Ah. The relational field. What is it and how does it impact hosting? This is one of the explorations we are in for Growing Hosting Artistry. There is a relational field that convenes in the room, any room, as hosting team and participants gather. Some would argue, the relational field begins to convene before the physical gathering and is one of the reasons we pay attention to container setting as a hosting practice.
At any gathering there is not just one relational field – there are constellations of relationship. Some of those constellations of relationship are in the room and some reach beyond the room but still might have influence on the room.
The hosting team has its own relational field and the quality of that field has an influence on the larger relational fields we host. We have seen and experienced it time and time again. We know a well connected, cohesive team can address the challenges that show up in a space far more effectively than a team that has challenges within its own field. A team with challenges in its own field draws some of the energy from hosting the participants or client group to hosting the team, if we even can.
Cohesive, fluid hosting teams haven’t always been, and still isn’t always, my experience. In my early days of hosting, most of my experiences were with teams with challenging interpersonal dynamics – a rich learning field in itself – and my more recent experiences are more likely to be generative cohesive hosting team fields, although not 100% of the time, of course. In these cohesive, generative fields, humour, support, intuitive empathic hosting connections are alive in the field. Sometimes the communication between the hosting field happens so empathically very few words are needed to host the field, make decision, be responsive to what is alive in the field. It is a thing of beauty and one that people feel as much as see.
Having contrasting experiences on hosting teams offers the opportunities to notice and reflect on what works well and what doesn’t. In hosting myself and in inquiry with hosting mates, we are becoming more aware of how to, more often, invite the kinds of experiences that work well. And a starting point is always in the first of the four fold practice – hosting self.
What are some of the things we are learning about relational fields and want to be in deeper inquiry about? One for sure is paying attention to and intentionally cultivating the relational field.
Being curious about the term relational field, I came across Phil Pearlman’s writing on the Relational Field and Twitter and his description resonates for our work in the Art of Hosting. “Relational field comes from relational psychology which posits that humans are inherently social and that no personality exists independent of relationships. The relational field has attributes such as clarity, contingency, complexity and structure and relational psychologists know a good bit about how the qualities of these features affect the development of relationships. The optimal relational field is one that has the potential to foster enduring authentic relationships.”
That last line bears repeating: The optimal relational field is one that has the potential to foster enduring authentic relationships. The invitation to all of us to show up fully, whether we are stewards, seasoned hosts, practitioners, stewards, apprentices, logistics coordinators or participants. We are all equally human, equally beautiful, equally valuable and each of us holds a part of the whole.
The space for this invitation is often held by the stewards on a hosting team and could be held by anyone. It is not just a verbally issued invitation, it is one that is fully and authentically supported in all our actions and in our energetic field, in the space we create and hold for others to step into, in the responsiveness to all the voices that show up. When, as seasoned hosts, we are able to step into our own humility and support the field from what might seem a less visible place, we open the space for others to step in more fully. When we don’t do this (and maybe none of us do it well all the time), when our actions or energetics are inconsistent with the words of invitation, or in Jerry Nagel’s writing on world view, when we do not “take whole“, people will be reluctant to step in. The invitation will not feel fully inviting or authentic.
To seed the field of invitation, or the relational field from which the invitation is offered, it is stronger when at least a couple of people on the team know each other well, have worked together well, where mutual full trust exists, with whom they know they can handle pretty much anything that comes along. With a minimum of the two (and one or two more is even better), a team can hold the space for whatever wants or needs to show up in the team – and then in the gathering being co-hosted.
Co-hosts and apprentices are wanting to know and understand their role, what they can contribute and how welcome their contribution may or may not be. We are all wanting to know where our learning edges are, what each of us wants to step into and how this can best be supported. More seasoned practitioners have the opportunity to support people stepping up to their next level of learning, hosting or offering. It is a thing of beauty when people publicly step into their learning edges, usually with some fear, some trepidation and loads of courage.
When we create the spaces for people to step in, when we are able to stay in our own humility and not have to offer comments every time someone else is leading an offering, the space for brilliance is created and each member of a team will have moments they truly shine. We also become more responsive and alert to when what we have to offer from our experience is what is needed – a thought, an observation, a question, a teach, a framing for what’s in the room, making something visible, stepping into our own brilliance in service of what is needed now. Knowing when to step in and offer what is needed now is important – a part of the art. Knowing when to step back is also part of the art. Doing it in a way that supports others, builds on what others have offered, in the spirit of expansion and illumination, is a gift to self, a gift to others and a gift to the field in which we work.
A question very much alive every time we step into a relational field, those we’ve been in before and those we are in for the first time is: what is the humility, generosity, open heartedness and also the brilliance that needs to be present and available in me, in each of us and collectively that supports the environment of co-learning in service of the field we are entering and committed to holding?
In our work with hosting teams in trainings, with clients, across many contexts and countries (including Canada, Brazil, United States and Australia) these are some of the awarenesses that are growing around what consistently supports strength, cohesion and capacity in hosting teams to take on the bigger questions and challenges that are calling us to grow our hosting artistry.