Even as a huge fan of Socrates, it took me a while to really understand the method behind his “I know nothing” madness. I mean, can you imagine walking into a meeting at work and saying that? Or responding as such when somebody asks where you stand on Trump administration? It’s just so counterintuitive. As a member of society armed with ever more social media tools, you are expected to have PLENTY of opinion!
Throughout the Platonic dialogs, Socrates merely asked questions from the place of curiosity to find out how a particular strong belief applied to various aspects of life; Essentially testing the concept of how you do one thing is how you do everything.
Consequently, he drove people nuts, because even without any judgment on the part of Socrates, the questions themselves exposed how short sighted these beliefs really were. Since opinions unfortunately tend to be ego based, most of us default to lashing out on the person that asks the question, rather than admitting that we might be wrong or might need to adopt a different path or worse yet … realizing we need to do a whole lot more growing than we thought:)
And so initially I thought that Socrates just used this technique to lower his subject’s defenses in order to make the sting of hypocrisy that much more humiliating. Back then, I admired Socrates’ skill, because my ego wanted to punk people out in order to feel better about myself!
Knowing what I know now, I realize that discarding all judgment is the only way I have a fighting chance at fully understanding where the other person is coming from. In other words, I can’t walk in the other person’s shoes, if I insist on not taking off my preconceived notion boots.
Also, as much as I love Socrates, I want to make sure that my questions do not to provoke people. This doesn’t mean that I abandon what I believe is absolute. No way. Instead, it merely means that I want to meet people where they are at and let the journey take us wherever it may without the interference of expectations or limits of binary thinking. Perhaps to put it in slightly more recognizable words: seek to understand rather to be understood.
So what is your satisfaction level with how you show up in your conversations? Is there an opportunity to tune down the opinion level?