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Competition Stifles Encouragement

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Competition can stifle encouragement and limits thinking, according to Nancy Kline in her book, "Time To Think." The essence of our mediation practice is about working in collaboration to help our clients find the best solutions for their family.
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Competition stifles encouragement and limits thinking.
To be 'better than' is not necessarily to be good.

It is one thing to ask you to cultivate ease, to enjoy quiet, to communicate respect, to stop interrupting and let people finish, to give equal turns even in hierarchy, to help other do their own thinking.  These I realise may seem iconoclastic enough.  But there is just one more small thing.  Well, actually, not so small.  OK, true, it is possibly the most singularly worshipped centrepiece of industrialised society.  But to examine it just might improve the quality of thinking beyond anything achieved in the past 200 years.

Consider the possibility that competition is not all it’s cracked up to be.  

Competition?  The driving force behind capitalism and sport and technical progress?  I know.  But think about it this way.  Competition between people ensures only one thing:  that if you win, you will have done a better job at whatever it is than the other person did.  That does not mean that you will have done a good job, just a better one.  To compete does not ensure certain excellence.  It just ensures comparative success.  And the problem with that is that it distracts us from examining what good might actually be.

Just because you have written a better report than Richard does not mean you have written a good report.  Just because you have won more court cases that Allyson does not mean you have served justice well.  Just because your company has created a safer drug than the competition does not mean that you have protected the public.   To have more customers than, to earn more money than, to make better grades than, to do ‘more anything than’ does not mean that what you are doing in the first place is good.  Until we can let go of having to compete, it will be nearly impossible to ask the question, ‘What would good be?’

Competition Kills Encouragement

Competition in a Thinking Environment is particularly hazardous, Competition between thinkers fractures your fortitude to ask the questions nobody wants asked.  It keeps your attention on the rival, not on what you really think.

A Thinking Environment sets up a wholehearted, unthreatened search for good ideas.  In order for a person to be able to think that well, with that much freshness and mettle, they have to be encouraged by the listener without smelling a bead of envy or competition from them.  In a Thinking Environment encouragement is magic.

But if you as the listener fell competitive with the thinker, you cannot communicate this level of encouragement.  Competing with the thinker, you may do any number of things to prevent them from being brilliant.  You may steer them away from good ideas by suggesting they concentrate somewhere else, or by failing to listen well, caught up as you are in your own jealousy of the potential praise the thinker might receive for their good ideas.  As a competitive listener you may curl your lip or shake your head or just look away in order to hold the person back from bright ideas.

Conversely, if the person thinking is competing with you, trying to seem more creative or clever than you, they will not be able to pursue their own ideas fully or honestly.  They will be drawn back from the edge of an idea for fear it will not impress you.  Competition of that sort will discourage their thinking for themselves.

A competitive listener is a thinking inhibitor.  In fact ‘competitive listener’ is a serious oxymoron.

Try listening to someone next time without a shred of competition.  Champion that person as a thinker.  Be selflessly thrilled with the quality of their ideas.  See what that feels like.  Expect the same non-competitive attention from them in return for your thinking.

When competition between people drops away, everyone can reach for the stars.  It is safe finally to venture out, even to dream again. 

When people are not competing with each other to be best, it is possible to think all the way to something good.