We all theoretically recognize that everyone has the right to their own beliefs. But in situations where we have great passion (or the moral high ground, as we would like to believe) we have difficulty being generous with those who disagree with us. Wouldn’t it be nice to persuade others to see the world as we see it? What’s causing the disparity between ideas, goals and convictions?
People’s viewpoints, values, and world view come from their core beliefs, acquired through the experiences of our lives: from parents and education; religion and what we do for a living; what our parents taught us (implicitly and explicitly) and what we learned from friends. The conglomeration of these experiences create our political views, who we marry, how we raise our children, how we view the world, how we behave in relationships and where we live. I remember in 2000 I called my then-28-year-old son – living in the swing state of Colorado – on election day. I casually asked him what he was doing that day. He replied:
“You wouldn’t be calling me to ask who I’m voting for, would you?”
“Um, well, maybe.”
“Mom: You dragged me to rallies and marches, made me hold signs and go to sit-ins, and had activists over for dinner who became our friends. How could I vote differently than you?”
Our beliefs become the foundation of how we decide/act/live/socialize daily, making it so endemic that it’s hard to fathom that anyone would think differently. As a result of our orientation, anything said outside our beliefs gets runs the risk of being disrespected, disregarded, and discounted, and we often disenfranchise those who don’t believe or act as we do. Those of us who have strong beliefs about the environment, for example, may become angry when others don’t believe we are harming the earth. But if it were so obvious to everyone, if everyone shared the same beliefs, we would all be in agreement.
And so we attempt to persuade those who haven’t yet ‘seen the light’ to agree with us. But getting into agreement with folks whose ideas run counter to our beliefs is difficult: regardless of how rational our argument or the source of data we share, we are heard through biased ears.
It’s possible that by pushing our own agendas and not focusing on what might be common values and consensus, we are perpetuating harm and causing others to defend their beliefs. Isn’t there a middle road to agreement?
Change needs consensus: win-win is key (we know there is no such thing as win/lose). To enable change and facilitate agreement, we must discover common beliefs. NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) does this by ‘chunking up’ – looking at a broader view beyond biases to more generic beliefs. So instead of focusing on Global Warming, for instance, a chunk up might be discussing ways to diminish natural disasters so less people will be harmed.
A key elements to facilitating agreement is hearing without bias. I’ve just published a book called What? Did you really say what I think I heard? that explains how difficult it is to effectively hear others without the filters, biases, assumptions, and triggers that maintain our world view.
What if we enter conversations listening for common values instead of the typical focus on differences? What if we live with Ands and not Buts? What if we listen for words or ideas that would enable working collaboratively, or finding win/wins? If all we change is how we can hear each other to enable agreement somewhere, we might just be able to discover places of agreement and help us all make the world a better place.
But listening without bias isn’t natural or easy. Hence I’ve made What? free to enable everyone to share the material and begin discussing how we can disengage from our listening biases and wend our way to agreement. For a more robust solution, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss how to use the learning tools I’ve developed to both assess and guide you and your colleagues through change and choice. http://didihearyou.com/learning-tools.
Sharon-Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor, trainer, and consultant. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a generic change management/decision facilitation model that give leaders, decision analysists, coaches, and sellers the tools to help other make their own best decisions based on their own values and beliefs. She works with global clients to enable them to listen without bias, pose Facilitative Questions that enable Others to recognize and act on their own best answers, and help buyers buy. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.