A cosmopolitan sensibility: Compelling stories from a communication perspective: A review

A cosmopolitan sensibility: Compelling stories from a communication perspective was published towards the end of last year. Gitte Haslebo, an educator and trainer in social constructionist theory and practices for more than 30 years and a Taos Associate, reviews this edited volume of compelling stories, finding them ”rich in key CMM ideas.”

Gitte Haslebo, Ms. of Psychology, Taos Associate, Denmark. Is the founder of a pioneer organizational psychological consultancy company working with systemic, appreciative, CMM and narrative approaches (1991-2019). Educator and trainer in social constructionist theory and practices for more than 30 years. Author, co-author and co-editor of numerous books and articles on leadership and organizational development. Taos Associate at the TAOS Institute since 2008.

Communication theorist, Barnett Pearce, has been a tremendous source of inspiration in many countries, including Denmark. Through the years I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with him. His groundbreaking work has enhanced a deeper understanding of how communication makes social worlds. This book: A Cosmopolitan Sensibility. Compelling Stories from a Communication Perspective continues the journey and development of the theory and practices of Coordinated Management of Meaning that started 30-40 years ago with Barnett Pearce as one of the prime movers.

This book’s subtitle: Compelling stories from a Communication Perspective is just wonderful. It stimulates curiosity and raises a lot of how- and what-questions. How can stories be compelling? What does compelling mean in the context of this book? How can a communication perspective be used to make stories compelling? These questions are puzzling and invite the readers to search for meaning.

The ten authors of the book are all board members of the CMM Institute. In each chapter they show how a cosmopolitan mindset and perceptual and social skills can help to create better social worlds. In some of the chapters this is done in a very specific setting: training children in school, doing psychotherapy with marital couples and working with youth leaders in a conflict-riven local community in Columbia.

The book is rich in key CMM ideas with common threads running through all the chapters. To mention a few:

First. Making a problematic, frustrating, alienating and unwanted social world better cannot be done, if the participants continue to live by the story that has constructed the social world in mention. A new and different story with different relationships and ways of communicating needs to be created. CMM offers a lot of tools to try doing this. A new story which offers respectful positions for all and gives meaning to the members will be ‘compelling’ in the way that it transforms what is going on.

Second. A new story which opens for more perspectives, reflections, options and choices will empower the people involved and create hope. What seemed impossible and out of reach, can become a little easier to deal with in the frame of a new story. Hope can be a strong force to find cracks in what seemed impossible and thereby pave the way for new and creative actions and relationships.

Third. A shift in focus from the individual and the rights of the individual to a focus on relationships and the moral obligations and responsibilities we all have to each other opens for a relational ethic, which is very important when trying to create better social worlds.

What we do to other people matters. To me it creates great hope to read how children just four years old can learn to understand this and be guided by a relational ethics. They can strengthen their attention and deepen their ability to discover the moments that matter and the moments of important choice. Learning many examples of this can be part of developing a cosmopolitan sensibility. How this works, you can read in the chapter on CosmoKidz.

I hope that the book will be spread out in many countries and help create better social worlds. Thanks to the authors.

Support the work of the CMM Institute!