Consultation and Thinking Techniques

September 14, 2009

`Abdu'l-Bahá counseled that "[t]he shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions." I have always felt, based on the rest of His writings, that "clash" should not be seen in the negative light in which the word is usually used, but rather it is clear that it is meant to be a constructive encounter of differing forces, building up rather than breaking down. In the rest of the paragraph (below), he gives the "prime requisites for them that take counsel together," presenting a beautifully spiritual approach to group consultation.

Even with this, sometimes we need a bit of help to remain constructive, especially when trying to bring these spiritual principles to bear on meetings outside the Bahá'í community. At my best, I try to stick to the facts, offer alternatives dispassionately, elicit opinions, and remain quiet unless and until it is my turn to speak. At my least positive, I simply state an opinion authoritatively and in too loud a voice, perhaps insistently so.

Microsoftie JD Meier summarizes excellent advice for being more systematic and constructive in such any gathering in his 3 Thinking Techniques to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower. I especially appreciate the turning of the six thinking hats into concrete questions that can be used time and time again.

The prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attraction to His Divine Fragrances, humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and long-suffering in difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold. Should they be graciously aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Bahá shall be vouchsafed to them.... The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should any one oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. If after discussion, a decision be carried unanimously, well and good; but if the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail. (Bah&aaacute;'í Administration: Selected Messages 1922-1932, p. 21-22)