Perceptions of Reality Need to be Different and Accepted for Any Group to Arrive at Balanced Outcomes
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RIGHT?
Imagine you’re leading a meeting. We’ll use an administrative meeting in a humanitarian business, a shelter for homeless families, as an example, but you can probably see this happening at a family gathering, too. A decision must be made that will take the enterprise in a specific direction. How do you gather the needed information to make a wise decision? What do you do with the information so you can best use it?
Abigail was nervous. A baby had stopped breathing that afternoon and while the mother knelt on the floor, screaming, crying and banging her head. Between sobs, she explained to police that she had stopped taking cocaine as soon as she knew she was pregnant but after the baby had been born, she hadn’t been able to resist. She had breastfed because she spent the money for formula on drugs. The non-profit shelter had to make a drug policy immediately or risk closing.
The heads of the four departments in their small shelter all had to agree on a plan. Edwin was head of education and could be counted on to do what had been successful before. Barney would come armed with all the statistics, which worked well for his department – security and vendor processing.
The 2 men arrived and Edwin. Abigail had brought menus from the nearest Chinese restaurant the shelter could afford because it would be dinner time in an hour and they’d be able to smell the good food from the shelter’s cafeteria. Delia arrived 5 minutes late carrying her overstuffed bag from the social programs. She sat down, put her elbows on the table and said,
“I told you that woman would be trouble.”
WHAT IS REAL?
Barney contradicted her, “You didn’t have any evidence. You had a dream about her and your dream is not a usable fact.”
Delia retorted, “When I dreamed we would get fifteen new families last week and we should prepare, how many new clients did we get?”
Edgar interrupted. The pattern in all the other shelters is that you get a higher influx near the end of the month. They can’t pay rent by the first.”
Abigail passed out the menus. “Pick something so I can order. This might be a long meeting unless we focus on what we need to do.”
“It won’t be a long meeting at all if we just look at the facts. People on drugs bring disaster to themselves and others. We can search each mini-apartment tonight and have random searches 1 -3 times each week. Anybody with drugs can go back to the street.”
FACTS VS. DREAMS?
“Let’s start with the facts and use them to make something still close to our dream. We all came here believing that homeless people needed homes, social services, and education. How can we make this a welcoming place for positive change and deal with these facts?” Abigail was trying not to show her stress.
Delia smacked her hand on the table. “These people need more spirit to find out who they really are. When we started a year ago, I could feel the happiness in these halls even before the first family arrived. I could feel it in my bones. If they know their real power, they won’t be attracted to the fake power in drugs. You should hear the children laughing when they play in group!”
Edwin was looking in his phone. “I can call 3 other shelters and find out what is usually done in these cases and let you know by the end of the week. And let’s order so the food will get here. Soon. Is the shelter paying for this?” Abigail wearily nodded affirmatively.
SPIRITUALITY VS. FINANCES?
Delia glared at Barney and said,” I get my information from a higher power. There is another dimension where facts just don’t matter much. We have to guide this shelter for 150 families to a better life.”
Barney leaned back in his chair and said, coolly, “To shelter these people, the lights have to stay on and the lease paid. Businesses don’t run on intuition.”
Abigail sighed. “As long as we’re at it, Edwin, sometimes I get tired of hearing what has already been done. Most shelters are dumps where women and children are abused. We can’t use those models”
Edwin was startled. “Are you planning to ignore history? How can you build this new utopia without any foundation on what has been before? Those dumps make a profit and stay open. Do you think we are the first shelter to discover an addicted family or two or even 50 in their building? Why do you want to re-invent the wheel?”
Barney said,” We don’t need to order food. We can go home. If we keep this up, we should prepare to close the place and get out our resumes.”
HOW DO YOU SOLVE PROBLEMS LIKE THIS?
What do you think this group should do to resolve their problem?
One problem is that each one believes he or she is the only one who is right. Each one is seeing only one aspect of multifaceted truth but if they work together, accepting each method as equally valid, they might create a solution better than one based on any one category of understanding reality.
Suppose they use the existing systems to provide ideas about what to do or not to do in their visionary system and align Barney’s facts and security concerns with Delia’s intuition and loving inspiration? They could create a security system that was effective but non-threatening that protected a visionary shelter for homeless families and avoided the mistakes of the past and present while using their advantages. The educational and social programs would support the 300-400 adults and children there towards improving their lives.
Are there people in your lives who see the world differently from you? You might all be right!
Ideas from this article have been taken in part from Consultation, by John K. Kolstoe (Kolstoe, 1990)