Taking the Barter Out of the Conversation

Commitment usually comes later in the process, after the first four conversations and some of the work on substantive issues has been done.

Commitment is a promise made with no expectation of return. It is the willingness to make a promise independent of either approval or reciprocity from other people. This takes barter out of the conversation. Our promise is not contingent on the actions of others. The economist is replaced by the artist. As long as our promise is dependent on the actions of others, it is not a commitment; it is a deal, a contract. A bargained future is not an alternative future; it is more of the past brought forward.

The declaration of a promise is the form that commitment takes; that is the action that initiates change. It is one thing to set a goal or objective, but something more personal to use the language of promises. Plus, to the extent that a promise is a sacred form of expression, this language anoints the space in the asking.

  • What promises am I willing to make?
  • What is the cost to others for me to keep my commitments, or to fail in my commitments
  • What is the no that I am postponing?

These are good questions to ask with someone you already work with and trust. How might you use these question in your gathering?                 



Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging(p. 124,136-138 ). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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