Still intrigued

On Sunday I wrote a blog post using only questions. It was based on the book “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know” by Adam Grant.

You know the feeling when creativity just makes you happy? When joy leaps out because you’re letting the the Universe have its way with you? Whether you’re painting, quilting, gardening, singing, whatever–Life is flowing through you and you’re expanded and whispering yesssss.

That’s how I felt when writing the post Can we be inspired to Think Again?

But this morning the creative juices have turned directions and I’m thinking again. Reading more of the book. Feeling that–even though the creative expression was fun and playful–I don’t think I did a very good job of articulating what the book is about. What made my heart sing while reading.

So. Think again. Take two. Yet again.

Let’s see if we can learn something together. (Or you can just look at the pictures, most of them taken in the last week or so.)

One of the fascinating points he makes is that we often take on particular identities when we think and talk. We become preachers, prosecutors and politicians depending on what we’re trying to say. When our sacred beliefs come into question we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals. We’re a prosecutor when we recognize flaws in other’s reasoning and marshal arguments to prove them wrong. We shift into politician status when we’re seeking to win over an audience.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve slipped into each of these three modes during my lifetime. Sometimes they even play out unconsciously. You too? He advocates a different role: think like a scientist. Be aware of the limits of your understanding, doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know. Be ready to update your views based on new data.

(Some of you may even recognize this “scientific” approach from your spiritual journeys.)

Now I’m sure we’re all aware of the limits of science, but I like the idea of being more aware of allowing uncertainty and flexibility to guide my footsteps.

Grant tells story after story (one of my favorite kinds of books to read!) Do you know there is a condition called Anton’s syndrome? A person can be oblivious to a physical disability such as blindness. Yep, you read that right. You can be blind and not know it.

He goes on to suggest that we are all vulnerable to a version on Anton’s syndrome: we all have blind spots in our knowledge and opinions. We can have false confidence in our judgment that prevents us from rethinking. The good news, he says, is that with the right kind of confidence, we can learn to see ourselves more clearly and update our views.

Have you ever felt the JOY of being wrong? I don’t believe I have too often. Status quo: my ego often jumps in to defend its viewpoint. There’s more at stake than simply ideas–we become identified with what we believe. Whether it’s pro-vaccine or against, Democrat or Republican, pro or anti-abortion–we cement these beliefs around us and often vigorously defend them without truly opening to explore gray murky possibilities. Without recognizing that things are much more complex than we can even intuit.

Grant spends a chapter talking about the psychology of constructive conflict. Really? There’s such a thing as constructive conflict? There’s a part of me that doesn’t much like conflict and would rather turn off Facebook than read another self-righteous opinion. I guess I’ve never thought much that conflict can be positive, hopeful, fruitful. He tells many stories about Orville and Wilbur Wright and their passionate arguments over ideas. Hmmm, conflict can be a gift? I will think again about this reboot in my own understanding.

How to influence people? Win debates–or at least get someone to open his or her mind to new alternatives? When we’re trying to persuade folks we often take an adversarial approach (case in point: Facebook demonizing). Instead of opening another’s mind, we effectively shut them down or rile them up. Then they play defense, preach, prosecute or tell us what they think we want to hear.

I’ve done this a few hundred times this lifetime. Usually this happens when I’m frustrated and don’t know how to share my opinion. I often move from feelings and it often feels impossible to articulate what’s behind the feeling. Hence—frustration. Grant opens his reader’s eyes that our exchanges can be more like a dance that hasn’t been choreographed, negotiated with a partner who has a different set of steps in mind. If you try too hard to lead, your partner will resist. If you can adapt your moves to hers, and get her to do the same, you’re more likely to end up in rhythm.

What works best in this dance? Asking open-ended questions. Engaging in reflective listening. Affirming the person’s desire and ability to change.

Which brings me back to the last blog post. As he told story after story about asking open-ended questions, really listening to what others think, I suddenly saw ways that I could engage more lovingly with those who disagree. (And that snowballed into writing the post using only questions–trying to SHOW how to do this rather than blindly TELL. However, I don’t think it succeeded, except for the few who could feel the joy coming forth in between the sentences of the poem/book review.)

Anyone who is intrigued and inspired to improve the quality of relationships with others who think differently–you may want to read this book. Because it opened my mind.

Now, if I can just remember to think about these techniques in real-life situations!

Us. This week. After an appointment in Marquette.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in November 2021 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Still intrigued

  1. wsquared says:

    Lovely photos! I understand what you’re saying, but I have to say, that the older I get, and the more complicated my life becomes as my mother ages, I’m less likely to engage anyone in opinion-gathering. I’m open to new ideas, but I find increasingly that people aren’t espousing their own ideas, but parroting something they heard on TV, social media, or radio. And honestly, I’m over it. If your opinion differs dramatically from mine, that’s fine, but we’re either not going to discuss those contentious ideas, or we’re not even going to be spending too much time together, cuz I’m not up to it. I wish those folks well, and fully recognize their right as a human being to have and to express an opinion or idea that differs from mine, but I honestly don’t want to hear about it. I don’t think we can have real conversations exploring each others’ ideas until we have re-learned basic courtesy and respect for other human beings. A great many of us have simply lost those things, and for me, that makes discourse on anything complicated or important impossible. Just my .02. Great thought-provoking post. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Hi wsquared, I do so get what you’re saying. I do not really like debating either. Re-learning that basic respect for our fellow humans does seem like it needs to be a precedent. I just got off the phone talking with a friend who thinks way differently. It can be exhausting, like you said. But there were little ways I was able to ask questions in little situations in the phone call. And am noticing little teeny ways to engage my husband slightly differently. Teeny tiny steps. That’s what inspired me. Not the big debates, uhg. Would rather not do that at all. But the tiny steps that might, just might, make a difference. Thanks for commenting your thoughts so fully.

  2. Stacy says:

    All of the questions! I don’t know that they brought joy, but that line of thinking does make for real listening. It’s an artform, listening, and I learned from you that it can start with an open-ended question.

    I read the biography of Ben Franklin years ago. He often sat in a circle of talkers saying nary a word, to see if anyone would show an interest in what he had to say. Sadly, often no one asked him anything. I tried this at a party once. Same result. I sat there mute while everyone talked about their own ideas, almost to themselves because no one was listening. I guess I’m trying to say that it’s hard to pose questions in a society that doesn’t know how to hear. I know, very pessimistic. I have a lot to learn. XOXO

    • Kathy says:

      It makes me think, Stacy, how questions can bring forth all sorts of emotions. Sometimes even frustration. You are right–it is an artform, and this author-guy speaks of it as a dance. I liked that.

      That is so interesting about Ben Franklin. And that you tried his experiment and discovered it the same. Just think of all the people who have so much to share–but no one asks them. And sometimes–even if they ask–they aren’t flexible enough to be able to hear answers that differ with their opinions. And I have a lot to learn too!

  3. I’m off to put this book in my “must read” list, and I’m also THINKING of giving it as holiday gifts. What a THOUGHT FULL book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it, Kathy. So many good points. We don’t know what we don’t know. That too!

    • Kathy says:

      Oh I like your THOUGHTS about gift-giving, Pamela. If you ever read it, let me know if it inspires you, too. Had a long talk with a friend this morning and now I feel even less sure about what I THINK. Maybe that’s why we humans sometimes don’t like questions. Because our opinions make us feel like we’re on solid footing rather than free-falling from the Airplane of Life. Ha ha!

  4. PS. Love the photos -and the last one is the most beautiful. ❤

  5. rehill56 says:

    You have me very intrigued to check out this book. I have been feeling the weight of disconnection in our current world situation. I appreciate the thoughts of truly hearing another.

    • Kathy says:

      Ruth, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do this? Maybe we humans still wouldn’t agree, but we could feel heard, respected and appreciated. Let me know what you think if you read the book!

  6. leelah saachi says:

    I find that my biggest trap is to seemingly automatically identify with the thoughts going to my mind. Only when I start to notice them, can I sense into if they are just the old same-o-same-o – and they 99% are, I think. I love when I am able to LISTEN to people and NOT sink into that old old old way of reacting. It feels FRESH when I am able to disconnect from the same-o
    Loved the photos – all of them xo

    • Kathy says:

      YES, I LOVE how you said this! That gap…when we can listen fresh…not with our conditioned reactions. That’s what I liked about this book. It spoke about this in a fresh new language. Thank you for enjoying the photos, too!

  7. LaDonna Remy says:

    This sounds like an excellent and thought provoking read. I especially loved this approach, “Be aware of the limits of your understanding, doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know. Be ready to update your views based on new data”. If we maintained this stance we would listen and genuinely hear. Thank you for sharing this Kathy.

  8. Beautiful photos, Kathy! Especially the last one, cozy companionship dining together by the fire. Is that some kind of moss growing out of the tree trunk? Or a fern maybe? I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

    When you wrote, “exchanges can be more like a dance that hasn’t been choreographed, negotiated with a partner who has a different set of steps in mind,” it made me think of the early years of my marriage. The Adam Grant book sounds interesting and it’s on Audible so I downloaded it. It looks like he’s written several thought-provoking books.

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, glad you enjoyed. I think the moss growing out of the tree is called lichen. It looked so beautifully green and vibrant. Isn’t that true about the early years of marriage or relationship? That’s exactly what we have to learn how to do.

  9. Ally Bean says:

    I was raised and educated to always ask WHY? Keep asking that question in any situation and you become a scientist, someone curious about what is really happening in front of you. I’m not into influencing people or fixing people as much as I want to report on them. 😉

  10. It sounds like it’s really given you food for thought Kathy. I watched an interesting documentary the other night called ’15 minutes of shame’ which is about the ‘cancel culture’ where people use social media to shame others and cancel their opinions, very interesting.

    • Kathy says:

      That sounds like it would be a very interesting documentary, Andrea. I haven’t thought a lot about cancel culture and should really check it out. Thank you.

  11. “Think-Again” etc. sounds like a good read. I might need to explore that one. Some of your ideas in your post caused me to thing about what I read many moons ago. And that is to how to be good at conversing and how to be popular with people that you meet. The advice is to not talk about oneself but to ask the other person/people about themselves while maintaining a certain discretion by not asking personal questions. In other words one has to be on their a-game and know what to ask and when to stop. I have done this in work situations and with close friends. I am not a social mixer and have never attended an actual party because I don’t care to mix and mingle and chit chat. Anyhow I pretty much went off the rail here and will stop with the unsolicited advice. I love your photos and the last one of you and Barry is simply wonderful. I keep thinking about the wonderful photo capability of your Apple iphone.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Yvonne, I found your thoughts very interesting–no need to apologize. You are right, there is game people play of asking questions and knowing when not to pry or share too much. Too bad we humans don’t come with a user’s manual–it would be much easier! And thanks for liking the pics. It still amazes me what this iPhone can do.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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