what do we think we know?

“What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”

—John W. Gardner

There are days, when I look around at the world we live in and I wonder if and how we will make it through the multiple crises that we seem to be living in. It all seems intractable.

Then, I remember. I can relax, because nothing is under control. To be honest, there was a time in my life when I would have panicked at the very idea that nothing is under control. Today however, I am deeply grateful. If all of what we are seeing and experiencing was happening because everything was “under control”, we would be in a far worse place. The mere fact that nothing is ever “under control” is a powerful gift of living possibility!

I also have seen more clearly how very differently we all see the current milieu. I have been watching the posts of many friends on Facebook, and watching how many people in the various circles in my world appear to be swirling around, or sometimes even flailing about, over some current topics. It is quite apparent that many are seeking to change the minds of others – which in itself is a fruitless effort and only misuses vital energy.

What is also true is that we all have inherent or implicit bias. What makes inherent bias so dangerous is…it is unconscious. When we are not aware of our biases and don’t slow down to consider their origins, we continue to project, attempt to “change minds” and end up creating more distance – which is generally not our intention! It is in being completely unconscious to our most basic biases and instincts that we create gaps in relationships of all kinds. The unintended consequences are that we can find ourselves alone, even in a group of like-minded people.

Leading our lives includes being completely responsible for ourselves – our biases, our behavior, and growing up…as hard as it is. It is the work of our lives!

I’m a believer in the power of asking questions. However, even in asking questions, we are either aware or unconscious when we inquire. For example, consider questions like this:

“Why do you believe….?”

“Don’t you see that…?”

This even feels like an inquisition! I’m being asked WHY about my beliefs, and being shamed a bit about my belief with the second question. Is there a different way to ask questions like these? Well, yes, if you are really interested in learning something that may be very different from your own perspectives on the same topic. For example, different questions might look like this:

“Would you mind telling me a bit more about what you believe and how you came to believe that?”

A follow up question might include a request to expand upon a point or two…and that would certainly indicate that the person asking the question was clearly and intently listening, and was interested!

And the outcome? The other person feels seen and heard. And quite possibly, the relationship begins to expand – to open; and the person asking the question may begin to learn something that he/she had not even considered in the past. Can you imagine what could be different in our world, if communication was intentional, and people really cared enough to listen and learn, rather than talking all of the time? If you are a participant in social media, I invite you to read through your newsfeed or whatever you see in a platform you participate in, and attempt to view it all as an objective observer. I wonder what you would see. Would you recognize your triggers? Would you feel you have to react or correct someone else? Listening or observing from a position of defense is far different than listening or observing from a place of openness, and honest curiosity.

Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.

 – Frank Tyger


Intractable =  hard to control. Relax…nothing is under control.

Clearly our inherent biases keep us from hearing or seeing others. This is part of being human. Even when we do our work, we practice observing and asking questions of ourselves, we are still carrying around biases. It is our job…and ours alone…to recognize and question ourselves about our biases as we notice an internal (or even an external) reaction to something/anything. Most questions about beliefs that another appears to have are best asked of ourselves first. If we understand the origins of our beliefs, we are more likely to be curious about another’s beliefs. If we do not examine our own, then we seek, accusingly, to know what the other person’s positions are and why.

My intention here is NOT to minimize the very serious societal issues that we are facing in the world in 2020. In fact we are facing many very serious issues with devastating consequences every single moment of every single day. I wish for us to awaken to the ways we might attempt to make it better. Brow beating those we perceive as being part of the problem will not add anything useful to the process of healing and creating anew what must be addressed. Taking the time to listen and to consider our own inherent biases will allow us to know that others have biases just as we do. They may or many not be different. We will never know if we don’t even care to inquire. We have two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason.


If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.

 – Robert Baden-Powell


8 thoughts on “what do we think we know?

  • Such an important message, Carrie! It brought to mind a funny memory from years ago about biases. Given my childhood with a white father who had little education, emotional control, or ability to reason, I had to learn how to “out argue” him as an automatic response. Decades later, my job overseeing the aging network in for a state government provided me with many opportunities to learn how to listen to older conservative white male board members. I noticed whenever our dinner conversation revolved around politics, their eyes seemed to glaze over as they parroted the most ridiculous views (an indicator of “truncated reasoning capability” from my perspective at the time). I learned to merely listen. And gradually, they learned to listen to me. They taught me about the issues that were most important to them. I designed my presentations for their boards using that information to give them genuine opportunities for meaningful input on decisions, especially those that involved policy changes or budget issues. They felt respected and valued and consequently offered thoughtful suggestions and were more willing to implement the decisions that followed..

    I realize how hard it is for me still to listen to conservative white men without feeling an urge to “put them in their place.” Yet each time, I remember the lessons my conservative friends taught me with gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carol…thank you so much for sharing that story of your experience! It so eloquently shows the importance and power of listening! And…I appreciate your humanness…as I understand my own. Knowing that this is challenging and owning it is soooo important! Look at what we learn as children…and how we have that to modify or overcome those survival techniques as well. Nothing in this life is easy, if we are committed to living it in an authentic way, doing our work,and stepping into service. I also appreciated your mention of truncated reasoning capability. That’s a tough one. I’m always curious about the view that people seem to take that is limited and those whose view seems limitless. That seems like a rabbit hole of a conversation that would be both fun to explore and perhaps exhausting at the same time! Biases everywhere… and we can learn from anyone…when we choose to be open, as you are. Blessings to you, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply, Carrie. Being is critical thinker about some things is both a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? Labeling others’ behavior as “truncated reasoning capability” feels so judgmental. But it IS impossible to have a reasonable dialogue with those who cannot even imagine another way of seeing the world. It helped me find humor in the situation and get over the need to try to “convert” others, a futile task that only increases resistance.

        Blessings to you too, dear friend. 💜

        Liked by 1 person

      • You know, Carol, it seems we humans have to name everything. Labels, names, don’t necessary feel like judgement to me. We simply attempt to understand in our most human of ways, this challenging period we call living on earth. Seems like a reasonable observation to name what one observes as “truncated reasoning” or something else and I’ve certainly heard worse names for similar observations. I appreciate the comments/conversation here. Expanding the ideas….thank you. 💜

        Liked by 1 person

  • I have a question that most Blacks can’t figure out. Why do White Americans hate Blacks? Not all, but far too many. We were brought here by Whites as slaves. Bred to be physically superior and had education withheld from us. Why do they hate us?


    • Tony, I hear and feel your pain, which is at the heart of your question. Black and Brown people are NOT hated by me. In fact, as I learn more, it is becoming more and more clear that COVID-19 is not the only pandemic that this world is dealing with. Racism has been a pandemic we have lived with and buried for far too long – across the entire planet. I watched a video of a news conference that Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks gave a few days ago. I feel it was the most genuine, heartfelt attempt by any white man I have heard, to discuss the issues and do so in a larger context of history, and you know the history books we learned from were WRONG on this and many events in our past – most of which are with us today, in some form. There are a lot of challenges that must be addressed – societal inequalities, police training, laws regarding impunity when such heinous acts are protected, and so on. Coach Carroll and Ibram X. Kendi, and Resmaa Menakem have all said that the responsibility for learning and beginning to understand racism is on us – the white people. And they are right. Some of us are learning and others are not. I remain hopeful about the future, as I feel more and more people are finally beginning to see what they have been unconsciously turning away from for years. As Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” So many ARE waking up. So many ARE beginning to see what they haven’t seen before. One pandemic is creating an opening for another pandemic to begin to be seen and addressed. Love WILL win. I send you love and blessings of hope, my friend.


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