Wednesday 11 April 2012

Mind the Gap: From Either/or to Both/And - guest post by Wendy Appel

This is a guest post by Wendy Appel.

I highly recommend Wendy's recently released book -

InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders.

InsideOut provides a set of tools to turn complex theories of personality into practice with case studies, exercises and practices. This book was written with leaders, managers, coaches, consultants, and counselors in mind. InsideOut is also meant for those who want to augment strength, courage, and success, and who may take a lead in the future.

Mind the Gap: From Either/or to Both/And - by Wendy Appel

A few weeks ago, Ian Berry honored me by asking that I co-host his Willability webinar on “Both/And.” In preparation for our conversation, I went for a hike to clarify my thinking.

As I began to explore Both/And, I realized that unpacking the significance of these two juxtaposed words was not as easy as it seemed at first blush. There was the “either/or” vs “both/and” path to take, the “managing polarities” path, I could put it in the context of decision-making, descriptive (wealthy or poor), inner polarities (confident/insecure), shifting perspectives, simplistic and false binary choices, problem-solving, dilemmas, and on and on … whew!

Ultimately I decided that a picture was worth 1000 words. Here are three that make the point.

Are there 3 or 4? Is the woman young or old? Is it a vase or the profiles of two people? Is light made up of particles or is light a wave? Both/and. Are you willing to see both—to see beyond what you want to see.

Pay attention to, “I don’t see it vs. it’s not there.” It’s not there creates amazing resistance because you are denying someone else’s reality. (Barry Johnson: Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems)

Both/And not about right or wrong. I can easily argue opposing points of view. A watershed moment in my both/and history was in grammar school; probably about 4th or 5th grade. Our class went on a field trip to the courthouse. We were given a court case—a situation—and I was selected to represent a point of view I disagreed with.

I almost clutched, but somehow in that moment, the 10-year old in me was able to argue the other side rather effectively, much to my surprise and delight. I can still remember where I was sitting and how I had stunned myself. The lesson I learned in that pivotal experience is still with me today.

From a distance, things can seem pretty black and white (either/or) and polarizing. Close up, life is a lot messier. Decisions and choices have a context and extenuating circumstances that can appear immaterial until you zoom in the lens. This distance, which some like to think of as objectivity, actually more often than not takes the form of judgment and lacks objectivity because we don’t have enough information to be objective.

Judgment creates distance between you and I. What if we both have valid perspectives and points of view? How do we bridge the gap and recognize that both are true?

Curiosity is the bridge and it can take you to compassion and never before explored or visited worlds. Am I wiling …? Because that’s what it takes. Try to understand before looking for areas of disagreement AND seek to understand before being understood.

Up close, we have an opportunity to see situations and people more holistically. Then it is time to pull back the lens again and to move into a more objective place, once we understand the situation from another’s viewpoint and context.

To inquire into, see and acknowledge another’s point of view doesn’t mean agreement. It just demonstrates that we are willing to learn, have a desire to understand and are open to influence. It is also a way to offer respect to the other.

Let’s raise the bar of the conversation.

Find out more about Wendy and her great work here.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and achieve highly successful change initiatives.

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