Ego-unaffected discussions

Here is an idea I had a little while ago and played around with other activists in my household. I hope other people may find it useful for inclusivity and getting the most out of discussions, or just a fun thing to try.

For me I find that this style makes communication feel a lot safer and I am able to relax and express a range of divergent ideas with people that I would otherwise overlook if ego was used for more or less than necessary for communication of confidence.

The purpose of this technique is to explain the confidence of an idea in terms that matter to the ego, so as to enable us to be unaffected by the negative social consequences of over or under use of the ego.

As social creatures that are embodied with ego, we instinctively draw on it when talking to others to a greater or lesser degree depending on how close we are to the topic. We can use our egos more effectively when we apply them only to the extent that they are useful for communication of confidence.

There are four ways that thoughts can reference ego. The thought can be:

A. Fully formed, or something you are willing to put your ego behind. “Stake your reputation” on. This means that you’re confident enough to have your ego bruised by the shame of getting it wrong.

B. Partially formed, something that you think might be useful to share to the extent that it could be used to mesh with other B thoughts and eventually become A thoughts later on. “Half baked” ideas. There’s no shame in sharing these flimsy ideas.

C. Negative. You’re sharing it to explicitly to illustrate something that is contrary to the objective. You wouldn’t put your ego behind this idea at all but it’s still worth mentioning to help explain something. The kind of idea you’d preface with “I don’t agree with this but …”

D. Unshared thoughts. No-one else knows what these are, by definition. But we can talk about the fact that they exist. They are socially isolated thoughts. Are they ego centric or egoless? Either probably. This category is itself is a B thought.

Examples

“'Here’s an A thought: the media is the weakest part of the system in the Australian context - we should target the media almost exclusively.”

“Was that really an A thought?”

“Yep. I fused a couple B thoughts an’ out it popped”.

“You’re weird”.

“Mainstream journalism is the most trusted source of information because they have the most well produced and polished productions. This shows they have the most money - with all that money they can hire the best, most honest journalists. That was a C thought, I don’t agree with it”.

Why is this useful?

Some people are socialised to only speak up when they have an A thought. This is a waste of perfectly useful B thoughts. When someone who is socialised to share B thoughts occupies a talking space with someone socialised to share only A thoughts, there can be patterns of confusion, derisiveness/impatience, hurt and defensiveness. This could be easily avoided if the categories were made explicit, or if we had the language to clarify the thoughts during the ‘confusion’ stage, before any further negative social outcomes occur.

Other related techniques to improve psychological safety are to explicitly state “no question is a stupid question, no thought is a stupid thought” at the start of the session and remind people throughout.

In combination with the existing hand signals we might want to consider A, B and C when working together - just putting it out there and writing it here as a reference. Any feedback appreciated, happy to jam this with other ideas.

I’m a newbie to regen and activism so please let me know if this area is already covered by existing material.

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