the agenda

TLDR: B/W thinking: Not ideal in today’s world. Let’s discuss.

Old school detailed description:
In a world of too much everything, we curate selectively: what we need to know, what we want to do, who we want to be around, what we believe. With regards to other people, we want to feel safe, and to ensure this we narrow our conception of ‘we’ accordingly, to those who agree with us.

But what happens when those same people voice something that doesn’t quite fit our established and agreed-upon views? What if those with whom we were once 100% united on the fronts of ’yes, abortion is good, Trump is evil, I hate turnips’ suddenly point out that ‘life above all is (generally speaking) a noble cause’, or ‘Trump made it easier to prosecute money launderers* which is a helpful thing’, or (God Forbid), ‘turnip when baked and braised in marmelade is actually kind of yummy’?

The warning bells go off and we’d rather unfriend each other than have a discussion about the grey areas of all of these complicated issues. Perhaps as a result we are hindering both new connections and new possible solutions to tricky situations/topics.

This discussion will be a brainstorming session on how to have difficult conversations in general (NOT SPECIFICALLY ON POLITIC ISSUES) . My assumption is we’ll end up with way more questions than answers.

Please RSVP here to attend event as seating is limited.

* in writing this text I googled ‘what did Trump do right as president’ and got this fascinating link:


starting points for the discussion

Binary thinking is a stonewall when it comes to conflict resolution; below are some aspects to ponder when considering solutions:

    •    there’s binary thinking = wrong vs. right – looking for who is right means both parties are working at cross-purposes (A is
working for ‘A is right’, B is working for ‘B is right’) In an ideal agreement, both parties agree, in order to get your way, the other party
has to agree to it – which means that suddenly the focus is on WHAT BOTH SIDES WANT.
    •    OR ALTERNATIVELY: ‘’what are our shared values’  & why do we see this differently?’ (collaborative thinking) – questions vs. accusations.

trust: a confident relationship with the unknown.’ – Rachel Botsman

More and more we need to use conscious energy to constantly question whether to trust people/places/things (this also applies to conflict and debate) and THIS IS EXHAUSTING. We end up with binary thinking (yes or no) as a way of evaluating based on limited facts to make decision making faster.

evolution of trust: local -> institutional ->  (future) distributed
•    local: pre-industrial, where we trusted the people around us, mom’n’pop shops, direct communities
•    institutional: businesses replaced individuals
•    institutional trust was NOT DESIGNED for the digital age. It doesn’t scale properly online/There are too many loopholes for direct accountability.
•    moving towards distributed  (ideally warranted) trust (trust in the age of the internet)
•    no longer top-down
•    using social profiles and reviews help people make the choice which strangers to trust
•    those same reviews make us accountable to online services in new ways (hotel vs. airBnB)
•    ie. block chain structures – removes the need for an intermediary/institution to facilitate an exchange

The Internet/technology gives anyone with access to it the knowledge/resources to do almost anything, which brings up a new concern:
•    either we trust everyone and give everyone ‘god-like’powers (Chat GPT tells us how to pass the bar exam, build bombs, make (fake) news)
•    we trust no-one, leading us to a dystopia of surveillance and monitors (ie. China)
•    we move into an era of ‘warranted trust’ (warranted meaning justified or well-grounded and rational) (definition from Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

•    cognitive empathy imagining ourselves in another person’s situation/ taking their perspective
•    affective empathy (empathic concern) – actually experiencing the emotions of others and wanting to alleviate their suffering (can result
in compassion fatigue – aka. nurses)
•    narrative empathy  (helps develop cognitive and affective empathy): the sharing of feeling and perspective-taking induced by reading, viewing, hearing or imagining narratives of another’s situation and condition. Films/books/art are where you come to care about something in a safe space. You can empathize without having to take part personally. (With loss, sadness, danger, adventure, etc.)


how we get it
•    social media results in selective curation of all the information we are receiving. (we are NOT ALL GETTING THE SAME INFO, so how can we make reliable choices together?)
•    the loudest detractors get the most attention
•    algorithms prefer conflict (does not show us where we agree)
•    statistical tools / algorithms find and output averages (erase variations and differences and moderative in-betweens)

what it looks like
•    knowledge bubbles and echo chambers – shouldn’t we question this indication from those around us that we seem to live in a world / around people where everything we think is right (and everything ‘others’ think is not?)
•    fact checking in this day and age is no longer valid as a value – because with chatGPT we can have it write a paper with a whole bunch of true facts FOR EITHER SIDE, creating a convincing argument which amounts to fake news.

how we understand it
•    perspective is everything – what if, before every conflict, both sides had to write down what the other person said from memory, and notes had to be compared. How much misunderstandings might we avoid at this stage before the debate even begins?
•    how information will change in the age of AI: train ie. midjourney based on the content IT generates itself (aka ‘average/averaged-out’ information, the quality diminishes exponentially.

fear of moderate beliefs
•    “By being ‘inbetweeners,’ independents are viewed as unfavorably as the other party by both sides, and left out.
•    The authors speculate that this phenomenon could cause those in the middle to drift towards the extremes in hopes of avoiding the ills of being in the middle. Over time, this could lead to a highly polarized society, as nobody is left in the middle at all.
•    In the paper, mathematician Vicky Chuqiao Yang,* sociologist Tamara van der Does,* and cognitive scientist Henrik Olsson*

specifically for W.E.I.R.D* oes
•    The higher the education the easier you we to manipulate – we are more confident, less likely to notice what we are doing.
•    We self-justify, post-rationalise, and are better at creative rationale for why what they are doing is okay.


•    Author Jamie Wheal in his book Recapturing the Rapture: God, Sex and Death in a World that has Lost its Mind  suggests replacing the certainty of morals (in conflicts) with the situational relevance of ethics, that is:  it’s no longer the act that is right or wrong but it’s the relationship to the act that determines its value – it’s only wrong to eat people if you are not a cannibal.

* White, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic

related links | reading

a few random/related links on the topic of polarised thinking and finding the space and solutions between the extremes.
A site sharing research on the power of doubt in organisational life. Founded by organisation strategy cosultant and Laura Harrison and organisational behaviour and leadership expert Ksenia Zheltoukhova, who find support in resisting the urge and the pressure for simple answers.
A new form of journalism which, instead of providing polarised views and sensationalised narratives of world events, engages directly with responses to social problems through four stages: response, insight, evidence and limitations.
The spiral of silence is the theory that people’s willingness to express their opinions on controversial public issues is affected by their largely unconscious perception of those opinions as being either popular or unpopular.
A study on the Taiwanese incentive to democratise platform governance, to fight polarised content distribution on online/social media platforms.
Author and academic Rachel Botsman’s TED talk on why we’ve stopped trusting Institutions and started trusting strangers .
Consultant and communications expert Misha Glouberman on why it is in your interest to really listen to others.
Misha Glouberman moderates an ‘undebate’ on the societal impact of AI. Like a debate, this discussion starts with disagreement. But instead of pitting the participants against each other to ask “who’s right” it gets them to work together to ask “why do we see things differently?”
Roger Fisher’s concept of principled negotiation suggests that you look for mutual gains whenever possible, and that where your interests conflict, you should insist that the result be based on some fair standards independent of the will of either side.
Studies proving that the increasingly polarized political landscape in the US and the world is experiencing a catastrophic loss of diversity that threatens the resilience not only of democracy, but also of society
A mathematician, sociologist and cognitive scientist model why those with centrist-leaning beliefs are neglected in politics and other spectrums.