Binary vs. Beach Ball Thinking

First of all, thanks to all new followers of the Collaborative Compound.  I appreciate each and every one of you coming to read what I’ve got to say.  Today’s post covers the current government shutdown.  I will not be discussing this through a political lens; rather I think it prudent to talk about things from a conflict resolution standpoint and use the current government crisis as a means to further discussion of how to resolve your personal issues, no matter where they lie.  This is a positive focus for a positive blog, so let’s keep the train rolling.

First, a bit on Robert Irvine’s “Restaurant Express.”  The press campaign is finally picking up, and I’m pleased to see Food Network get behind this show so heavily.  Working with Food’s press team is a dream experience, and to see professionals of that caliber in action is a testament to their abilities and the quality of staff the Food Network has.

The show also has a website now.  You can visit it here:

With that covered, now on to the day’s topic…

Congress refuses to compromise, despite the pleas of Americans everywhere.  The United States is on the brink of defaulting on its debts for the first time in history.  Social Security Disability cases aren’t being heard in courts.  Cancer research trials for children are closing their doors.  Every where you turn, someone else is losing a job or getting “furloughed” because our government has shut down.

Interestingly enough, no one wants to shoulder or accept blame for this issue.  Ideological thinking runs on both sides of the aisle very similar to this model: “I’m right.  They’re wrong.  Why can’t they accept that, take what I say as fact, and then we can all move on with our lives?  By not taking my word as gospel on this, it’s the other side’s fault we’re getting closer and closer to collapse.  If they would just compromise, then we’d all be better off.”  This is a fine example of what I call “binary thinking,” or the use of a worldview that sees conflict issues in limited terms.  The better way to solve such problems is to apply “beach ball thinking,” or a view that sees a rounded, multicolored, multi-textured layer of the problem.

Most of you reading this blog are familiar with binary code.  This system of ones and zeros is the basis for how computers function–it serves as either an “on” or “off” switch for something.  This is a standard method of thinking for us in daily life–we either accept a proposition as true or not, we believe x is right while y is wrong, and so on.  This is done, I believe, as yet another mental heuristic to prevent information overload.  It’s also basic logic with which we are indoctrinated at some level–either something is true, or something isn’t.

Conflicts aren’t necessarily governed by this level of thinking.  It is entirely possible that two parties can be right in their views, and both sides hold equally valid beliefs.  We dismiss this, though, because of our role in the conflict–it’s us versus them, one side versus another.  We cannot give ourselves the option in an adversarial model to think whether the other guy may be right in the current struggle.  If we are to do this, however, what implications does it hold for our views on conflicts and how to resolve them?

I propose that conflicts need to be handled with “beach ball thinking.”  This is a level of thinking that realizes conflicts, like beach balls, are rounded in nature, without any one defined surface.  They are often different colors, and if you touch a beach ball you might see different textures at work.  If you apply this level of thinking to a conflict, you begin to see there is no one defined “side” to a situation that is right or wrong.  All sides are valid in a beach ball.  All sides have some relevance to the structure as a whole.  Every level of color and texture to a conflict brings with it the possibility of adding more layers to the discussion–and therefore more possibilities for successful resolution of the conflict.

If you adopt this level of thinking, be prepared to realize all sides to a conflict are valid.  This does not mean you have to concede and say the other side is right–you just have to realize the other party’s point of view is just as valid as yours.  You can both be on different surface areas of the beach ball.  If you can look at the conflict from this perspective, you gain new insights on why the opposing party has the views they do.  You will gain some understanding–and perhaps compassion–for their views, however incorrect you may think them to be at first.  When you adopt “beach ball thinking,” finally, you begin to see the views of the other party as a suitable tool for reframing the discussion in a manner that fits your goals, and you can begin to craft a solution that becomes win-win for all parties involved.

Don’t necessarily abandon binary thinking.  Just learn to look at the world in a whole new light–one which accepts more than ones and zeros, and allows for more color to your views.  When you realize the dispute is rounded in nature, rather than flat, you begin the process for conflict resolution empowered like never before.


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