Why This Way Handbook

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This page contains the current draft of the Why This Way Handbook, intended to be a standalone booklet that can serve as an introduction to and explanation of Why This Way, our way of communicating, way of thinking, and system of beliefs and practices.


What is Why This Way?

Why This Way can be hard to describe. We most often describe our group as a system of beliefs and practices, with a human organization to represent or carry out this system. People learning about the group often ask if it is a life philosophy, or a social movement; these descriptors capture some aspects of a group, but may fail to describe every aspect of it. We sometimes describe Why This Way as "like an organized religion", in that it is a system of beliefs and practices with a human organization to represent it, but there is no consensus that our group is a religion, and there are many ways in which the focus and organization of our group differs from the typical connotations of the word "religion".

There may be no one noun or phrase that concisely communicates the nature of what Why This Way is. It may be more helpful to consider different aspects of the group:

  • Why This Way is consensus-run.
  • Why This Way is continually evolving.
  • Why This Way has a particular way of communicating, which we follow in our meetings and official writings.
  • Why This Way is based on reason and logic, factoring in both scientific evidence, and people's personal experiences and desires.

It may also be helpful to consider some of the purposes or goals behind Why This Way. The group is multifaceted, and may serve different purposes for different people, and the goals and purposes may change over time, but some of these include:

  • To promote respect and constructive dialogue
  • To solve problems in the world, and build a better world
  • To be an organization and belief system whose structure and organization stays in harmony with its values.
  • To promote sustainability

How Why This Way is structured

Our system of beliefs and practices

Starting points

Using the ideas in Why This Way

Even if you never attend a meeting of Why This Way or get involved in our group in any way, you may be able to gain some insights from our system of beliefs and practices, and our way of communicating, and apply these insights to your life. This section gives some examples of how you could do this.

Discerning truth in dialogue, writing, or thoughts

One of the easiest, most powerful, and most universal applications of the ideas in Why This Way is to discern the truthfulness in a given statement. The statement in question could be something you read, something that you heard someone say, or even a thought in your own head.

To apply this technique, it may be helpful to write down exactly what the statement in question is. If we keep a statement only in our thoughts or memory, it is sometimes easy for us to distort it or recall it incorrectly. Once you've written down the statement, check it against our rules of communication to see if there are any ways you can think of it breaking our rules.

As you become more familiar with our rules and more experienced with working with them, you will likely become able to recognize breaches of the rules more quickly, sometimes even automatically. You may find that you become better able to discern the truthfulness of various statements, even on topics that you know little or nothing about.

Respectfully asserting yourself

Voicing disagreement

Points of disagreement in beliefs, or different wants, can sometimes lead to tension or conflict in human relationships, decision-making bodies, or conversations. The rules of communication in Why This Way can help guide how you voice your concerns and navigate points of disagreement in ways that can sometimes lead to more fruitful or positive discussions. While following the rules doesn't necessarily guarantee that people listening to you will react positively, it is likely in many circumstances to lead to better outcomes.

Some key points are:

  • Accurately describing your degree of certainty of disagreement
  • Pinpointing the specific point of disagreement, and avoiding vague or overly general statements
  • Avoiding negative labels or accusatory language
  • Asking what a person means, what they are thinking, rather than making any statements about what they are thinking.

For example, if someone is speaking and you reach a point that they say something that you disagree with, you can stop them and say: "I was agreeing with everything you said up until you said X. I don't agree with that." or if you are unsure whether or not you agree with it, you could say: "I'm unsure of whether or not I agree with that."

In many cases, because people may not be familiar with or accustomed to a way of communicating that hashes out points of disagreement or uncertainty, it can be valuable to explain why you want to explore a disagreement, for example, by saying: "I'm unsure of whether or not I agree with that, and I want to talk about that more before we move on, so that we're on the same page." This emphasizes to the other person that your goal is to reach agreement, rather than to prove them wrong.

In some cases you can also emphasize that you don't agree completely with a statement, but you still believe that it is mostly true. For example, if someone says: "Everyone does X." then instead of saying: "I disagree that everyone does X." you could say: "I don't completely agree that everyone does X, because I don't do that" or "because I have known people who don't do that. But I would agree if you said that most people do X." If your disagreement does not seem to have a big effect or relevance on what a person says after the point of disagreement, it can also be valuable to emphasize that, for example by saying: "I just wanted to clarify that before we move on. Can you go on with what you were saying before?" This can help show that you're still following and interested in the person's line of thought.

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Receiving, listening to, or processing criticism

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