When people come together, they bring with them their own personal energy. Sometimes these energies resonate in ways that are harmonious, productive and affirming. Other times the result is a discordant clash and mindsets come into conflict with one another.
To be effective in group environments we need to learn to step into dissonance with as much confidence and purpose as we do harmony. To tune in, we need to listen both to ourselves and the people around us. Individuals in groups, at work, at home, or anywhere, are forced to come out of their shells and interact. In doing so, everyone interprets the actions of others through their own filter, a filter that has been moulded by a unique set of life experiences.
Sensitivity to the interplay of dynamic emotional forces allows us to navigate the choppy waters of the group. Much like listening to our own energy through the resonance exercise we looked at last time, discerning the energy of others requires deeper listening than we usually practice in everyday life; listening for pre-verbal emotional resonance. When they work effectively, groups serve to amplify the energy we bring as individuals, allowing us to take risks and push further, creating a positive feedback loop that serves the singular and the plural alike.
‘Ubuntu’ is a southern African term that describes this collective reciprocity. It has various translations, however the most well-known is “I am because we are”. In the Ubuntu paradigm, the individual turns their attention and focus outwards toward the shared benefit of humanity, whether on a large or small scale. With this worldview, we come into our own humanity when we are acting not just with others, but actively for them. Through ubuntu, our framing of resonance becomes not just about identifying which situations or people to avoid or draw nearer to, but as a means of understanding, accepting, and being in the present situation or group configuration.
Resonance is felt at the pre-cognitive level of the heart and gut, areas that we have discussed in previous blogs. As we bring in the mind and conscious awareness, we make choices about how and where to inflect these innate feelings. It is at this level that our beliefs about humanity and the world begin to affect our actions, making us more or less effective at navigating situations. By choosing to adopt a collective mentality like ubuntu, we are committing to highlight the value of every individual, no matter their worldview or contribution to a group dynamic.
From this position, we can reframe our action and leadership style in a way that doesn’t merely take into account energy and resonance as a way to justify our own decision making. Instead we are acknowledging our own intuition in a way that is directed outwards – towards how that intuition can best serve those around us instead of simply reinforcing our egoistic conception of self. Or, rather, we reframe our priorities in such a way that our conception of self is generated from without as much as from within: I am, because we are.