Unconscious beliefs largely determine our behaviour. Who doesn’t believe that? Often our certainties are conclusions from childhood experiences and they relate to each other in a large network of beliefs. Beliefs are the pillars of our model of the world. Without beliefs, it is hard to act, since we do not have a sense of direction.
What we believe about the world and the people, we often defend with our most creative arguments. You might have experienced yourself that it is not so easy to ‘talk’ somebody out of his own certainties (beliefs), even if the disadvantage of this certainty, up to the level of causing harm, is evident.
“Wisdom comes from sitting together discussing differences without the intent to change them.” Bateson
In the light of the above, it becomes more difficult discussing differences when these differences are at the level of belief.
Especially on this level of belief, the strong tendency to defend one’s own map of the world, leaves no room for listening to the other person’s belief. Sometimes people get as far as: ‘I don’t agree’, which for the other person is the cue to defend his own belief even more, whether it is by raising the tone of voice, increasing the amplitude of the gestures or by giving even more information, coming up with more arguments. Eventually this can lead to an escalation of the conflict or in other cases to the loss of a contact, since the other person can’t be bothered anymore.
“The system with the greatest flexibility survives.” Ross Ashby
The richer your map of the world, the more flexible you are, the more options you have, to realize your goals, your dreams.
Different points of view can/will increase the quality of a training. The attitude that every belief has its own right to exist is fundamentally important. Instead of opposing each other, they can exist next to each other. This is imperative to reach a win-win-situation.
Working on the belief level in groups or teams is relevant to each trainer or team leader.
How to operate in a way that characterizes Bateson’s quote and leads to Ashby’s wisdom?
Pragmatic evaluation (designed by Lucas Derks) is a useful method if 'resistance' from a group member comes from disagreeing on the level of belief. The goal is to elicit the different beliefs of both the other person as well as yourself and to address the pragmatic usefulness of both beliefs.
In order to do this successfully it is, amongst others, important to be able to switch between perceptual positions, to make use of the space in the room and to know how to elicit the beliefs.
By Anneke Durlinger