Why Won’t You Just Meet Me Halfway?

Have you heard yourself ask this question, usually in frustration: Why won’t they just meet me halfway?! This often gets said when we are in a disagreement or a conflict with someone or another group and we want to make progress on an issue or mend a relationship. But, what do we really mean when we ask the question?

First of all, what is halfway? How do you know? If you imagine a road with point A and point B and you start at one point and the person you wish to persuade to meet you halfway starts at the other point, it is pretty easy to discern the halfway point. However, what if there are other roads connecting points A and B? Do you know which road you are each traveling?

In the case of a difference of views on an issue or circumstance, are you even clear on your own starting point? Have you really thought about it, clarified it for yourself or are you assuming? What about the other person (or group)? You may think you know their starting point … but do you really?

Another key question to ask yourself is, what do you mean by halfway? If there are more than one possible starting points or interpretations of starting points or if there are multiple pathways between the two, which is usually the case, then what is halfway?

More often than not what we mean when we say halfway is, here’s where I am, here is the road in front of me, meet me on my road. MY road. Not THE road. Not your road. Not some other road we may not yet have discovered. Meet me halfway on my road. Which means, come to me. Compromise something that may be important to you and meet me on my path.

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If this trip is important, then determining starting points and the willingness to find the intersection that represents “halfway” is worth the time it takes.

What steps are you willing to take to meet the other person (or group) at some other point that may or may not be the “half way” you think you are asking? What might you need to let go of or be willing to compromise to get to this point? What curiosity are you willing to bring to your own motives and to the motives of the other person?

Worldview Intelligence offers the opportunity to discover your own starting point (or that of your organization or community) on issues that matter enough to involve other people. It invites you to imagine what the other person’s (or group’s) starting point might be and then allows you the opportunity to invite a conversation that may evoke a very different pathway than the one that is directly in front of you or the other person; a pathway that has greater potential to meet at the intersection of worldviews, where both or all views make an important contribution to solutions you may not have thought about or considered, each on your own.

Join us in Halifax on November 30, 2017 to learn more about starting points and meeting halfway.

There Are No Simple Solutions to Complexity

We want it to be simple. We groan under the weight of the increasing complexity we are experiencing – at work, in life, in our communities and in political environments. We bemoan the fact there are no silver bullets even while we continue to search for them.

Not only do silver bullets or simple solutions to complex issues not exist, but when we try to apply any we have come up with, they do not work. We end up in a situation where fixes fail or backfire loops emerge. Fixes that fail is when the solution we apply backfires and the problem or issue still exists either in its original form or worse. Unintended consequences spin off increasing the complexity of the circumstances we have been attempting to address.

Examples of unintended consequences abound but one example from our Worldview Intelligence work is with a health care client we work with in the US. The client piloted a new approach to patient care in six of its more than two hundred clinics across three states. Including one of these clinics in the pilot put its relationship with two other nearby clinics in jeopardy – a relationship they had invested years in building to create a common patient experience – because the one clinic was now operating differently.

So, if simple solutions do not exist, how do we find our way forward? One way is to illuminate the complexity, the relationships and the underlying patterns. Working with a Nova Scotia client recently that has a strong reputation Nationally and Internationally for the work they do, where they work in numerous coalitions and collaborative relationships to accomplish their mandate, they were invited to map their system and relationships.

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Mapping shows the messiness and the complexity of the system. It illuminates what people try to hold in their heads, resulting in less stress and greater capacity to address issues and plan.

The map showed the dynamic complexity of their work. A surprising outcome to them was that in making the complexity visible, it reduced the sense of overwhelm and stress many of the staff felt, untangling the complexity and offering clear ways forward in their work planning, including identifying meetings, who needs to be involved in which conversations to which degree.

Worldview Intelligence explorations do not necessarily reduce the complexity, but by illuminating it, shows ways to address it and then change the outcomes.

Child Soldiers – Changing the Nature of the Conversation to “Win”

According to the Child Soldiers Initiative, “the use of child soldiers is one of the farthest-reaching and most disturbing trends in contemporary conflict”. It would be very easy to forcefully say that it is wrong and that the people who put children in the line of fire are cold, calculating and vile people. And that might all be true. But holding onto that stance of judgment not only will not save those children, it will not solve the plight of child soldiers.

Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, a celebrated humanitarian and outspoken advocate for war-affected children, and Jonathan Somer, an expert on the engagement of armed non-state actors in the protection of children, were in Halifax the evening of July 5, 2017 for the first in a series of lectures. This one was titled “Bridging the Divide: Engaging States and armed non-state actors”. It was moderated by Dr Shelly Whitman who took up the post of Executive Director of The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative in January 2010, an engaging speaker in her own right and strong moderator. They spoke about the roles that states and armed groups have to play in respecting international humanitarian norms and supporting child protection.

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Retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire and Roger Soper

More than that, they spoke about the necessity of changing the conversation with states and armed groups to expand the possibility that something can be done to alleviate the plight of child soldiers.

It was fascinating to listen to a couple of the stories. Dallaire told a story about child soldiers in the Sudan. He talked about the eventual release of 300 child soldiers into the care of his organization. This only happened by establishing dialogue with a willingness to listen, to ask questions and to learn.

There are underlying circumstances or conditions – history and reality – that lead to the tactical and strategic use of children as a weapon of war. We heard about the reduced population of older people through both war and the ravages of AIDS, leading to a much higher percentage of children in the population. And we heard about poverty and few options for children or families. Ironically, becoming part of an armed initiative can provide a sense of safety for children or a sense of belonging.

Ultimately through establishing a dialogue with this armed group in Sudan, Dallaire and his team were able to ask a different set of questions – not questions of accusation or blame. They asked questions like, are these children winning battles for you? Will they win the war for you? Are they able to sustain conflict over a long period of time? Are you able to sustain them as a group of soldiers? What about the International reaction to the use of child soldiers – does this help your cause?

The answers to the questions were ultimately no, they don’t win battles or wars and we can’t sustain them the way we can an adult army and the impact of international scrutiny because of child soldiers is not helpful. They asked questions that invited a closer look at an expanded reality. This is what ultimately led to the surrendering of those children.

Canada is playing an innovative and leading edge role in raising awareness of child soldiers, in understanding the underlying patterns as well as the tactical and strategic uses, that lead to the ongoing use of child soldiers. They are changing the nature of the relationship and the conversations to find new ways forward and make progress on a disturbing and challenging trend in some conflict zones. This is essentially a worldview exploration and we know that applying the skills of Worldview Intelligence changes outcomes. While there is a long way to go on this issue, there is hope.

You’re Just Too Stupid To Know …

Well, that Heineken commercial – the Worlds Apart #OpenYourWorld video – is certainly garnering attention – positive, excited, provocative, and outrage. I have to admit, the outrage part caught me by surprise. And seeing a headline that says it is worse than the Pepsi commercial, but “you’re just too stupid to know” does not feel like an invitation that welcomes me into an exploration of why that might be.

Heineken commercial photo

I saw the Heineken video about a week ago (have not seen the Pepsi one) and it resonated for me in relation to the work we are doing with Worldview Intelligence. The biggest challenge people seem to have is about how to have conversations with people who have very different worldviews, perspectives, or opinions than they have. The kinds of conversations that usually shut down before they even begin. The kinds of situations that have torn families and friendships apart.

I see now that there are people pointing out that some of the people in the video are more at risk than others – a point which seems valid to me. Some of the scenarios were much milder and some much riskier – climate change believer and denier paired up versus a transgender woman and a man disgusted by the very idea. Some think it perpetuates the very situations and scenarios it is highlighting.

What I wondered after seeing the video was: how? How did they do it? What was the invitation that was made to the people who participated? How was the scenario of the exchange set up? How did they create “safe enough” conditions for participation? They clearly went to a fair bit of work in the preparation since they had videos of each person created prior to their meeting.

If I already don’t like the video, I’m more likely to click on the stories that tell me it is dangerous, idiotic or harmful. It will confirm my perspective – confirmation bias. If I like the video, telling me “I’m too stupid to know …” makes me feel judged and does not make me interested in reading the post – which maybe I should be reading in order to expand my worldview.

For me, watching the video made me more curious about how to create environments where people who see and experience the world very differently can meet each other in exploratory spaces – something greatly needed and desired right now by many we encounter in our work. How to do it well in increasingly challenging situations – well, that is the question and the exploration at the center of much of the work of Worldview Intelligence.

Theory, Practice and Application of Worldview Intelligence in 2017

What is Worldview Intelligence? Where did it come from? Where is it being used?

We are asked these questions regularly and here is a bit of what we have been telling people about our work.

Theory, Philosophy and Practice Behind Worldview Intelligence

Leo Apostel (1925-95) was a Belgium philosopher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) who was concerned about the increasing fragmentation in the world and specifically within the various scientific disciplines. He wanted to find a way toward integration, which led to the creation of the Worldviews group where scholars in various disciplines came together to research and develop a philosophical framework to accomplish this. This group of scholars eventually developed the Apostel framework comprised of six dimensions that serve to deconstruct and consider how people come to see the world the way they do. While the Leo Apostel Centre was established in 1995, when Apostel died the passion for this work diminished.

Twenty-five years later, Jerry Nagel, PhD came across this framework while researching worldviews for his dissertation. He and his partner Kathy Jourdain, MBA began bringing the idea of worldview into their consulting and training programs, discovering there was an appetite for the exploration. Since 2011 they have been in the ongoing discovery and development of practical application of the framework – Worldview Intelligence – that provides an elegant structure for understanding and to build strengths from differences, individually, organizationally, community and system wide.

Application

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Jerry and Kathy have brought Worldview Intelligence to a wide variety of applications in Canada, the US, Australia and Europe. The framework offers the opportunity for exploration in many different contexts and is well received in each. Explorations are tailored to need, purpose and the audience.

Clients and Communities

Clients and community funders approach Jerry and Kathy to bring Worldview Intelligence to a variety of specific circumstances that require new or renewed understanding of different perspectives, finding ways of working across silos, supporting innovative initiatives with a worldview approach to shift culture and create sustainable systems and to enter into challenging situations and conversations with new shared language and approaches. The Worldview Intelligence framework becomes a tailored approach to exploring individual, professional, organizational, community and social system worldviews, identifying where and why clashes occur to find ways forward on issues that matter.

University, Community College, High School Students

Kathy and Jerry teach international under graduate and post graduate students each year at the IGR Business School at the University of Rennes in France. An introduction to Worldview Intelligence, using hosting practices, expands their thinking about leadership, their role and their thinking about what their future might entail. They are often surprised to discover more points of connection across countries (as many as 18 countries represented in a room) and more points of difference within countries.

The Worldview approach has also been used to help high school and community college students think about future employment and then discuss their ideas about the workplace with employers who are faced with increasing competition for workers and must create workplaces conducive to new styles of working.

Keynotes

Keynotes focus on giving people a glimpse into their own worldview, where it came from and how it influences communication and relationship, usually without us being aware of it. Keynotes can be offered in time frames from 20-60 minutes.

Filling in the Gaps with Blinders On: Discovering an Expanded View

 We interpret images and words in less time than it takes to blink and we fill in the gaps in stories with no awareness that we are doing it, yet it influences our interpretation of an event, a conversation and even another person or group. Our worldview contributes to blinders through which we filter in and filter out information. There are ways to discover an expanded view, story or perspective that can change the nature of the conversations we are in, especially when it comes to issues that matter to us.

How Your Worldview Influences What you See and Do

 Your worldview influences how you act, engage in conversations and make the choices you make. Cultural and learned worldviews affect the way you see, hear and speak. So, what is a worldview and how did you get yours? How does understanding brain and behavioural science help us make different choices about our actions and our interactions? How can we avoid collisions of worldviews and come together in ways that build understanding and respect and allow each of us to hold onto aspects of ourselves that are most important to us while expanding our worldview to engage in conversations about issues that matter?

Introductory Sessions

Welcome to “My Worldview” – An Introduction to Worldviews, Where They Come From and Why They Matter

This two hour introduction uses a number of experiential exercises to quickly introduce participants to aspects of their worldview and help them gain an understanding of where worldviews come from and how they shape what we see, do and experience. Participants are engaged in conversation and thoughtful reflection throughout the two hour exploration.

Building Strength from Difference: An Introduction to the Power of Worldview Intelligence to Transform Conversations from Challenging to Productive

This one day deep dive introduction to the power and possibility of Worldview Intelligence outlines what a worldview is, where it comes from, how it influences communication and relationship and offers participants a four step process to productive dialogue on stuck issues. The Worldview Intelligence framework is value neutral, helps to make hidden patterns and dynamics visible and provides a new way to organize your thoughts so you can change the actions and approach you might take in polarized or otherwise challenging situations.

Worldview Intelligence at the Geneva Model United Nations

One of the joys of working with the Worldview Intelligence framework is discovering both the specificity and the elasticity of its use as it is applied to a wide variety of situations and circumstances. In November 2016, with Nancy Bragard and Rolf Schneideriet, we delivered the first full European Worldview Intelligence Program in Germany. Since then a lovely European Community of Practice has emerged. It was in Germany where we first met Stéphan Krajcik and where he became quite enthused with the possibilities for Worldview Intelligence.

Stephan KrajcikStéphan left the Worldview program and immediately contacted the Model UN in Geneva where he lives and in which his children participate. During the Model UN, participating students from many different countries are asked to represent another country as a member of the UN. Stéphan was pursing an idea he fleshed out during an open space exploration while in the Germany program. Having watched his children participate in the Model UN, he held a curiosity about how students from around the world prepare to take on their role, carrying in the views of a country they are assigned but do not know. He saw the Worldview Intelligence exploration as a way of preparing more personally and deeply to represent the views of that country.

Stéphan adapted the Worldview Intelligence materials to be used by the student participants and proposed to the Model UN that they add the materials to the students’ preparation. It turns out that the timeline for bringing new material to the Model UN was shorter than imagined, so there was not time to introduce a full blown Worldview Intelligence approach – that is next on the agenda. However, the framework was made available to students online and those that voluntarily chose to use it found it helpful.

Seeing students discover new ways of exploring different worldviews is an exciting application of the framework, as we also discovered when we brought students and employers together in Grand Rapids to think together about the future workplace, and we are looking forward to further evolution of this opportunity with the Model UN.

If you are interested in seeing Stéphan’s adaption, you can view it at the Model UN site.

A Mess of Contradictions. How Do We Find Ways Forward?

Do you believe you are not biased? Or, not very, anyway? Would it surprise you to know that each of us is born with a built in bias called “naïve realism”, where we believe we are not biased?

Naïve realism makes us believe our own views are reasonable, even if they are not. It makes it easy to default to judgment of other people and their views — because they are “just wrong”. It is as if accepting another person’s experience or view somehow invalidates our own or makes us wrong, and we have a hard time with that. But we live in a world where multiple truths, multiple experiences, multiple views and opinions exist. Not just some of the time. All of the time. It is all real. It is all true, to one degree or another. Generally, those degrees closer to our experiences are easier to accept, those most different are harder to accept.

The idea that views can be so easily categorized as right and wrong is antithetical to finding our way out of the increasingly fragmented, polarized and often inflamed exchanges we increasingly find ourselves in or witnessing. We see people, sometimes even ourselves, resort to the most primal of instincts of defending our own views and dismissing another’s views. We have seen these exchanges descend rapidly into de-humanizing another person or group simply because of disagreeing with their views or trying to protect our own or our own sense of identity, our territory or turf. And, of course, there is also nothing simple in this.

How is it that we come to defend our own views passionately even when so much contradictory information exists? How did we come to such a toxic state of public discourse? It is complex, there are several dynamics at play including fear and behavioural sciences offer us an opportunity to find our way to understanding – even when it presents us with “cognitive dissonance”.

Cognitive dissonance is that feeling of discomfort that occurs when we try to hold two contradictory thoughts, opinions or views at the same time. One view resonates with our beliefs and the other disagrees with it. When we are presented with evidence that works against our beliefs, to maintain a feeling of comfort, we reject the new evidence. What if we were able to hold that space and live into that discomfort for even a few minutes? And then a few minutes longer? Without feeling like you have to give up your own view or invalidate your own experience, could you possibly come to enough curiosity to try to understand why another person feels the way they do, why they hold the view they do, what it is in their experience that has shaped their worldview?

Our view of the world – our worldview – is shaped locally and socially – by where we are at any given time and by the people we come into contact with, from when we are born to now. Our views shift and change over time, often without our awareness of it happening. Our views of the world are supported and reinforced by the people we surround ourselves with. If we are part of a dominant culture it can be less easy, and sometimes almost impossible, to see and acknowledge the perspectives and experiences of other people.

At any given time in society, there are voices that go unheard and oppressed. While this may not surprise us, what does surprise us at times is who or what groups feel unheard and oppressed. We might expect to hear it from Native American or First Nations or African American or African Canadian populations but are surprised, for instance, to hear it from white people in the rust belt of the United States. The inability to hear it keeps it under the surface, bubbling along until something occurs to inflame it.

The current US president has tapped into themes that many people believe deeply in – so deeply that it is part of their sense of identity. When our identity is threatened, we respond as if our very life is threatened. That is one reason why there is so much defensiveness and combativeness in exchanges. And why we pick through information to hold onto that which supports our sense of identify despite so much contradictory information existing.

Underlying all of this is a sense of betrayal – many people who voted for the current president have felt betrayed for a long time by systems that have not worked for them. They were likely joined by those more recently feeling disaffected or like their voice is not being heard. Those who are now at the behest of a current administration they did not vote for feel betrayed by those who did. We dance around this betrayal because we do not know how to confront it in ways that lead to dialog and understanding, and because betrayal is a word laden with dark emotional significance. Most people can barely take themselves to the place of even being able to say the word and acknowledge their experience, let alone recover from it.

Our greatest opportunity to influence someone – or even ourselves – is before we make a decision. Once we make a decision, we go out of our way to confirm and reconfirm it, becoming more attached to it in the process. We are motivated to defend and reinforce our decision – “motivated reasoning” – because it is now part of how we see and understand ourselves. Changing our mind is tantamount to an identity crisis, so we keep looking for information that supports our point of view – “confirmation bias”. The more we do this, the more we change the circuitry of our brains, deepening particular neural pathways, making it easier and faster for cues to travel these pathways. The more attached we become to our decision, our view, the more likely we are to ignore contradictory information – obviously it can’t be true and also to fall into disbelief about how the other person or group could possibly think and act the way they do. Just notice what links you click on and what ones you don’t. Notice your reaction to contradictory information or views.

Our total disbelief that others could have a contradictory view, which we often believe is not based in fact or reality because it is not based in our facts or reality, further hinders our potential to be in productive conversation. Instead of trying to understand this different perspective or how someone came to hold it we are more likely to want to ridicule them and be angry at them. This is not compassionate or empathetic to those who hold a different perspective and being compassionate or empathetic does not mean we need to agree with them or change our own view.

It is complex and it requires us to find points of connection, to meet each other in our humanity — which is easy to say and less easy to create the circumstances and environment where we can find these points of connection especially when in the presence of very disparate points of view. If National discourses do not take us in this direction, then we, each and every one of us who remembers our basic humanity, need to sit with what we do not know, sit with the uncomfortableness that arises from our own dissonance to find ways forward. Maybe we need to go out and find the very thing or person we think we fear to find a way to build strength and opportunity from and through our differences. How else do we do this thing?

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Note: In a recent Worldview Intelligence program as we explored this very topic, it was pointed out that there is a time and place for different responses and responding to an injustice occurring right in front of you might be a time for action now and conversation later. The need to create exploratory spaces does not mean there is also not a need for other courses of action. It is not one or the other but many possibilities at any given time.