What would you like to be acknowledged for?

Italian senate

In the writing workshops I run, we do an acknowledgement exercise to wrap up the workshop. I’ll turn to the person next to me and tell the person what I’d like to be acknowledged for.

I say, “Jane, I would like to be acknowledged for … [insert what you want here]“, and then Jane turns to me and says, “Narelle, I acknowledge you for … [insert whatever it was I asked for]“, and then we go round the room until everyone has been acknowledged.

The workshops are brilliant fun for me and the participants; still, nothing gets us like this one five-minute thing at the end. You could say the whole workshop is in service of this one short exercise that, on the surface at least, has nothing to do with business writing and communication.

What I notice in them, and in myself, is remarkable. There’s fear, a huge opening of something and also this uncanny power of revelation. People say things you could never have guessed. What I also see is the confrontation that can be experienced in asking for what we want, and in the invitation to be real. It’s also common for people to struggle to be with the acknowledgement when it comes and many want to hurry away from hearing they have made a difference.

For myself too, sometimes I have to ask the person to say the words three or four times before I can allow myself to hear them.

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I got the technique from a Landmark course leader, the glorious Marcelle Bernard. I might have told this story before on this blog (I’m losing track) but I want to tell it again anyway because I love it. Marcelle is one powerful woman, and so is her sister (another Landmark course leader), and the two sisters use this practice with each other. One day, Marcelle said to her sister, “You know, every time I come to your house I do this thing; I go to your laundry and clean the lint filter on the clothes dryer for you. So I would like to be acknowledged for cleaning the lint filter on the dryer for you.”  And her sister gave her the acknowledgement, “Marcelle, I acknowledge you for cleaning the lint filter on the dryer for me.”

This makes me laugh. We humans are so funny.

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When we get to the end of the workshop, people don’t want to leave because it’s clear something rare has taken place. People are smiling and looking at each other with curiosity. I tell them to use the practice with the people in their lives, their partners, children, parents, friends, and I can see their minds working as they try on the thought.

What about you, dear reader, what would you like to be acknowledged for?

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Image: The Italian Senate, Palazzo Madama, during the discussion before the votes over Silvio Berlusconi’s Parliament expulsion in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images, courtesy The Guardian

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10 thoughts on “What would you like to be acknowledged for?

  1. It’s not an easy question to answer, can’t say I’ve ever thought about it before. I would however like to acknowledge Hansi above for being a good friend and person, and you too for that matter Narelle. Russell.

  2. One of the essential features of workshops like this is the way things are laid out so clearly, with ground rules like “listen” and “be courteous” and “respect the other person’s opinions”. The ritual of asking for and receiving acknowledgement that you describe seems simple and yet it is most often totally missing from daily life. The dryer lint story could go in a different direction without the ritual. “I removed the lint from your dryer.” “Are you saying I don’t keep my house clean.” (& etc.).

    I would like to be acknowledged for my patience with my husband, who has Mild Cognitive Impairment following a stroke two years ago.

  3. This is a beautiful and I acknowledge you for bringing light into a world filled with with shadows.

    What would I like to be acknowledged for? That, because I am here, the world is a bit friendlier a place for all of nature’s creations.

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