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The Anode Group

Beyond Yes vs No – Alternative Thinking for Conflict Resolution

Yesterday’s YES vote by a large majority of Australians (including myself) to legalise same-sex marriage reminds me of a book by Edward de Bono titled “I Am Right, You Are Wrong.” De Bono (the inventor of lateral thinking) intentionally chose such a provocative title to remind us that life is NOT a zero-sum game. In essence, it is destructive and exhausting to think in terms of polar opposite viewpoints only. In life, we can all be winners by adopting clearer perception, constructive thinking and more open-minded creativity.

In the book, de Bono says “our habits of conflict are as primitive as ever, even though the weapons we use have benefited from our technical excellence.” For example, social media played a large part in propagating the ‘illusion’ of mutual exclusiveness between the Yes and No supporters, with the effect of harsh polarisation between both camps.

De Bono makes the case that our new thinking habits regarding conflict are to be based on how the human brain works. Specifically, how our brains create perception. In a nutshell, the more we hold on to a viewpoint the more we strengthen our resolve towards that viewpoint – unless we challenge our own thinking. To illustrate further, it is known that over a period of time, water flowing over dry land forms increasingly deeper ‘grooves’ and pathways until a dominant track is formed for the water to flow through. Similarly, our brain’s neural networks act as a self-organising system by first forming our beliefs and biases over a period of time, based on information and influences received from our personal environment (just like water running over dry land eventually forms dominant tracks to flow through). New incoming information is then organised by the brain into our existing patterns, beliefs and biases. This is the main reason we tend to find it hard to change our established viewpoint, regardless of new information being available to us.

By default, the brain continues to behave in this way unless we consciously act to challenge the status quo. Otherwise, we are unable to acknowledge, understand or appreciate alternative viewpoints – and there are often several viewpoints, it would be naïve to think there are usually just two opposing viewpoints in conflict resolution. Where our current way of conflict resolution breaks down is in “the assumption that perceptions and values are common, universal, permanent or even agreed,” according to de Bono.

Whether you voted Yes or No, or didn’t vote, now is the time to put away our differences (real or imagined), stop the divisiveness and find common ground to build on. Now is the time to adopt more creative ways to handle conflict resolution, rather than digging our heels by saying I am right, you are wrong. Life is NOT a zero-sum game. There are no winners or losers in this vote, if we think there are then we all lose, rather than all win.

Regardless of how we voted, in what practical ways will we see and explain things from someone else’s viewpoint? Not just in this vote, but for future issues facing us as humans. Does the rhetoric overshadow the substance of our arguments? Rather than a religious issue, is it, perhaps, more a human rights issue?

How do we turn a polarising win/lose conflict situation or argument into a win/win debate and conversation?

As my favourite musician, Prince, said “we are all one race, the human race.”

So, where do we go from here? Maybe towards ensuring pay equality regardless of gender…

By Dayo Sowunmi II
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Beyond Yes vs No – Alternative Thinking for Conflict Resolution

Yesterday’s YES vote by a large majority of Australians (including myself) to legalise same-sex marriage reminds me of a book by Edward de Bono titled “I Am Right, You Are Wrong.” De Bono (the inventor of lateral thinking) intentionally chose such a provocative title to remind us that life is NOT a zero-sum game. In essence, it is destructive and exhausting to think in terms of polar opposite viewpoints only. In life, we can all be winners by adopting clearer perception, constructive thinking and more open-minded creativity.

In the book, de Bono says “our habits of conflict are as primitive as ever, even though the weapons we use have benefited from our technical excellence.” For example, social media played a large part in propagating the ‘illusion’ of mutual exclusiveness between the Yes and No supporters, with the effect of harsh polarisation between both camps.

De Bono makes the case that our new thinking habits regarding conflict are to be based on how the human brain works. Specifically, how our brains create perception. In a nutshell, the more we hold on to a viewpoint the more we strengthen our resolve towards that viewpoint – unless we challenge our own thinking. To illustrate further, it is known that over a period of time, water flowing over dry land forms increasingly deeper ‘grooves’ and pathways until a dominant track is formed for the water to flow through. Similarly, our brain’s neural networks act as a self-organising system by first forming our beliefs and biases over a period of time, based on information and influences received from our personal environment (just like water running over dry land eventually forms dominant tracks to flow through). New incoming information is then organised by the brain into our existing patterns, beliefs and biases. This is the main reason we tend to find it hard to change our established viewpoint, regardless of new information being available to us.

By default, the brain continues to behave in this way unless we consciously act to challenge the status quo. Otherwise, we are unable to acknowledge, understand or appreciate alternative viewpoints – and there are often several viewpoints, it would be naïve to think there are usually just two opposing viewpoints in conflict resolution. Where our current way of conflict resolution breaks down is in “the assumption that perceptions and values are common, universal, permanent or even agreed,” according to de Bono.

Whether you voted Yes or No, or didn’t vote, now is the time to put away our differences (real or imagined), stop the divisiveness and find common ground to build on. Now is the time to adopt more creative ways to handle conflict resolution, rather than digging our heels by saying I am right, you are wrong. Life is NOT a zero-sum game. There are no winners or losers in this vote, if we think there are then we all lose, rather than all win. 

Regardless of how we voted, in what practical ways will we see and explain things from someone else’s viewpoint? Not just in this vote, but for future issues facing us as humans. Does the rhetoric overshadow the substance of our arguments? Rather than a religious issue, is it, perhaps, more a human rights issue?

How do we turn a polarising win/lose conflict situation or argument into a win/win debate and conversation?
 
As my favourite musician, Prince, said “we are all one race, the human race.” 

So, where do we go from here? Maybe towards ensuring pay equality regardless of gender…

By Dayo Sowunmi II

6 months ago

The Anode Group

Retweeted Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK):

Our thoughts are with all those affected by the #LondonAttacks. We must not let this divide us, we must #standtogether against hate. t.co/G7XTyG2hml
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9 months ago

The Anode Group

Thanks for the RT @kaidoagency ! ... See MoreSee Less

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The Anode Group

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