One of the tools we use in Syntropic World is a Conversation for Understanding.

It is a simple process, hard to do without complete commitment.

You must want to understand the perspective, worldview, thoughts, actions, inspirations of the other. Even if their ‘otherness’ violently opposes yours.

The want to understand means that you open your line of inquiry, keeping it open at all times, refusing to defend or justify your own position. Not easy to do. Our reflexive impulse to defend and justify runs deep.

Through genuine curiosity and wholehearted inquiry we seek to understand the other.

To understand does not mean we have to agree with.

Can we then hold the perspective of the other, even in disagreement, while maintaining our own agency and without the need to be right? Can we do this with many divergent perspectives?

A close-minded position, taking a fundamentalist view, refusing to consider deeply the other perspective, limits all optionality except the maintenance of the position we are fixated upon. If there is a box we want to avoid, this is the box. Yet it is the box many of us are in without even knowing we are in it.

Most of us are fixated on some position or other. The indicator that we are is to observe our reflexive hit when our position is challenged.

“What about this caused me to get energised, polarised, supercharged,” we might ask?

To notice this in ourselves is to recognise where a ‘something,’ be that an idea or belief, has dominion over us.

Let me repeat. When we are reflexively charged by a ‘something,’ that something has dominion over us. We have lost our sovereign choice on how we might respond.

First, we have to see the thing. The charge. Then we might inquire to its source.

We might consider that we are defending a position, a belief or what we believe is a right.

A fixed, righteous position, with a door closed to understanding another perspective, asks the ‘other’ to listen to our position without offering the same consideration to the other. It is a form of performative contradiction. We want our right, but we do not want the responsibility of understanding another’s right. (Watch a short video on Performative Contradictions here.)

In Syntropic World we hold that polarity is essential to existence. Unity is plural at minimum two. Too much charge will create explosion, too little charge will create collapse.

A consensus-driven ecology without the space for diversity of worldviews, beliefs, opinion, gender and ethnicity is not a healthy ecology.

Yet too much diversity is also unhealthy. Like Goldilocks porridge, we need to get it somewhere in the middle. Never static, always moving, adapting, changing.

When someone in Syntropic World is working on a new idea, a new project, a new something, they are invited to the Threshing Floor with a Tensegrity Team.

A Tensegrity Team is our version of a Red Team. The Tensegrity Teams role is to explore, challenge, inquire, pull apart, discern…all possibilities of the idea..and to do this with love and care. To ask the BIG questions. Hard questions. Difficult questions.

To fully understand the idea or project as a primary act and then explore fallibilities, shadows, blind spots, consequence – short and long term.

When we create a space for diversity and polarity this space must also come with a set of threshold crossing agreements on how we work and play together respectfully. We call this the Trust Manifesto. (Download it here.)

No one can impose their worldview on the other. The intention to understand the other worldview is a commitment made by all parties. We know that when we all take the time to consider deeply divergent perspectives and opinions, we all learn.

We know that unless we are open to exploring opposites, to really understand, then we are trapped in our own cage of righteous belief and limited worldview.

In some way, this is to revive the world of the debate, the superb art of debating a topic that you care about and being able to do this from the affirmative and the negative, equally well, and with passion.

Until we can learn to hold opposing views, we will not be able to then synthesise to a view that is more advanced than either alone.

This is how we learn. To transcend and include. To recognise that every idea is a whole and a part. That everyone might have partial truth. That whole truths are rare.

Our journey as humanity is to have the increased capability and capacity to stand in our sovereign choice as we remain open to the emergent world, holding multiple perspectives with care and love for their difference and similarity, seeking a way that transcends and includes them all.

Today’s set of life conditions are different to the ones we faced yesterday. To think we can respond in the same way is to exert superiority over today. Yet to not consider history, how things unravelled in the past, to not look to the source of the very things we seek to change, is to deny what history teaches.

An imperative for humanity’s survival is to learn to be better at making sense of the shocking insult of information we have currently. To know the source of our systems and structures. To have the ability to remain open and ask, in humility, even those who make our blood boil with their opinions and beliefs so alien to ours.

Some of the ground conditions for doing this might include,

At minimum an affirmative to both of these questions:

Am I actively trying to inhabit the other person’s perspective?

Am I committed to a synthesis of my worldview and the other, to finding the truth in both?

In more detail:

  • Remaining open and curious in all domains
  • Noticing reflexive charges and strongly held positions as red flags
  • Surrounding ourselves with people who are not afraid to play the Tensegrity Team for us and our idea/project/perspective
  • Practising the Conversation for Understanding with those who are opposed to our worldview
  • Being willing to be wrong = letting go of righteousness
  • To practice the art of debate, especially of those things that repel us the most.
  • From the debate, to stand in the worldview of the other, mind, body and being.
  • To find the truth that lives even in the most bizarre idea/belief/perspective

This is hard work. The intention to understand is critical. Our ability to be empathetic, to stand in the shared feeling of another worldview, essential.

Polarity is required for existence. When we recognise polarity of extremes, our responsibility is to act. Either be the steward of understanding when the polarity is too high, or the steward of provocability when the polarity is too small.

This is to act with maturity as a Steward Leader.


Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

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