JEFFREY TOBIN: Theory of 'evilution'
May 12, 2013 3:00 AM

One thing I know for sure is that no one can know anything for sure.

Certainly, there are plenty of ideas floating around out there about the universe, the “Big Bang,” climate change, economics and so forth.

These are all topics of debate among both the well-informed and the not-so-well informed.

Perspectives vary greatly among very highly educated people even over the same data.

This is a particular problem in workplace relationships when our need to be right can overshadow the possibility that we might be wrong.

Thus begins the great crescendo of shouting and name-calling. Let’s call this phenomenon “evilution.” Suddenly it is no longer only perspectives that are debated; arguments can go on to question the credibility of the opposing party. And that’s particularly bad in the workplace.

When asked to draw a circle that represents all knowledge, both known and unknown, most people draw as large a circle as possible.

And when asked to show a representation of all of human knowledge, it’s usually a tiny dot.

What we don’t know is vast, but we do have theories. And it is in the realm of theories that we can move beyond the crescendo of workplace evilution.

A theory is a method by which one can try to understand and explain an idea, experience or perspective.

There is a way in which the use of theories can help us overcome this workplace evilution.

To demonstrate this, I’ve chosen perhaps the most challenging example of a subject that can really ruffle feathers: religion. (Hoo, boy … here we go!)

Imagine a right triangle. The top point represents the “What Is,” or the unknowable. (It’s the big circle.) At the second point is what we can call our personal “Religious Theories” of the “What Is.”

Our own concepts are really only our best understanding, or theories. Too often we consider these perspectives to be infallible.

And since each of us has our own points of view, this is where the rubber typically hits the roadkill.

Now we come to the third and final point on the triangle, “Enlightenment.” Enlightenment is the point that demands a continuous drive to better understand the “What Is.”

Enlightenment is the place in which we find ourselves standing on that tiny dot of fallibility, but determined to understand more. And it’s a great place to be.

If we take a moment to consider our own fallibility and embrace it, understanding can take place. Judgment wanes. Trust develops. Walls fall.

Workplace evilution that comes as a result of pride and hardheadedness on almost any subject can be thwarted when we learn — and teach — the theory’s simplified summary: “I can tell you my perspective. Will you tell me yours?”

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