Pausing in Developmental Friendship: Enjoy the Practice

Action Research Book

Cultivating developmental friendship supports our growth in complexity. AR+ places developmental friendship at the heart of our work in cultivating ARTistry.

This kind of friendship is not (necessarily) the kind where you go to the movies together.  Developmental friendship provides a relational space in which we integrate our naturally different ways of being. We are a social species with different talents and contributions to make to one another.  Developmental friendships are experienced as present when[i]:

1) engaging in some kind of shared work;

2) feeling high relational regard toward one another;

3) wishing to become more known to one another;

4) making a commitment to self-development through reflexivity;

6) experiencing a quest that increases – and requires – mutuality on the way to a more sustainable world;

7) recognizing the significant role of a “third” presence – namely a mutual friend and/or community of co-practitioners.

Nice idea. What’s the practice?

At AR+ we have various gatherings and coLABs in which, increasingly, we are attending to how we interact (and can improve!) our dynamics around power, inquiry and collaboration. That’s good, BUT…”is this practice of developmental friendship too much like eating spinach?! You know, it’s good for you, but…maybe not so tasty!” – said one of my developmental friends. I pondered this as I  continued to chew my spinach.  So thank goodness for people with better ideas…such as Yvonne’s, who wondered out loud one day:

“What about a flower power meet up,” asked Yvonne of Ilaria & Hilary. We had met as a trio in a coLAB on co-creativity. “Yea! What a great idea!” “Let’s get to know one another better!” Do we meet in Yvonne’s home in Florida? In San Diego with Ilaria? Or rainy Portland with Hilary. Turned out that Portland offered easiest logistics, tho’ not best weather. Our theme? We already shared a love of flowers as we had related to them as teachers during our coLAB. Quickly we aligned around a theme of Transitioning & Blooming. The theme connected Ilaria’s new baby, Yvonne’s dissertation and Hilary’s rematriating to Ireland, all now on the way. We’d meet over Earth Day (April 22). Of course. We’d spend three days, as a sacred pause, together.

OK. We’d add some luxury, spice and other ingredients to our steady diet of spinach 🙂

We share our brief photo PDF essay in which Yvonne Buysman, Ilaria DiStefano and Hilary Bradbury describe what we did and how we made sense of our time together. We hope it’s a taster that works as an invitation and/or inspiration to doing something like this. And if you feel you really don’t have the time, this may be exactly when you need a retreat.  

[i] NOTES (Spinach?)

Brilliant minds of different eras noted the preciousness of adult friendship for transformation of self and community. Aristotle’s three types of friendship, outlined in his Nicomachean Ethics, continues to offer a helpful typology: friends of utility, from whom, for example, we may borrow money; friends for pleasure, with whom we might go to dinner and a movie; and friends of virtue, who make us better people. The latter, he saw, as rare and best because with them we develop character.

A similar definition with seven elements appears in Bradbury and Torbert, 2016. Writing that book was part of the originating inquiry, now developed as central to ART, into how the dynamics of power and love can transform us. To not reman stuck in conflict, but instead to transform conflict, it seems especially important to turn to the challenging  inquiries and grow ourselves amid relationships of diversity. Bradbury and Torbert, 2016  also contains descriptions of four ways in which developmental friendship can be exercised, be it at the grocery store, an evening with friends, a few days, a lifetime. You get the idea. Please enjoy and share your practice! 


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