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The Three Dimensions of Engagement

In the post entitled Four Uses of the Word Engagement – Part 2, I introduced the idea that an engagement is a bilateral interaction between two entities involved in “engagement in” the interaction and the “engagement of” the other entity.

An effective engagement involves the synchronisation of three dimensions of the interaction; intention, connection and action. All three of these dimensions may have physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual components.

Every person who engages in an interaction has intention – a broader general sense of meaning and purpose, personal goals and desires as well as a more specific intention related to that focal interaction and the context in which it occurs. These intentions may reflect any combination of the five aspects of personhood and may be conscious or unconscious. Engagements are optimised when the intentions of both parties are promoted or realised through the interaction, when their intentions are mutually-complementary. Their intentions do not have to be identical, but if each party is contributing to the accomplishment of the other’s objectives, then both are likely to invest more in the engagement, creating a virtuous reinforcing cycle.

The second ingredient in an effective engagement is connection; the way in which the two parties relate to each other. An engagement cannot happen without proximity on physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels and the greater the mutual comfort in each of these aspects of the relationship, the more likely both parties will be to invest in and optimise the engagement. When a mutually-reinforcing connection is created, both parties will be more likely to invest in the interaction.

An effective engagement does not happen without an investment in mutually-beneficial action which again may be of a physical, social, emotional, intellectual and/ or spiritual nature. Engagement must involve doing something. When the other party’s actions provide a great return for my investment in an interaction I am more likely to continue to invest my own personal resources. When the actions of the other person are threatening or simply not rewarding, it is more likely that I will not be fully invested.

When intention, connection and action are not well synchronised, engagement is likely to be replaced by one of three forms of non-engagement, which will be discussed in the next post, “The Engagement Landscape”.

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