At the end of 2018, a new book by AMS professor Peggy De Prins‘Social Dialogue: opportunity or agony?’ (‘Sociale dialoog: kans of kwelling?’) will be published by ACCO. Leading up to this publication, Peggy uses everyday experiences to reflect on the content of her book.
I have a thing for the saying ‘up there’. I’ve heard it countless times from myriads of different people. According to my religious mother-in-law, God lives ‘up there’. Man tries, God decides, and that happens ‘up there’, as simple as that. To my children, ‘up there’ is where their late grandmother and grandfather live. Each time the sun shines unexpectedly, or a rainbow suddenly appears, we look up together, we wave and praise their generosity.
"De mens wikt, maar God beschikt en dat gebeurt ‘daar boven’,
it's as simple as that."
To a lot of employees, the bosses reside ‘up there’. Often people actually look up when they’re saying something about their superior. Regardless of whether the company building actually has an upper floor. Apparently, the subtle feeling of asymmetric power strikes a nerve in people and determines our discourse and non-verbal behavior. It symbolizes that certain things, positive, but more commonly negative, are being decided out of our power. If it’s coming from ‘up there’, we’re usually in a negative framing.
"Often people actually look up when they’re saying something about their superior."
Within social dialogue this feeling of asymmetrical power is often expanded and played out. The first cornerstone in the book ‘Social Dialogue: Chance or Torment?’ speaks of this explicitly. On the basis of empirical evidence, we strive to welcome in our perception, the theme of symmetrical power (the counterpart) within social dialogue.
"Within the basis of empirical evidence, we strive to welcome in our perception, the theme of symmetrical power within social dialogue."
This can be achieved through the (repeated) implicit and explicit emphasizing of our equality as conversational partners, our mutual dependence, our meeting in the middle or even: ‘our equal back-and-forth in a way the other doesn’t perceive as threatening’.