Maneuvering within Islam`s narrative space
January-March 2018
By: Brian L Steed

“Introspection is understanding the angle from which you are observing the pyramid. What do I see? Why does it look this way to me? These are fundamental questions for moving forward. Empathetic appreciation is recognizing the angle from which your counterpart/opponent is observing the pyramid. What does he/she see? Why does it look that way to him/her? Once these two conceptual understandings exist then, and I would argue only then, can one effectively begin to anticipate how one’s counterpart/opponent will respond to the events surrounding both of the participants in the negotiation, conflict or engagement” (“Bees and Spiders,” Steed, 2014).

This metaphor is used to convey that although people fromone culture see squares (conceptually speaking), their counterparts from other cultures see triangles. The square is no more accurate a way to envision the pyramid than is the triangle, and the triangle is no less accurate a way to describe the pyramid than is the square. Neither perspective captures the entirety of the shape and both have their accuracies and inaccuracies built into their perspective. Thus, one cannot assume that equal information conveys equal understanding, acceptance or advocacy. This is especially crucial when dealing with maneuver in the narrative space.

A different, though related metaphor is trying to catch a fish using one’s hands while standing in a body of water. When one looks down into the water and sees the fish, it is understood that the fish is not actually where it is observed. Water refracts light rays on a different angle than does air. This specific refraction angle offsets the fish. To catch the fish, one must adjust the placement of hands appropriately.

The pyramid metaphor also speaks to this refraction angle in perception and communication. As discussed in the following section, as information reaches the liminal narrative it is filtered according to acceptability. The determination of acceptance or rejection is influenced by the refraction angle. The shape of narrative space terrain differs with general and specific audiences, as there are a variety of refraction angles. Obviously, leaders and policy makers cannot account for each individual refraction angle; however, the large, societal-based refraction angles must be considered to adequately understand the terrain and its relationship to the actor’s interactions with the opponent, counterpart or partner.

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