How Are You? 

Convener(s): Chris Goode

Participants: Claudia, Daniel C., Marie Kenny, Brian Lobel, Catriona James, Mary, Emma Adams, Suzy Almond, Ben W., Kieran Hurley, Allison Julia, Annie Rigby, Tom Hughes, Pete, Francesca, Aliki Chapple, Lucinka Eisler, Sian Rees, Nell B., lots of others who came and went

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Initially this was just about creating some space for everyone to check in at the beginning of a busy weekend, but it built into a really interesting conversation at a more meta- level, about the practice of asking each other how we are, as part of our everyday work.

  • This can be a really powerfully supportive thing to do, in terms of being able to let go off difficult stuff, or at least to name it so that we know it’s in the room; not having to suppress things or “check them at the door”; having some space in which it’s possible to hear everyone and be heard.
  • But there could be issues in terms of what’s brought up and whether it’s too easy to feel that stuff that’s been heard has also somehow been dealt with; and what happens when the truthful answer is also disruptive or signals a lack of safety

Deep Democracy – a model concerned with saying the thing you’re not supposed to say

Would it also be useful to ask the negative question – How aren’t you? i.e. What might we be incorrectly assuming about how you are?

Where do we locate the necessity of asking this question in relation to solo work, where there’s no one else to be the listener, and no one else to listen to?

Wanting not to overlook the fact that often the answer can be very positive and this too can be unsettling in terms of what we can aspire to together – when the room is full of energy and ambition and confidence. That a space in which we can affirm our positivity can really help close the disconnect between ourselves as artist and the very big, often very abstract, issues we may be trying to address.

Are there techniques for asking this question ‘properly’? What other ways are there of describing stuff & not getting tied up in language?

In order for the check-in to be worth doing it has to matter. There has to be something at stake. In particular we have to know that the process could, and can, and will respond to the answers people give – otherwise people don’t actually have, or feel, the space to be really truthful. A process that can’t adapt, or a target that acts as a constraint, could make this act harmful.

The importance of the ongoing “How are you?” and the unspoken “How are you?”

Do different responsibilities rest on directors when checking-in? Are there some things you shouldn’t say? Do you have the space to be wholly honest?

How also can we / do we ask an audience: “How are you?” How do they tell us anyway, in their responses and their behaviours?

Asking “how are you?” of an audience especially is neutralizing – by recognizing our presence it puts us all in the same place.

This can be a powerful and productive technology but it needs careful handling and it’s hugely dependent on the rest of the process in which it occurs and with which it has to be genuinely compatible.