Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Coffee Talk

I'm thinking of the book In Over Our Heads by Robert Kegan (while simultaneously thinking about Ernesto 'Che' Guevera for some reason, but) where Kegan talks about levels of thinking which define how and why the individual reacts a particular way within a conversation. For example, I might be listening to you talk about Pizza Hut and I become so angry because you like deep dish pizza and I don't, and this is not just angry...I start spitting and berating you because you won't stop saying "mmmm" while describing their parmesan covered breadsticks!

This conversation illustrates level 2 thinking where there are only 2 immovable participators. 1) Me and 2) You; and both of us are not able to transcend into higher levels of thinking, therefore, we become threatened and angry when our "positions" are different.

Level 3 thinking (and there are at least 4 higher levels) is an interesting transition from level 2 thinking. Back to the Pizza Hut conversation...Let's say every time I think of eating Pizza Hut I get sick. You come to me with a supreme personal pan pizza and start eating it in front of me while asking questions about the ingredients. Instead of remaining in level two thinking and getting agitated and angry, I metaphorically rise up from my position that stands in direct contrast to yours and begin to hover over the conversation as if I'm looking down on myself talking to you. Here, in this level 3 thinking I can detach from my own likes/dislikes and begin to observe and talk about mine and yours from a higher perspective that is not so "stuck" in level 2.

Simply put, level 3 thinking frees up people, groups, organizations, etc., to not feel threatened and pushed around when confronted with differing opinions. Not only is the impending threat abolished but there is also an ability present to engage the likes/dislikes of the "other" without having to change any previous convictions. So, why is this important? Well it relates directly to religion, politics, education, business, and anything else that can become divisive and hurtful. The pervasive amount of pain and suffering felt on behalf of the persons/organizations who are located only in level 2 thinking needs to be addressed and relieved by pulling ideologies out of the trench.

Next time you (and me) are in a conversation and buttons begin to be pushed, detach from simple, emotional reaction and rise above into a fuller understanding of oneself and the other. Be at peace knowing you are not threatened by dialogue and there is distance between a conversation and related convictions. Furthermore, take time to experience the "other" perspective in a way that engages your own in a positive way...allow your conviction(s) to be challenged, questioned, and refined.

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