Life Askew*

By Julia Galosy

Deep Learning

Deep Learning


As many of you likely know, Deep Learning is a term from artificial intelligence (AI). It means mining data in such depth that the results are the creation of neural networks to tackle complex problems. Although Deep Learning comes from technology it might serve as a metaphor for improving human relationships?

Consider an interaction that does not employ Deep Learning. The partners are having a discussion or, if levels of emotions are in play then, a disagreement or a fight. One partner “listens” to the other. This “listening” could be waiting for a chance to talk. Or, it could be laying in wait to capture data that will support an already-formulated opinion. Or, it could be listening to assign a label. These are very typical underlying patterns during discussions. They serve to end the discussion.

In these types of interactions you will hear statements such as: “You are a control freak.” “You always have to be right.” “You do all of the talking.” Those are judgments and labels which benefit no one. These comments serve well if the outcome desired is to create defensiveness. They are based on a competitive stance where one will win and the other will lose. What they don’t serve is to foster understanding or learning.

The “listening” partner has labelled the other person and assigned motivations to that person which may be the polar opposite of what that person was actually thinking or feeling. Worse, the “listening” partner is sure he is right and is smug and self-satisfied in his ability to assess the situation. He never checks back with his partner to see if his assessment is anywhere near accurate.

He then acts on his assessment with impunity. If his partner is doing the same then there has been no growth at all in the interchange. Worse, it is nearly impossible to reach any agreements. When the conversation stops, that does not mean that agreement has been reached; it is just stalemate.

Now let’s look at our Deep Learning analogy. Deep Learning includes layer on layer of digging for information until there is no more data to be found, processing that information to insure understanding, and adding it to the problem at hand to inform the decision- making process.

Our Deep Learning partners will begin by expending inordinate amounts of energy listening for understanding. This is highly interactive listening within which the listener asks multiple questions designed solely to dig deeper and deeper into the perspective of the other person. Its sole purpose is to understand, not to judge or label. The listener has not even begun to formulate his perspective because as he excavates his partner’s viewpoint, his is undergoing changes influenced by this evolving new information. Only when he is absolutely clear about his partner’s perspective does he begin to share his own. No motivations have been assigned, and no labels have been attached. Now he begins his own explanation and his partner will ask questions solely to understand. Again there are no labels, nor assigning of motives.

After this interactive interchange there is a renewed understanding of the viewpoints of each of the partners and the discussion can continue to resolution. By far the lion’s share of time during the exchange is spent in listening to understand the other. Patience and a true interest in the other person are the chief attributes that each partner must have to succeed in the Deep Learning relationship. There is no room here for competition.

*Ed. Note: This is a new column, the first we have taken on in quite a while. Ms. Galosy has a Ph.D. in Organization Psychology, and is currently a professor online at GlobalNxt in Kuala Lumpur, and Management Center, Innsbruck, Austria, residence and online. Welcome to the Ojo, Julia!



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