Engage Voices on Other Side?

Slavery works, cried dominant voices, while for centuries brilliant minority voices, with finer insights at times, could have led a richer way.  Had they been engaged, silenced voices could have broken chains that still bind most of us today. Did you know human brains build new neuron pathways with every jaded act, ruts for more of the same? No wonder recent research shows bias hardwired into brains. 

Have you ever sat at tables where views runs one way only – led by dominant voices – with little facilitation ability to draw out the other side? Human brains default back to ruts, (part of basal ganglia patterns) without hearing or considering fresh possibilities on the other side. Without intervention, rut default domains of your brain could be dragging you backwards. It’s far more common than you may think. How so?

To defend one side only, some people revert to strong, seemingly rational support statements such as – It’s just a business decision. Have you heard it?  Brain based smart skills make you less likely to be lulled by dominant shout outs on either side. Tone‘s required though, to meld two sides into living benefits for both.

Do you shatter that silence created by voices rarely engaged? Do you add value to a democratic marketplace of ideas, through facilitating differences at opposite poles? In ways that no minority voice is embarrassed, humiliated, or ashamed because they differ. What would it take?

Back to the rationale, “This is just a business decision,” as an excuse to dictate any one-sided decision – without hearing deeply from the others side. Rational? Look a little closer and see how top business decisions, made by untamed amygdalas, recently sank entire nations into financial chaos. Have you changed directions recently because you learned from voices on the other side of dominant financial or social decisions? Parker Palmer referred to limitations of one dominant voice only, when he claimed that few people today ever really speak and feel heard. Do you?

It takes mental agility to facilitate silenced voices. To inspire others to hear and move on beyond previously excluded views, also takes certain sense of daring. How so?  Bullies insist that one way only suffices, and poor facilitators rarely possess skills to draw tangibly from diverse groups when disagreement strikes. So they distribute memos telling people what to expect, and rarely solicit feedback that asks what others expect back. Have you seen it happen?

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14 Comments

  1. Committees that work well hear all the voices, yet that is messy and harder to facilitate. It’s so easy of falling into the rut of telling others what to expect just to save time. Since time is of the essence in today’s business world, I fear expedience is the method to lead many committees.

    What is your chief method to bring in all the voices on a committee, yet reign in the time it often takes for a new leader to facilitate?

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Stress – Buster or Builder?

  2. eweber says:

    Yikes, I’ve been part of these committees at times, Robyn, and I sense you speak for many! If a leader cannot engage well, and draw a single voice from melding many the meeting falls of the tracks in minutes.

    Tempers flare and people settle for that dominant voice after hours of circular banter about details at the edges.

    Instead, what about adding voices to the table with an inspired question that engages many more than ordinary views. Then use a leader’s brain to draw the center lines. Ask for affirmation of that end – and others will help you to develop brain based strategies for even more of same:-)

    Many skills that help a leader in this area, are also smart skills that build community at the peaks. Even your questions here show how you do it especially well!

  3. [...] out this article by Ellen Weber, “Hear Voices on the Other Side?” She asserts that, “human brains default back to ruts.” You may be inadvertently [...]

  4. rummuser says:

    You bet that I have seen this. This is far more prevalent than most people suspect. Even guys who climb from the bottom, seem to undergo a transformation once they reach the level where they think that they do not have to listen to anyone.

    Sad, much efficiency and opportunity is lost by such behaviour.

    rummusers last blog post..Never Born, Never Died, Just Visited This Planet. – Osho.

  5. eweber says:

    Ramana, you speak for many who see an entire group lose to one insistent demand that comes from acting on issues from one side – while not recognizing the concerns or welcoming suggestions of people who come from very different places.

    Interestingly the brain changes only when we act of new directions, and so when we act with narrow focus, or after listening to one or two opinionated people only, we do so to the peril of change and growth. In leadership positions, we do that for an entire group.

    The opposite is facilitation skills and these use many parts of a human brain that may lie formant until a person takes a step not typically taken to dramatically change directions – because a voice less heard, offers insights less practiced.

    The world’s economic hardships will likely stir up blame in people who demand their own way, while at the same time it opens a world of opportunity to voices on the other side. Together we can build a better place, one that welcomes and grows from differences.

    What do you think?

  6. Ellen,

    If we aren’t careful, that dominant voice can create a sort of groupthink that discourages disagreement and, in the process, causes the entire group to suffer, as all the potential advantages of group interaction and engagement are negated.

    It’s a very scary thought that “human brains build new neuron pathways with every jaded act…”! We prefer to think of the new neuron pathways built through positive acts–and we should, of course, focus more on those. Yet, it’s equally important to at least be aware of the negative effects (“ruts”) created by their opposites, so we can do our best to avoid them.

    Insightful post!
    Jeanne

  7. eweber says:

    Jeanne, you said it better than me. When strong voices, who rarely live or hear on the other side – and then speak one side only with seeming authority – that approach alone is enough to shut down the minority insights.

    It takes a great facilitator to move a group beyond those dominant one sided views to consider gems from the other sides. Then it takes smart skills to blend the parts together in ways that each person in a meeting can speak and feel heard.

    While it rarely happens well in some meetings — it’s the skill of choice for succeeding on the other side of the changes we’ll need to survive the downturns and build again in robust ways.

  8. Facilitating a group discussion is no easy task! Just as you say, it takes real skill to do it effectively. Of course, the facilitator must first want to do it effectively. He/she must want what’s best for the group and be willing to override the natural human tendency to push his/her own agenda or viewpoint on the rest of its members. Even given that, facilitating a balanced discussion during which all voices are heard and validated can still be a challenge. But, it’s a worthy goal.

    Jeanne

  9. eweber says:

    Jeanne, we certify facilitators who would like to facilitate well, but woith skills to draw out diverse voices and synthesize the conclusions, leaders are left to allow the loud or dominant voices to rule. Have you seen it?

  10. Perhaps facilitating group discussions is easier for certain personality types–though I’m certain that nearly anyone willing to work hard enough to develop the necessary skills, while at the same time growing as a person in all the ways that would enhance those skills, can learn to do it reasonably well.

    For example, people who tend to be more reserved–or even those who are simply too polite to interrupt people–often have a hard time moderating group discussions, because they tend to allow the more vocal individuals to monopolize the discussion since they don’t like to interrupt those who contribute excessively and often feel uncomfortable changing the direction of a discussion when it becomes too one-sided or veers off onto a tangent.

    Pushier individuals quite often try to steer the course of the discussion–or even change the agenda of the entire meeting when it isn’t planned in advance–attempting (whether consciously or subconsciously) to take the reins away from the leader; and it takes a strong-minded or highly skilled facilitator to overcome that.

  11. [...] Opposing views are missed and so the human brain is more likely to revert back to ruts, which often lead to failed responses to problems that arise. [...]

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  14. [...] hand, offers a way to rev up brainpower in reverse, or offer an olive branch to enemies, or to engage voices on the other side of issues in spite of thorny issues you [...]

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