Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
At the Agile Conference last week I recognized that I have a new speech pattern. I heard myself saying things like:
- “I want to help the team, and also I want them to be independent.”
- “That way of thinking about it doesn’t work for me, and also I’m curious to know more about it.”
- “This conversation is not comfortable for me, and also I believe it’s important to have.”
I discovered that “and also” is my phrase for holding paradox unresolved. I found myself using it to connect two potentially contradictory statements and to affirm the truths within both of them. I used when I didn’t want to favor one statement over the other. I’ve talked before about avoiding the word “but”; this goes deeper than that. This is about not rushing to certainty, about being comfortable with the discomfort of ambiguity. This is about being willing to work through ideas in public, about more deeply collaborating by letting people look behind the curtain of my thinking process before things are fully formed. This is about letting go of “having the answers” or “being right” and instead being more aware of and honest about where I’m at. And this phrase helped clue me and others in to when I was doing that.
It’s an odd little thing, but there is.