Communicating with a Kombi

Principle 4: Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

Do it Yourselfer #11

The fourth principle of permaculture, apply self-regulation and accept feedback, is about applying the brakes when things are not going as anticipated. It’s a wake up call, and a call to action.

When beginning any project most of us start off with good intentions. Good intentions are great, but are not enough to ensure good outcomes. At different stages during any project it’s important to continually reassess we are doing to discourage inappropriate outcomes, or if you are a glass half-full kind of person, encourage appropriate ones. We can only do this well if we are carefully observing our behaviour and impacts.

Often we don’t notice our own inappropriate actions. That’s where feedback from outside reminds us that we need to pay more attention to what we are doing, and work to repair the damage being done before things get out of hand.

Does Tang have a personality?

My old friend, Tang

From my own experience I’ve found that it’s usually a series of small events that stack up before something big happens. This is particularly noticeable with my 20 year relationship with Tang, my 40 year old Kombi. During this time I’ve become convinced that Tang has a personality.

It’s as if she is trying to tell me something, each time the door doesn’t shut properly, each little squeak and rattle. There will always be something for Tang to talk to me about, and in a funny way I like the conversation.

For me the trick is self-regulation, knowing when to act before something serious happens. Sometimes I pick up on it straight away. Other times there is so much else going on that I don’t hear how important it is until it’s too late.

When I first bought Tang I knew very little about maintenance. I taught myself using the book “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot”, an invaluable resource. In it I discovered the things that I can do, and the things that I’m not prepared or set up to do.

Doing my own servicing and tuning gives me a good overview of how Tang is going, and I can notice when things need attention before they become a problem. Topping up the oil, keeping the tyres inflated to the right pressure, checking the brake fluid etc, is something that all drivers should do to better understand their vehicle.

When something goes wrong that you don’t feel comfortable to deal with yourself, consider researching to get a better idea of what’s involved. This is important when communicating with a mechanic. If you know what you are talking about it’s less likely you’ll be taken advantage of.

Of course there are occasions when things go wrong. If this happens it’s really important to give feedback in order to discourage the behaviour. Think about how it might be best received to encourage positive action. If it’s not acted upon, take it to the next level.

From the other side of the coin, be open to receiving feedback and think about how you can use that to act appropriately and do a better job next time. Strive to constantly improve to avoid unnecessary negative consequences.

All the best – Richard Telford

Pip #3 – Did you know:

That the Australian permaculture magazine (Pip) uses the design principle icons to indicate the theme of each of it’s articles? The article ‘Fermenting for health’ features the apply self-regulation and accept feedback principle, as does this article. Feel free to use them in your own writings too.

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