Saturday 19 January 2019

Seeking to Understand (3)

Further to yesterday's post, I have had some more reflections on the process on Thursday. 

One is that, although I mentioned it, I think I underplayed the value of turn-taking in this context. One of the components of the Thinking Environment is equality, of course; and sharing time fairly is a good way of enabling that. And whilst Nancy was facilitating the conversation, in her usual style, to ensure she was not infantilising us in any way, she gave us the responsibility to manage the turn-taking, with her role being to intervene only if someone got so carried away that he or she forgot to do so.

In the event, Nancy did not need to intervene at all (except a couple of times to ask us to speak more loudly so that those at the back of the room could hear). And the impact of that, of having the responsibility only to talk for a couple of minutes and then shut up and give one's complete attention to the other person in the conversation, was a powerful part of what made it such a rich and warm discussion. Demonstrating that constant awareness of, and consideration for, the other person, even when in full flow, was very important.

I also mentioned in my previous post, that the conditions of the discussion made it easy to bring my best self to the conversation.  And ease, of course, is an other component of the Thinking Environment. Coincidence? I think not.

But as the conversation did not result in either of us changing our deeply-held views, a pragmatic question is: what's the point?

I think there are several points.  One is that we both (and those listening to the conversation) learned something.  I hold that to be a good in its own right. Further, we established a relationship in which we were able to keep talking, constructively, about something about which we disagreed profoundly. So if we were in a situation where we needed to reach some kind of accord, or some kind of agreed next steps, we would be in a better position to do so.  There are several reasons for that.

First, each of us would be very much clearer about what would be required to make the other change his or her mind (or the impossibility of that); or what would need to be embedded in a proposal to make it acceptable; secondly, we established much that we did agree on, and those aspects could be the foundation of some progress beyond mere talking. Thirdly, we had established a relationship that would make honest discussion of any ideas or proposals possible, in a constructive spirit.

I can see real potential for using this approach in deeply-conflicted work situations. Even if no final agreement was reached, an open agreement to disagree, accompanied by good will, honesty, and increased trust, is very much preferable to many of the other probable outcomes of such a situation.

And here's a thought: how about a television programme - it could be called More Light Than Heat - where such polarised topics could be discussed in such a way, rather than the conflictual approach beloved of broadcasters? Nancy would make a fine host and chair...


Since writing this, I have had yet further thoughts, which may be read here.

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