We use shapes to gain focus and insight for ourselves, in conversation and in groups.

Face-2-Face began as a paper mock-up to demonstrate basic uses of ushin shapes in the emergent prototype. Packets of paper cards were distributed to ushin advisors in early 2016. People began experimenting with the shapes to elicit support for perspectives, as a mediation tool, for counseling, and for group processes. Within the year the shapes emerged in a variety of iterations: coasters, timers, charms, stationary, note cards, white-boards and articles of clothing. Once the shapes are internalized by people, the physical tools are not necessary for use in clarifying meanings in dialogue.

The F2f physical shapes that we hold in our hands have grown well beyond the initial metaphor for digital capabilities of rapid, meaningful communication around points and queries. Though lacking dozens of unique features possible in the digital sphere, (with shared semantic screens, crowd filtering, comparing, cross referencing, nodal connections, marking, and other USHIN functionalities that a physical mock-up lacks), the universal meaning shapes inspire creative communication. People invent and customize ways to use the shapes to gain insights, comprehensive understanding, direction and group consensus.

Knowning One’s MindA key aspect of communicating face to face with ushin is inspired by first nation traditions: the talking piece, an object whose holder is given full attention. It’s simplest for each person to make one point, or pose one question, at a time. First we express a main point, and then any related supporting points or queries. Side topics can be noted and set aside for later.
Understanding Each OtherBy packaging our communication as snippets of specific meaning, ushin engenders sincere, natural conversation, a combination of active listening, mediation and co-coaching.
An expansion of the basic “Nonviolent Communication”, structure of expressing clear “feelings”, “needs”, and requests, ushin includes supporting facts, people, merits for meeting stated needs, thoughts, (such as analyses) and other topics. By getting to the point, and making our case clearly, we avoid misunderstandings and save time.
Group ProcessShapes are used to expedite all kinds of group communications: brainstorming, deliberations, and consensus.
A technological step ahead of color card group self-assessment methods, when sets of shapes are distributed to participants a number of people can simultaneously convey input of different kinds. Groups can brainstorm sitting in a circle, or place shapes on a table, or on a white board, for participants to add stickies, or scribble snippets based on the kind of meaning they want to convey. This method rapidly aggregates group input in an organized manner, with side topics evoked and separately addressed later or on a different table or writing surface.
Feel free to download the semantic screen for your computer or device, and embed the ushin semantic screen on your websites.

Using ushin – examples

Since distributing the shapes on the back of ushin business cards, individuals have tested the system to collect their own thoughts around a life changing event, such as a job, a mov, or a changing relationship. They report feeling settled to “grok” a full picture of influences surrounding feelings and needs. The system has been popular among couples and families to get points across that were otherwise blocked by an unknown fact, or poorly fitting conclusion. A group counselor told us that her group participants “counsel themselves” by flipping through a set of ushin cards.

“One way to play”

A card game for comprehensive efficient understanding

• Minimum one person.

• Everyone makes/gets 8 meaning shapes labeled: feelings, needs, thoughts, events/facts,
people, actions & topics

• Someone starts with anything as the focal point for each round.

• People deliberate one point at a time, with requests to meet needs go first.

• Others hold up a cards to show what kind of contribution they have in response.

• People with needs held up start by choosing others, one at a time, who show shapes for what they offer.

• When input is the same we say “ditto”, the group can all show cards, and if anyone is keeping score they up-rank a point.

• Whoever is talking may direct the choices for 2 min and may shift focus to anyone and any other related point during their turn, ending the round by choosing someone else’s need.

• All needs play in turn unless deferred or satisfied/resolved.

• Those with partial agreement may share differences with the group, or write them down.

• Group moderators select people to help others with longer needs in a side deliberation.

• Each need may be addressed by one of us, a few, or the group together.

• After needs are met people may turn to related topics yet to be ushered, or suggest a new focus.

Using ushin cards in a large group

For example, a group may decide that people with needs go first. Participants with suggested actions that potentially meet that need would respond by showing an arrow, others with thoughts to share about the need would display a circle. Holding a need with a blank thought card would then be a request for feedback on the need itself. People with merits as a main point could include other shapes to explain how their contribution meets the specific needs by the actions suggested.

Using ushin around a table

Over the last couple of years USHIN, Inc. has hosted a string of “Ushin Discussions” which varied greatly in size, structure and content. The shapes were invoked during numerous discussions among small groups to clarify misunderstandings and make plans, make requests and respond to meet needs.

After the debacle in Maricopa County during the 2016 primary, angry voters deliberated actions to take and how a system like USHIN could have keyed people quickly into their proper polling places, kept voters up to date, and in direct, public communication with the officials in charge, who could respond in time.

We deliberated educational issues in a meeting to get to know an individual running for school board with participants knowing much more about how the candidate stood on the issues, and the candidate learned a lot about what was important in education for his constituency.

As a small nonprofit we use ushin tools to deliberate complex aspects of our own projects. We ushered public meetings points of deliberation and compared potential actions at open community meetings in which participants voiced the need to coordinate activities and connect people, locally, on a website owned and run for and by members of our local community. The deliberation led to the u4u module being designed to focus on 3 ushin shapes for issues, actions and groups, which since became the Local Calendar Project.

Another ushin discussion focused on feedback for a professor, Noam Chomsky, about his class. Beyond the limitations of an end-of-course survey, a group of students felt urged to let the professor know how to improve the course. There was a table-top ushering of input that displayed a clear picture of how the students were inspired, revealed a shared disappointment and offered numerous practical recommendations to meet specific student needs. The open, fluid nature of the discussion led to consideration of related topics within larger, even global contexts with needs that involved populations beyond the classroom. The complexity of the discussion was illustrated by entering points into a mind-map. Professor Chomsky had suggested that inter-disciplinary conversations might be facilitated with the ushin discussion, around academic topics. In an mature, distributed ushin system, the discussion would continue, and the public could also join in, with privacy and vetting based on the publishing sources they choose each time they usher a point.

u4u itself has been and will be continuously a focus of deliberation as we move forward. Initially the participants were within our tiny group designing the prototype. An example of this is pictured as a snapshot of u4u deliberated in the u4u booklet, page 6. This method of showing a central topic surrounded by related points gives a well-rounded sense of the u4u project, at that time – we’ve come a long way since those facts and actions were described. An expanding, inclusive, group of ushin enthusiasts will continue the u4u deliberation continuously as part of the prototype, recursively.

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Paper Mock-up

The purpose of this mock-up was to test the intuitive nature of ushin shapes without an introduction to the system and demonstrate how the semantic screen works in conversation.

Everyone had a set of meaning shapes in a packet, and each created a message and responded to someone else’s in this format.

HOW TO PLAY: The outer star-shaped card represent the merit of contents within.

If these words of merit hold no value for you, skip to the last step. If the message is worthy of your time, open the sender packet and slip out the contents maintaining their order to preserve sender’s priorities or flow.

The top inside card has the main point or main query, depending on whether the point or blank query is face up. The other cards are sub-points or sub-queries relating to the main point or query.

A face up, “open,” card is a request for response based on that shape’s meaning, on topic, and if it has words, it may be a guess, a request for confirmation, or a question. The very system invites open responses.

To reply to any card’s message: cover it with the similarly shaped card from your recipient packet, that expresses how you want to respond to that specific point or query. (See other side for shape meanings.)

Put query side up to request response or point up to confer completion. Blank responses convey agreement.

Add writing only to your own color cards to model the USHIN feature which allows modification of only one’s own, unpublished input – once committed to the digital commons it is considered “forever”.

If you have no response, and want to reject the message on any card, discard it.

Re-order the resultant pairs of cards to indicate relative importance of each from your perspective.

Slip your ordered set of inner cards into the blank recipient packet face up.

Close your packet by inserting the merit (star shaped) pair with or without adding commentary.

Create or add your suitable identity for this input on your recipient packet cover, as sender.

If you agree with the sender’s choice of recipients for your input, leave the “to” section on your recipient packet as is. If not, remove, edit and/or write your own names on your color packet.

Place your packets into the mail envelope or otherwise deliver.

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Rim Mock-ups need at least two sets of shapes, one supporting the main point from each perspective.

HOW TO PLAY: The first person, A, starts a semantic layout with cards, or coasters that show one shape each. A begins with any shape, and may not identify a main point until finished expressing the points and laying out all of the shapes A wants to include in the message. One way to conclude a turn might be to announce your main point, and choose a shape to identify the kind of meaning A wants to convey. Additionally A might identify the kind of meaning desired in response, perhaps by pointing to a shape, or handing a B a shape that is blank side up, usually signifying a query rather than a point.

For example, Mary might lay out green cards on a table, with the center one being her main point, a fact about his being late for the second time to a meeting, and ask Bill to take a turn by handing him a blank shape, let’s say a heart, asking how he feels about her main point, or her suggested action, that she gives him a ride next time. Bill could tell his feelings about either or both, and support it with a rim of shapes around her central point about his being late.  He may let her know he feels great about catching a lift, putting this as a separate topic to the side, with a fact-shape placeholder for logistic complication surrounding her offer to pick him up. Bill wants to show his gratitude briefly, return to the main issue of his lateness. He completes his communication as a rim around her main point, briefly explaining his perspective. Mary picks up her cards from that initial point, indicating completion, and the two rapidly solve their logistics by reminding each other of people in the group who live closer to Bill.

Groups may prefer to use colored paper, such as sticky notes, or colored pencils, rather than rims, when adding shapes around a main point. Simply putting the notes on one of 8 regions of the table or other surface one tags the kind of meaning, and their color or style shows who’s communicating.