Introduction to Our Way of Communicating

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This page serves as an introduction to the experience of and intentions behind our way of communicating. This way of communicating is formally described in our rules of communication and process of communication.

Our way of communication is intended partly to shape the way participants think, and becoming comfortable with the rules can be a challenging process. People unfamiliar with our group and our way of communicating have often expressed difficulties or frustrations at meetings, in response to having the rules and process enforced. We hope to make this process easier and more fulfilling by presenting a clear idea of what to expect.

Differences from common ways of communicating

  • People may get interrupted a lot; the intention of the interruption is not to steal the conversation from the speaker, but rather, to clarify points, enforce the rules, and help them to speak within the rules. The interruptions may come across as abrasive to people who are used to environments where interruption is seen as disrespectful.
  • We place more importance on adherence to our rules and process than on any individual being able to express their point. This means that in our meetings, people may lose their trains of thought because of being interrupted to enforce the rules. Writing ideas in a notebook or on scrap paper is one way people can mitigate this problem.
  • When people in a discussion seem to disagree or hold different viewpoints, a primary goal of ours is to understand the disagreement, having each person involved in the disagreement express their point of view and understand the other person's point of view.
  • It is okay for anyone to leave the conversation at any time and for any reason, including being frustrated or uncomfortable with the conversation, and we do not want to place any negative stigma on leaving the conversation or expressing such frustration.
  • Our conversations often have a slow pace, as measured by space in the conversation after people speak. The pace at which individual people speak when they are speaking is not necessarily slower. We allow anyone to interrupt and request to slow down the question, or pause the conversation briefly. The slower pace and possibility of pauses are designed to help everyone listen and process the conversation fully, so that we can not only understand what is being said, but also check that our rules and process are being followed, something that often requires considerable thought.

Ideas that cannot be expressed directly within our rules

Certain types of ideas cannot be expressed directly within our rules, and must be contained or encapsulated in statements that shows a certain awareness that these statements break the rules. The rules are designed in part to keep certain types of ideas from influencing or shaping our discussions, ideas which we see as untruthful and problematic.

Some examples:

  • Broad negative generalizations about people or groups of people, such as calling a group of people "idiots".

In this case, we are open to discussing specific negative things that people have done, but we are not open to the idea that a person can be truthfully characterized as an "idiot", let alone a whole group of people.

  • Statements of facts with absolute levels of certainty, showing all or nothing thinking, such as: "The only reasonable conclusion is that..." In this case, we may be open to having the opinion or point that follows expressed, but our rules do not allow the idea that this is "the only reasonable conclusion", as our group embraces questioning, and the possibility of outside-the-box thinking and novel conclusions or ideas.