Our way up the ladder, not my way
Once you care about others’ views, you can be a more effective advocate for your own views!
The Novel & Real Life
Let’s begin with a novel, American Dirt– by Jeanine Cummins. (Goodreads summary). The fictional plot embodies our nation’s current reality about migrants and immigrants. “Me and mine” come before ours and us in the book and sadly with our national dialogue.
Abner is my real-life immigrant example who arrived with an influx of DACA immigrants. He portrays the actions from the fictional character Soledad in the book. Both walked three months from their homes in Honduras. Both fled the death march of forced gang participation. Both dreamed of a fresh start in America, a land of opportunity. They both lived in a scrap of a village in the mountains, wheretheir community homes flourished with love and affirmation. Abner assumed that love, and understanding were shared values in the USA.
Students bullied Abner in high school. He was a tough kid; he walked alone from his homeland, so his defense mechanisms were beyond his years. He had little English to explain himself to staff when he was teased. Teachers’ interpreted their reality about him. They assumed he was a troublemaker.
We are selective about immigration policies that benefit or harm ideology. This is a selfish reality. Lived experiences and listening for what we take issue with matter.
There is weird comfort about advocating within part of a system. In those spaces, bantering springs back and forth like handball in the enclosed room to ourselves.
Checking my processing among comfortable conversation doesn’t help change agents. It’s boring– a waste of time. Even religious believers who go out to proselytize into a fold don’t believe this to be true either. Why preach to the choir?
American Dirt shifts to our national, collective realness about disagreeing, reality and facts, interpreted reality, and assumptions. To engage with those from another ideology, I’m using The Ladder of Inference.
The Ladder of Inference is a tool. It illustrates how the mind steps through rungs to process information. Then people act but not before paying attention to themselves. Each rung explains how we process information.
Reality and facts, Selected Reality, Interpreted reality, Assumptions, Beliefs, and Actions.
I must have a mindset before I can act for Social justice. Action and being work together. Sometimes we must learn how to be by managing our own prejudices that create fixed mental models.
Do I block out others’ opinions? Do I argue one perspective that forces a downward spiral into a safe circle? Can we stand next to someone, shut down the ego, and take in another’s reality?
As trainers, are we able to hold opposing views to discover agreeable outcomes? Are we blind to what is on another’s ladder; and are we blind about what is missing on our own ladder? (Click the ladder to center my meaning.)
It’s easy to practice using the Ladder with a current reality.
The Current Reality
I checked in during Governor Newsom’s recall election. I posted on fb what I thought an obvious image for either party. My words poked fun at the facts, “Evening Viewing. CA wastes $.” That was it. I didn’t post a political affiliation, commentary nor association to anything. The facts.
Fiduciary failure was obvious. The efforts to stop the recall cost eighty-three million dollars. Business Insider reported this. Newsom’s Supporters spent another forty-five million. Both parties had financial waste.
Selected & Interpreted Reality, Assumptions
The next day an educator reached out on Facebook. I haven’t spoken to her in years, but she reeled with anger about my observed reality. She lives in the rich agricultural Valley of California. I presumed we would engage like colleagues. Not so.
A barrage of presuppositions about me filled messenger.
I don’t see color and [she believes] Newsom is a racist.
I continued to read “you, your” as though I and “my people(who?)” were responsible for the economic demise of the state. I heard an interpreted reality. They were complaints about businesses moving out of the Valley. Another crisis was about the elderly giving up. Finally, she sent an image of CA as two states as the ultimate disregard for a shared responsibility:
I could care less about your candidate or view.
I gasped at myself. I assumed I had a blind spot. I looked at my post again. I put on my systems-thinking cap. Then I sent words hoping to connect with something:
My intent was to say how CA wastes money. The establishment has extra money, right!! I am the working class. My mother is elderly living in the Bay Area. I volunteer. Gross generalizations derail others’ reality. I see color and understand racism. The marginalized want allies who work to dismantle racism and its policies.
Balancing my reality with hers to arrive at a common ground became fruitless.
Challenging Assumptions / Conclusions /Beliefs
Sensing my irritation, I evaluated both our conclusions. I ended with a hope to reset dialogue with empathy. When my reality wasn’t heard, I dismissed the exchange posting what I hoped would remain with her.
I’m sorry for the pain and anger I read from your words. So much is lost on…technology so it’s difficult to respond respectfully and with the dignity you are due.
What I failed to ask:
What Patterns do you see in the Valley over the years? Why do you feel this way? Before the problems began, what was going well in the Valley overtime? What else could be happening in the Valley that contributed to the current reality? Were there other causes for the problem besides Newsome’s policies?
Trainers Act and Address Awareness to Make Connections
How can two people observe the exact same event yet come away with different views? How can we move to actionable shifts toward mutuality? When a chasm sucks us downward away from humane dialogue with words lacking decorum, what can we do? The conversation was counterproductive and became a stalemate like in a chess game. No words to agree to disagree flowed.
To respect and dignify people, we should interact with those who may not think like us. It’s not hard to infer another’s belief system before responding. We then proceed up the ladder with wisdom. Otherwise, we never ascend towards action.
The Ladder of Inference reminds me that my rungs towards actions are mine. I blind myself with my own opinions when I separate myself from others’ points-of-view. Practice using The Ladder; It will aid your own sense of knowing.
Discovery with ST Consulting trains trainers as facilitators. Trainers learn to guide individuals, groups, and organizations. Strategies like the Ladder of Inference build community. Sometimes it’s not my way or the highway; It’s our collective way.