At The Heart of the Matter

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

"Our undertaking to connect with other human beings in a genuine, meaningful way is what authentic engagement is all about."

At the Heart of the Matter

Who I am in relationship with others

By Craig Neal, lead Author of The Art of Convening book

Chapter 1

The place to start when we convene meetings, gatherings, and conversations, is with ourselves. If we are to lead into authentic engagement, it is important to be genuine. Knowing who we are as human beings assists us in bringing this genuineness forward. Additionally, our ability to frame, embody and model authentic engagement is improved when we explore how we will be in relationship with others.

We call this first, central Aspect of the Convening Wheel, At the Heart of the Matter.

The purpose of At the Heart of the Matter is to increase our clarity, confidence and sense of belonging so that, come what may, we are able to “hold” others in the safest, most generative container possible. Although personal and internal, this aspect is a powerful touchstone, and precursor, for thoughtful intention and design of our meetings. Some of the exercises in this book will help us get started, or continue to reveal to ourselves who we are, which increases our ability to stay connected and open to our relationships with others.

Principle:Knowing who I am allows me to be in authentic engagement.

Our undertaking to connect with other human beings in a genuine, meaningful way is what authentic engagement is all about. But unless we are willing to reflect on who we are, we don’t give others something real to connect to. Expecting to authentically engage with others when we don’t know ourselves is like believing we can physically grasp a hologram or lean on the mist; it seems as if there’s something there, but when we try it out, we learn differently.

The journey of self-reflection that we begin or continue with this Aspect of the Convening Wheel provides something solid for us and others to connect to.

Essential Questions:


Who am I as a human being?

How will I be in relationship with others?

When we have thoroughly explored these questions, the connection of ourselves in relationship to others makes more sense and tends to flow more naturally. When we practice mindful reminders through reflective practices, whatever they may be, we bring ourselves back to our basic humanity.

These are internal reflections. Whether or not we share our discovery with others is not as important as truthfully addressing these questions for ourselves. Our discovery will be At the Heart of the Matter. The Journaling questions and exercises at the end of the chapter will help focus our internal vision in order to explore these questions.

Through this internal inquiry we have the opportunity to experience the core of who we are and how we will be in relationship with others. When we understand the nature of why we desire to be in relationship with others, our gatherings tend to have an integrity that goes beyond the sole reliance on form and technique. This quality allows for the possibility of authentic connection.

Challenge: Staying Connected

Do we choose to open ourselves to relationships or do we choose to close?

In times of high stress, we can be distracted from our connection to who we are. Convening is the art of gathering and “holding” people, in a safe and generative space, for the sake of an authentic engagement that works for all. We consider each gathering an entry into a relationship with others. Staying authentically connected to others is, ultimately, all about being connected to ourselves. If we are not in touch with ourselves and the core of our intent, how can we maintain a genuine connection to other people?

For more on the Art of Convening book go to