My work for the past couple of decades has veered away from group facilitation and detoured toward corporate grant and contract proposal writing, but I am struck by parallels between optimized proposal communication and community-building for wise discernment. Whether writing to public officials about policies and budgets, or to private sector philanthropists, the most effective way to open the doors of mutual communication are to show your constituency first that you understand, and share, our optimized outcome framework. If I start off advocating for a program, or a process, or a policy, or for money, then I am another “special interest lobbyist.” Not an effective way to start.
My still emerging theory about this dynamic is drawn from Positive Psychology and from Communication Theory. Perhaps you are familiar with the Cognitive Dissonance Theorem: we tend to cognitively deflect messages that are dissonant to our salient gestalt. We just don’t build an iterative communication string off from messages that do not integrate with our existing gestalt very often. If we do start off dissonant and it works out, it is probably because of the appositional Positive Confluence Theorem [which doesn’t actually exist, except perhaps in Group Theory of Metric Structure–kind of a theoretical math thing] that we tend to consonantly resonate with messages that are intuitively synergetic with our Whole System value-gestalt. In Game Theory, this would be articulating the optimal and most inclusive Win-Win outcome accessible through compassionate, or appreciative, inquiry.
When the proposer of a choice-making process begins with where we most inclusively desire to Win-Win together, at the end of our rhetorical event [again, Communication Theory], then this establishes a broad, intentionally inclusive of both positive and negative deviance, framework. When the facilitator takes the additional step of proposing a rhetorical culture that values deviant inclusiveness and personal integrity, then this Win-Win Boundary Window begins to fill with the flow of a creative deep listening ecology. Individual monocultures in the room, or in the network, trend toward mutually nutrient-refining polycultures. We might think of this as the Permaculture Design’s Theory of Evolution. This requires design technology for iterative feedback loops that are accessible over time as inclusively malleable communication strings. Positive-trending communication strings build communities of sustainable and inclusive discernment.
The theoretical limitation on Win-Win positive teleological culture-building, in anticipation of actually having the people in the room, or hooked up to each other on-line, is that procedural and normative values for mutual-flexibility [what Eastern cultures refer to as gratitude, and/or “namaste”] optimize when balanced with the value of personal integrity. We do not have an inclusive Win-Win positive framework for imagining long-term sustainable outcomes if we expect anyone to surrender integrity on behalf of flexibility, or flexibility on behalf of others’ integrity.
That last part, explicitly establishing a discernment culture that, in a sense, norms redemptive flexibility on behalf of others’ integrity typically, in Western cultures, falls prey to Cognitive Dissonance. We immediately get it that valuing mutual flexibility should not compromise personal integrity; we are fuzzier, with the possible exception of a feminist perspective, about the problem of valuing mutual integrity that compromises flexibility. If I yield to the Others’ need for personal integrity to the point that my flexibility is broken, then I have caved, lost. Flexibility will not tolerate the absence of mutual integrity, of establishing a relationship where we believe we have given at least as well as we have taken, and vice versa. The solution to both boundary issues may be to build an explicit discernment culture that holds the values of integrity-passion and flexibility-mindfulness in dynamic (diapraxis?) balance. This balance may be charted (I have not actually tried this), borrowing from Dynamic Facilitation, as a central vertical axis on each of four sheets:
Notice Concerns: how we are v. how we are not [shown appositionally on each side of the binary information axis]
Problems of Hope: what we think about v. what we don’t think about
Faithful ReSolutions: what we coincidentally say/create/design v. what we don’t say/create/design
Regenerative Data Harvest: what we have done v. what we have not done
The left side (bicameral-normative) is the Polynomial side; while the right side is the Non-Polynomial, or Reverse-Polynomial side, again, in information systems theory. The left side also emphasizes our collective integrity, while the right side emphasizes our collective flexibility to imagine what we might be together, but is not yet. In Taoism, the left side is the rhetorical event’s Yang trajectory, and the right side is this rhetorical event’s emergent Yin-balancing trajectory.
This emergent Positive Confluence Theorem predicts that when everyone can find themselves and each other within this holistically inclusive Win-Win Frame, we collectively begin noticing that the (0) Axials predict the most inclusively sustainable balance of both integrity and flexibility.