Giving permission to the opposition

In this blog series, I'm going to focus on opposition to educational reform. The underlying principles and strategies also apply to broader reforms (government, political, agrarian, economic policy, etc.) They also can be used with very localized reforms (classroom, teamwork, family, etc.). In each posting, I will offer a different way to give permission to those who oppose reform. You can either accept this permission for yourself or give it to others.

When we feel opposed, we lack permission from our opponents. We feel coerced, dismissed or devalued. There appears to be no way to trust the others, reconsider their stances or combine our approaches. We act provoked, defensive and closed minded when permission is withheld. The next thing we know, we're taking offense of the obvious offenders, blaming others for our unhappiness and making enemies of potential allies.

When permission is given, we feel understood. We are free to reflect on our own positional stance and those pressures that necessitate a standoff. We feel we are in the presence of someone who is not going to antagonize us, pounce on our thinking or embarrass us in front of others. We begin to trust them, reconsider our stances and see how we might realize the best of both approaches. We become less apprehensive in the context created by the permission given to us.

We cannot give permission when we are afraid of our opposition. We instinctively prepare to fight or flight rather that consider our effect on others. It feels urgently justified to argue, antagonize and shoot down the other viewpoint.

We can give permission when we rise above the situation and expand our horizons. We play at a level above the presenting problem. We see the wisdom in having the effect that comes about by giving permission. We anticipate the possibility of "winning without a battle" as we fail to give the opponents the argument they're looking for. We replace our fears with strategic insights and visionary intentions. We create an experience of freedom before it's evident in the situation with our opposition.

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