The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Nuanced meta-levels

During the last few days, I found myself a few times in intense discussions involving resistance and opposing views.

Sometimes we find ourselves in such conversations without much ability to avoid the opposing views.

What can be dealt with however is the resistance.

Resistance is the reaction to pressure seeking to shift one’s position.

Quite often the resistance doesn’t have anything to do with the subject at hand, it is linked to an underlying issue. It may present itself with the desire to be right, but that too hides a fear. May it be the fear to have to change one’s worldview, to have to change the way we do things, to be confronted with something we can’t manage, or yet another fear. Whatever insecurity it is, it is individual and depends on the context, personality, and personal experience.

What has been fun about all of these conversations was to experiment with a different perspective on the conversation.

In the first conversation, we were on the phone which allowed us to laugh. By describing the experience and laughing about the fact that the positions would not shift, we stepped out of the opposition and released the energy our resistance had created. The point was to find a laugh that signaled that the relationship was more important to us than our individual positions. Having released the energy together, we could switch to something else.

The second conversation was a written one. With a learning environment as context, we didn’t know one another that well. Switching to a different perspective onto the conversation also involved naming the difference in positions. However, in that case, paying attention to the relationship first happened by acknowledging that it consisted of having different views. And in a second step by reviewing the learning that happened during that relationship. It didn’t release as much energy, but it gave both the opportunity to reflect on the exchange, giving an insight into what would have been helpful.

During the last conversation, we had yet another approach to deal with the resistance. This time we did it by asking ourselves why we were experiencing such resistance. In contrast to the other conversations, we were on video, and the relationship close enough to become vulnerable.  We started to investigate the process that was unfolding between us. By moving away from the content into the process we searched for a way to learn from the resistance itself. We aimed at learning more about ourselves. We trusted one another enough to know that the constructive conversation was our desired mode. At the start, we found some technical differences. For example, trying to address too many facets of the subject at the same time. Addressing these softened the energy until resistance reappeared. This taught us, that the technical aspects of the conversation had less importance than the emotional energy that was also in the room. We continued to experiment with our conversation until we found a probable anxiety. Noticing how right it felt, we could leave it at that.

Moving to a meta-level of the conversation served to preserve the relationship. But it is the relationship that determines which meta-level will be the most useful one.


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