As a follow-up action to my last post, I engaged in this ‘Thought Experiment on Civility.’ Albert Einstein used ‘Thought Experiments’ to explore scientific ideas that ultimately revolutionized the science of his day. I am no Einstein. Still, I have always been intrigued by his thought experiments and, given the state of public discourse these days, decided to engage in a thought experiment of my own. Perhaps it will help to reduce some of the Walking Blues!
Consider a world, a community, or perhaps a single relationship, to make it less complex, where one assumes the best about another, and that assumption is reciprocated. Hmmm… Intriguing!
Curiosity takes primacy over assumption
Consider the possibility, for just a moment, that a thought could be uttered, perhaps still incomplete, and that a listener could ask questions about that thought; its origin, its intent, and explore it along with its author. There is no risk to the author that they will be chastised for verbalizing the thought. There is no threat to the listener that this idea is somehow a personal attack on them or what they believe. Curiosity takes primacy over assumption.
In this scenario, the listener is not offended because the assumption is that we are all a work in progress and that the other is a good person who wants to add positively to their shared reality. The author of the thought is not afraid to explore their idea knowing that the listener will give them the latitude and assume their best intention. Because of this, thoughts and ideas tend to get thoroughly examined from two (or more) perspectives. Thoughts and ideas will wrestle with opposing thoughts and ideas, both explored from multiple angles, and both evaluated on their own merits and weaknesses.
Two people often look at the same data and come to different conclusions
In this place, there will be disagreement. Two people often look at the same data and come to different conclusions. In the dispute, however, there is relatively high understanding of another’s perspective because the topic has been considered from multiple angles and openly discussed without fear of reprisal. And when understanding, and being understood lead the way, acceptance and tolerance of difference easily follow.
This is not a place where a person speaks disrespectfully of another. It is hard to disrespect someone while also assuming the best of them. It is also a place absent of brash thoughtless statements. When one believes the best of another, one also wants to give of their best and add positively to the conversation in some way.
Damaging and disrespectful thoughts may still exist. These thoughts, however, would be challenged and exposed for their fault respectfully and in a way that does not shame the author but rather to gently point out other thoughts and ideas that may benefit everyone. Over time, damaging ideas might even diminish.
It is time to lead with civility!
This sounds like a pretty good place to me. If only it were real!
Come to think of it, I can control at least 50% of the equation. Indeed, in freely offering my civility someone else may even be lead to reciprocate.
Enough of this thought experiment already. It is time to lead with curiosity and assume the best in others. It is time to lead with civility!
Care to join me?
PS. Here is an instrumental titled ‘A time to Reflect’ that felt right to add at the bottom of this post. Cheers!