Why, What, and How

Can asking some questions, like WHY, WHAT, and HOW helps us get past the current divisive moment we find ourselves in?  Yes.

I am a very opinionated person. I am an active citizen in a democracy. I take my responsibility to be aware of what is happening and to weigh in on solutions very seriously.  We clearly live in a very divisive time. And while I could and have opined on how we are being conditioned to not listen to each other. What I want to talk about today - is HOW we can actually start bridging these divides. 

All of us need to take responsibility for our side of this problem and engage with compassion and reason to fix it. In other words, what we all need is a big heaping dose of humanism and a willingness to ask ourselves and others - some questions. Reasonably and compassionately.

I have a lot of friends from a variety of political viewpoints. What I notice when we argues is that we rarely disagree on WHAT we think should happen. We are disagreeing about HOW to fix the problem. But we don’t know that we agree on WHAT because we are so busy disagreeing on the HOW.

When we disagree on HOW – it's easy to assume the other person doesn't agree on WHAT or maybe they don't even care. But in most cases - we actually do agree on WHAT - we just don't know that. And I find this to be true on even the most contentious issues - whether we are talking about abortion or immigration or health care or even racism! 

The fix is to realize when we are disagreeing on anything, we are probably disagreeing about HOW. To get us to rationally discussion HOW we need to get back to the WHAT by asking WHY.

WHY do we want to do whatever it is that we are discussing? WHAT do we really want to accomplish by doing that? We will almost always get to an agreement on WHAT ideally we want to happen. We are then able to have a rational discussion on HOW to do it.

For instance, I was discussing the death penalty with someone just the other day. WHY do they want the death penalty? WHAT exactly does society look like if they fix whatever problem it is they are hoping the death penalty will fix?  Chances are - I agree with them on WHAT it looks like when we fix the crime problem. The debate over the death penalty isn't a debate about WHAT - which is a society without violence. It's a debate about HOW - to create that society. Once we understand that - we can have a rational and compassionate and science based discussion on HOW.

The method? 

Ask WHY to fully understand your ideal WHAT. Only then should you start discussing HOW.

When you are fighting with someone over HOW – end the fight by asking WHY questions about the HOWs to understand and get consensus on the WHAT. Once there is consensus on WHAT – the arguments usually go away.

This method – works – for work, politics, religion and - well - EVERYTHING! 

How do we get there – by reminding ourselves that most humans actually do agree on the WHAT.  So don’t let disagreements and arguments over HOW derail discussions or cause unnecessary divisions. We really do have more in common than we realize.

Relevant programs/books:

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