A Question to Ponder

July 2013

Probably as a result of writing last month’s Mini Keynote editorial about my new stand – participating only in “we conversations” – I have been sitting with this question:

What are my payoffs in having people and ideals that I can be opposed to?

Essentially, as soon as I engage in a “they conversation” I am separating myself from “them” and speaking about them as “the other” or a separate self from myself. This puts me in opposition to “them.” So what payoff do I get from doing this? Why do so many people, especially in more recent years, feel drawn to these kinds of conversations? I want to look for / at myself to gain some insight on what motivates me and others to do this.

I have been pondering this question for some time. Pondering is a luxury we have when the answer needn’t be immediate. It allows us to freely explore all aspects of a question, often yielding wiser and more in-depth possibilities than might otherwise be obtained when an instant answer is needed. It also allows the ponderer to get to know the subject more intimately.



Back to the question: what do I gain from being opposed to someone or some group? Do I get to be right when clearly they are wrong? Do I get to think I am better than they? Perhaps by examining my own motivations I might also shed some light on why so many other people, particularly in more recent years, feel drawn to these kinds of conversation.

Essentially, as soon as I engage in a “they conversation” I am separating myself from “them” and speaking about them as “the other.” This puts me in opposition to “them.”

Is it important that there is a “me” and a “them”? Or an “us” versus “them.”

This last question brings up the issue I talked about last month where I proposed that having “they conversations” perpetuates the myth that we are all separate and not interconnected.

Having a discussion with someone I disagree with but feel connected to is quite different from feeling separate and disconnected from someone. In the latter case, it is easier to demonize “the other” when one considers them separate and disconnected. One might be tempted to be rude, derisive and superior when feeling separate in one’s opposition.

As I wrote in a recent guest blog “Recognizing Our Uniqueness” at the Global Dialog Center I see all human beings as unique aspects of the one, each with their own perspective. As my uniqueness allows me to have a different perspective than others, differing opinions can arise. But seeing you as another part of the whole – the same whole of which I am part – makes it more likely that I will treat you with respect, equanimity and compassion. This is what I mean by a “we conversation” – recognizing our interconnectedness as we resolve the differences that are bound to arise when unique people come together in social engagement.

But the question remains, and one I continue to ponder: What do I gain from having opposition, and engaging in “they” conversations? I suggest that you, dear reader, also give it some thought and see what you come up with. We may even find some common fodder for dialogue!

My pondering objective is to find truth, the best answer to a challenge, the wisest solution to a dilemma. As we know from The Wisdom of Crowds, diverse perspectives without hierarchy yield much wiser solutions than experts in agreement. Engaging one another from this place of interconnectedness not only yields better results for everyone it is also far more fun!

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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