This post is based on a note I sent to the sociocracy Yahoo group. I’m editing and reposting here for wider access.
Someone asked the following question:
NVC conveys the message that putting labels on people is not helpful for a connection on the level of needs.
I somehow have the impression that in a sociocratic organization it is necessary to put labels on people in order to build a structure.
I am a certified trainer.
I am in certification process
I am a volunteer
I am a member of …
Is it really necessary to look at what people ARE instead of what they are feeling and needing in the moment?
I love this question, as I am also concerned about old thinking habits.
I do not see any benefit in using labels in sociocratic groups. On the contrary, I expect our thinking and communicating is more clear when we talk about what we do rather than what we are. We could experiment with this theory by trying it out on some examples in a sociocratic context.
I prefer action language and relationship language over identity & status language, so I like NVC. Sometimes a label can serve as a clear short-hand for action or relationship, but given our cultural programming, identity and status creep in out of unconscious habit. For instance, in our NVC group, some of us use the word “trainer” to mean simply somebody who trains (short-hand for an action). Others use it to mean someone who has gone through an external approval process, and I interpret their use as being about identity & status, and perhaps a bit about relationship. Of the latter group, some of them mean one approval process and some of them mean another. See Comments on the word “trainer” for more about this topic.
In a sociocratic circle, we may agree to (temporary) “roles”. It is easy to fall into the habit of using people-nouns like “Bookkeeper”, “Secretary”, or “Facilitator” for these roles. Doing so can trick us back into using static identity & status language. I prefer labeling the tasks (actions) rather than the person. For example, in English, I would say “facilitating” (or “facilitation”) instead of “facilitator”, “bookkeeping” instead of “bookkeeper”, and “training” instead of “trainer”.
One of the lessons I get from Eckhart Toelle is that identities feed ego / separation. If I get a sense of personal importance out of a label, then my ego is being fed, and I would expect the group’s creative flow and accomplishment to be harmed. If I say I am “Chairperson”, “Trainer”, or “Secretary”, I am much more likely to get confused and think I’m talking about what I am. Then my ego gets interested, so I start taking things personally, and the group suffers. If I say “facilitation”, “training”, or “handling notes”, I am more likely to remember that what I (temporarily) do is not what I am, which is less interesting to my ego.
Some people defend people-labels as making our communication more concise and efficient. On the contrary, I find action language able to be consistently clearer and at least as concise. I also find it more difficult to get there sometimes, and I believe my difficulty is temporary and entirely due to my old habits and having heard labeling all of my life. Every time I make the effort to shift to clear & concise action language, I enjoy the result. And the practice makes it easier for me to speak what I really believe.