Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Provocative Thoughts For Such Times as These


Over the last week, I have had a dozen or so people shoot me an email with an inquiry as to my thoughts regarding what is happening in D.C., primarily ObamaCare. For me, the real issue has all along been about freedom: free individuals and free markets. With that in mind, I offer these quotes from the American social writer and philosopher, Eric Hoffer. (1902-1983)


“Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.’”

“To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”

“Absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes. The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep.”

“To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”

“The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do.”

“The aspiration toward freedom is the most essentially human of all human manifestations.”



Monday, March 22, 2010

Facts, Maps, and the Hubris of Allness




So. Louis A. believes the world is a wonderful, wonderful place. What about you?

“Well … yeah, some days. Other days, I would sing, ‘It’s a crappy, craaaapy world.’”

How is it that two people experiencing the same event (world) come away with opposite stories: one sings about how wonderful the world is, the other singing about its crappiness?

Not everybody sees and experiences the world as you do. Actually, that should read, “Nobody sees and experiences the world as you do.” Our siblings sound as if they were not even in the same house, much less reared by the same parents. And what about those times when our co-workers talk about their work-place experiences and we can’t help but wonder if they had frequently come to work stoned out of their minds?

“What are you talking about? That’s not what happened … I was there!

The challenge for all of us is mistaking facts with interpretations. I see a man walking down the street that is walking slowly and has a frown on his face. These are facts. However, when I say to myself, “He has obviously had a bad day,” I am interpreting the facts. Maybe he is savoring a wonderful day and is in deep reflection. When I note that someone is laughing, that is a fact. When I say to myself that this individual is enjoying herself, I am interpreting the facts. Could it be that she is expressing nervous embarrassment?

Again: Not one of us sees the world around us as it is. We see certain facts but all those facts are filtered through our individual mindsets that are made up of our beliefs, values, and past and present experiences.

Just for starters, we never have all the facts. Never. This alone should lead us to not hold our interpretations too tightly and to remain open to other possible interpretations.

I don’t have a heavenly throne from which I can look at the world objectively. It is the human condition to look at the world through our beliefs, hierarchy of values, and past and present experiences. Not being God, the goal is ever-increasing approximations to reality. But seeing absolute-objective-reality? Uh ... no.

Furthermore, our very human tendency is to search for events and experiences that confirm what we already believe, value and feel to be factual, real and true. So, if anything runs contrary to our mindset, we will reinterpret, reframe or simply see it as the exception-that-proves-the-rule.

I think this is at the heart of Solomon's advice to seek out a multitude of counselors so as to increase the odds of our making a wise decision. Too often we only seek out those counselors whose maps are pretty much a replica of our own. "O, no, ducky, that road leads to destruction!" Maybe. Maybe not. You owe it to yourself to be brutally honest and open as to the potential un-reality of your present map ... that is, if you are truly seeking wisdom. If you are seeking to maintain your comfort zone or to not be rejected by those people whose maps you have pretty much copied road-for-road, then, by all means, hold on to your map.


Mental Maps and The Hubris of Allness
Most of you are familiar with Alfred Korzsbski’s maxim that “the map is not the territory.” So as to navigate through life, we all create mental maps. These maps reflect the individual cartographer’s beliefs, values and life-experiences. “This is how I should navigate through conflict, arrive safely at this destination, achieve that reward,” and so on. As a “realistic map” would require all facts—e.g., a roadmap would have to have every road, pot hole, traffic signal, sidewalk, cul de sac, house, building, sign, detour, dogs crossing street, etc.—the cartographer decides what is necessary for this particular map.

What happens if our map is outdated? What if our map doesn’t show that a particular road is no longer a two-way road but a one-way road? What happens if a tugboat knocked out the bridge that we plan on using, but appears to be intact on our map? Worse, what happens if we are driving in Baltimore but are using a map of D.C.?

What happened when it was “discovered” that the world was not flat? Wow. Talk about an update! What happened to those businesses that held on to agri-based maps, when others had updated to an industrial-map? What happened to those businesses that refused to update their map to include the Information Age? What happened to Newtonian scientists who refused to update their maps, noting the discoveries and insights of quantum physicists?

On an interpersonal level, what happens if the members of a management team are using different maps? How about a married couple?

“That road is a dead end.”

“Really? Wow. On my map it leads to an 8-lane highway all the way to our agreed upon destination!”

“Yikes! I don’t even have that road on my map!”

I believe that one of the most critical ingredients for effective communication and healthy relationships is the awareness of the maps we are all using. How in the world can I communicate with someone whose map significantly differs from mine, if I do not take this into account? How can we—families, spiritual communities, associations, businesses—navigate toward agreed upon destinations if we are all using maps that contradict the maps our fellow travelers are using?

I suggest that the first step toward remedying the problem of outdated or conflicting maps is to acknowledge the hubris of what Alfred Korzsbski called allness: the belief that I or any other individual knows all that needs to be known about everything. I don’t. You don’t. They don’t. This includes managers, teachers, ministers, husbands, wives, and journalists. Especially journalists.

Simply by maintaining the belief that none of us can know everything that needs to be known, I will remain open to constantly updating my map. I will also remain open to the possibility that you have some information on your map that more approximates reality than what I have on mine. In other words, your map just might be more useful than mine, in some places anyway. Of course, the same holds true for what my map can offer you. Or so I believe ...

If you are wanting to make wise decisions, as well as to become a more effective communicator then resist hubris and start factoring into your decision-making and communication strategies the presence of differing and oftentimes opposing maps being used by others. Or not. Who knows: maybe your map is the one map that perfectly reflects the Mind of God.


Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Billie Lynn Wilson



Today would not only be my parents 65th wedding anniversary, it is the anniversary of my mother’s death, March 17, 2002. As is often the case, mom was waiting for a specific day to let go and move on!

My mother was always a wonder to me. She married dad, who was about 4 years older than she, when she was 14. (Or was it 13? So as to help alleviate some of the shock that would occur at her age, she added a year, and only remembered doing so when she applied for a duplicate of her birth certificate so as to apply for some Social Security benefits.) Being the only child left living at home, her sisters were keen on getting her away from an abusive alcoholic father, so had no problem signing on the dotted line, giving her permission to marry. Against all odds, only death parted them—dad having died at age 61, in 1988.

And the odds were against them, especially since dad was reared in a very masculine environment (oldest of 5 sons) and had no clue as to how to relate to a woman. He would often come home from a long hard day of working for his dad, wanting to wrestle. No, “wrestling” was not a euphemism for romance! He wanted to literally wrestle, as he often did with his brothers. Problem was that he usually walked away ticked off because she was such a girl. Go Figure.

Do you know how mom got him to stop? She waited behind a door with weapon in hand. Inspector Clouseau-like, dad comes through the house looking for Mom. (“Cato … Caaaaatooooo?”) WHACK. She hits him up the side of the head with a frying pan! I once asked him if this was apocryphal. “Nope. She laid me out. I was on the floor dazed a good 5 minutes.” Way to go, mom! Not long after this, Dad wisely agreed to marriage counseling. This was in the early 50s when few married couples did such things.

Being married so young, mom only had an 8th grade education. But this didn’t stop her from becoming a highly regarded and sought after bookkeeper. I once had a friend who was a CPA tell me that she knew more about reading financial statements than many of the CPAs he knew.

Mom was also one of the greatest Bible teachers I ever knew. When she told the stories of the Bible it was as if it were happening right then. I use to skip out of my Sunday School class and sit in the back of the one she was teaching.

For mom, the Bible wasn’t merely a book of exciting stories: It was God’s living Word. Her faith was simple, and by that I mean profound. There are sufferings unique to being a pastor’s wife and the mother of four children that she walked through with incredible aplomb and peace.

The attribute I most admired in my mother was her wisdom. Her life-skills were off the charts. There was nothing I couldn’t share with her, nothing I didn’t talk to her about—and some of those things would have scared most mothers to the point of giving them a stroke. Rather than screaming or castigating me, she would always offer faith, hope, love … and very practical advice.

I think one of the reasons she never fainted over any of my confessions was that she believed in me, as she did all of her children. Whenever I was at my lowest, there she was with her belief in who I was, and what I could accomplish in life. She always made me want to be a better man. And she did this, not through ridiculing what I was doing, but by holding up the image she had of me and reminding me of who and what God created me to be and do.

I think the greatest gift a parent can give their children is inexorable love and faith. My parents did this for me, and for that I will ever be grateful.


Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Patterns for Persuasion


After my last posting, a few people emailed noting that one of the main arenas for fuzzy communication and arguments is with what is referred to as “complex equivalents.”

A + B = C
People that smoke will die of cancer.
Being late means that you do not respect me.
I can’t do that. That’s not who I am.
Adopting this policy will lead to disaster.

However,

What if A = B which leads to D?
What if A + B quite often equals E?

Years ago, Robert Dilts created what he referred to as Sleight of Mouth patterns, which are something like Sleight of Hand where the “magician” appears to accomplish the impossible with a few deft moves of his hands. Afterward, people expanded upon Dilt’s original list to include other useful patterns. The idea is not so much that any single pattern will convince your audience to accept your argument but more a case where the accumulation of patterns moves your audience from opposing your assertions, to questioning their position, to agreeing with you.

Here are some examples of Sleight of Mouth Patterns

1. Change Frame: Something they haven’t noticed? Different frame, same behavior.

2. Reality Strategy: How would you know if it wasn’t true?


3. Model of the World: Switch referential index/Is this true in all world models?


4. Intent: What is the purpose of saying this? What is the secondary gain? What are they trying to get or avoid?


5. Time Distortion: What were they thinking BEFORE they decided to believe this? What could you do to get them back to this time?


6. Counter Example: Invert belief/Was there ever a time when A did not = B? Always? Every time? Has to be?


7. Redefine on cause/evidence: What other meaning could this equation have? A/=B, A=C and that is D.


8. Chunk Up (exaggerate on cause/evidence): For what purpose? What’s important about this?


9. Chunk Down: Which X specifically? How specifically does it cause Y?


10. Redefine on effect/beliefs/values: What other meaning could this equation have? A/=B, A=C and that is D.


11. Another outcome you (what is more relevant?): What is another outcome? Whether I “x” or not isn’t the real issue, but rather…


12. Consequences: What will happen if they continue to think this way?


13. Hierarchy of Criteria on effect/beliefs/values: What is/are higher criteria? Apply higher criteria to current sentence.


14. Metaphor/Analogy: Within the context of a story, what would the opposite of this be?


15. Or how about an outright solution?



Complex Equivalent A + B = C
Cause > Evidence/Effect > Meaning (value criterion)
Cause —What makes it so?
Meaning > How do you know that?

For the sake of illustration, lets use this complex equivalent:

If we adopt that policy/process/project then we are inviting disaster.
A Policy) + B (Adopting/approving) = C (disaster)


1. Change Frame: Something they haven’t noticed? Different frame, same behavior.

I am curious: would you maintain your belief if you were not responsible for the results? – I am wondering…if you knew that positive results were assured, would you then be against this?

2. Reality Strategy (on cause/evidence): How would you know if it wasn’t true?

Are you so certain that adopting this policy that you are willing to consider other options? – How would you know—by what criteria—if you were mistaken about conclusion?

3. Model of the World (cause/evidence): Switch referential index/Is this true in all world models?

How is it that ABC Inc. adopted this policy and they were successful in its implementation?

4. Intent: What is the purpose of saying this? What is the secondary gain? What are they trying to get or avoid?

Your intent may be to save your department from chaos and disaster…and that is commendable… but is it possible that you are actually keeping the DEF Inc. from greater efficiency/profitability? – Your intent may be to avoid the confusion and insecurity that comes with change but is it possible your resistance will keep your team/department from increased productivity?

5. Time Distortion: What were they thinking BEFORE they decided to believe this? What could you do to get them back to this time?

Was there a time, just before or after we began deliberating this policy/project where you thought it was possible? – I am curious, can we go back to just before you made the decision against this move… what were you thinking/feeling at that point?

6. Counter Example: Invert belief/Was there ever a time when A did not = B? Always? Every time? Has to be?

We adopt new policies all the time and with great success… -- Think hard: does this choice have to lead to disaster? In your mind would adopting this project be wrong in every situation, context?

7. Redefine on cause/evidence: What other meaning could this equation have? A/=B, A=C and that is D.

The real issue here is not the project but the competence of those involved in its implementation. – Adopting this policy/project actually gives us greater flexibility (or efficiency or profitability or opportunity for our people to expand their horizons) and this is a good thing.

8. Chunk Up (exaggerate on cause/evidence): For what purpose? What’s important about this?

So you prophecy certain disaster? -- There is no possible way or context for this to work? – There is nothing good or worthy about this policy/project… nothing whatsoever?

9. Chunk Down: Which X specifically? How specifically does it cause Y?

What specifically about this policy/project do you believe will lead to disaster?

10. Redefine on effect/beliefs/values: What other meaning could this equation have? A/=B, A=C and that is D.

This policy/project will not lead to disaster but to an incredible adventure… to opportunities for greater profitability… to…

11. Another outcome (what is more relevant?): What is another outcome? Whether I “x” or not isn’t the real issue, but rather…

Okay, whether nor not we adopt this policy is not the only issue here. Another issue is do we trust management (or research or staff)? – The real issue here is profitability (or efficiency or x): are we agreed that this our chief concern?

12. Consequences: What will happen if they continue to think this way?

Is it possible that one of the dangers with holding this position is that you will miss out on an opportunity to prove your worth to the Inc.? – This is the best policy/project our geniuses could come up with: if we do not adopt it, is it possible we will be left with choices that have even less opportunity for success?

13. Hierarchy of Criteria on effect/beliefs/values: What is/are higher criteria? Apply higher criteria to current sentence.

Whether on not this policy/project will lead to disaster is not the only great concern here: what is is that you have adopted a position without fully investigating its potential and possibilities. Are you being intellectually honest here?

14. Metaphor/Analogy: Within the context of a story, what would the opposite of this be?

While researching the data, I ran across X Corporation that adopted this policy/project: this is how they succeeded…tell the story. –Or what about the one where department x had the opportunity to implement this policy/project…and didn’t?

15. Or how about an outright solution.

You say this will lead to disaster because of points 1-2-3: here is where/why/how you are mistaken and how this policy/project will succeed.

If you really want to have some fun, use these against your own most cherished assertions! At the very least you will be more prepared for defending your argument. And, who knows ... you may also see some cracks in your thinking that lead you to loosen up a bit.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Clearing Up Communication


One of the causes for breakdowns in communication is a lack of clarity in what is being asserted. Without questioning intention, most all of us fall into Distorting, Generalizing, Deleting, and assuming the other person Defines words exactly as we do. What follows is a template to help you begin clearing up your own communication, as well as for helping others to do the same. Of course, none of this will work if we do no ask questions respectfully. And what do I mean by respectfully? Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you!

By the way, this is not original. I was taught this years ago by a man I had hired as a coach to train me as a corporate trainer who had, no doubt, learned it from others.


Distortions
Mind reading
You do not care for me.
How do you know?

Lost performer: Value judgment where person judging is being left out.
It is wrong to say what is on your mind.
How do you know it is wrong? According to whom?

Cause-effect—You make me angry
How does what I am doing lead you to choose to anger yourself?

Complex equivalence—Two experiences being interpreted as one.
You don’t ask my opinion which means that you don’t trust me.
How does this mean I do not trust you?

Presuppositions—If you knew how that hurt my feelings, you wouldn’t say that.
Presupposes that hurt feelings are bad/hurt feelings are proof that you did something/said something wrong.


Generalizations
All, Every, Never, Everyone, Always

Necessity—required/must/ have to/need to/must not
We must always do it this way.
What prevents us from doing it differently?

You always do this/must never do that/everyone knows this is the way.
Always? Never? Everyone?

Possibility/impossibility—can/can’t could/wont
What would happen if …


Deletions


Nominalizations—where process words are turned into static nouns
Our relationship isn’t working.
Who is relating to whom in what way? How would you like to be
relating?

Unspecified verb
She rejected me.
How do you know?

Simple Deletions—
a) I am unhappy
About what/whom/how do you know?

b) Failure to specify referential index—WHOM/WHAT?
They do not want my input.
Who specifically and how do you know?

c) Comparative deletions—good/better/bad/etc
Doing it this way is better than that way.
Better than what/whom/compared to what?

Definitions

Words have meaning. The rub is that meaning varies from person to person.

I love you.
What do you mean by “love”? Who am I … what is that you see that you love?

I need this as soon as possible.
What specifically do you mean by “soon”?

Freedom is my highest value.
What does freedom look/sound/feel like to you?

I am a spiritual person.
What does spirituality mean to you?

I am a Republican/Democrat/Liberal/Progressive
What does this mean to you?


The more time we spend clearing up our communication, the greater the potential there is for getting at the core issues that appear to be troubling one or both of us. Or so I believe ...


Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2010