Sunday, November 27, 2016

Questions: A Basis for Dialogue... Why?

Take a guess: how many questions have you asked in your lifetime?  Do you think you have asked more questions when you were younger or in more recent years?  Interesting?  Don't you think?!

How many questions do you ask each day?  (Pickles, Brian Crane, March 15, 2016)
When I reflected on my life, especially in light of the past few weeks, I have noticed that many of my Adult Questions have been framed as What - that is, asking about facts.  I wondered... at what time in my life did I lose the magic and wisdom of Why?

When my nieces and nephews were growing up, I remember they were always asking Why?  Why?  Why?  And, eventually, the adult response became "Because I said so!I wonder... is it at this stage in our young lives that we learned to shift from Why to What?

While in college, Brad - a church minister working with our college student group, asked us, "What color is God?"  I think most people responded with similar answers.  Being a quiet, introverted person, I sat back and pondered his question.  Brad, noticing that I hadn't answered, asked me what I was thinking.  I answered, "God is Blue!"  Some people chuckled, but Brad cocked his head and asked me "Why?"  I explained that the skies, being blue on a good day, represented the expansiveness of the heavens.  It is as if we are surrounded by blue: God envelops us and is always present!

Each question invites us to move deeper

Brad could have stopped with his first question, What.  But it was his second question, Why, that opened the door to what I was thinking.  That is,
  • What - may answer the facts of the question; whereas,
  • Why - allows us to explore the thoughts or feelings behind the answer. 
I would suggest that in dialogue we are invited to explore both the facts and the thoughts and feelings behind the detailsChris Argyris' Ladder of Inference comes to mindthe Ladder stands on the foundational facts of a situation (e.g., what happened?) and it  explores why a person may be "up the Ladder" (e.g., socially constructed realities, assumptions, meanings, conclusions).

Concepts to explore:
  • An issue or problem arises when we think our opinions (the rungs of the Ladder) are actually the  facts (the foundation).  Centuries ago, Marcus Aurelius suggested that Opinions and perceptions are not the same as facts or the truth.
  • Asking Why we hold a particular opinion may open a window that allows us to probe or see how thoughts, feelings, opinions and perceptions are different than the facts.
  • Dialogue is a relational activity.  It invites us into exploration: why does another person think and feel differently than I do?

Questions allows us to peek and grow
Therefore, the depth of each one of us may not be in the facts of our lives but in the essence of how we have come to think, understand, and act upon our experiences.  It is this emergence of who we are and the dreams of who we are striving to become that is shared through the Whats and Whys of Curious Inquiry.

Choosing to move forward... together!

And finally, Marion Milner suggests:  "The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line."  Our challenge weeks after the Election, is to take that next step, the invitation to travel together... searching for questions and answers.... asking our Whats and Whys... and listening.

Our questions may not take us in a straight line or the road we expected to travel, but maybe... by asking more questions of each other, we will unburden ourselves of unnecessary accusations and misconceptions.

May this week allow time for continued reflection and dialogue as we try to move toward deeper truth!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Elections, Reflections: Dialogue and Change - Moving Forward

I have always had a fascination with roller coasters: the nervous anticipation while waiting in line; the speed and energy of the ride; the curves and forces that push outward and hold you in place; the unexpectedness - even after studying the tracks beforehand!  It is the anticipation, the experience, and the ability to get up after the ride and walk away... even when legs are rubbery and shaky!

For me, this one ride brings thrills and chills, bravery and nervousness, fear and excitement.  And, on top of that, I have a choice whether I want to ride or not!
Unexpected turns along our journey
With this image in mind, I must be honest, I am still trying to understand the ups-and-downs of Election Day 2016The months-long primaries, campaigning, and polls had many unexpected turns!  The country was exposed to an unprecedented experience of images and language that buffeted our moral senses.

In this past week as I try to stand up and move forward, I find that I am still numb and unbelieving.  I find it difficult to stand up without shaking, worried about my footing.  I feel as if I am in mourning: having a sense of loss of innocence and goodness.

And, as I listen to other people's stories of pain and anger... as I watch the protests... as I take in information from many sources...  I wonder:
  • How will we move forward?
  • What will we do if our nation remains divided?
  • How do we regain our footing?

For me, with a shaky heart and rattled nerves, I am trying to slow down and reflect again on Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference.  I am attempting to begin a Self-Dialogue first, looking inward at the assumptions and beliefs that I carry from childhood into adulthood.  For instance:
  • Do I really see and experience Sacred Worth and Value:  in myself?  in others?
  • Can I hear, understand, and accept the pain that another person is feeling?
  • What will it take for me to sit quietly with you, to listen - without judgment - and to become genuinely curious about your life, its challenges and triumphs?
  • How might I hear and accept what is important to you?
  • And, is it selfish to hope that you want to hear my truths as well?

Where do I receive information?  What are the facts?
Which are opinions?  Are my conclusions based on reality?
In a larger context, I wonder if there are global questions we must ask ourselves -- individually and collectively:
  • What is my  [your, our]  understanding of America?
  • How have I  [you, we]  experienced The American Dream?
  • Do I  [you, we]  want to move forward when definitions, experiences, and visions are varied?

I wouldn't be surprised if we see or experience life in America differently - for we may be privileged or struggling, hopeful or in despair, content or angry.  But, more importantly because of these differing experiences:
  • Do we have the courage after this Election Roller Coaster to stand up on rubbery and shaky footing to seek dialogue, healing, and change?

Outwardly beautiful?  Yes!
What is more important:  that which is within!
America is a beautiful country with people who are generous and good.  I wonder, though, if this image of America is tarnished by our public turmoil: the anger, the hurt, being left behind, the graphic language and images?  Possibly, what is surfacing are shadow characteristics that need to be examinedWe have a choice!  Will we look inward... together?

As we reflect on the American Image and its Shadows... As we dialogue and seek to understand... As we tend to the wounds of Others and Self... may we achieve a new Dream of Hope and Inclusiveness, a Dream that represents all of us!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Elections, Reflections: Dialogue and Healing - A Beginning

I don't know about you, but it's been a tough week!  Election Day was filled with drama, surprises, and uncertainty for many people in the United States, its immediate neighbors, and the citizens of other countries monitoring our campaign and election process.  Now, it is time to breathe, reflect, and begin the healing process: healing within Self; healing between Self and Others.

A lot has already been written and broadcast about the last few days.  I don't intend to rehash conversations or pretend that everything is okay.  Anger and pain run deep for many people - those demanding change and those shaken by the unexpectedness of the outcome.  Hopes and dreams may have changed depending on how you cast your vote.

What do you see:  Three or Four?  Maybe there is another answer.
(Quote from Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161-180 CE)

I have heard of stories where people were unfriended on Facebook.  I have heard of stories where family members, talking on the phone, hung up in anger.  I have heard of stories where spouses are threatening divorce because of how each person voted.  We each have our stories.

Questions that we must face - individually and collectively - in the coming weeks and months:
  • Do we want to be in relationship with people who have different hopes, dreams or visions?
  • Are we interested in healing:  facing our anger... understanding our despair... reaching out to diverse ideas... accepting what we find? 
  • Where do we go from here?

I wonder if our rote responses or premises in the past have been short-sighted: it seems like Americans need or settle on One Answer or The Right Answer.  The intimation: "Are you with me or against me?"  It is as if we expect Truth to be packaged and sold in neat little containers.

What would future conversations look like if we realized that there may be many answers to each question?  Or if we recognized that my strengths allow me to see one piece of the Truth-Puzzle, and your strengths contribute another piece.  What would it be like if we freely shared our Individual Truths, accepting that The Truth is bigger than any one of us?
Am I willing to contribute freely to the success of All?
In this time of transition, if you are in pain and I am in pain, we may think that we have something in common.  But, just maybe we are not experiencing the same pain.  There may be various sources that are causing the pain, hurt, and misunderstanding.  Our language and expression emanating from this hurt also may look different.

The fact that we are both in pain might be an invitation to step back, listen to, and try to understand the other person.  And, if you are not in painWhat response is necessary when pain, frustration, or anger are encountered?

The invitation for now: healing, dialogue, and understanding.  Now might not be the moment to look for a solution.  Instead, maybe all we are being asked to do is:  Be Present - sitting and acknowledging what is happening.  If we are present to Self and Other, we may be able to take this first step... together.  Solutions will come later once we reflect and accept what is being experienced.

There is a time to move inward: seeking Self-Truth.
And a time to move outward: seeking Truth-With-Others.

Is this not the time for all of us to slow down, breathe, and ask ourselves:
  • What happened to America these past two years preparing for and enduring the Presidential campaign?
  • How do we want to move forward?
  • Is there an answer beyond Red State and Blue State?

May we offer prayers of healing as we become present to this new week of uncertainty, challenges, listening, understanding, and growth!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting