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This page outlines and explains our core practices, which are the action-based counterpart to our core beliefs, and are also closely related to our rules of communication.


Our Practices

WTW-green-50.png This section is part of our core beliefs and practices. The content of this section reflects the consensus of our group. Always obtain consensus at a meeting before editing this section. Other material on this page is part of our general wiki and may not reflect complete consensus.

  • People who participate in or identify with Why This Way are not expected to agree with all our beliefs or follow all our practices.
  • Treat all people with respect.
  • Treat all living beings with respect.
  • Consider carefully whether something is necessary or beneficial before requiring other people to do it.
  • If we support punishment, we do so only for the purpose of preventing harmful actions. We do not support punishment for the purpose of inflicting pain and suffering.
  • Do not try to make people feel guilt or shame.
  • Do not take responsibility for other people's emotions or internal states.

Commentary and explanation

People not being expected to agree with our beliefs or practice our practices

The practice that people who identify with or participate in Why This Way are not expected or required to believe all our beliefs or practice all our practices is one of the key defining features of our group and its belief system. Some clarifications:

  • The only requirement or expectation within our group for individuals is that participants are required to follow our rules of communication during meetings and on the wiki.
  • We do require people to act in accordance with our beliefs and practices when acting officially on behalf of the group.
  • We actively welcome people into our group who openly disagree with some of our beliefs or practices.
  • We do not wish to place any negative social stigma on disagreeing with our beliefs or not following our practices--both for people within the group and for people in society at large.

This practice does not mean or imply that our beliefs and practices are less important or that we do not want people to follow them. Quite to the contrary, it is directly related to the fact that we think our beliefs and practices are healthy and that we want people to follow them--but this practice expresses our belief that pressuring people to do or believe things can discourage them from doing them.

There are several points that can be helpful for understanding the importance of this practice, and how it relates to the rest of our beliefs and practices.

  • We believe that a healthy state of being for people and for society is one in which people do things of their own self-motivation, because they want to, not only because they are fearing negative social stigma or punishment.
  • We hope to continually improve and refine our system of beliefs and practices through bringing people into the group who disagree with them, and thus getting new perspectives and insights.
  • The process of questioning our beliefs is an essential part of understanding them. This relates to our name "Why This Way", which can be interpreted as a question: "Why do you do it this way?". One of the defining features of our group is that we have extensive reasons behind everything we have chosen to include in our system of beliefs and practices. The practice of not requiring people to agree with every aspect of this system is essential to encouraging the sort of questioning that leads people to understand how the system fits together and why it makes sense.

Our practices about respect

We chose to separate our practices about treating people and living beings into separate points because people can interpret respect differently as it refers to people and other living beings. On our page on respect, we describe how we interpret treating people with respect. Most of our use of the term "respect" on this wiki refers to people. Our beliefs about treating other living beings with respect are less defined, but they relate to our beliefs about food and animal breeding.

Considering whether something is necessary or beneficial before requiring people to do it

Our practice about carefully considering whether something is necessary or beneficial, before requiring people to do it, serves multiple purposes. This practice is related to our belief that, in a healthy state, all actions are consensual. Requiring people to do something (as through official rules which are often paired with some sort of consequences for breaking rules) can be coercive in some circumstances, such as when laws or rules are enforced with punishments, for actions that do not necessarily cause any harm to anyone. But the importance of this practice also extends to circumstances that are not overtly coercive.

Another purpose or benefit of this practice, is that it leads people to continually question requirements, in order to keep them minimal. This can help simplify rules, making them easier to understand, and can eliminate requirements whose benefits are smaller than their negative consequences. Some examples:

  • Our views on education specify that we support keeping academic requirements as minimal as possible for the understanding of the material, so that students are not forced to expend a lot of energy and resources learning material that they are not interested in and do not need.
  • This practice implies a certain degree of mindfulness of the impact of enforcing rules, when choosing whether or how to enforce them. Enforcing rules can be one stage in the requiring of people to do certain things. Authority figures have varying degrees of leeway in enforcing rules. An authority figure following this practice would consider whether the impacts and consequences of enforcing the rules were actually beneficial, in choosing whether and how to enforce them.
  • This practice could be used to guide construction of rules or laws, on any scale from national or international legislation, down to the rules of a household or small organization.

We intentionally included this point as a practice rather than on our organizational policies page, because we consider it something that is beneficial to follow in all aspects of life, not just in our own organization. Thus, while this principle helps shape our rules of communication and other core beliefs and practices, it also has implications for when we draft or influence rules or requirements in other aspects of our life, not directly related to Why This Way.

We chose to word this practice in such a way that does not prohibit us from requiring people to do things that are not necessary. There are some cases in which something may not be technically necessary, but it may still be so beneficial to require it, that the benefits greatly outweigh the downsides. However, we still believe that it is important to give these situations careful consideration, because requiring people to do things can have powerful negative impacts on self-motivation and can also lead to increased complexity and burdens of rules.

Guilt and shame

When we say "do not try to make people feel guilt or shame" we do not meet "try not to make people feel guilt or shame at all costs". For example, if we help people understand the effects of their actions, they may feel guilt or shame in response. However, we do not want to act with the primary intention of making someone feel the emotions. This is related to our practice about punishment - we don't want to do anything just to inflict pain on someone.

Not taking responsibility for other people's emotions or internal states

This practice is related to our belief about people taking responsibility for their actions. We have discussed whether or not it is healthy for someone to take responsibility for things besides one's own actions. The answer can vary, and often depends on how responsibility is defined. However, we believe that taking responsibility for someone's emotions or internal states is unhealthy.

We believe there is a difference between being considerate of someone's feelings and taking responsibility for them. This is true both when trying to make someone feel better who is upset, and when responding to someone who gets upset in response to something that you do.

It is possible to try to make someone feel better without taking responsibility for their emotions. Especially when interacting with people who are struggling with depression, but in other situations as well, trying to cheer someone up can have unpredictable effects. If a person takes responsibility for cheering someone up, they may end up beating themselves up or feeling inadequate if or when they are unable to make someone feel better.

Our practice of not taking responsibility for feelings also is of key importance in situations where one person gets upset in response to something that someone else did. People can get upset for a variety of reasons. In some situations, a person may do something harmful or inconsiderate of the person, but in other cases, the person may be upset because they are misinterpreting the situation, or because they are thinking in ways we would consider unhealthy. If people assume that they have always done something wrong whenever someone gets upset with them, it can make them vulnerable to emotional manipulation, or lead them to be dragged into other people's troubled mental states.