Living In the Grey: A Six-Part Exploration of Living in a Polarized World

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Part 1: What Is ‘The Grey?’

There is a plague on our culture, and in our workplaces. You have undoubtedly noticed it, because it’s present almost anywhere you turn, in the office, or online. It has slowly been creeping into every aspect of the modern world, invading every crevice. What is this damaging force? It has many names: division, polarity, antagony, hate, conflict, hostility, inhumanity. And if we don’t recognize it, it will continue to tear us apart, past the point of no return.  

As the world and business have gotten more complex, more technologically-rooted, and more intricately connected, many people have become more and more set in their ways, with a refusal to consider the other side of an argument. There is a tendency to revert to primitive ways of ‘black and white’ thinking, us against them, right versus wrong, in areas that are no longer so cut and dry.

The social trauma and crisis that so many people are experiencing at work and at home is the result of applying this kind of either/or thinking to discussions that are much more subtle; they want black or white, when what really exists is grey.

‘The Grey’ will be the primary subject of this series, specifically, the importance of learning to ‘live in The Grey.’ Living in The Grey means many things, which is appropriate, because it is our best, and most necessary, technique for combating the personal, social, political, and technological forces driving us apart.

The most important thing to recognize about living in The Grey is that there is no rule book or instruction manual for you to follow in every situation, or no leader who can guide you perfectly through the modern world. It is a process that takes time, wisdom, experience, and most of all, compassion and understanding.

Living in The Grey is a return to communal principles, but applied to a globalized world and marketplace. It involves dealing with uncertainty, entertaining opposing viewpoints, and handling disagreement with civility rather than cruelty. The brain must sometimes take a back seat to the heart, and the ego needs to be tamed wherever possible, for an organization and its people to exist in this productive space.

By following principles like this, we can wrestle back some control over the dividing forces that we feel are out of our hands. We can use social media networks to build connections as they were intended, not spread hate and misinformation as they are doing. We can go to workplaces that function as supportive forces for everyone’s career, not just those in charge. We can use politics as a way to build up better communities and countries, rather than playgrounds for racism, xenophobia, and fear. Most importantly, we can establish closer, more meaningful human relationships, by recognizing that differences should be celebrated and embraced, not run from in terror.

One of the first steps towards living in The Grey is for us to become better communicators. There needs to be a return to thoughtful, earnest discussion, which values insight over insult, and respects the value of ideas, not the prestige of the speaker, especially in the workplace. In our next piece, we will outline how we got to this divided place in communication, and how we can fix our communication channels to enable healthy, productive conversations.