Sunday, April 24, 2016

Entanglement and Contradictions: Seeing Beyond

Venice, Italy, provides a number of striking images: 118 islands joined together by bridges, vaporettos, gondolas, and speed boats; architecture that unites past with present; and colorful buildings that blend with the Venetian Lagoon.  Like the Venetian landscape, a goal of the  Dialogue Skills is connection - bridging across; creating passage; providing a network.

In the past few weeks, we have explored the first three skills articulated by Chris Argyris and his colleagues (to read the previous blogs, click on the dialogue skill link, below):
Connections can be built anywhere

The fourth skill, look for contradicting data and alternative explanations, draws us into a series of paradoxes: to dialogue means to listen; to advocate an idea invites us to become open to other ways of thinking; and to persuade others suggests being drawn into a process that may influence usSlowing down and practicing dialogue are ways to actively engage our values and beliefs.  Through listening, openness, and being drawn in, our values and beliefs may be strengthened as we explore the foundations of why we believe as we do.

The process of dialogue encourages us to notice and question the assumptions and meanings we have ascribed to a situation:
  • Could there be another explanation for what was heard or observed?
  • Is there a different meaning or conclusion?
  • Might "group think" or "common understanding" influence shared perceptions?

Beautiful contradictions!  (
As we unveil our thought processes and look for contradicting data, we begin to experience, like Venice, the many colors and styles that sit side-by-side, a neighborhood created out of its particular beauty and charm!

So too is the diversity of our individual beliefs as these are shared and integrated, keeping its uniqueness as it becomes creatively interdependent with the Whole!

Venice: 118 Islands of creative entanglement!
It isn't until we pull back and look at these interlocking relationships that we are able to communicate deeply with a new-found curiosity to inquire, to inspire, and to learn.  We begin to marvel at the creative entanglement of our lives, lives so interdependent and so necessary!

Finding other ways to connect
Venice also reminds us that bridges are but one way to move from one island to another.  Some islands can only be reached by a form of water transportation.  Moving out on the water means seeing the islands from a different vantage point and a new understanding of how connections come in many forms.

Building bridges helps us focus on connectivity.  Moving out on the water invites trust in one another.  When I stepped onto a vaporetto for the first time, I assumed the pilot was skilled, knew the direction, and could get us to our destination.  Dialogue invites us to trust one another: at times, you may be the pilot; at other times I may need to lead.

Questions to consider:
  • Where am I headed this week?
  • How will I get there: by myself? with another?
  • Who has the responsibility to pilot the dialogue and connect us?
May peace and creativity be with you as you cross the bridges and passages of this week!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Providing Passage: Bridges to Somewhere

The recent blogs focused on the first two skills for dialogue proposed by Chris Argyris and his colleagues:
  1. Combine advocacy with inquiry - exploring your viewpoint by inviting others to ask questions
  2. Illustrate your abstract interpretation with concrete information - providing specific details on how you based your claim.
In a sense, the dialogue skills create a bridge between us by explaining how we encounter the world.  As we practice these skills we expand from a local (or Self) understanding to a broader (or Other) view.

Living in San Diego, it is easy to become familiar with the San Diego-Coronado Bridge.  But, even with this one bridge, we may describe it differently because of the various points where we may see it (e.g., from San Diego, from Coronado, from the bay, etc.).  Similarly, we may observe the same event in different ways.

San Diego - Coronado Bridge, from Coronado (Caltrans)
As we encounter people from other parts of the country or the world, their descriptions of a bridge may seem alien because of the familiarity with their own local bridge.

The third dialogue skill invites us to share our thought process, checking for agreement at each step of the Ladder of Inference. 

The foggy misunderstandings between us begin to clear as we check out what is common or different between how we experience the world.  Questions to consider about bridges:
  • Can we agree that bridges connect?
  • Can we agree that bridges provide passage between two points?

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (The New Yorker)
A city may have multiple bridges.  For example, the two main bridges connecting the city of San Francisco with other parts of the Bay Area are the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.  Each opened within 6 months of one another; each has its own beauty and utility.  One may be more famous and recognizable, but the other is just as important to The City.

The positions each of us have come to believe may be just as valid and important.  Another question to consider: how can we come to understand and accept another person's views, and allow a bridge to be built between us rather than letting the differences separate us?

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge (
As we move further away from what is more recognizable to us, it may seem that another person's views are more foreign and unexpected.  Thoughts may be entangled, causing a latticework that is hard to describe.  Practicing the dialogue skills allows us to accept the entanglement and to discern the importance of each held belief.  Slowing down, asking questions, and understanding what is important allows me to accept you, even though our ideas may be challenged.  We must believe that a new bridge is emerging from the initially entangled ideas.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York
At times our view of a situation may be more distant or removed from the person we are in relationship.  Sharing our thought processes draws us into the specific details that may have seemed further away.  Thus, the distance between us lessens.

Tower Bridge, London (from Shard observation deck)
 And, even with friends we have known for some time, it is important for us to practice the skills of advocacy and inquiry, providing concrete information to support abstract thoughts, and sharing how we arrived at a conclusion.  After all, older bridges need to be reviewed, maintained, and renewed!
Rialto Bridge, Venice
"Constitution Bridge" was opened over the Grand Canal in Venice in 2008.  Controversy plagued this bridge's opening with construction delays, walkouts, lack of wheelchair access, and heated criticism that the design was "incompatible with Venice's decorative medieval architecture" (Wikipedia).

As we learn to build bridges, let us not be afraid to listen to old and new, past and present.  It is through the process of slowing down, listening, and testing what we have heard from the other person that new understandings and relationships growBridges do create passages to somewhere: the Both-And of old and new destinations are explored when we travel from one point to another.  Hopefully, we arrive together!

Ponte della Constituzione or Ponte di Calatrava, Venice

Cheers to the bridges you create and strengthen this week!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Re-Entry: Moving from Abstract to Concrete

Have you ever had an Experience of Re-Entry?  Those minutes, hours, or days after a vacation or a retreat, when it is time to "return to reality!"  I had a period of re-entry last week after facilitating a 3-day MBTI-Dialogue work-retreat for a company.  The participants were so engaged in the discussions and creative in their solutions that it was an ethereal experience of connectivity and wholeness.  Days later I was still processing the retreat, even as I returned to my real work (= paid work with a software company).

For me, the re-entry pointed to the stark awareness of the disconnectedness or separation from two believable realities.  It was like coming down to earth.  In these moments of re-entry a question begs to be asked: is one world more real than the other?

The retreat ended with a group outing to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: a treat in itself as we left the hot desert floor and soared to an elevation of over 8,500 feet above the desert.  The temperature cooled off considerably, leaving behind another world.  If you have never experienced this tramway, the gondola rotates as you move upward to the restaurant and hiking trails above the desert floor and when you return to the base station.  The rotating gondola gives each person a chance to see different vistas of the valley below and the cliffs above.  No jostling for a better position: each person sees it all... but at slightly different times!

Re-entry: returning home (Palm Spring Aerial Tramway)
Last week's posting focused on the first of the Dialogue Skills (skills that move us toward a non-defended stance).  Dialogue Skill #1: the ability to advocate a position and invite inquiry.

Dialogue Skill #2 encourages us to move from abstract thoughts towards explaining in more concrete termsThese first two skills welcome us to explain our position and thought process, what we are thinking and feeling.  Like the retreat or the tramway gondola, these skills allow us to rotate various perspectives or views, drawing us together to experience or see different vantage points in real and concrete ways.

Gateways: to see beyond (Japanese Friendship Gardens, San Diego)
A friend and I recently visited the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden for the first time.  As we meandered through this serene setting, we could become distracted by the planes flying over, the children running ahead of their parents, or the little discoveries of Zen gardens, Koi ponds, waterfalls, and flowering trees and bushes.

It took time to slow down, to focus on what was attracting our attention, and then talk about what we were experiencing.  This practice of mindfulness or mindful noticing allowed us to be okay that we had different "favorite views."  All were valid; all were real; all were important... to each person separately, and as a whole!
What do you see?  Where is your focus?
 Questions we may consider this week:
  • What is important to you at this moment?
  • How do you see or understand a specific perspective?
  • Can you share these thoughts or positions, in a concrete way, to help another person see and hear the reality you are experiencing?
Enjoy the gift of this new week - a chance to turn and see new horizons!

Larry Gardepie

Monday, April 4, 2016

Inquiry: Questions that Reduce the Waves

I am constantly amazed at how easily I can give an opinion... but how difficult it is sometimes to ask a question!  I appreciate the humor in a recent Pickles comic strip noting the difference between the generations.

Pickles (Brian Crane, Mar 15,2016): Click on link for a larger view.
I wonder what happened to that earlier Inquisitive Me and what created the Protective Me?  Is it a matter that I have run out of questions?  Or have I lost the sense of curiosity about the world and the people that surround me?  I know that I care for people and they care for me, but what hinders me from learning more about their lives, their thoughts, their hopes and dreams?

Path isn't a straight line (OzoneBabys-Temple)
The invitation in dialogue is the ability to slow down, notice, check out assumptions and conclusions... and ask questions about, inquire into, other possibilities.  This Practice - slowing down, noticing and inquiring - draws forth Moments of Wonder, the entrance to a path of upward possibilities.  It is the ability to redo, rewonder, and rediscover deeper truths!  It is a treasure hunt hidden below the dark surface of Self and Other, waiting to be discovered and shared!

I would assume that at times all of our lives encounter "rough waters" in some form, waves that flow over us, causing either disturbance and harm or cleansing and renewal.  Slowing down offers us choices:  yes, the wave may appear to be destructive but it can also move us to new placesAre we choosing to focus on the wave and the possible danger or on the movement and potential change?

Making Waves!
The world offers us opportunities to journey along this upward Spiral Path, to ride the waves together, and to reach out and become curious about the Other - you and me together!

Searching for and Accepting Help

As we encounter the vast ocean of possibilities, inquiry can shine light on the path before us.  Once we allow questions to surface, we reveal what is happening within: the ability to become humble; to listen to what we don't know; and to seek answers through the lives shared by family, friends, and new acquaintances.  We become Strangers No More. 
Opening our minds: new light, new insights
As we begin this new week:
  • What questions are most important today?
  • What is blocking you from asking those questions?
  • Who around you has the answers to guide your paths together? 

Best wishes as we ride the waves of momentum forward and seek the treasures we are!

Larry Gardepie