Archive for the ‘Peer Relationship’ Category

Master a Book and Become a Peer of the Author

November 24, 2007

A good book deserves an active reading.  The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says.  It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging.

There is a tendency to think that a good book is above the criticism of the average reader.  The reader and the author are not peers.  The author, according to this view, should be subjected to a trial only by a jury of his peers.

There is a certain truth here, of course, but there is also a good deal of nonsense about the impeccability with which books are thus surrounded, and the false piety it produces.  Readers may be like children, in the sense that great authors can teach them, but that does not mean they must not be heard from.

It is true that a book can enlighten its readers, and is in this sense superior to them, should not be criticized by them until they understand it.  When they do, they have elevated themselves almost to equality with the author.  Now they are fit to exercise the rights and privileges of their new position.  Unless they exercise their critical facilities now, they are doing the author an injustice.  He has done what he could to make them his equal.  He deserves that they act like his peers, that they engage in conversation with him, that they talk back.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren

Meet People Where They Are: Avoid Advice-Giver Power Hierarchies

September 14, 2007

Scenario: your friend is unhappy in his job.  You are assertive in your suggestions to him, you tell him: “You need to talk to your boss” or “I want you to interview for this new job.”

Psychologist Carl Rogers warns that this kind of expert advice-giving, though intended to help, actually has the opposite effect.  When confronted with an aggressive push, most people shut down and become even less likely to change.

Rogers practices a different approach.  Rather than suggesting ways for his client to change, he would acknowledge their experiece: “So, you’re unhappy with your job.  That must be difficult.”

Rogers assumes a peer relationship and listens intently.

As Rogers focused on listening and acknowledging his client’s experience, something amazing would happen.  The client would find his own solutions to the problem.  “You know, I don’t like being trapped.  I think I’ll look for a new job.”

When we give advice to someone, we automatically create a power hierarchy.  The advice-giver is superior to the reciepient.  In a decentralized organization this kind of hierarchy is detrimental.

— Extracted from The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom