Monday, August 23, 2010

Are You With Us, Or Against Us?

Karl Albrecht wrote a great post a couple of days ago entitled the “Tyranny of Two.”  It reminded me of when a former Mayor and friend of mine explained why it always seemed that no matter how hard we tried, we could never get the head of another community organization to be on the same page.polar-bears-about-to-fight1

“With that guy,” he said, “you’re  either on his team or you’re not.”  Or a guy I know who calls to whine if a source ever tries to give balanced feedback to a reporter’s questions but is only partially quoted.  He believes news reports about his interests must be exclusively Pollyanna.

Karl’s review of current brain research indicates we don’t always have to be what he terms “dichotomous thinkers.”  He also uses another term, “polarized thinkers,” which is an apt description it seems to me for what one former Republican congressman noted in an interview Saturday discussing how these days the Republican Party is deriding anything proposed by another party but purposely refusing to put any ideas on the table.

They are able, I surmise, to pull this off because unfortunately, as Karl points out in his blog, “bipolarized conflict is the very essence of most of the news” these days, making “dichotomizing their religion.” 

And as the authors of the book The Big Sort note, one of the reasons people all over the country are sorting into places populated with “people just like them” is to avoid having to hear any information with which they disagree and polarization is a convenient way to be able to dismiss anything else.  Karl refers to it in his blog as “option fatigue.”  They just don’t “want” to hear any other sides to an issue.

Noting near the end of his blog, that if “we’re predisposed to polarize…And not all polarization is dysfunctional…"How can we improve our thinking and reacting, so as to liberate ourselves from the extremes…” Karl gives 7 mental tricks to keep dichotomization from sapping our creativity. 

I chuckled both to and at myself as I read them because not one of the 7 comes naturally to me.  Most I had to learn the hard way over the years.

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