The economy is great and getting better; the economy is weak and getting worse. My political leaders are heroically voicing my concerns and correcting the nation’s course; my political leaders are a corrupt and incompetent embarrassment on the world stage. The coasts of the United States are populated with political and social elites, snobs who are disconnected with the hard and dangerous truths of American life; within the interior of the United States swell populations of “deplorables” who use complaints about globalization and economic dislocation to mask their racism, xenophobia and self-generated social and educational stagnation.
Our culture and nation are struggling with some powerful and contradictory forces right now. Red state or blue state; Democrat or Republican; Make America Great Again or Resist—as a people we are riled, but oddly enough, we are not talking. We are shouting, lamenting, meeting, posting, gloating, and marching, but we are not actually doing much talking—and certainly not listening—to each other. We seem so firmly and comfortably entrenched in our self-constructed bubbles that we don’t have (or take) the opportunity to actually listen and then talk to people who are or may be different from us.
OKA has vast experience with a number of models and tools that, while not specifically designed to pop our social and cognitive bubbles, happen to empower and give us insight into this very act. Narrative Intelligence, Type and EQ—each of these models gives us a unique approach to help—even provoke us—to see the world differently, to learn, and to live a bubble-free life.
Narrative Intelligence refers to the degree to which we see, understand and use the archetypes or personal stories within which we are each immersed. Your hope and optimism come from your Innocent story; whereas, my caution and sense of personal injury are drawn from my Orphan narrative. Struggle comes from the Warrior, order from the Ruler, and connection from the Lover. We each live stories that give our lives structure and meaning and define the roles, and therefore the intent, of those around us—our supporting cast. It is within these stories that our world views and motives get defined and solidify with emotional resonance. To a large degree, these stories define who we are.
Narrative Intelligence comes from being aware of these archetypes or stories and being able to impact them, influence them, and even change them. The Warrior wants to compete and fight the bad guy, and the Caregiver wants to take care of someone. Shifting from one of these stories to the other will fundamentally change the paradigm of a relationship and the interactions within it. One way to pop your bubble is to know your own narrative for sure (and perhaps even consider the stories of those around you).
Here are some questions designed to provoke and expand your Narrative Intelligence.
- What story would make the incorrect or antagonistic person in front of me actually the protagonist or a sympathetic character (what story would turn this villain into the hero/heroine)?
- What story would bring more agreement and peace?
- What narrative would bring me more power, and more happiness?
Whether you come to Type through the well known MBTI or the newer Pearman assessment, Type is a cognitive model that considers how our brains are hard-wired to collect data and make decisions. At the heart of Type Theory are perception and judgment, and if I am stuck in my bubble, I under-use perception—I don’t collect enough data. Under-using perception leads to my being rigid, unmoved or unmoving, prejudiced and lacking in curiosity.
A Type approach to bubble-busting would include many activities—almost all of them an activation of perception.
- Schedule time to be around and interact with people you don’t know—a meeting of a cause that is new to you, a celebration of an event you don’t know or fully understand, or a community gathering in which you are not (yet) invested. Part of moving outside your bubble is a scheduling challenge; make the time to do it.
- Ask someone you don’t know well (and perhaps with whom you disagree) what actions she has taken in the past to address a disagreement or challenge she has had. Show openness to learn from her best practices.
- When in a disagreement with someone, imagine what that world and this argument looks and sounds like from his perspective? What does it feel like? What do your ideas, suggestions and points of view look and sound like from his side of this discussion?
- Read, watch or listen to the news from a source you tend to find challenging with the aim of being able to sum up the logic of the argument being made—objectively and dispassionately. If the essence of the proposal/argument is emotional, discern the root logical cause of the emotional response, and try to understand the argument, the proposal, the motive and the point of view (as if you were a historian trying to understand a civilization far removed from you in time).
Emotional Intelligence is the behavioral face we show the world—what we look, sound and act like around others, and how we conduct ourselves in the world. The EQ-i model of Emotional Intelligence is comprised of 16 defined components of our behavior. Of these 16, three specifically focus on data-gathering and lead directly to bubble-popping: Empathy, Reality Testing, and Flexibility.
In drastic short supply in our world today, Empathy is the curiosity, concern and sensitivity that we devote to others—our desire and active attempt to wonder about and truly consider the world from another’s intellectual and emotional point of view. Empathy gets you out of your bubble through the yearning to understand others.
- Practice Empathy:
First of all, seek out places in which you’ll be around people with whom you have differences and disagreements. Push yourself to initiate a conversation within which you seek to understand an idea, a current event or a disagreement from the other person’s point of view. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Repeat the answer back—“so you’re saying that . . . “ until the other person agrees that you have heard them and fully understand both the content and emotional subtext of their position. And then thank them for the insight. If he/she is interested in hearing your point of view, you may have the same conversation in the other direction, but the point of this action is in-take only.
Reality Testing, unique to the EQ-i model of Emotional Intelligence, refers to your ability to use reality and facts as the basis of your feelings as opposed to letting your feelings dictate or suggest the narrative that you construct—“I feel angry; therefore, you must have intended something offensive.” Reality Testing exercises a steady stream of realistic data that continue to challenge and expand my understanding and offer a check on my emotional state—often de-escalating it and calming it down, so Reality Testing’s ability to burst my isolating bubble is tremendous.
- Practice Reality Testing:
Practice telling a story or recounting a personal event without exaggerating any details, binding yourself to only verifiable, specific facts. Ask others who know the story to verify your account, correcting any over-statements or embellishments that may have occurred.
Flexibility is the ability and tendency to take in new data and change your mind—adapting and even changing your feelings. The ability to actually change your mind is the ultimate bubble-obliterating act, so nothing is more valuable in this effort than Flexibility.
- Practice Flexibility:
On an issue where your opinion is fixed, consider at least two other positions or points of view to the extent that you could carry that side of the argument in a debate. If this kind of brainstorming is difficult for you to do on your own, conduct a brainstorming session with a colleague or work group to generate at least two other options to a problem, conflict or issue. This will generate new data for you to consider and positon you as the facilitator of this change.
A call to burst our bubbles
The degree to which we are each digging in, disconnecting and doubling down has put our culture on paths that are pulling us apart. Success would find more of us moving toward each other. The most urgent call at this point in our collective story is not to make ourselves understood, but to truly seek to understand those around us—to get outside the comfort of our bubbles and to stretch to a new understanding. We need to burst our bubbles and take in more data.
No matter what tool or model you most like or use, it likely supports the effort of deeper, more open, more intentional connection to and with each other. Whatever tool you use and whatever action you take, pop your bubble—it just may save the world.
Interested in learning more about these tools or approaches?
OKA can help across the range of needs. We can:
- Certify your internal team to use the EQ-i or the Pearman Personality Integrator
- Design and Deliver custom development programs from your team
- Provide Train the Trainer Narrative Intelligence Workshops
- Provide advanced workshops for those already certified in the EQ-i
Please contact Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more.