by Jim Burns, Illuman Board Member
Many men have told me some version of, “Illuman and the MROP have transformed my life, but I don’t know how to speak with another man to help them see this might be for them as well.”
As my daughter would say, “that’s fair.” Perhaps this is because Illuman is an experience, not a tangible product or service. I remember the admonition delivered on the Sunday afternoon of my MROP. “You will want to speak with others about your experience, but beware, words fail. This cannot be described adequately. It can only be experienced.”
So, what are we to do?
Conversation as a Spiritual Practice
I previously wrote about Council as a spiritual practice. In our On Becoming Elders Passion Circle, we discussed this idea. We inquired whether, perhaps, the principles and practices of council might apply to conversations as well.
Two weeks later, a man shared in council: “Now, when I enter a personal conversation, I immediately shift into a Council posture, with the intention to be there for the person, to listen deeply, and to ask prompt-like questions to help them share their story.”
Illuman’s third Touchstone is Connecting — we are men who choose another to walk with, shoulder to shoulder. What if we were to adopt this as a regular spiritual practice? How would this shift the way we view the next person we encounter? Each person?
How might this spiritual practice of connecting form a basis upon which to start a conversation with another man, person, or group?
Have a Conversation With Another Man — But NOT About Illuman
Effective conversations always start with the agenda and needs of the people we speak with.
“Relationship first” is the most important principle. Until we are related to the point another trusts us enough to share their story — experience, feelings and concerns — any conversation “about Illuman” is premature and ineffective. We haven’t earned the right.
“Context rules” is another key principle for conversations. Until we understand another’s context — their goals, problems, needs and priorities — we can’t understand how to make what we say relevant in their context. We don’t know how to answer their first question, “Why should I care/listen/change…?”
Once you know this, you will know how to have the conversation “lead back to Illuman.”
A Guide to Talking About Illuman
To assist you in conducting these conversations we’ve prepared a simple Conversation Guide. It both a Learning Guide – To Prepare for a Conversation, providing foundational conversation principles and a simple framework for the conversation, as well as the Illuman Conversation Guide – With a Man Unfamiliar with Illuman, offering specific language to help you conduct the conversation. This is not a script. The phrases are provided as “modules” that can be selected, used, or configured as your situation requires. It also provides questions to ask (as prompts), and suggestions for categories of needs to “listen for.”
When it comes to conversations, like sports, there is only one way to learn. Practice. Start with “safe” conversations with Illuman brothers, family or friends.
If all you accomplish in your initial conversations is a sincere presence and deep listening, your conversation should be considered a success. Remember, this isn’t about us. We are about the conversation. We are simply the conduit for the Spirit. Allow the Spirit to work. There is no need for persuasion or even explanation.
An additional advantage of a conversation guide is the ability to have many people conduct similar conversations based on a common process and common language. This allows for feedback that can quickly improve the quality, ease and effectiveness of a particular conversation, for all people. In other words, this guide is a work in progress. Thank you to those who provided feedback to get us to this point. Please access the links above for the latest versions, now and going forward. And if, as you use this guide, you have any questions, suggestions, or challenges, please feel free to send them to Jim.Burns@illuman.org.