Love Letters to Humans (no. 50) — on Consent

Relational Joy Practice: Consent

Agreement. Harmony. (from: “sensing with”) Quite literally: feeling together.

Without presencing and regarding what is true for both of us, we do not have consent.

Let’s set aside our legal notions of consent as the bare minimum of agreeing to something without coercion, threats, blackmail, or violence. Consent isn’t nearly so basic. It is neither permission (I allow you or you allow me) nor compliance (one of us goes along to get along).

Let’s talk about consent as a harmony of wills—where your wants and my wants are in accord. Beyond permission. Beyond compliance. We want together.

Wanting together is one element of relational harmony and joyful connection.

The catch is this: We cannot achieve a harmony of wills without the awareness and presencing of our own desires. What some of us have been taught to call selfishness—knowing and communicating what we want—is a requirement for consent. What you want matters in right relationship.

AND… we cannot know what someone else wants without relating with them through inquiry and regard. Simply put: we ask and then really listen.

Tiny script for going after consent:

“I want [xyz]. What do you want?” [Listen very hard.] “Thank you. Now what?”

What do you want? Is there room for your wants in your most important relationships, including your relationship with yourself?

Where can you be more clear in communicating your own desires?

Where have you mistaken compliance or permission for consent?

Where can asking, listening, and regarding your desires and someone else’s make room for more possibility, less struggle, and more joyful connection?

Many, many thanks to Elinor Predota for our conversations and their teaching about consent. The best parts of this post are from them. The parts that I have gotten wrong are my own.

If you want to dive deeper into your practice of right relationship in your life and your leadership this year, let’s talk. I have space for 1:1, couples/partners, and small team coaching (and I love it).