The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

I, you, us 

A colleague reached out to me to discuss the transformation process of her business. Two years ago, he decided that it was time for her to sell his business. His ultimate desire is to become able to step out of the business and to do so with a proper handover.

After successfully selling it, he now finds himself exhausted in organizing himself within a larger context and at the same time trying to keep things culturally as they were.

This is what had been agreed upon, however, when two cultures start to interact with one another they immediately start to have an impact on everyone involved.

The specter of “the other” appears. No one invited it to the party. It shows up at the moment people notice differences between one another. As open as everyone is to diversity, and as welcoming they are to the upcoming change, difference remains off-putting.

The comfort of a known culture disappeared, and all the groups involved suddenly start to experience the change and the differences. In negotiating with one another, all of this still was conceptual to them. Now it is real.

Not only that, the image of “us” that had been created at the time was conceptual too. While ideas, changes, benefits, and future had all been discussed, their implementation is now showing differences in each other’s frame of reference, and it is troubling.

What had been anticipated doesn’t seem to happen. And when this is experienced, a natural reaction a group will have is to retract back to the group it was. Details here and there will be conceded and will appear to be pushing the transformation as hoped. But often, they are there to appease the anxiety of coming together. They are an effort to please the other and allow to avoid conflict.

The fear is to not be able to have a constructive conflict and to end up making it personal.

The efforts then are focused on doing what is possible to change the other and how to change the self to please the other. It is an effort that focuses on the individuals, the I and you in the relationship.

But this quickly becomes a huge effort as one after the other, more details will appear.

What is missing, is the look at the “us” of the relationship. Once both sides negotiated and found an agreement, the I and you in the relationship are being replaced by an us and it is the us that needs to be nurtured.

However, before the “I” and the “You” in the relationship can develop a sense of “Us”, they still must validate, that their existing identity and sense of being is welcome in the us. They must tell each other who they are. This can be a big step, as both most certainly went into the negotiation with the identity, they wanted the other to see.

What is exhausting at this stage of the relationship is to transition from how they wanted to be seen to who they are with the other. Once both groups have been able to share who they are with the other, the idea of us can start to emerge.

Getting there requires that someone always comes back to what it is they have come together for.


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