I may sometimes fancy myself as a contrarian, challenging the “conventional wisdom” but, temperamentally, I am not cut out for confrontation. The blog occasionally refers to my growing up in a bit of a class-less “No Man’s Land” in which I became painfully aware of the power of conflicting group loyalties; and keen to search for ways beyond polarised simplicities…
And these are very polarised times – with people apparently unable to resist the temptation to strike out at others.
Conflicted – how productive disagreements produce better outcomes tells me demonstrates the distinction between Low Context (direct and explicit) and High Context (indirect and implicit) cultures. Although the English like to think of themselves as open and direct, the way they use language in negotiations and everyday conversation has sufficient aspects of High Context to confuse their interlocuteurs about the real meaning of their words.
I learned a lot from the book – which is useful not only for couples, families and teams but for more specialised work in reconciliation, hostage-taking and even addiction.
But before then, I had been bowled over by how he had dealt with what he argued had been a great decline in our argumentative style since Socrates invented his method of probing for clarity and truth. Disputation, he argues, has been institutionalised in medieval universities but people like Descartes ridiculed such scholastic disputes – after which Guttenberg and the Reformation made the pursuit of knowledge an individual rather than social matter.
“The myth of the individual who can think his way through any problem in magnificent isolation is powerful….but misleading”
The book then goes into the more specialised field of conflict or dispute reconciliation and summarises what are, of course, complex issues in some interesting (if necessarily simplistic) injunctions