Besides this simple acknowledgement of what is, there are a number of practical tools to help generate structural coherence through Generative Dialogue, by uncovering, and engaging with, differences in personal processing.
Simple questioning tools, for instance, can unveil the hidden side of language – the precise and unique internal representation that accompanies almost every word we speak.
Normally, we are like icebergs to each other and even to ourselves, not in the temperature of our relations, but in the great hidden depths of our private minds which are only hinted at by our outer expression and behaviour.
Our guesses from the few hints and suggestions offered by a person’s actions, gestures, and words are often shadows of the truth, widely distorted, crudely simplified, and grossly inaccurate. Too easily we create the equivalent of cardboard cut-outs from flesh and blood people.
So often we hear statements like ‘I can’t understand why John does xyz’. It is true, we do not understand. And full understanding is unlikely unless we come to inhabit the other’s internal world completely. And this we may never do, although we can go far further than we have done by becoming aware firstly of the unique contours to our own maps and secondly of the amazing richness and variety in those of others. It is surprising how easy and enjoyable it is to explore these differences.
A few questions skilfully asked, such as ‘What do you mean by x?’ can be tremendously helpful, particularly once it is clearly realized how uniquely experience is stored in the mind and how crudely language skates like some rudimentary shorthand over the rich resonances of personal experience.
Terms such as ‘happiness’, ‘commitment’, ‘responsibility’, or the ‘organization’ have a kind of dictionary meaning which, while by no means common to everyone, generally permits a feeling of understanding and being understood in conversation. But such words also have an intensely personal imaginative representation that easily precipitates misunderstanding. For words have associated pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations – stirrings in the stomach, energy on the inside, murmurings in the mind, expanding and contracting vistas in our inner space.
And not only the major terms by which we define our existence, but the little ones too. Words such as ‘I’, ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘later’ have a unique, concrete set of connotations beyond our usual conscious reach.
Such words, just husks in ordinary communication, conceal a network of associations, images, and intimations. These associations to a large extent create and define the nature, quality, and characteristics of our personal map. And if awareness of the richness of our own map is one avenue to structural coherence, awareness of the variety and qualities of the maps of others helps open collective coherence.