It’s been said that the world is divided into people who think they’re right. In what seems to be a time of increasing polarisation, it’s easy and natural to see polarities in oppositional terms – as adversarial. It is therefore increasingly important in these times to see polarities as complementary and interdependent (thanks to Ilene Wasserman – see below).
How often, when hearing a different point of view, do we immediately seek to share our own perspective? Is it possible that there is a solution that incorporates both perspectives? To find such a solution, we must move from either/or to both/and.
Think of an issue of concern to you. It could be social, political, environmental – or it might be a situation at work where you disagree with a colleague, boss, client or customer, or team member. Rather than picking something that seems impossible to solve, start with something you think might be possible to create – such as a more harmonious and engaged work team.
Have an issue or problem in mind? Try these steps:
- How could you describe the issue in such a way that both of you would agree to what you’ve said? (Thanks to Jonathan Foust for this idea.) What is the fundamental common ground here: do you both want to feel safe? To be at ease and at peace with yourself and others? Find this before moving to the specifics of the issue.
- Try to imagine, even for a few moments, being in a place of pure inquiry – put yourself next to the other person and look at the issue or problem with them.
- Try going a step further and describe to someone else how the other person sees the issue or problem.
- Can you imagine or envision a future in which these perspectives can co-exist, even be mutually beneficial?
- Now describe how this future could work from the perspective of the other.
We all have limited perspectives. Our ability to solve problems – whether in the workplace, or globally – is only enhanced when we work together. It’s possible — indeed necessary — to address issues of power and privilege and equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability; global disarmament and global security……if we have the courage to let go of being right, and step into the possibility of both/and.
With thanks for the work of Ilene Wasserman in Appreciative Inquiry: https://www.icwconsulting.com/our-associates/ilene-wasserman/; the work of Jonathan Foust in Body-Centered Inquiry: https://www.jonathanfoust.com/blog/body-centered-inquiry; and the Centre for Global Inclusion’s DEI Futures Project: http://centreforglobalinclusion.org/dei-futures-initiative-update/.