By Gerry Murray. 01-11-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)

“An object is not so attached to its name that we cannot find another one that would suit it better.”
~ Rene Magritte

This week seems an appropriate time to explore the other great pandemic of our times - polarisation

How do we find ourselves living in societies with such discord? How can we explain this? How might we do our own little bit to resolve it? 

Three principles might help us with these questions:

The Map is not the Territory

This phrase is attributed to Alfred Korzybski and dates back to a lecture he gave in 1931. It means that we all have a map (or model) of the territory (reality) but that this is really just our perception of reality based on how we filter it. This implies that no map is ever a perfect representation of the territory and it’s probably impossible to construct one either because of two things: the territory is dynamic and at what level of granularity would you have the “perfect map”? 

The important point in relation to polarisation is that when people believe that they have the perfect map then they tend to believe that everyone else’s map must be wrong. 

Polarisation is an example of widely contrasting maps that collide. 

What to do? Read on...

Everyone has a unique model of the world

This is derived from the Map is not the Territory. We each have our own unique map or model of how the world works and this includes our perceptions of reality. This is probably where true diversity begins and not in the stereotypes that we read about. Of course, we often share many parts of our maps or models with others e.g. through cultural norms. 

A nice way to illustrate this is through an example. In the good old days when we would go to the cinema to watch a movie with friends, it’s quite possible that some friends thought a particular movie (the territory) was brilliant and others that it was the worst movie they’d ever watched. The territory was the same. Each person's interpretation of it was different. 

The final principle is...

Respect other people’s models of the world

It’s important to explain that this does not mean that you agree with another person’s interpretation of the world. However, it’s useful and constructive to respect their right to have a different model of the world from you. 

You may have noticed that given a choice you don’t tend to spend a lot of time hanging out with people who have radically different models of the world from you. However, it’s only by appreciating and respecting another person’s model of the world that you can begin to understand it. This may even enable you to eventually persuade them to alter their model of the world. 

You enter your interaction with them in their model of the world and perhaps you exit together in a more enriched model. 

A potential solution

Professional negotiators know that sticking to a model of the world (a position) whilst their negotiating partner sticks to their opposite model of the world leads to a stalemate. They know that often the key to a successful outcome in a negotiation is to find a way to combine models of the world for mutual benefit. 

These principles come from the world of Neuro Linguist Programming (NLP), which I trained people in for many years. One of the greatest benefits that people get from their exploration of NLP is an ability to enrich their model of the world, not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of others and often society in general. 

In 2009 I co-authored an e-book Discover NLP and you can find these principles, along with a host of other great tools, by clicking here

So, the next time someone expresses an opinion that is different from your own you can think about the territory that you're both trying to navigate. Is there only one way to map that territory or would an expanded map with multiple routes to the destination serve you both better? 

I guess this is also something that we can teach our children or grandchildren…



There’s something wrong with my sense of touch and depth perception...
But I just can’t put my finger on it.

Three guys are being interviewed to be a detective.
The final step is with the chief inspector who says, "Ahh, so you wanna be detectives, eh? The first skill you need is perception, let's see how you guys do with that"
He calls them into his office one by one.
The first guy goes in and is shown a picture of a recently captured criminal. Tattooed face, large scar, he's quite recognisable.
The inspector says, "Take a close look, and I want you to memorize and remember all the features that will help you identify this man in a crowd"
After a minute, the man is done.
The Inspector turns the picture over and says, "Well, go on, describe him to me"
The man responds, "Well it wouldn't be hard to find this guy, given that he has only one ear".
The inspector stares blankly, turns the picture over and says, "What sort of a moron are you? This is a side profile of the man.. don't tell me you thought... ugh, get out and stop wasting my time!"
The second guy is called in and given the same challenge.
After his minute he says, "Well, I couldn't really focus on much other than the fact that he has only one eye"
Visibly frustrated, the inspector bellows, "What is wrong with you people, do you not know what a side profile is?! Get out, and call the last guy in!!"
The last guy comes in and is given the same challenge.
The inspector adds, "You know what, take 5 minutes.. and think carefully before you answer"
5 minutes later, the young man turns the picture over himself and says, "You know, I'll bet he wears contact lenses"
The inspector scrunches his eyebrows and then squints at the young man in silence for a few moments. Not wanting to potentially get embarrassed, he excuses himself to go check the man's criminal profile. 2 minutes later, he steps back in.
With a pleased but puzzled look on his face, he says, "Well, yes.. yes he does wear contacts lenses. How could you tell?"
Visibly delighted with himself, the young man beams back with a smile, "Oh, it took a while to think of it, but there's no way he could wear regular glasses with only one eye and one ear"

A farmer drove to a neighbour's farmhouse and knocked at the door.
A boy, about 9, opened the door. "Is your dad or mom home?" said the farmer.
"No, they went to town."
"How about your brother, Howard? Is he here?"
"No, he went with Mom and Dad."
The farmer stood there for a few minutes, shifting from one foot to the other, mumbling to himself, when the young boy says, "I know where all the tools are if you want to borrow one, or I can give Dad a message."
"Well," said the farmer uncomfortably. "No, I really want to talk to your Dad, about your brother Howard getting my daughter Suzy pregnant".
The boy thought for a moment, then says, "You'll have to talk to my Dad about that. I know he charges $500 for the bulls and $150 for the pigs, but I have no idea how much he charges for Howard."

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