Groupwork Centre Blog

The Voice – how are you showing up?

Whether we arrive at YES or NO after October is beyond our control although we may be able to influence it by the way we show up. “

The campaign for the Voice has begun; potentially the most significant event this century in defining who we are and what we believe and stand for in this country.

Through a facilitator lens, the question of how this referendum and the months leading up to it proceed, may be key to what happens on the other side of the vote. As facilitators we know that the quality of the process is inextricably linked to the nature of the outcome.  As one great facilitator I know, regularly says: the process IS the outcome!

A great process that unleashes the wisdom and talent in a group will create great outcomes.  People are empowered when we put them first in processes that respect them, trust them and believe in them.

Of course we need to do the work to ensure the right environment is created for the better part of anyone’s humanity to show up. If we forget about what helps people work well together and forget to ask that of the group, then, it won’t matter that there is brilliance in the group. The very worst of a person can show up when the stakes are high and no investment has been put into creating safety that allows people to reveal their brilliance without fear of it being torn down.

So how are we going to engage in this referendum so the best of a person shows up? Already there have been stern warnings that we need to “respect each other and behave appropriately” by leaders in the public conversation.

Unfortunately, saying what needs to happen, won’t guarantee anything. In reality the only thing we can rely on is that when people get passionate about anything they often say or do the wrong thing as they fight for their view – held tightly – to be heard. The ability to hear each other heads south as winning the debate becomes the goal.

If we make the outcome of whether we get a Yes or a No our measure of success, then we will not prioritise the process (and if that includes looking after each other, that will be lost very quickly as well). We will actually sacrifice the process and quickly enter the space of the end justifying the means. We will look to win, which means there must be a loser.

If that’s where we are headed, then we have already defined the space as a competition. We have already decided the goal is not  taking care of the relationship with the other person. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen (acting respectfully and with kindness), it just means that if it happens, it will only be because that particular priority didn’t get in the way of the other one: winning.

Embedding the Voice in the Constitution to give it permanency adds a layer of complexity because constitutional change must be put to the people. The referendum itself makes it difficult to ensure that the better part of our humanity comes to the surface. We’ve been placed into a bit of a colosseum in a way, and unfortunately we  have a long history of being competitive and choosing sides.

Given all that, it’s uncertain how things will play out and what the “outcome” will be.  But we could – each of us – ensure that in our conversations with each other, there is a particular outcome we all aim for. This outcome will not be based on who wins the argument, who convinces who, or who knows more. This will be an outcome based on the state of our relationship with each other before and after these conversations.

We will be all involved in conversations short or long over the next few months. The questions we could be asking ourselves after we have them might be:

  • “How well did I listen to the other person’s point of view?”
  • “Did the other person feel like they had been heard?”
  • “Did I reflect on the other person’s viewpoint and really try to understand where they were coming from or why they thought in a particular way?”
  • “Was I kind?”
  • “Did I put the person first and the argument second?”


All of these questions are about checking out whether or not we valued the person first and our argument second  – or was it the other way around?  Whether we arrive at YES or NO after October is beyond our control although we may be able to influence it by the way we show up. 

What we can control if we choose to, is to value people more than winning and THAT outcome is surely at the foundations of what will make us a more mature, caring and compassionate country.

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