Black and White - Paradigm Shifting

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

“Let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign

of weakness or a sell-out.” ~ Paul Kagame

When we have conflict or are unable to move ideas forward it can be because we have fundamentally different views of the situation. Having a different view does not in itself mean there will be conflict or that you are unable to move forward it’s that each party has taken a stand or chosen a view that they are unable or unwilling to move from.

Changing paradigms is a way to - see another point of view; Improve Relationships; Become open to new possibilities; Get better results; Make change easier.

Alan Watts was a philosopher and ‘popularizer’ of Eastern Philosophy for a Western Audience. Alan Watts used to put it this way: every parent and every society teaches its new members a game called The Game of Black and White. The main rule of this game is that White Must Win. So, we divide the world into appropriate and inappropriate, desirable and undesirable, good and evil, okay and not okay. What goes into each pile varies from person to person. And, one person's desirable pile is often another's undesirable pile.

This black & white approach can create resistance to change. What goes into the black or white box is completely arbitrary. It means for someone to accept something it has to fall into their ‘white’ box.

So how can you help someone change their paradigm (or change your own)? Understand that by nature we all resist the bad or the black hoping that white will triumph. It’s an automatic response. In all pairs of opposites: good/bad, here/there, up/down, me/not me, and all the rest — each side of the polarity depends on the other. Anything you think is good is good only in relation to something you think is bad.

-So when one group of people resists change and another group embraces that same change it is partly because of each person's map of reality i.e. what they see as good or bad, easy or hard, change and it’s impact of them.

-Trying to get rid of all the bad, for instance, just isn't going to happen, any more than you could get rid of selling without also getting rid of buying.

Reframing using influencing skills is one way to help change paradigms.

Blaise Pascal said, “Words differently arranged have a different meaning and meanings differently arranged have different effects”.

I read a story about Thomas Watson Sr., the first President of IBM. A young worker had made a mistake that lost IBM $1 M in business. She was called in to the President’s office and as she walked in said, “Well, I guess you have called me here to fire me.” “Fire you?” Mr. Watson replied, “I just spent $1 M on your education!” Wow, isn’t that a more resourceful way to frame the situation.