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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tools to examine a politician -- or anyone

What can we see

Oh would some power the gift give us, To see ourselves as others see us. Robert Burns(1)

 I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. -- Galileo Galilei
Johari window is a technique developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955. It is used in therapy to help people better understand their relationships with self and others.

Visualize a window with four panes. One represents what we let others see about us. The second is the area for what know about ourselves but (try to) hide from others. The third collects what others know about us that we don’t. And the final pane represents information neither we nor others know about us -- an example would be the subconscious mind.

Use it to sort what we know

The window is used in self-help training, but it will also help us observe Costa Mesa politics from a new perspective. For example, let’s consider Costa Mesa’s Mayor.

The Mayor spends lots of time either involved with City Hall work or visiting constituents to answer questions and help solve neighborhood problems. He adamantly insists on keeping the City’s expenses below income. This is Pane 1, what he wants us to see.

He is involved with a large number of compassionate organizations, but, and this is unusual for a politician, he keeps his involvement pretty quiet – and that’s Pane 2, what he isn't revealing about himself. Of course there’s much more we don't know on Pane 2 – for everyone.

Pane 3 is more problematic; we can observe his speeches and speculate about some inner characteristics that might drive his choice of words and tone – see (Costa Mesa Brief). This quickly becomes a matter of opinion.  And Pane 4 is hidden, by definition.

Another consideration

The word choice and tone are part of both the Mayor’s and the listeners’ “Perceptual Filters,” which are listed as thoughts/feelings, values and beliefs. Some of these we can deduce but most would be guesses.
How Perceptual Filters work: we have an idea, but choose our words and tone (and perhaps typeface) because of our feelings, thoughts, values and beliefs. The modified message is filtered by the receiver’s Perceptual Filters, changing it further. Thus, the idea received may be far different from the idea intended.

Filters vary for the same message

If a visiting resident of New Hampshire observed the Mayor’s speeches and interactions she would develop a Perceptual Filter that would color whatever else she read or heard, but it would probably not be a strong filter – she’d be open to messages contrary to what she first believed.

On the other hand, consider a local commenter who brags (“that’s how I roll”) about his puerile name-distortions (Poop for Popp, Colon for Colin, for example. He has used insults, innuendos and labeling to attack the Mayor for years. So, his Perceptual Filters will probably block any incoming messages about the Mayor’s humility, compassion, or competence, regardless of their clarity or simplicity.

Tools that can help self-awareness

The Johari Window and Perceptual Filters give us another perspective we can use as we watch Costa Mesa politics. And, maybe knowing about these tools will help us examine our own filters and think about what’s on our own Pane 3.

(1) “Aphorisms & Quotes,” collected by F. W. Elwell

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