Mapping the Space Between Us

Watch & Learn

The journey is my home

Muriel Rukeyser

I am a traveler. I have seen more of the world and visited those places more often than most people. I enjoy traveling because it gives me opportunities to see new places and the people that live in those places. I like to observe how different and how similar people can be in social settings depending on where you are. For many years I have been like a fly on the wall, watching people come and go at airports and hotels. I have watched students learn in classrooms, and people dealing with conflict. I have observed people whether they are in the public eye like politicians and celebrities dealing with their publics, in the corporate world like business executives dealing with clients and employees or in a more mundane situation everyday people dealing with family and friends. As a researcher, I am always interested in discovering what makes people tick and how they respond to one another. Over the years and after thousands of hours observing and studying people in our world, I have discovered patterns in behaviour that have led me to a sociological construct for understanding people. I wondered if it would be easier for people to read “the signs” in a conversation if they too could see the patterns. If people had a map to follow to guide them through social space, life could be less puzzling and less stressful. The map could help people develop rapport and guide them to common ground. Using tools that mediators use in high conflict, they could quickly and efficiently “find their way”.

 I am sharing this work in the hope that you will gain a strategic advantage in your next encounter, crucial or not, difficult or not, fierce or not. This map fits in your hand. It is simple and yet complex, like people. You can use it to find common ground and sustainable outcomes for shared futures with just about anyone. Whatever your motivation, the methods and tools described in this book can help you achieve your relationship goals at home, at work or where ever you may roam. Enjoy!

Be sure to share your successes with us.

Chapter 1: Here Be Dragons

..Exploring the Space Between Us 

 “Do not go where the path may lead: go instead where there is no path and leave a trail

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


I was on my way to meet with a pair of coworkers who had developed such defensiveness between them that I had been called in to mediate a conversation. The day before, I had met with each person individually, which is a standard procedure in workplace interventions like this one. I had learned two versions of the same story. I asked questions about what they hoped to resolve, what was important to them about the situation and how each thought the situation could be resolved.

 Subject A was reluctant to engage at first and seemed reluctant to address the conflict I had been called in to deal with. She talked about how today was a good day, that we should let sleeping dogs lie and there was no real need to have a conversation at all. She was clearly in the peaceful present, not wanting to make waves or stir things up.  I could sense the fear and lack of trust she had for reaching a mutual agreement with the other party – particularly with someone whose loyalty she questioned as she thought about the future. With some guiding questions, I asked her to look back on a successful outcome today as if it were already tomorrow. With that goal in mind, she was able to shift perspective towards a different kind of future that included a successful relationship with her colleague. I had watched her move from peaceful present to skeptical future to a successful story as she shifted orientations.

Subject B was very helpful at first eagerly answering my questions with a lot of detail about what had happened and asking me if I had felt the same in a similar situation in the past. As our conversation continued, he became more stressed about the situation and grew angry and loud describing the situation as if it were happening right now. Eventually, with some guidance, he became more introspective and quiet as he considered the theoretical possibilities for a sustainable tomorrow.  I had watched him move from a past orientation looking for a connection to a present one where he was lacking control of the situation and then beyond that to the possibilities for the future.

I had met with coworkers like these two in similar circumstances for more than 10 years and today I was confident that the two would resolve their difference and arrive at a plan of action that they could both support. The path of each participant and the guidance they would respond to on the journey were right there in front of me.

What I began to realize is that I could write the script of the conversation and map its transitions before the conversation occurred with an increasing degree of accuracy.  The patterns were clear and available to me on the Enneagram circle. The clues for positioning people on the map were their direction and their orientation. If I watched, I could see their directions as they shifted and if I listened I could identify the shifts in orientation through past, present, and future.  I could use measures of wellbeing to assess their readiness for the journey. Deliberately positive questions from Appreciative Inquiry helped them draw the image of a positive tomorrow that they could move towards together and with the skills of a mediator I could guide them safely through the maze of this difficult conversation with little or no injury.

In Summary

Each of the chapters that follow holds a piece of the puzzle that together show us a map. It is a representation of what happens in the space between us. It is a guide, a tool for navigating that increases the likelihood of satisfying exchanges that lead to common ground and sustainable outcomes. This theory extends the geographic metaphor of travel to go where no social being has gone before, where there may be dragons to tame. As we travel in social realms, Mapping the Space between Us explores and maps the space between our social selves. It is a sociological construct to guide you through the most difficult conversations as well as the most enjoyable ones and everything in between. It warns of the dangers, the dragons, and the delights so that you can be very prepared for what might be ahead. What this theory of wayfinding in social space also does, when put into practice, is to allow you to become a way-finder on the path of your own life and a guide on the life journey of others. Let your journey into the space between us begin.

Chapter 2: Connecting in Social Reality

Becoming a Way Finder 

“The traveler sees what he sees.  The tourist sees what he has come to see.”- Gilbert K Chesterton

Preparing for the Journey into Social Space

If you were going to walk the Camino de Santiago in the North of Spain or the Bruce Trail on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada, you would, first of all, make some decisions about the journey. Planning would begin as soon as the intention was set. You might create a checklist of things you need to do and things you will need to take with you. Or maybe you might pull one from the Internet created by travelers and guides who have already been where you hope to go, people who know the territory and can answer important questions you have not thought to ask. Questions about timing; the best time of year, how far you can travel in a day, departure and arrival times. Questions about facilities; where to stay, amenities available en route, where to eat. You can also find out to pack; what kinds of clothing or supplies are needed and even questions about what to take and what to leave behind. The answers to these questions are especially important for a long pilgrimage… one that thousands have taken over the centuries.  There is a lot of first-hand knowledge for you to learn from before you start your journey.

It is important for your safety and success to consider the experiences of others in order to enhance your own experience.  Avoiding mistakes made by others or learning from their triumphs, can help you plan for the unexpected and make your journey more pleasant and rewarding. You are better able to reach your destination and appreciate the steps taken along the way when you have prepared yourself not only with the worldly goods you need to make a trip but also by preparing mentally, emotionally, relationally, physically and spiritually … the way a way-finder would.

These five stages will be further explored in Chapter Five along with the tools that can be used to guide travelers through the stages to common ground.  The WAY-FINDER principles serve as the base of any journey into social space. The principles make up the Travel Essentials, the intellectual, emotional, relational, physical and spiritual preparations that you will need to make your own way and serve as a way-finder for others in social space.  The Traveler’s Creed is what differentiates a traveler from a tourist. You can chose to see what you came to see or you can choose to see what you see. Are you ready to proceed? 

Given these principles let’s have a positive look at the places we will go … The traveler’s guide to the space between us.

Chapter 3: The Way-Finder’s Tool Kit

Things you may need along the way.

“And then I realized adventures are the best way to learn.”

Introducing MAX

MAX is the name of the Multi APP Crossing tool for people moving through social space. It fits in the palm of your hand, reminding you of the attitude, skills, and knowledge it takes to move through the space between us. Each set of skills is represented by an acronym. Those skills require and refresh the characteristics listed on the chart. The App metaphor for the tools is also listed. All of these are apps that you might find on your personal cell phone right now.

CharacteristicAcronymAPP  Metaphor
CourageGHOSTCell Phone
CompetenceCNIBTProtective Gear

Finding Common Ground

How different people approach the journey is closely tied to their starting point or their Homeland. As with most journeys, traveling as a crow flies is rarely possible. Progress from the Red Zone through the Yellow Zone and towards the future-oriented Green Zone requires flexibility, agility, a keen interest and knowledge of the changing landscape and the motivation behind the struggling travelers as they move from destination to destination. Way-finders can see when travelers are in the Red Zone. The physical response is obvious. They feel threatened, so they go to Fight, Flight or Freeze, our natural instincts. In the Yellow Zone, the way-finder watches for conciliatory gestures, those signs of voluntary vulnerability that when supported, can help travelers bridge the gap to the Green Zone. In the Green Zone, the way finders notice another kind of hard-wired instinctive response… Release, Relate, and Relax. When people begin to demonstrate vulnerability, defenses go down and they can connect here.  

A planned route and a handheld MAX with essential apps can make the trip more successful and comfortable. A kit can include things like medications, a first aid kit, books, sunglasses, sunscreen, a sewing kit, your music player and even emergency funds. What you pack with you can make the difference between a successful journey and one with unnecessary delays and detours. Any quest or journey through the space between you and another person also needs a special set of tools to travel the Lands of the Enneagram with others. The way-finder MAX kit includes speaking and listening tools, translation devices and a step-by-step frame that will guide you like a compass from where you are to where you want to be.  The journey is not impossible without the kit but the items in this MAX kit will definitely make the journey more efficient and effective. Using these tools will help you become a skilled way-finder in the realms of conversation and increase the likelihood of finding common ground with the people in your social circle and beyond.