch culture allowed me to become more and more aware what I had suppressed in myself before, in order to achieve my career and personal goals. I always had taken extreme care, that I look professional (short haircut, blazer, no feminine dresses at work), did my work in a disciplined, goal-oriented way, find rational explanations for mostly all of my decisions, and was very cautious of not sharing anything that would reveal my feminine qualities in the work place. That’s how I grew up. That’s how every women showed me how to succeed in the work place.

It was with a date that I had 1,5 years ago where this handsome man asked me why I didn’t let my hair grow longer, that I realized by listening to my own answer that I always had assumed that the same unwritten rules about success in career would apply here in the Netherlands too. I wondered whether I could actually let them go and question them. When doing so, I was first stunned, a bit surprised and then got very curious.

And when I finally started my discovery journey about masculine and feminine values and principles, about where they come from and what role they play in our societies, how we value them differently and have brought them into a hierarchy which effects consciously or subconsciously how we also value the work of men and women, I felt a massive rage arising. Rage about how I could have suppressed such an important, powerful part of myself for the last decades, that the women before me did the same in order to keep the peace in the house and their children safe. I was enraged how in my culture showing feminine qualities was perceived as weak, but showing too much masculine qualities as a woman got you the title as „a bitch“. And it outraged me how men were trained to look for status, domination and not showing any softness. It took me a year of soul searching, hard inner work and the search for literature that helped me to find a constructive way of dealing with this tension. But I found it in the work of C.G.Jung and a storyteller called Claudia Pinkola-Estes around archetypes. Discovering the word and the meaning of archetypes was a big revelation for me. The concept of archetypes assumes that we all have, are confronted with and invited to learn how to deal with powerful parts in our psyche. Archetypes are not just influencing my perception and behavior (if I am not aware of them) but the collective behaviour. They surface when we feel strong emotions, an intuitive hunch, an instinct. They are lingering under the surface of our consciousness. There are many archetypes: the mother- and the father archetype, the seducing Aphrodite, the nurturing Demeter, the angry war-loving Mars. We recognize them in Greek, Roman or Egyptian goddesses and gods – only that we don’t belief in and pray to them anymore. But they are actually extremely helpful even todaynif we realize that, once we are aware of them, they are helping us to deal with the tension within ourselves and not to project the tension on other people around us.

To go back to my story of rage about me suppressing my feminine parts: recognizing and acknowledging that I don’t have to blame „the men“ or a specific man for the suppression that I and other women have felt is such a powerful relief for me. To stay in the language of the ancient gods and goddesses: it’s just Zeus, Mars and their brothers took a bit too much space in my Olymp (and maybe also in the Olymp of the German society) and that the female goddesses should get their spots now too. I don’t have to feel guilty or let anybody else feel guilty. I can just acknowledge that there was an imbalance for me in how my feminine and masculine parts were given power in my psyche and now I can redistribute power in a new way, that works better for me, and that makes me a better human.

Words create worlds. The word and concept of the archetype opened the doors to a more peaceful and balanced world for me.

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