How do you limit yourself with either/or?

Think about it. How often do you fixate on “the way” or “the right choice”? When you know like this, do you notice that you can quickly list all the reasons why “this” is right and “that” is wrong? This way of thinking can drive a wedge between two people in relationship, each of whom thinks they are right and other is wrong. In business this can show up, for example, in one group focusing solely on quality, regardless of price, and the other insisting on cost control.

How do we move beyond these stuck points?

In the third chapter of The Zen LeaderGinny Whitelaw offers a helpful tool to expand our vision when we get stuck in this either/or  mentality. She offers a simple 3-step approach:

  1. See 2
  2. Map 4
  3. Manage the figure 8

I find that even just the first two steps are extremely eye-opening and powerful. Try it for yourself. Call to mind a situation where you know you are right and someone close to you has a different opinion. Draw this simple 4 square diagram:

Replace “MY WAY” and “YOUR WAY” with your dichotomy. Then, start in the upper left-hand quadrant and list all the reasons which positively support “MY WAY”. Proceed to the lower left-hand quadrant and, yes, list all the drawbacks to your way! Now, head on over to the upper right and list all the supporting factors for their way. Yes, you can do this! Now travel down to that lower right, a place you know well, and list the reasons why their way doesn’t stand a chance.

What did you notice?

If that was impossible, I encourage you to share this exercise with the other person(s) involved or with someone who holds the situation differently than you do. Open up and get curious! Be willing to see and hear the expressions from all four quadrants.

Where to from here?

If you value the relationship or the business, you will seek out:

  • the “win/win” that draws from both sides
  • not “mine” or “yours” but something magically different!

Or, you may check out chapter 3 in The Zen Leader and learn about “managing the figure 8”.

What topics lock you in to “either/or”?
Whose perspective do you refuse to see?
What’s possible when you explore the “wrong” way?

(*) If Zen Leadership is peaking your interest, check out:

The Zen Leader book discussions September-November 2017
The Institute for Zen Leadership

What is YOUR wisdom?