Ignorance is bliss. The older I become, the more I want to believe that. Sometimes, we know TOO much. Sometimes, we go off, half-cocked, passionately swinging, ignorant as the day is long.
Oh the trouble we could avoid if everyone moved with good intentions and factually correct information. We are left to gather our own facts in life. The sources and resources we use to educate ourselves (or not) have a great bearing on why and what we think, and in turn, how we react to the world. “But the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance, ” (Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg).
Strong, effective, open communication is the foundation to empowerment and a trusting, healthy relationship. In its absence, individuals are left to surmise, second-guess, and create wildly imaginative scenarios to navigate their worlds. You’re drawing your own conclusions now, right?
Sobering examples comprise The Presidents Club: Inside the world’s most exclusive fraternity by Time Magazine’s Executive Editor Nancy Gibbs and Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy. The exclusive fraternity happens to be former United States Presidents.
Despite being a political science major this book taught me more than I wanted to know about how much US history has been shaped by male egos, the desire for election and legacy, inclusion and exclusivity. “It’s hard to imagine a more obviously fascinating prism through which to look at American history… ex-Presidents have a penchant for morphing from consummate team players into irascible rogues, sometimes within weeks, as they strive both to remain relevant and to shape their own legacies,” (Amazon review).
“…it was Ellsberg…who tried to warn Kissinger about what happens when a new president and his team suddenly come into office and have access to the top secret intelligence reports. “First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information, and by having it all – so much! Incredible! – suddenly available to you,” he told Kissinger after the election. “But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t, and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess.” You’ll be amazed that the insiders tolerated the bleatings of the outsiders without divulging what they knew, he explained, and you’ll feel like a fool. But soon, “after you’ve started reading all this daily intelligence input…which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget there ever was a time when you didn’t have it, and you’ll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don’t…and that all those other people are fools.” The warning captured perfectly how presidents become isolated, their circle of trust constrained by knowledge that is theirs alone.”
Consider the ageless friction and tension in relationships. The level of conflict is in exact proportion to how much (if any) detail you choose to conceal or provide, the level of trust in the relationship, the source of the information, its impact on the receiver, and what your intentions and motivations are. Information is a powerful tool. It can save lives, nations, reputations. It can destroy them. Information and feedback go hand-in-hand with transformative change, good or bad. Does all this make navigating the world in a blissful fog tempting?
“When the culture of an organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and who’s in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of individuals or communities, you can be certain that shame is systemic, money drives ethics, and accountability is dead. This is true in all systems, from corporation, nonprofits, universities, and governments, to churches, schools, families, and sports programs. If you think back on any major incidents fueled by cover-ups, you’ll see this pattern,” (Daring Greatly by Brene Brown).
Whether the provider or receiver, avoid the use of personal ego; it can eliminate conflict. Avoid the use of your vivid imagination; save it for writing great fiction. With intention use a rational focus and sensibility for all things good and kind, for the well-being of all that is true and good. That’s the power tool that moves the world forward with honesty and integrity.
~From the desk of Becky Morlok~Share with a Friend or Colleague