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Monday, April 09, 2012

Relational Spaces and the Disciple Cycle

Not every kind of space is conducive to making friends. In the past I've talked about the four relational spaces and how they function online, but if anything, they are more important for real-life interaction. The four spaces are: public, social, personal and intimate. Notice how the different steps of the Disciple Cycle are grouped by the types of relational space. Meeting, connecting and making friends happens in the public and social spaces. Meeting and connecting with people can happen in the public space or the social space, but really making friends typically only happens in the social space.

Once you're already friends with a person, then you enter the personal space. This is where questions are alright. Obviously the better you know someone, the deeper the questions can go. But questions about the existence of God or the meaning of life are typically not good for the social space and are definitely not alright for the public space.

You want to match the tone of the relationship to the type of space you're in. If you meet up with friends at a concert, don't try to start a discussion about religion or spirituality. Public spaces are much more well suited to talking about the weather, sports and the new movie coming out this weekend. If you're in a social space, there is some room for deeper questions, but you probably shouldn't lead the conversation in that direction. Let your friends set the tone. If they want to hash out the church's stance on abortion, go ahead and share your thoughts.

The important thing to remember is that each space has a level of solidity to the statements made. So statements made in the public space are not open for discussion while things said in the personal or intimate spaces have a lot of opportunity for change.

  • Public - Positional statements that cannot be challenged without sparking an argument.  
  • Social - Rehearsed statements that don't necessarily lead to argument, but aren't up for in-depth discussion. 
  • Personal - I-Think statements that are qualified as personal thoughts, but are still defended as positional statements. 
  • Intimate - I-Feel statements that are qualified by emotions and can give insight into the principles that underlie positions. 
The closer to public the space is, the more calcified the statements will be. There's really no room to move with positional and rehearsed statements. You can get to know people, but they don't lend themselves to good questions. It's only once you start to get into the freedom of I-think and I-feel statements that honest questions can be a part of the friendship. 

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