We’ve seen the difficulty of constructing coherent action hierarchies and developing the competence to make them real; the challenges of conveying information to others; and the limitations of convergence – even when these efforts are undertaken with integrity, skill, and energy. Genuine pursuit of truth and improvement is responsible for much progress. Candid communication presupposes their value and seeks to enable their advancement. And most communication at least pretends to strive for truth, coherence, and objective betterment.
But there are at least three motivations to converse. One certainly is to candidly pursue truth and cooperatively converge towards optimal solutions: to cohere. Another is to advance predetermined goals: to conquer. And the last is to engage intellectually, emotionally, or physically with others: to connect.
These motivations are not mutually exclusive: we may hope to connect with others to conquer obstacles towards shared, truth-based, coherent goals and to be recognized for our efforts, contributions, and values. Yet one motivation dominates at any specific time. Even if not deliberately chosen, it biases expectations towards integrity, effectiveness, or kindness at crucial points in the conversation – or redirects towards establishing their importance.
These conflicting motivations add a dimension to misunderstandings and layer jumps that I previously simplified away. It is not enough to get the conversation to a shared part of an action hierarchy and constrain context changes. We need to also converge on, and constrain, the mode of engagement. Continue reading Cohere, Conquer, Connect: Goals of Communication