the other side of the argument

the other side

I’m finding the debate on the EU referendum a little tiresome.

The claims from each side, seem to get wilder and more outrageous. They become more fearsome too. Threat, despair, doom and gloom seems the order of the day.

In part it is the nature of ‘sides’. ‘Sides’ are the root of debate. The foundations of politics. An all or nothing mentality. I win, you lose. I’m right, you’re wrong.

It seems once you join a side, you have to defend the collective position of that ‘side’ against all the other ‘side’ might say.  Our party politics is riddled with this.  Somehow the concept of ‘side’ seems to rob these people of individual thought, ironically at the root of democracy, the very thing they seek to uphold.  Everything the ‘other side’ says is wrong. And everything I say has to support my side’s view, whether I truly believe it or not – even World War 3!  Everything.

“Really? Everything?”, is my response.

The power of ‘side’ is evident in this referendum debate.  Politicians on the same party ‘side’, are now on different ‘sides’. Colleagues once, now vitriolic opponents.

It seems to me to drive an extreme position which, for me, becomes less and less believable. Less real. I stop trusting them all. I stop wanting to listen to them all.

Surely in anything so significant and complex, there is grey? Some risks and some potential gains? Some good, some bad?  Why can these people not just provide a balanced perspective?

But ‘side’ is everywhere.

It permeates our gender, our ethnicity, our social status, our religious persuasions, our organisations, our families, our sport…

‘Side’ fuels blame, it creates blind spots, it reduces options, choices, potential. ‘Side’ underpins judgement. ‘Side’ erodes compassion, care, humanity. ‘Side’ creates gaps, divides. ‘Side’ is the bedfellow of anger and frustration. ‘Side’ is dangerous.

the problem with the junior doctor debate…

prejudice map truth NLP
I listened this morning on the radio to a debate about the proposed changes to junior doctors contracts and pay.

First the minister, Jeremy Hunt, spoke about the intention, what was proposed and why it was needed. Then a junior doctor spoke about concerns, what they perceive is really going on and what was needed.

I don’t know the truth. I don’t know much about the health service. I don’t know what is reality today. I don’t know what will address any concerns and make the future better. I don’t know who is right, who is wrong or indeed if either are.

Yet I noticed my own prejudice appearing. Firstly, politicians aren’t to be trusted, are they? Whereas surely I can trust a doctor? Then, the doctor described how they would lose a third of their income, yet weren’t currently working longer hours than legislation required … “Really? Aren’t you exaggerating for effect?” I thought. Then after each quoted statistics about weekend deaths, different of course, I noticed my mistrust of statistics emerging – “you can make any number say whatever you want”. There was talk of strike action, which fired up my dislike of the concept of unions, who purport to protect workers yet often operate out of lavish premises funded by their members subsidies. And so it continued…

I can’t get to the truth.

Not just because each party is portraying their version of the truth in the media to their own ends, but because, even if that weren’t so, my own prejudice prevents me from seeing and knowing what is. From being clean. From knowing the truth.

How often do we blind ourselves to truth? Whether that be unconscious bias in diversity, judgement based on looks, preconceived boxes we put people, roles, attitudes into? Beliefs about the world which make our map of its workings uniquely distorted to us?

I don’t know what the right thing to do is in the junior doctor debate and I can’t influence an outcome. But I now know more about how much I prevent myself from accessing that awareness, accessing a truth.

I can do something about that.

when silence is the most perfect form of speaking

silence time to think listen
Nancy Kline’s book ‘Time to Think’ advocates a model of human interaction that honours the individual’s time to think.

In our society we are expected to have an opinion, and to voice that opinion. To disagree or to agree with your perspective. Our language, our organisational culture, our very democracy is imbued with debate, dialogue, challenge. The great debates are forefront in the news and on social media… The USA right to guns or not? Is removing tax credits unethical? Can the Labour party survive its leadership choice? Will Jose get the sack at Chelsea? We are encouraged to debate them, to have a perspective, even to take a side.

At a coaching supervision group discussion today we were talking about silence. One coach spoke of the sheer joy of not having to hold a view in their coaching work. The freedom and release that gave them. As a coach we can be objective. Focus merely on the client’s story, their way of being. We don’t need a view as to the rights and wrongs of that. We don’t need a view as to the way forward, the solution for the client.

We can just be present. Listen at the deepest level. Give them time to think.

Nancy asks “what makes you think the question you are about to ask is more valuable than the client’s next thought?”

I wonder if in organisations, in society, in life we need to learn to be silent more. To honour other people’s time to think and to speak their truth. To not hold a view, but just to accept what is true for them. To intervene solely with the purpose of helping them to develop their thinking. Not for our understanding, not to share our opinion, not to demonstrate our value giving contribution of solution … but just to help them to develop their thinking.

Maybe there would be more understanding, more compassion, more truth?