Just as there are tricks to skateboarding, art, or anything in life, there are tricks to processing information. So here are a few tricks they don't teach in school. These are tricks that will change the connections you make in a wide range of scenarios and inspire depth of conversation and understanding.
Japanese Vs. Western Thinking.
Greek thought was very ego centric. From this influence, our arguments become attached to our person, and discussion becomes a battlefield in which egos are killed or glorified on the basis of whose argument "won". The point of many of our discussions is not to discover and grow. It is to tear the other argument down and win. It is adversarial.
When ego is involved, truth, logic and understanding are sacrificed. What are they sacrificed for? The arguer does not receive an applause, in fact others generally find this egotistical argumentation quite obnoxious. Contrary to how we might fantasize, no one respects us for winning.
Edward De Bono explores an alternative approach to argumentation that is revealed in Japanese board room meetings. Where westerners had a proposal that they would argue for, Japanese members didn't make any proposals. Instead, they would offer information that they knew.
They would not interpret the information or decide what should be done about it, each member would simply offer the facts. They would continue to build upon their information until a more complete picture had formed, and the way forward illuminated itself to everyone present (Six Thinking Hats, 1999).
Separating ourselves from our arguments allows for far richer discussions that elevate truth, friendship and curiosity.
Facts Vs. Interpretation
There are rich takeaways to De Bono's observation. One is that there is a difference between fact and interpretation. The fact is that the suicide rates in religious countries are lower. Researchers have provided many possible interpretations for that fact: greater social cohesion found in religious communities decreases suicide, greater moral objections decreases suicide, or greater stigma decreases the rates of suicide reporting (Kanita D. et al., 2005).
As seen, one fact can have a myriad of interpretations. In any conversation, separating facts from interpretation clarifies what has been proven and what needs more evidence.
From those interpretations, we can employ a Jewish concept. Do not search for “the best interpretation” but “the best interpretations”. Consider that from the range of potential interpretations truth is complex enough to be reflected in all of them.
Friends and I were discussing examples of poor treatment of women when one spoke up quite bitterly of how women act. At this point, knowing how to spot pendulums in ideas was quite useful.
Men vs. Women might appear to be a debate with two obvious extremes, but the division should not be men against women. The proper distinction is between those who respect others and those who don't.
What could have been a competition on victimhood became filled with appreciation for each other’s experiences and my friend's hurt was redirected from women to certain behaviours in people.
Running to or running from
Understanding the motivation for our conversation is fundamental to finding blind spots in ideas. As good as an idea may sound, if it is fear based it will likely just exhaust you. As a motivator, fear works wonders in the short term but in the long term it hollows your soul.
A Christian friend of mine was trying to convince me that Australia needed to close its borders to refugees because we can't risk being overwhelmed by Muslims. In the course of our conversation, it was apparent that unless the underlying fear was dealt with, she would not be able to see the Christian values she was undermining.
This is not to take a stance on whether borders should be closed or not. This is to say that as long as our reasoning is motivated by fear, it will be narrow and we will miss the opportunities our circumstances present. Therefore, with any concept that we engage with, we should ask ourselves if we are running from something, or to something.
Using these four methods of conversational judo: Japanese Vs. Western thinking, fact vs. interpretation, Pendulums, and running to or running from, we can analyse information in more creative, accurate and fun ways.
Frances Ducommun is from Brisbane Australia, a student of philosophy and artistic endeavors. She thinks she's funny, is constantly covered in cat hair and will substitute sleep with reading if no one keeps an eye on her.