SDD Practice

[Paper presented to the Japanese Institute of Negotiation, Fall 2004)
Jacqueline Wasilewski, Ph.D.
Division of International Studies & the Graduate School of Public Administration
International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan

A Meditation on Turning Sixty: On the Transience (ephemeral nature) of Enemies

When I turned 60 year before last a long meditation began to emerge on the ephemeral nature of “enemies.” I was born in the middle of World War II, March 12, 1943. This was the month and year in which the United States began constructing the atom bomb in my father’s home state of New Mexico. On the day of my birth the Japanese, Germans and Italians were the enemies of the nation-state in which I was born. On the day I was born no one would have predicted that sixty years later I would be teaching in Tokyo. On the day I was born the Russians and the Chinese were counted as friends. However, growing up in the middle of the Cold War the whole situation was reversed. Now the Japanese, Germans and Italians were our friends, and it was the Russians and Chinese who were our enemies. So neither would anyone have predicted during my growing up years that, not only would I be teaching in Tokyo, but that two of my most talented graduate students would be from Siberia and Shanghai.

Then two weeks ago I had another amazing experience … going to a conference in the old East Zone of Berlin in the company of young people from all over what used to be behind the Iron Curtain.

This long mediation has left me with just one question. In the end we have to talk anyway, so why don’t we just solve our problems through talk in the first place?

Dialoguein the West began in the middle of the 5th century B.C. in Sicily. It was after a war (what else is new?) in order to decide about land claims … and how to do it through talk, through dialogue … dia … logos … through words, instead of through violence.

The formal study and teaching of communication

Since this first attempt to solve things through words instead of through fighting was associated with the establishment of a court system, the emphasis was on persuasion and argumentation, a focus that has remained central to the Western approach to communication (as near as I can tell) ever since.

As some of you may remember I have spent many years working with indigenous people around the world. Beginning two years ago I have had occasion to work with Maori people in New Zealand and have been interested to find out that amongst the Maori, while debate means “a war of words,” dialogue is considered to be “the food of chiefs.”One branch of communication studies that developed in the 20th century was my branch, intercultural communication.

Dialogue Between Social Worlds

This was possibly an inevitable development due to the process of modernization which has, as Berger (2001) notes, as one of its most important consequences the situation commonly called pluralism. Pluralism relativizes everything. So, a field of communication, intercultural communication, developed to handle the communication between the multiple social worlds newly brought into relationship with each other. The mere presence of an alternative, however, immediately causes doubt … just because there is an alternative. And the rise in the world’s “doubt quotient” has engendered “an equal and opposite reaction” (just like in classical physics!). This reaction is the frantic search for certainty in the form of all the “fundamentalisms” that plague our planet today.

But this search for certainty has generated a further paradox, yet another “equal and opposite reaction,” and that is the emergence of what might be called “radical relativists.” Thus, we have a master discourse today between two groups who … although they share no other belief … have one belief in common, and that is that no dialogue is possible because both the relativists and the fundamentalists believe that there is no middle ground between worlds, that there are only two choices: challenging nothing or beating the other side into the ground until they surrender or “disappear” (Berger, 2001, quoted in Pearce, 2004).

Therefore, for me, intercultural communication for the 21st century has to be based on some form of W. Barnett Pearce’s (2004) rhetoric of contextual transformation. That is, how can we create new social space in which we can all be ourselves together?st Century DialogueOver the past few years I have been in the process of discovering an “alphabet soup” of approaches to communication which will enable us to construct such in-between social worlds: BDA , TCD, CMM and PNDC.Today I would like to do three things. First, I would like to share with you the planning for one structured dialogue project which will take place in early February using the Boundary-spanning Dialogue Approach (BDA). When I last addressed JIN (the Japan Institute of Negotiation) in 2002 I spoke about the development of this approach. Second, I would also like to share with you the concept of Indigeneity which has emerged out of one set of Boundary-spanning Dialogues among Indigenous people over the past two decades. Third, I would like to briefly share with you some of the other “letters” of the emerging alphabet, David Bohm’s Transcultural Dialogue (TCD), W. Barnett Pearce’s Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM), and Sharon Ellison’s Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC).In early February 2005, with funding from the Japanese Ministry of Education’s COE (Center of Excellence) Program, 16-20 participants (mostly students) and 5-10 observers (civil society members and academics) from Japan, Korea, China and Russia will come together for a three day meeting at International Christian University (ICU). The participants will discuss the question, “What is the nature of the ‘good’ society in Northeast Asia in the 21st century in the context of the issues facing the region at the present time?” The participants in the meeting will also include indigenous people from the region, such as Ainu, Evenks and Buryats.

An Emerging “Alphabet” for 21

ICU’s Boundary-spanning Dialogue Approach (BDA) Project: An Overview

At the moment there is no established forum where people from this region can regularly gather to discuss the issues that affect the region as a whole. Thus, many issues concerning the region receive no regular attention by all the stakeholders involved. These issues include the following: the Japanese children left behind in China at the end of WWII (one of whom recently surfaced in Russia), the abductions of Japanese by North Koreans a generation ago, the nuclear activities of North Korea currently, the future of the Korean Peninsula in general, the Japanese apology to the rest of Asia issue, the unification of China (or not), the relatively silent struggle going on over in which direction pipelines carrying Siberian energy resources should go (towards the Sea of Japan or towards Daqing) and, of course, the fate of the Northern Territories.

This meeting will provide an opportunity for future leaders in the region to discuss, compare and contrast and bring into productive relationship the basic values of the various peoples of the region. They will be able to do so in the context of the issues currently facing the region.

The Background of the BDA ProjectThe Project derives its name from the Boundary-spanning Dialogue Approach (BDA) to meeting design and meeting process. This is one of 35-40 structured dialogue processes being used around the world to deal with complex issues. This approach has been developed through a two decade long collaboration between Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), a national indigenous peoples’ advocacy organization in the United States, and Dr. Alexander Christakis (early 2005) and his colleagues in the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) (Fall, 2004). More than 70 meetings using various forms of the structured dialogue process have been held since 1985. Meetings have been held in various venues (from Tribal offices to the chambers of the U.S. Senate) and have included intra-Tribal, inter-Tribal, and inter-governmental participants.

Intergovernmental meetings have included participants from Tribal, national, state and/or local governments and their agencies. Some of these meetings have been with the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Western Governors Conference, etc., as well as most recently, meetings between Urban Indians and among Emergency Response Teams in the United States and meetings between Maoris and Native Americans internationally.

Out of this Native-American/Maori collaboration has emerged a new concept called Indigeneity and a new international indigenous peoples’ organization, AGI (Advancement of Global Indigeneity).

This COE Boundary-spanning Dialogue Project, drawing on the concept of Indigeneity and using the BDA, will be the first meeting in Asia to be facilitated by Native American and Maori members of AGI. It is seen as an opportunity to introduce both the concept of Indigeneity and the BDA process to both indigenous and non-indigenous people in the region.

This BDA Project originated in two realms, in the work of two of my graduate students and in the work I have been doing over the past two decades, as mentioned above, with Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO).

Positive Intercultural Interaction & Identity ContinuityThe two graduate students in question, Zheng Wei and Elena Kozoulina, are both currently doctoral students at ICU. Mr. Zheng is from Shanghai and is doing his doctoral work on the history of Chinese/Japanese human relationships with the goal of identifying factors that contribute to and nurture positive interactions between the people of the two societies. Ms. Kozoulina is from the Buryat Republic in Eastern Siberia in the Russian Federation and is exploring identity continuity in the Buryat Republic. Identity politics were a major factor in the dissolution of the old Soviet Union, and identity politics will probably continue to play a role in the region, particularly in the struggle for control of Siberia’s energy and other natural resources.

Mr. Zheng’s master’s work (2002) was on employer/employee relationships in 15 Japanese companies doing business in Shanghai. Particularly in the manufacturing sector, he encountered some interaction dynamics that were mutually beneficial to all the participants in the interaction, regardless of either status or whether the person was Chinese or Japanese. This piqued his interest in what factors enable Chinese and Japanese to engage in productive relationships. Mr. Zheng (in press) is also writing a very interesting paper on contrastive Chinese and Japanese concepts of harmony. The Chinese-Japanese relationship is often plagued by false assumptions of similarity, particularly around values that stem from Confucian roots.

Ms Kozoulina came to her doctoral work as a mixed heritage person with a background in linguistics. She is of Polish-Jewish, Tungu (also known as Evenk), and Ukrainian heritage. She has relatives in the Buryat community as well. She will explore the identity maintenance strategies of the three communities of people considered by the government of the Russian Federation to be “native” to the Buryat Republic: the Russians, the Buryats and the Evenks.

What these two areas of work have in common is their concern with articulating and elaborating intercultural relationship dynamics in areas that up until now have not formed the data base for our understandings of intercultural communication and relations or of our ideas regarding self and identity. The work with AIO, the national Native American advocacy organization mentioned above, has entailed similar explorations of non-Euro- American territory.

Outcomes of the Use of the BDA Structured Dialogue Process by Native Americans: Identifying Core Indigenous ValuesA result of the initial meetings in “Indian Country” in the 1980s and early 1990s was the identification and articulation of four core values which cross generation, geography and Tribe. These four core values, the Four R’s, are Relationship, Responsibility, Reciprocity & Redistribution. Each of these values manifests itself in a core obligation in Indigenous societies.

The Four R’s & Their Ensuing ObligationsThis is the profound sense that we human beings are related, not only to each other, but to all things, animals, plants, rocks … in fact, to the very stuff the stars are made of. This relationship is a kinship relationship. Everyone/ everything is related to us as if they were our blood relatives. We, thus, live in a family that includes all creation, and everyone/everything in this extended family is valued and has a valued contribution to make. So, our societal task is to make sure that everyone feels included and feels that they can make their contribution to our common good. This is one reason why Indigenous people value making decisions by consensus, because it allows everyone to make a contribution.

Relationship is the kinship obligation.

Responsibility is the community obligation. This obligation rests on the understanding that we have a responsibility to care for all of our relatives. Our relatives include everything in our ecological niche, animals and plants, as well as humans, even the stones, since everything that exists is alive. Indigenous leadership arises from the assumption of responsibilities arising out of our relationships and the roles in society these relationships engender, not from an ability to exercise force over others. Responsible Indigenous leadership is based on an ethos of care, not of coercion. The most important responsibility of a leader is to create the social space in which productive relationships can be established and take place.

Reciprocity is the cyclical obligation. It underscores the fact that in Nature things are circular, for example, the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life, as well as the dynamics between any two entities in relationship with each other. Once we have encountered another, we are in relationship with them. The relationship La Donna Harris, founder of AIO, has with the woman with whom she founded OIO, Iola Hayden, began when her great grandfather captured La Donna’s great grandfather in the 19th century down in Mexico soon after La Donna’s great grandfather’s family had emigrated from Spain. They became social “brothers.” Therefore, the families have been “in relationship” since then, engaging in an ongoing set of uneven reciprocal exchange obligations. At any given moment the exchanges going on in a relationship may be uneven. The Indigenous idea of reciprocity is based on very long relational dynamics in which we are all seen as “kin” to each other.

Redistribution is the sharing obligation. The primary purpose of this obligation is to balance and rebalance relationships. Comanche society, for example, was an almost totally flat society, socially, politically and economically. It had many, many ways of redistributing material and social goods. In principle one should not own anything one is not willing to give away. Possessions do not own you. The point is not to acquire things. The point is to give them away. Generosity is the most highly valued human quality. The basic principle is to keep everything moving, to keep everything in circulation.

Each of these values, as you can see, is integrally related to all the others and builds on the others. Indigenous peoples understand that relationships define our roles and shape our responsibilities. They realize that these relationships, roles and responsibilities are reciprocal in nature and lead to the redistribution of both society’s tangible and intangible assets.

The Encounter & Collaboration with the Maori & the Emergence of the Concept of IndigeneityIn 2002 a fateful meeting took place in the history of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO). That was the meeting with Maori leaders in New Zealand as part of AIO’s leadership development program endowed by the Kellogg Foundation that is called the Ambassadors’ Program. As part of that program young Native American leaders have the opportunity to meet with Indigenous leaders elsewhere in the world. In this encounter it was as if the “medicine” of the young Native Americans and the mana of the Maoris ignited in a nearly instantaneous synergistic bond. The result has been the creation of a Maori counterpart organization, AMO (Advancement of Maori Opportunity), a Maori Ambassadors’ Program and the initial plans for the development of a new international organization, AGI, Advancement of Global Indigeneity. The purpose of this new organization is to advance Indigenous perspectives in the world. The Wisdom of the People Forum AIO and AMO conducted at the annual conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) in Heraklion, Crete, in July of 2003 (Laura Harris & Wasilewski, 2004; Christakis, 2004) addressed the next steps in bringing this new organization into being.

Four structured dialogue sessions have now been held with Native American and Maori participants, and together they have begun to articulate a comprehensive construct, Indigeneity, which captures the cluster of concepts that Indigenous people have to offer for the construction of inclusive social spaces in the 21st century.

: A Global ContributionIndigeneity is rooted in core values based on communal life handed down from the many grandfathers and many grandmothers of Indigenous people. Indigenous peoples see everything through the filter of community. This common Indigenous world view and its associated “deep logic” has an asset base arising out of the intangibles of cultural identity, communal wisdom, values, philosophies and their resulting alternative world views. Indigeneity assumes a spiritual interconnectedness between all aspects of creation and affirms that everything created, not only has the right to exist, but also has the right to be able to make a positive contribution to the larger whole. Therefore, all peoples have a right to exist, and it is imperative to our coexistence, to our ability to live together, that each group find their own self-determined ways to share and contribute their communal wisdom to global society. Complementary coexistence relies on the ability of all peoples’ voices to be heard, and to be heard equally. The pursuit of this type of coexistence entails continuously recreating a harmonic balance. This pursuit stands in opposition to the pursuit of dominance, exclusion and exploitation.


Indigeneity is, thus, a very ancient global paradigm of sustainability, spiritual interconnectedness and coexistence … of convivencia … of living together. This is a world view that throughout the modern era has been undervalued. Indigeneity involves the practice of relational politics, that is, of creating relationships between diverse elements, not eliminating them. Even though the Indigeneity concept is culturally … which means communally … grounded, it is neither culturally neutral, nor is it culturally exclusive. Rather, it is culturally inclusive and relational. The practice of Indigeneity creates dynamically inclusive dialogic space.

Indigeneity’s Dialogic SpaceActually, nothing exists except us in this moment in time, engaging in this interaction, in this dialogue. “Us” includes you, me, all of our relationships, taking place in our various personal, social, political, cultural, physical and spiritual contexts. This is a vast, interacting, overlapping … constantly changing … network. (By now you can perhaps see how much the systems approach is central to the concept of Indigeneity.) All our identities are honored when we are in positive relationships with each other. If, when we interact with each other, we are in a state of valuing all of our relationships, these relationships will take care of us, and we will have things to share, to give back. One gives because it is right, but it is also practical.  What you give will come back to you.

If we value each other in a way that we simultaneously, for instance, value the Earth, it will take care of us. Our set of overlapping relationships will always take care of us. This was why there were no orphans in Comanche society. Children were the responsibility, not just of the mother (the Comanche are a matriarchal society), but of the mother’s entire family and, ultimately, of the Tribe as a whole. This is another example of responsibility emerging out of a set of relationships. It was well understood that unless the children were cared for, there would be no future.

This sense of caring interconnectedness assumes the need for all things to coexist. Thus, this dynamic valuing of the other is inseparable from true dialogue. Such dialogue involves, as poet Joy Harjo (1996) says, “adventuring out through listening and learning.” Through caring enough for each other to engage in true dialogue we enable ourselves to be ourselves together.

In fact, we can only be ourselves together. We can only be a “self” in community. We are simultaneously both autonomous and connected. There are no private truths. We have to let the realities of others into our conceptual and emotional spaces and vice versa. In social space constructed according to the principles of Indigeneity, strong individuals contribute, on the basis of their uniqueness, to strong groups which, in turn, contribute to strong nations and to a strong international community. Uniqueness and strength are inherent in this dynamic from the beginning. All the uniqueness and strength, all the “truths” in the system have to be brought into complementarity, into some kind of accord.

Indigeneity: A Dynamic SpiralBringing our disparate realities into complementarity, however, involves inevitable differences that somehow have to be transformed.

The shape of this transformation is an upward spiral, like the flight path of the sea bird the Maori call kuaka. In this spiral dynamic there is no domination. Rather there is a reiterative moving forward into the future together which involves, again in the words of Joy Harjo (1996), the ability “to understand the shape and condition of another with compassion,” to value them.

This spiral movement potentially includes all communities. It is moving, spinning upward through time and space. Through the energy created by the interaction among the Four R’s and their resulting Obligations as described above, our collaborative work spins out in ever larger and further reaching spirals to include others in constantly evolving, productive relationships.

Thus, the ability to transform is the ability to balance, to bring disparate elements into complementarity. Not “balance,” a static noun, but “to balance,” a dynamic verb. This is the Indigenous form of respect. We care enough about others to include them in our world.

This is a dynamic, emergent, creative, collective process which demands everyone’s participation. Through this process, somewhat like the improvisational jamming of a jazz ensemble, as Dr. Christakis once said, “We keep track of ourselves through constant communication.”

The Maori Canoe MetaphorFinding this kind of balanced coexistence, or what Edward Said (2003) termed “deep coexistence” in his last lecture before his death, is tough to achieve. It takes a great deal of energy and strength to create the necessary coordination. A Maori canoe provides a metaphor that captures the central features of the dynamics I am trying to describe, that is, how each of us can contribute our individual energy to collective forward movement, to the upward spiral.

Indigeneity features outcome-oriented thinking which creates a kind of solution-oriented, value-driven solidarity (see also Dimas’ [2000] regarding goal-oriented, ideologically driven solidarity in post-conflict El Salvador). In this environment each person can contribute effectively to the whole from their place of belonging so that we can all move forward into the future together. To reiterate, this dynamic is solution oriented.

Dynamic InclusivityIndigenous people think dynamic inclusivity is greatly needed in the world today. Valuing cultural diversity is crucial to both the building and sustaining of any civil society. Actually, merely respecting diversity is not enough. A truly civil society must accept, encourage, and ultimately insist upon the participation of all the diverse peoples of that society.

All world views must be valued, including those of the “enemy.” To return to the Comanche culture of AIO’s founder, the Comanche word for respect, mabitsiaruh, combines the feelings of respect, honor and to care for into a single construct. It literally means to honor the Other as a good person. For respect to exist between us we have to value each other.

One should behave in a way that values both self and other simultaneously in order to be respectful. It is one of those paradoxical aspects of human existence that if we do not value ourselves, we find it very difficult to value others.

An Inclusive Rationality, A Common Human StandardTaiaike Alfred (1999) notes in his book, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto, “a deep reading of tradition points to a moral universe in which all of humanity is accountable to the same standard” (p.21). This standard, this potentially inclusive rationality, is based on a natural flow, on a logic of human behavior situated in caring relationships.

In the last years of the 20th century and during the first years of the 21st century, international society has put much effort into trying to identify “universal human rights”, a standard of justice which is universally accepted. Indigenous people perhaps have special insight into this effort, particularly since they have often been denied basic rights. Also, “Indigenous societies are the repository of vast experience and deep insight on achieving balance and harmony” (Alfred, 1999, p. 21), and not only regarding the environment. Justice, for instance, is “the achievement of balance in all … relationships, and the demonstration in both thought and action of respect for the dignity of each element in the circle of interdependency that forms our universe.” This statement echoes Lakota Medicine Person, Black Elk’s, famous vision of the Sacred Hoop:

… for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and starlight … (1931, p. 43)

Finding patterns of effective interaction where we can discover, share and coordinate our mutual value is, thus, our primary task. Relationships, responsibilities, reciprocity and redistribution form dynamic spirals out of which responsibility, reciprocity and redistribution are manifestations of caring relationships. The hoop of each community begins to spin as it incorporates the energy emerging from new relationships. The image of the spiral captures the dynamic nature of this kind of inclusivity. This dynamic of ever expanding spirals of care is the I.D., the main feature of the Indigenous Democracy AGI is interested in sharing with the rest of the world. This dynamic of care creates the dialogic space where relational politics can be practiced.

Other “Letters” in the 21st Century Communication Alphabet(Transcultural Communication Dialogue)


While I was in the former East Zone of Germany last week at the Young SIETAR Conference I encountered another dialogic practice that grows out of the work of Dr. Patrick de Mare, a psychiatrist working in London, and the work of David Bohm (1996), Donald Factor and Peter Garrett. This is an almost completely unstructured form of dialogue for groups of 20-40 people through which the process of thought can be slowed down in order to be able to observe it collectively while it is actually occurring. Such observation reveals the “patterns of incoherence that lead a group to avoid certain issues or, on the other hand, to insist, against all reason, on standing and defending opinions about particular issues” (Bohm, Factor & Garrett, 1991, 1). This De Mare/Bohm et al. approach to dialogue is based on the collective communication practices of hunter-gatherers and reveals an aspect of dialogue called koinonia, or “impersonal fellowship”, which was used originally to describe the early form of Athenian democracy in which all the free men of the city gathered to govern themselves. Participants in this type of dialogue become aware that we live in a world produced almost entirely by human enterprise and, thus, by human thought. The room in which we sit, the language in which these words are written, our national boundaries, our systems of value, and even that which we take to be our direct perceptions of reality are essentially manifestations of the way human beings think and have thought. We realize that without a willingness to explore this situation and to gain a deep insight into it, the real crises of our times cannot be confronted, nor can we find anything more than temporary solutions to the vast array of human problems that now confront us. …

In essence, thought, in this sense of the word, is the active response of memory in every phase of life. Virtually all of our knowledge is produced, displayed, communicated, transformed and applied in thought (Bohm, Factor & Garrett, 1991, 2).

This form of dialogue has been used by Professor Kazuma Matoba (2002) of the University of Witten/Herdecke in inter-religious dialogue in a small German city as well as in a dialogue project in the Namibia between African and German students. They explored Martin Buber’s concept of a community as consisting, not of like-minded people, but rather as consisting of a group of individuals with complementary natures who have differing minds, where openness, not intimacy is the key to developing community (Gudykunst & Kim, 1992, 259 quoted in Matoba, 2004, 11).

CMM (The Coordinated Management of Meaning)

The work of W. Barnett Pearce and his colleagues (Pearce, 2004) and their Public Dialogue Consortium (Littlejohn & Domenici, 2000; Pearce, 2000; Spano, 2001) have given us three models and five concepts that enhance our understanding of the dynamics of social spaces in which Mezirow’s (2000) transformational learning can take place.

The Serpentine Model looks at communication events as something we are making together. According to this model a conversation consists of a linear dimension, a sequence of turns, and of a hierarchical dimension of meanings held by each participant in the conversation. The meaning categories consist of different kinds of “stories” having to do with culture, relationship, self and episode. These kinds of stories are prioritized differently by different people at different times in different contexts.

This analytical tool enables us to see if there are any commonly held stories in a conversation, and we can see all the stories in the conversation simultaneously and how each participant’s stories interact and co-evolve with all the others. In short, we can see what they are making together!

This analytical tool enables us to see if the participants are acting in terms of contextual and prefigurative forces or in terms of practical or implicative forces. The former forces focus on what the existing contexts are and what the other person did in those contexts. The latter forces focus on what the participants want to call into being or on what they want the other to do (or not to do) in the future. When the implicative and practical, that is, what we want to call into being in the future, is paramount, we tend to be able to transcend existing social worlds.

The Daisy Model helps us analyze all the conversations that are taking place simultaneously in any discrete conversation. When we talk, we are not always talking only to the person or persons in front of us, but also to others not present. This model enables us to identify who the real audience of a statement might have been.

The LUUUTT Model helps us analyze Lived stories, Untold stories, Unheard stories, Unknown stories, Told stories, and story Telling within any communication event. This allows facilitators to look at a communication event and think how to enrich the mode of story telling so that more good things can happen.

The concept of Coordination, along with both the Serpentine Model and the Daisy Model, calls our attention to the fact that whatever we do does not stand alone. It always intermeshes with the interpretations and actions of other people. We are either coordinated with others, or not. We are either “richly,” even synergistically coordinated, or not. To enhance our coordination and enable ourselves to make better social worlds we should be mindful that
— we are participating in a multi-turn process;
— we are part of, but only one part of, a multi-person process;
— the process involves reciprocally responding to and eliciting responses from other people; and
— this process creates the social world in which we all live. (Pearce, 2004, 50)

The concept of the Management of Meaning involves Coherence and Mystery. Coherence is about the stories we tell that make our life meaningful. Mystery is about the fact that the universe is far bigger and subtler than any possible set of stories. “Whatever we think, there’s more to it than that; it’s not a riddle to be solved, but a mystery to be explored.”

Treat all stories, your own as well as others, as incomplete, unfinished, biased, and inconsistent.

Treat our own stories as “local,” dependant on our own perspective, history, and purposes.

Be curious about other people’s stories.

The concept of Value Commitments addresses the issue that critical and practical theories like CMM are part of a cluster of schools in philosophy and social theory that recognize that every theory “about” social worlds is also a part “of” those worlds and cannot pretend to be “objective.” In essence, we have to be committed to improving existing social worlds, preventing the realization of unwanted social worlds, and calling into being better social worlds.

The concept of a Rhetoric of Contextual Reconstruction puts the focus on the ability to analyze, critique, and reconstruct contexts. (51) It puts the focus on the ability to envision new and better social spaces.

The concept of Transformative Communication Skills puts our focus on the development of our ability to participate in constructive discourse so that we can collectively design better social spaces. Such skills involve the use of the experience of others to assess the reasons justifying our assumptions, and they enable us to make action decisions based on the resulting insight. We, thus, become aware of how we come to our knowledge and of the values that lead us to our perspectives (Mezirow, 2000, 7-8). The result is a kind of responsible agency (7-8) or a relational responsibility (McNamee & Gergen, (1998), that is , the ability to take responsibility within a dynamic system (Pearce, 2004, 43).

The concept of Studying What Works is connected to Cooperrider & Whitney’s (2000) idea of appreciative inquiry, the notion that what one pays attention to grows. Again, here is the implicative notion, to focus on what works well and foster its development, rather than focus on what goes wrong and become experts on problems. Foss and Foss (1994) have studied rhetoric that invites transformation, and Anderson, Cissna & Clune (2003) have studied the rhetoric of successful public dialogue.

PNDC (Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication)

Finally, Sharon Ellison (2004) in her book and training manual, Taking the War Out of Words: Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication, has developed an approach to communication which enables each person to be powerful in a dialogic context. Not only can we all be ourselves together, but we can all be powerful together. This approach focuses on the ability to make non-defensive statements, to ask non-defensive questions and to make non-defensive predictions. It enables a person to give up trying to control other people, to leave everyone, including themselves, with choice, to get out of the victim mentality and to be responsible for themselves. Particular attention is paid to intention, tone and body language, that is, to totally authentic communicative behavior.

ConclusionThus, between now and February I am looking forward to combining this alphabet soup of communication approaches so that the deontic logic of human behavior (the logic of what ought to be) is situated in the complex web of caring relationships captured in the concept of Indigeneity. I would like to see Black Elk’s vision become ever more manifest on our earth … that the sacred hoop of any one people is seen as but one of many hoops, all of which, however, make one circle … “wide as daylight and wide as starlight” …

REFERENCESAlfred, Taiaiake (1999). Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto. Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada.
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Berger, P. L. (2001). “Foreword.” In R. C. Neville, Ed. The Human Condition. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. xi-xiv.
Black Elk, Nicholas (1931). In John C. Neihardt (1932). Black Elk Speaks. Reprint 1972. New York: Pocket.
Bohm, David (1996). On Dialogue. London, New York: Routledge.
Christakis, Alexander (1996). “A People Science: The CogniScope System Approach.” Systems: Journal of Transdisciplinary Systems Sciences, 1:1, p. 16-19.
Christakis, Alexander, and Sabrina Brahms (2003a). Boundary-spanning Dialogue for the 21st Century Agoras. Paper presented at the 47th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Hersonissos, Crete, Greece, July 6-11.
Christakis, Alexander (2003b). Wisdom of the People. Keynote presented at the 47th Annual conference of the Internaitonal Society for the Systems Sciences, Hersonissos, Crete, Greece July 6-11.
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In fact, this kind of respect-as-value circles around and in turn designates one of the primary responsibilities of Indigenous people, and that is to honor their Tribal identities. In order to honor what the ancestors went through and died for, Indigenous people have a responsibility to want to continue as members of their Tribes and to carry on (Roslyn Ing in Alfred, 1999, p. 36). You can even value your enemies. Utes and Comanches were traditional rivals. They warred against each other. But they never wanted to exterminate each other. How could they be “brave” if they had no worthy opponents? Enemies were not “bad.” Like wolves, you only had to worry about them when they were “hungry.”

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