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We are full of them. What we want, say and do are often at odds. We want to lead our teams and don’t delegate. We wish to be appreciated for our work and keep quiet about our most outstanding accomplishments. We want more freedom with our time and stay in jobs that require working long hours. We want to grow and don’t challenge ourselves.
Contradictions live within us, hiding in the shadows, invisible, often keeping us trapped from doing and being us.
Contradictions aren't just in us; they are all around too. They are on TV, in our movies, in our stories. A few include the left and right, capitalism and climate change, and consumerism and minimalism.
The contradictions we notice outside ourselves are hard to ignore; they parade and dance in our social media, news and, more importantly, our conversations. We feel we must choose one side and deny the other because it is safe, predictable and easy.
The alternative is more challenging. Allowing both sides of the conversation to be true, allowing space for co-existence without judgment, so we may further understand, requires effort, courage and a deep curiosity.
Our discomfort with contradictions leads us to our most pervasive form of communication: debate.
Debate is believed to be a primary way we get to the truth, yet here is the contradiction:
The root meaning of the word debate is to beat down. This means that one side needs to lose so the other may win. And often, the winning side is the most convincing, not necessarily the right one, and so winning by debate often brings a sense of false truth. And there lies the crux: debate forces a side; it inadvertently blinds us, and we fail to see beyond what else is possible.
With limited capacity for contradictions, we are at a crossroads where we must decide if we continue with more of the same.
Our truth is as valid as the next person's truth, even if these truths contradict each other.
With debate, we show up to impose our truth onto others, prepared with counter-arguments about how our point of view is better.
I want to propose a different path, adopting the meta-skill of contradiction, which involves learning to listen, suspend, respect, and voice.1
Developing the meta-skill of being with contradiction begins by:
Learning to listen and be with the discomfort of contradictions without denying it and making it wrong.
Suspending our default thinking, beliefs and preconceptions and catching our default reactive patterns to open ourselves to go beyond.
Respecting the dilemmas, including the people presenting them, without choosing sides.
Voicing what is valid for us without needing to make other points of view wrong.
By suspending our beliefs and preconceptions, listening to others and ourselves and voicing what still needs to be said, we begin to allow multiple points of view to co-exist. The result enables us to learn further about ourselves and connect more deeply with others in ways that aren’t possible otherwise.
Like everyone, I’m full of contractions too. I write these posts, and yet, I fail to operate purely within the bounds of my own writing. And nonetheless, that’s the point. To be okay with partiality, imperfection and contradictions. Allow them to be, and don’t forget that this writing might contradict your point of view. How will you choose to proceed?
Sparknotion – Think Differently.
These are also foundation skills proposed by William Issacs in Dialogue.