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Challenge What You Know: The Concept of Right and Wrong

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By Robb Whitewood

In 2006 a documentary was released called “What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole”. In this brilliant film, the concepts of quantum mechanics, perception and reality are discussed.  One of the individuals in the film is a priest and he spoke at a seminar here in Australia where a student spoke up and said he absolutely agreed with the message but that he had no reason to worry about the religious stuff. He finished by stating that he was brought up in a non-religious household so the concepts of good and evil and heaven and hell had no impact on him. The priest responded by asking if he believed in right and wrong and the student immediately said yes, he did. The priest replied, “They got you…”

The concept of right and wrong or ethics is a human construct which is in actuality, a continuum of so called ethical choices that one can make. This is a complex debate, beyond the scope of this article which could go on for a long time, but simply put, indoctrination gives us definitions of what is right and what is wrong. Animals do not live by these concepts of right or wrong. In the case of the priest and the student, the priest told the student that there was no such thing as right or wrong, but if one is living according to the principles of right or wrong which are indoctrinated, and then one is still living according to religious dogma.

“The principles in the subject of this article may have you questioning everything you think is true.  You will question all of the rules you live your life by.”

The principles in the subject of this article may have you questioning everything you think is true.  You will question all of the rules you live your life by. You see, you cannot measure   something without measuring it. But the moment that you do measure it, you must ask yourself what rule you are applying in order to measure it, who gave it to you, who told you it was correct. This is because that very rule may no longer apply and therefore may no longer be true.

For example, a young girl was cooking a roast for the first time with the help of her mother who told her that she must cut the end off the roast. When the daughter asked why, the mother said that was just what she was taught by her mother, however, out of curiosity she instructed her daughter to call her grandmother and ask. Over the phone, her grandmother informed her that she used to cut the end off the roast so that it would fit into her oven.

Sometimes people hang on to rules and regulations because of the ritual of it rather than the practicalities or that the rule still holds true. At the age of about 10, I went to Israel and because it was a Jewish country, I was expecting not be able to buy pork anywhere. Not so! There was pork in all of the butcher shops. When we questioned some of the locals, their surprised answer suggested we thought they were from the middle ages. In the 1970’s, when I was around 11, we ended up in Italy, the home of the Roman Catholic Church. Because of what I had seen in Australia regarding the observation of Catholic rituals to the letter my sister and I assumed it would only be fish on the menu for Good Friday. We could not have been more wrong! All the butcher shops were open, even strip clubs were open for business. Again, things had moved on, but the people who had moved to Australia had held on to the rituals and passed them down through the generations, regardless of whether they were relevant to the time they were living in. They continued without even really knowing or understanding what the rituals were for in the first place.

” Most of what we know and understand to be right and wrong is put in place by the time we are seven years of age.”

Our rules and regulations can be insidious like that. Most of what we know and understand to be right and wrong is put in place by the time we are seven years of age. You may be in your thirties, forties, fifties or sixties. Whatever age you are, you are still operating according to the rules you learned as a small child. In fact, a lot of the things you learn in school, especially pertaining to how you learn are not really particularly useful in real life situations. For example, in school, if you are caught collaborating with another student, it is considered cheating, whereas in business, it is called collaboration or team work. At school, if you don’t know the answer to a question in a test, you get marked down for it. In business, you just ask. The foundation for all education and the real reason school exists is to support and teach Godliness, timeliness and cleanliness. We have not changed much. The purpose of school was originally to train people for factories. This is a subject that you can refer back to again and again. Even after 20 years of practice, if I find that something is not working, I go back to these assumptions. The answer is always there. It means that I am not applying some of these fundamental assumptions to the situation I am in. Challenging the assumptions of the rules you follow is an important practice and it will shape a lot of the way that you think from this point on.

Always respect the other person’s model of the world. Every person is the way that they are because of their experiences, their memories, values and strategies. Your entire history is what has brought you to the point where you are now in your life. When you respect another person’s model of the world and not try and force them into your way of thinking, you actively understand they’re doing the best that they can with all of the resources and knowledge available to them. You are acknowledging what they are doing, or have been doing makes complete sense to them. Do not insult people by calling them names or insisting you are right and they are wrong. Remember, there is no such thing as right and wrong, only choices. In any case, the moment you start to insult the person you are trying to communicate to or help, the relationship changes to being an adversarial relationship, which is counterproductive. Disrespecting another person’s view of the world also prevents you from finding out why the other person behaves the way they do. There is always a very good reason for their behaviour which can only be discovered with effective communication. You may think that they are a complete fool, but you must give them the respect that they deserve. You may discover afterwards that you need to go in complete opposite directions in life, but that is okay. They could be a homicidal maniac, suffering from depression or a sexual deviant; however, both of these are simply labels. Whatever the problem, there is a very good reason for their behavior.

“It is important to suspend your belief in order to help someone.” 

Once you start to examine someone’s reasons for their behaviour by respecting them and empathising with them, you may be surprised that they have not completely cracked up under the pressure. You cannot help someone by first disrespecting them, because when you do that, you are screaming that you do not understand them. It is important to suspend your belief in order to help someone. You have to be sensible in terms of the way you deal with people’s problems. For example, imagine you have a client with a phobia of water. Obviously, they want you to remove the fear, but you must be sensible in your approach. A complete absence of fear can be risky. A small amount of apprehension when it comes to dangerous situations can actually protect you. If a person cannot swim and they have absolutely no fear of water, they may drown if put in a situation where precautions are necessary. You want the person to have a normal level of respect for water and for their fear to be removed in the right context. The same applies to other phobias such as spider phobias. Evidently, it is appropriate to stay away from certain poisonous types of spider, but it is irrational to be afraid of tiny house spiders. Context is important.

Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of rapport. In any situation where you are feeling resistance from the other person, or they are not doing what you want them to do, it just means you have not established enough rapport. When you establish rapport effectively, you are instinctively more capable of discovering the needs of the person and subsequently satisfying those needs. In a sales type situation, if your customer is resistant and is saying no, it means you have not established rapport and built some common ground. In social situations, the common ground might be social drinking or social smoking. Rapport is part of the glue that holds the fabric of society together. Essentially, you must assume that there are no resistant clients, only inflexible communicators. Your ability to conduct business is directly proportional to your ability to build rapport.

So do question your understanding of the concept of right and wrong and the assumptions of the rules you choose to follow. Question whether you are you blindly following rituals which are not relevant to you today. In the same vein, challenge where you perceive your judgment of people comes from and whether this is getting in the way of respecting others’ models of the world. Each of us is only doing the best we can with the resources available to us. If we removed the concepts of right and wrong completely from our view of the world, the ability to communicate, build rapport and create harmonious relationships would soar.

You will learn all about the concept of right and wrong in Robb’s NLP Practitioner course. Enrol today from the home page and learn how these concepts have kept you moving forward. Become empowered today and change your life!