Learn the language through Sweetgrass Teachings
The cards referenced below are designed, printed and provided by the great people at Nokiiwin. Chi Meegwetch.
The Earth has so much to teach us, depending on how we choose to interpret the images.
Sweetgrass: Some believe it is the hair of mother earth. It’s beauty is in it’s simplicity. Most often sweetgrass is dried and braided, where the three strands are thought to represent mind, body & soul or love, kindness & honesty. Its smoke is believed to purify thoughts. Sweetgrass has a rough texture on one side and a smooth shiny other side. The grass itself grows slightly bowed, showing its shiny side to the Creator.
Psychological Safety: Feeling good about the job you do, where and how you do it and with the people you work with. Working free of fear, proud of contributing and accomplishing. It is so much more than the absence of violence and harassment. Words spoken to provide us motivation can instead produce feelings of hopelessness, instill fear of retribution and extinguish creativity and exuberance. Part of the problem is in peer language. In each decade, in different geographical areas, people spoke to each other with societal slang, which was understood because of shared experiences. Every other generation missed those cues because they were busy making their own.
In the card decks are words or phrases. For a simple familiarity exercise: The cards are coloured grey on one side and white on the other side. Cards could be placed white side down – grey side up. Ask participants not to touch the cards yet, and to pay attention to how they feel when they say the words to themselves. Give a moment to reflect.
Talk about sweetgrass. How it is humble and shows respect to the Creator by bowing slightly, choosing to show its shiny side – how its difficult to always present your best. Discuss difficulties to change the way you are taught to communicate with your peers or present your thoughts and opinions in messages, regardless of right or wrong, and challenge participants to change perceptions when receiving messages as well. Return to the cards. These words are grey or rough. Look at the words, ask which of these were spoken to you or spoken by you in a way that caused hurt? Ask if someone had a reaction to any of the grey words. Why is the emotion so strong – what was the intent, or the meaning implied. Do this for two or three participants, and then ask the first participant to flip over their card. Ask to say it out loud, read the grey side again and then ask everyone what the difference is. Do it with the next card and ask the group if they could invent some “shiny” side words of their own. Ensure all participants participate!
By changing the words we use to describe behaviour we choose to see the shiny side. Is it possible to consider hearing a different meaning?
Other exercise ideas:
- ½ room shiny ½ room rough discuss a) tone, inflection, body language, bias, fear; b) coping: tolerance, ignorance and forgiveness; c) implications: inferiority, lack of confidence, self-harm, lateral violence, job loss, unhealthy lifestyle choices. Share.
- ½ room speakers: discuss strategies to change wording, ½ room listeners: discuss strategies to see (hear) silver lining. Share.
- In small groups of 3-6 discuss and come up with an action which can be implemented to increase positive feelings of self-worth. Must be able to measure the action. State what the correction is for and what the benefit of the action will be. (IE: potluck lunch once per quarter to celebrate all birthdays, marriages, divorces, babies, new cars, and graduations. This is to ensure we bestow our warmest wishes for successes to each of our employees, regardless of rank or religion. The benefit is a team who learns to respect each other for being human and celebrates individual successes as a team.)
- Use it as a refresher exercise. Put up 5 grey coloured stickies along a common corridor. Each day a new grey word appears. Challenge employees to “combat” the grey sticky by posting their own positive sticky underneath. Draw from all eligible entries for a gift certificate. Feature suggestions in newsletters or email communications for health & safety promotion.
- Encourage teams to construct their own set of cards – over time – for use at safety meetings or town hall meetings.
Email your creative ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post them on the website.