Body-language and nonverbal communication

Change (3) and Palaver – Traditional African Decision making

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change (3) and  Palaver – Traditional African Decision making

Maybe you have heard about palaver. In Germany we understand palaver as talking this and that, small talk and things like this.

But: palaver in Africa is a very old, important communication model of social and political discussion/discourse. Psychoanalysts and ethnologists did a lot of research on that in the 1920s. Here is a short picture about palaver in those days.

“They sit under a tree and talk until ……………they agree”.

If people in a village had a problem which needed a decision the wise men of the village went to the palaver house which usually was outside the village. They stayed there for three days talked about this and that, did some small talk and of course talked about the issue, the problem and the needed decision. After three days they usually returned to the village, announced their decision and the people followed their decision.

The psychoanalysts and ethnologists, I sometimes imagine them as the first management consultants of McKinsey or Boston Consulting Group, asked the wise men why they needed three days and not more and not less. The wise men couldn’t give any sufficient answer so the scientists asked them to meet only for two days the next time and to see what would happen afterwards.

Next problem, next meeting in the palaver house, for two days only. The same procedure, the same discussion, the same way of leading to a decision, the same announcement of the decision and the same acceptance by the people in the village.

What do you think really had happened?

Of course there was a big difference, a main difference, a very important difference.

Though the wise men had found a decision and announced this decision and though the people accepted the decision there was a big difference in the process of inhalation, the the process of digestion of this decision in the long run. It occurred a deep lack of sustainability concerning the decision and the consequences of this decision. To put it to a point: A decision after two days palaver was less digested and inhaled by the people in the village than the three-days-palaver-decision.

When will society or companies or politicians learn from this? How can they learn from this when they start any process of change or integration?

The wise men were of course asked by the scientists what they had done in those three days instead of the two days. They couldn’t give any sufficient answer, because they even did not know what they had done.  

They only knew: we need three days of palaver.

One can compare this to the black box model. You don’t know what happens inside, but you know it is important what happened inside. And you know that you need the black box in order to communicate via the black box, in order to find a sufficient, successful and sustainable decision.

We all need more of these sustainable decisions.

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