Monthly Theme: Thinking
This week’s word is Open
Remember black and white TVs? Or maybe you have seen a classic black and white film, like Casablanca or It’s a Wonderful Life. Or maybe you enjoy the starkness of black and white photography. Imagine a scene from the classic era in your mind. See the light and darkness. Notice the depth captured by shades of gray. Recall the lines and shadows of the faces of the people, the shape of the landscape.
Sometimes we think about the world in terms of black and white, good and bad, sacred and evil. We often learn the boundaries of those at a very young age and the lines are drawn by those who taught us how to look at the world. Perhaps your experience, as in mine, was that the diversity and vibrancy of the world was explained to you in black and white terms. And maybe, like me, you didn’t realize the beauty of the world’s full color until adulthood.
There are over seven billion people in the world. Each one is influenced by the beliefs, values and aspirations of their family, their community, their culture. They can’t all be right, can they? Many of them think they are right and the rest of the world is wrong. That way of thinking makes for a very drab picture of the world. A harsh outline with little depth.
The classic film The Wizard of Oz begins in black and white format then transitions to full color. The eyes of a young girl are opened to new and amazing things. Previously viewed friends and enemies are seen in new ways. Yes, there are still dangers as well as blessings. For the most part, her friends remain her friends and her nemesis has the same face. But her journey, oh her journey, is so much brighter and exciting from the full color perspective.
What might it look like to imagine your beliefs, values, opinions and aspirations in terms of color rather than black and white? Instead of seeing your viewpoint as white, imagine it being yellow or blue. Instead of the opposing viewpoint being black, imagine it as green or pink. What happens when each viewpoint is seen in full color? Does it become friendlier somehow?
This week whenever you have a difference of perspective with someone else, give each viewpoint a different color. Notice where the viewpoints merge and divert. Imagine it as a child’s finger painting. What happens when you move your hand through the paint, blending them together? What new color might emerge when compromise occurs? What new shades and shapes can you create with the two colors that would have been impossible to make with just one?
Quote of the Week
"All reasonably assertive people lapse into right-wrong thinking occasionally, but why does it happen? Perhaps it springs from our human need for acceptance, validation, and understanding … to maintain self-respect and dignity in the face of make-wrong attacks. It probably gets amplified in the workplace by pressure to be decisive, or from the intense desire to succeed. However, the root cause is not in pursuing these interests, but rather in the belief that in order to be ‘right,’ in effect, someone else has to be ‘wrong.’
The Price of Right-Wrong Exclusivity
Unless you’re a litigation attorney, the right-wrong assumption is expensive. How do you respond to someone who is so attached to being ‘right’ that they pay little attention to the possibility that you could also be right? If you play this limited game, it invites conflict and quickly blocks effective dialogue, stifles creativity, dampens enthusiasm … killing the will to cooperate. Despite the best of intentions, a conversation that assumes someone must be proven wrong automatically prevents us from getting the results we most want: to be understood, to learn something new, or to get something done.
Give up Being ‘Right’ … Go For Being Accurate
When you go for being accurate, you join the ranks of the partially right and partially mistaken — welcome to being human — and more possibilities open up immediately. Like most assumptions, the right/wrong assertion will prove itself to be true, invisibly, over and over, until the limited thinking is ousted, deposited curbside with the other random garbage we’ve picked up along the way.
Look out landfill!
As you notice situations where the choice seems to be either (a) we fight about it, or (b) one of us has to be wrong (‘… and it better not be me!’), see if you can shift it to (c) let’s agree to disagree openly and collaborate on finding a third alternative — perhaps we’re both partially right, and let’s figure out which parts to keep."
Feel stuck? Have you given WRONG thinking a try? Check out this article from Vanguard Resources on wrong thinking as a brainstorming tool.
For a deeper dive on how we inherited right/wrong thinking as children, check out this article from Psychology Today.