The Book

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Introduction

This book was written because many problems in society are addressed without a full understanding of the underlying basis of those problems. I believe that most disputes—be they interpersonal, inter-group, intergovernmental, or international—can be addressed through means other than coercion, withdrawal, or capitulation. Even disputes of a technical nature can be resolved if the correct tools are available. Since society will never be free of problems and confrontations, perhaps we might as well learn to deal with discord in a little bit better way.

Arguments and problems are the result when opposing views clash. When the proponents of one side review their facts and their logic, they will likely conclude that they are factually correct and logically consistent, and thus must be “correct.” As a result of the first conclusion, they deduce the other side must be irrational or a sophist. Of course, the second side goes through the same exercise and concludes their opponent is clearly wrong, and cannot understand how their rational position can even be questioned. Disagreements around a dining table, in a boardroom, among teachers, on the topic of pornography or abortion, anywhere…always indicates people are at least momentarily in conflict. Most conflicts can be solved fairly easily if both sides are willing to listen to each other and negotiate solutions. But that is not always the case.

It is my opinion that when disagreements appear to be intractable, they are frequently due to co-linear thinking—meaning the two sides believe they are at opposite ends of one line; a single road that leads from Point A to Point B. But such a vision is often limited, especially when agreement is difficult to obtain. What the opponents do not realize is that two lines and two separate issues are involved. They assume they are arguing with each other, when in fact, they are arguing past each other. They may be using the same words, but communication has somehow failed. Their interpretations are biased in different ways and unless they get off the line the best they can do is accomplish a modified compromise somewhere along that one straight path.

Through years of private experimentation using my own employees, neighbors, family, and the world at large as my guinea pigs, I found that typically each side was unaware their underlying issues did not coincide. My experimentation led me to discover that one line of discord could be divided into two separate points of view. By crossing the newly separated viewpoints at right angles, I could create a four-quadrant figure and use this terrain expansion to decipher and resolve most conflicts that crossed my path. I called the new cross-axis format “The Area of Enlightenment” and I found that this graphical representation aided—even forced—disclosure.

The Area of Enlightenment cross-axis method of analysis allows the examination of problems using an expanded playing field. Where the original problem was locked into a co-linear , two-step, black and white, yes and no, or right and wrong clash, the quadrant method educates and helps us to make better informed decisions. When the underlying points of disagreement are exposed, it allows people of good intention to learn about and potentially understand their opponent’s point of view. Two opposing views immediately become four possibilities of further understanding. It often then becomes clear where each party is correct, and where each party is wrong.

When adversaries understand the underlying problem more clearly, resolution becomes possible. Part of understanding the problem means classifying the players and assigning them to a quadrant. By applying the Area of Enlightenment method to some of the more interesting social and personal problems of our times, it is possible to learn a little more about why there is so much controversy. The examples in this book will hopefully help the reader learn how to select the most appropriate attributes of their problems and uncover the core beliefs that lie below the surface of the conflict, the argument, or the dilemma. By stepping through numerous and varied examples, I intend to facilitate my reader’s ability to solve problems not specifically dealt with in this book. If you find a clever solution to a problem using the Area of Enlightenment technique, or if you have a tough problem that does not seem to have a solution, please let me know. We welcome feedback through our website: www.aofe.us or www.aofe.org.


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