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Sender: Rosa Zubizarreta
Subject: Re: a question
Date: Thu, May 22, 2014
Msg: 101011

Hi Bill,

I have been "lurking" occasionally as well. Your comment/question has drawn me out.

From reading the article, I would imagine that the "backfire effect" is activated most, in situations where people are feeling some sort of threat to themselves or their identity, as a result of the new information that is being presented.

However, when people are *not* feeling threatened, it seems that there is a very powerful evolutionary drive to make sense of new information and engage in complex thinking. Unfortunately, this circuitry shuts down when we are feeling threatened in some way. David Rock talks about this in detail, in his book "Your Brain at Work".

Attending to this circuitry is the motivation underlying my work with groups: "Maximizing creative tension, *while minimizing interpersonal anxiety*".

The best way I know of doing this, is helping each person feel genuinely heard. Being joined and understood by at least one other person in a public setting, markedly reduces anxiety and helps people shift into a mode of inquiry. As a result, it's highly effective for "facilitating more open-minded, more transpartisan behavior in deliberative settings."

An essential element of this involves reconceptualizing the role of the facilitator, to highlight the significance and import of active empathy. It's not so much about 'being impartial', than about being able to "take all sides".

Interestingly, there seems to be recent shift in the world of mediation in this direction; the technical term is "multipartiality", and there is a growing awareness of its value and effectiveness.

with all best wishes,


*Rosa Zubizarreta*

*Diapraxis: Facilitating Creative Collaboration *

*Celebrating my new book, "From Conflict to Creative Collaboration: A user's guide to Dynamic Facilitation" *

*National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation this October 17-19 in the DC metro area!* *Learn more at -- and follow the event on Facebook at *

On Tue, May 20, 2014 at 12:53 PM, Bill Potapchuk wrote:

> Greetings. I've been a lurker since the launch of this list and have > appreciated all of the deep conversation. > > > > I have a questions/comment. > > > > In my work, I have been interested in the growing literature on why we are > hard wired to not change our minds (See >, for example) and that we filter data to confirm what we believe and > ignore that which is contrary to our beliefs. > > > > In other spheres of human activity, there is growing understanding of how > attention to framing and small cues make it more likely for a person to do > something that is different from what they would normally do. The > something might be honoring a commitment (I will do that by . . . ), making > a healthy food choice, saving money, continuing a fitness regime, taking > actions to facilitate one's health, or any other activity where, in short > term, it is easier to do something (the default position) that is not in > one's long term interest. A brief, popularized version of this field of > study can be found here: > > > > > This field of behavioral economics seeks to "understand why people often > make choices that do not align with a rational assessment of the decision's > conse­quences." In many ways, I think it is hard for individuals to act > with transpartisanship (or empathy or seeking to learn or etc.) in mind > because their default position is to act the way one always acts. > > > > *Has anybody been using the guidance from the behavioral economics (or any > other field) to explore what kinds of prompts one might use to facilitate > more open-minded, more transpartisan behavior in deliberative settings?* > > > > *A note*: I am asking this question, in part, because I was noticing my > own reaction to some of the language in this discussion. Someone talked > about, for example, how transforming one's perspective requires the ability > and willingness to learn. I found myself saying (to myself) I know where I > stand on certain issues (like human rights issues) and do not need anyone > to tell me to learn. So, rather than considering opening my mind and > learning, I found myself stiffening and digging in. And I know from my > work, that stiffening and closing down is not a unique reaction to a > suggestion or request to do something differently. I had a similar > reaction to cap and prioritize. > > > > It seems like work on transpartisanship can increase its impact if we > develop strategies which help people respond differently than their default > response and overcome their natural inclination to not change their mind. > > > > Best . . . bill > > > > PS Michael, thanks for putting together the summary! >

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