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How do we know?

I had the fascinating privilege to facilitate an all-day group discussion at the national event, AmericaSpeaks. If you’re not familiar, AmericaSpeaks is a facilitated deliberative non-partisan method that brings citizens together to deliberate critical policy issues in a town-hall meeting format. The conclusions from these meetings are then brought to the attention of decision-makers in the hopes that citizen input will influence policy. The discussion of the meeting I attended was “Our Budget, Our Economy”. The adults in my group were a highly diverse mix of age, race, socio-economic levels, and education; a true representation of Chicagoland, and the country at large. Tackling the complexities of this topic using our strict goal parameters addressed the economically and socially difficult. I felt a deep appreciation for how everyone struggled to articulate their frustration with the act of choosing the equalitarian or specification of burden on residents of the country. More so I heard the disparity of view points that stemmed from each individual’s walks of life. It was clear that there were no uniform assumptions people could presume about others’ beliefs.

What struck me was an interesting parallel to the intellectual challenges I hear in my coaching practice of how people form their opinions. Of course it’s based on the experiences of our lives, but how broadly has our experiences been? When we suggest we understand the issues that influence the opinions of our staff, how do we know? What have we observed in the behaviors they’ve displayed? From what they’ve spoken, what do they mean?

Staying on the political theme, former President Reagan spoke of the relevancy of “Trust, but Verify?” There’s wisdom in taking on the practice of listening for the messages of others as to what is important to them as a way to check our assumptions of what we claim we know to be true. We can’t sustain our beliefs that our staff will/ought to think as you do. Taking a walk in their shoes through conversation motivated by genuine curiosity aimed to expand your thinking helps to open the panorama of your lens. It’s remarkable what you’ll find in an appreciation of different positions and insights others have to share.
 

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