work partnership basics
by Kye Nelson

Perhaps you have a vision you are trying to realize--something that matters a lot to you--but you keep finding yourself pulled off course, or unable to get moving. A work partner may help.

A work partnership is a special sort of focusing and listening partnership. If you don't already know about focusing partnerships and would like to, you can find out more here. Or you can read on below, to find out some basics about work partnerships that may also give you an idea of what focusing and listening partnerships are like, in general:

Here are some ways a work partner may help you in your situation:

  • A work partner is holding the whole of the work situation WITH you. Over time, as you lay out different details and possibilities, your partner is remembering them with you (often by writing them down as you say them) so that two of you are able to remember and bring in old points you have raised that may be pertinent, as you bring in this new point, today.
  • At times a step feels too big to make alone. If you don't have someone with you, you may not make any move at all, or you may do something that feels more possible rather than doing the thing you KNOW comes next. Often just having someone there who knows what you have said comes next, and is holding the space for you to do this next step--someone to whom you can report back afterward and say 'I did it'--is enough to make it possible to make that step.
  • A work partner helps you keep your work grounded in felt experience because you know this is a focusing relationship.
  • A work partner helps you keep continuity with your purpose because you speak regularly to one another, and you know that this is what this time is FOR--though you also know that your half of the time can actually be for anything that you choose. Your work is always part of a whole life.

Here is a summary of basic things to remember as you establish a work partnership.

First, A WORK PARTNERSHIP IS A RELATIONSHIP OF EQUALITY. Each partner should get half the time. However, how the time is used may look very different from a classic focusing partnership. Often it is more fluid and improvisational, more collaborative. What is important to remember is that the person whose time it is, is guiding what happens. They may need silence, exact listening, feedback, to play together with an idea... it's a kind of grown up 'Simon Says'.

Second, A WORK PARTNERSHIP IS A LISTENING RELATIONSHIP. Your partner can never know the full intricacy of your situation in just that way that you who are living it, HAVE it. There is always MORE, and that more is always full of surprising distinctions that are new even to you, when you spend time sensing the situation. Even when your listener is skilled and experienced, and has been accompanying you for some time in JUST THIS PLACE, their response will sometimes INEVITABLY not "fit" that which, now you've heard their listening response, you feel more precisely and strongly. And their not "getting" it at first (or the way it changed when you heard it back) IS ALL RIGHT. In attending to YOUR OWN felt sense as you hear how your partner has taken in what you said, something in you will perhaps protest, and demand correction. Then you can say the way it really is NOW, for you. Your partner takes this new saying of it in, and says it back to you again, until you know they've GOT it--that they are really WITH you with something that you needed to have them understand more exactly than they had it before.

Generally in a focusing partnership of any kind--work partnerships included--this is the basic act:

--listening with one's whole attention, taking in what has been said as fully as one can

--allowing one's own felt sense of THAT to form, and

--as one's partner needs (or as YOU need in order to know that you are really following), saying back the crux of what has been said.

Hearing back what we have said lets us know that someone really is WITH us. Additionally, hearing a reflection of the crux of what we have said often allows us to feel 'the next step on from there' more easily. Then that next-place-on begins to open.

Listening exactly like this can be a simple, comfortable act if one remembers that it is ALWAYS okay to 'get it wrong' because then one's partner simply says it again. When your partner knows that you really do want to understand exactly, their process will not be hurt at all by your not understanding sometimes.

Third, A WORK PARTNERSHIP IS A RELATIONSHIP WHERE WE FORM NEXT STEPS FROM OUR ENTIRE, BODILY-FELT, EXPERIENCE OF THE SITUATION, AS WE WORK. Here in this relationship you can form a felt sense of where you are heading, where you are now, and what steps can bridge the two. As you move in the direction of your goal, when you allow yourself to always stay grounded in your felt sense of the actual situation you are able to fluidly shift a little here, a little there, just as water running down a hill moves around a boulder in its path while still ultimately making it down to the valley below.

As you begin your work partnership, you may want to begin by sharing some of this intricate felt texture with your partner, as they listen and say it back to you. But if this does not seem like the right place to begin, let your own felt sense of how this relationship can best help you, be your guide.

If you are interested in having a work partner but don't know who you'd ask, or if you'd like some help in getting started, you can contact the Focusing Institute, which has an online pool of people who would like focusing partners (you should read the partnership material on their site before signing up) as well as mentors who can help you get a focusing partnership established, free of charge.

Kye Nelson is a watcher, thinker, and collaborative consultant. Find out more about her work at or contact her at 210/413-4339,

This material © 2001 by Kye Nelson. All rights reserved.

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