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  • Writer's pictureAbbie VanMeter

Why Did I Say That? Using The Daisy Model to Understand Context That Shapes Us

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Today, we are going to continue our conversation about the four models that are used in CMM. Last time we talked about the LUUUUTT model (Stories Lived, Unknown Stories, Untold Stories, Unheard Stories, Untellable Stories, StoryTelling, and Stories Told). That model really gets at the complexity of our stories. It encourages us to not take them at face value but to ask questions and dig deeper to see what exists beyond the stories we tell. Originally, this model only pointed out the tension between Lived Stories and Told Stories. Later the ‘U’s were added to address the other, often unacknowledged, layers of our stories. I think this makes our understanding so much richer.

Today, we are moving on to the Daisy Model. This model does something similar. It’s about establishing context by putting together all the pieces that make up a single utterance, person, or situation. Think about drawing a daisy on a piece of paper. Unless you are some incredible artist then you probably just drew a circle with a handful of petals around it. Well, that’s the Daisy Model—really simple. In the Daisy Model, the circle, or the center of the daisy is what is seen. For example, if I was going to make a Daisy Model around myself, then I would put 'Abbie' in the center of the daisy. You can also have a daisy centered around an interaction, conversation, or even a single statement (what we would call an “utterance”). Whatever the center of the daisy is, all the petals of the daisy then represent all the factors that influence that center, all the previous conversations, beliefs, or other people that might have led up to that center being what it was.

So, if I am the center of a daisy, then some of the petals might be my family of origin, the friends that I had growing up, the education that I got, the religion that I grew up with, the messages that I got about things like my gender, my intelligence, my talents, my goals, things I should value. The list goes on and on.

In her book, Compassionate Communicating: Because Moments Matter Kim Pearce explains that the goal of the Daisy Model “is to better understand the larger system of which the event and participants are a part and to experience mystery, compassion, and humility about the complexity of our social worlds.”

Obviously, we have the visual of the daisy with all the petals representing the various layers and elements because that is effective visually, but let’s think about this model a little deeper. I see it like this: think of a daisy. All you see is the head of the flower, the stem, the petals, and maybe some leaves, but there is so much that we don’t see. All that exists within the flower or beneath the surface in the roots. The head of the flower does not exist on its own. It is part of a much bigger system working to keep it alive. The sun, the water, the soil, the weeds that crowd it out, the roots that reach way down into the earth, the insects that pollinate it or come eat the leaves. All of it affects the flower; some help the flower, supporting it, and keeping it alive, while others get in the way and make things harder for the flower... Sound familiar?

In the same way that we can’t take a flower or any kind of plant at its face value, we can’t take our interactions with others at face value. That’s why some people are good at tending to gardens or taking care of flowers or other plants because they recognize the care that the plants require. We should be taking care of our interactions, our social worlds, and the people in them, with just as much attention and tenderness as we do when taking care of plants. After all, we are all just living things. We need a lot of the same things.

What the Daisy Model can do when we apply it (even quickly in the moment to our everyday interactions) is to make those interactions richer by giving more color and context to the people in front of us. We can apply the Daisy Model to ourselves and understand ourselves better, but we can also apply it to other people, fill in the petals that we know, and as Kim said, leave room for the mystery and humility of recognizing that there are also petals that we don’t know affecting our conversation partners.

The best thing we can do for ourselves, and our social worlds, is to keep looking through the lens of the Daisy Model. Keep it as a tool in our back pocket. When a conversation isn’t going the way you expected, step back, pull out your daisy model (metaphorically), and try to fill in the gaps. It is all about perspective—trying on new ones, better understanding our own, and asking others to help us understand theirs.

This model isn’t just an academic tool to explain the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) theory. It has real practical uses in our lives. Like we did with the LUUUTT model, spend some time this week, sit down and draw out a Daisy Model for something in your own life. I think it is especially good for looking back on interactions that didn’t go the way we wanted or expected, or interactions that didn’t make us feel good, didn’t inspire connection but rather disconnection. Look back using the Daisy Model to see why that happened. Fill in the blanks and find more answers in the context.

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