The ability to hold a neutral attitude is the skill that could have saved me a lot of emotional energy. When I encountered Ivan in the Moral Dilemma Alligator River (a teaching story in Values Clarification, it was difficult to imagine a character who wouldn’t take a stand, state an opinion, be part of the solution. Over time I have come to value neutrality as a way to see the bigger picture, an aerial view, and as a way to consider, listen and allow solutions to arise. Now I see being neutral is an essential skill, especially for working with people. It becomes natural to take a moment, a breath, and consider. Being neutral becomes part of who we are and how we behave. It is seminal to and intertwined with other important skills including openness, tolerance, learning, communication and the ability to dialogue in the way described by David Bohm. Bohm used dialogue as a way to experience the “warm fellowship” potential in groups. He found our thinking to be incoherent and only through open dialogue could the underlying whole find expression. (On Dialogue Bohm, published by Routledge, 1996)
Bohm’s ideas inspire and support participation. “A different kind of consciousness is possible among us, a participatory consciousness.” (xiii, On Dialogue) Communication and Team Skills prepare us to participate in dialogue. Being neutral is an introductory level skill.
I first began to teach the concept of being neutral to students in Peer Mediation, Positive Communication, and Team Building. Students understand it as not taking sides, not judging. Being neutral is linked to active listening in which the listener is present and surrounding the speaker with undivided positive attention. Neutrality is predicated on the ability to suspend action and reaction. Again, it is vital to the ability to communicate effectively. It keeps us from being baited into an argument and is linked to Dr. Martin Luther King’s concept of creative non-violence.
All these skills are important for students and adults. Team participation is a way to learn to use these skills and experience their benefit. With team experience, people become more prepared to dialogue and experience solution based participatory consciousness.
Teaming and Dialogue are high leverage solution dynamics to prevent and solve the difficult complex challenges of today: global warming, war, abuse, waste, and destruction of the very planet vital to our species’ existence. They are based on inclusion, participation, and the resultin energy expansion that must be experienced to be appreciated.
Those are my thoughts. I would love to hear yours. What do you think?
I have posted my book, The Power of Teams, for purchase on my website. I hope you will take a look and let me know your feedback. It includes more information on what this article introduces. Teams and Dialogue have similar dynamics; teaming can facilitate Dialogue. The coherence people experience in both Teams and Dialogue are similar to the coherence of molecules in lasers. More on this idea in the future…