Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Rule of Six

Everybody thinks what they think is the right way to think,
because nobody wants to think the way they think is wrong...

Isn’t that the truth?

Reminds me of a sign I have in my office: 

Those of you who know me, know this is NOT the way I think (I just got a kick out of the sign at Hobby Lobby). 

Another one of my favorites:

Hence, the Rule of Six (which I mentioned in Saving Gracie).

The Rule of Six works like this:

For any and every perceivable situation think of at least six explanations that may explain that situation. There are probably sixty, but if you can come up with six, this will sensitize you to the varieties of perception and may prevent you from fixating on the first plausible explanation as “the truth.”

Milt Markewitz – Appreciative Sustainability

“Disciplining yourself to think in this way --- maybe this is happening, but on the other hand, maybe that is happening --- keeps you from being rigid in your thinking, which in my tradition is considered to be extraordinarily counterproductive.”


In a parking lot you observe someone pulling into a handicapped spot. Upon exiting their car, you notice no notable disability. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

1.      Possibly, they’re lazy and have no business parking in a handicapped spot

Okay, that’s one. Now, see if you can come up with another. Maybe something like:

2.      They have a  pace-maker and have been having heart-palpitations that day
3.      They have juvenile arthritis and have battled excruciating movements every day of their life
4.      They are undergoing radiation treatment
5.      Just had the go-ahead from an orthopedic surgeon to remove the boot they’ve been wearing for the past 8 weeks
6.      Are in the recovery process of open-heart surgery

That’s six and if you’re like me, the list could continue.

A personal example:

Several years ago I went with Rich back to his hometown, McHenry, Illinois. We stayed with his mother and one day while she was out running errands, I decided to clean her refrigerator and freezer. In my mind, what I was doing was an act of kindness and something I could do to help my 84 yr. old mother-in-law. Pleased with my endeavor after spending over an hour on the project, I told her what I had done upon her return.

Was she pleased? 

No. In her eyes, she thought I thought she didn’t keep her refrigerator clean enough and saw me as stepping in and almost insulting her by tidying up her mess.

Was she wrong?

Was I wrong?

We just had different perceptions of the same situation…

More examples to think about:
·         someone you know passes by and doesn’t speak
·         teenager lashes out when mom simply inquires “how was school today?” (example from Saving Gracie)
·         someone speeding down the highway

So, try this little mental experiment…

The next time you hear someone making a statement, rather adamantly, like “that’s ridiculous” or “that’s not important,” try silently adding “in your opinion” to the end of their statement.

I’ve found this exercise softens my perception of what conclusions my mind might jump to because more often than not- 

Everybody thinks what they think is the right way to think
Because nobody wants to think the way they think is wrong