The co-founders of Dialectic met and became friends in a classic dialectic setting that provides a fitting backdrop for the project. A mutual friend invited Niels and Stuart to dinner, fully knowing that the two would disagree rather sharply on some controversial public policy issues and hoping to listen to their contending points of view. Sure enough, dinner discussion featured a series of lively but civil disagreements. With more than a decade of perspective on that evening, the two agree on the following: Both were persuaded to incrementally reconsider their previously held views on key topics
Nearly fifteen years later, they know each other well, still disagree about a great deal, but appreciate the disagreement. Which brought them to explore the question: Why is it that two people from different backgrounds and opposing political inclinations can form a lasting friendship out of disagreement? But lifelong friends and family members find themselves losing relationships in the polarized, tribal political world that has emerged in the last decade?
This was just a starting point for a series of bigger questions about information literacy in the digital media moment, mental health in the social media era, and the ways we need to adapt to stay ahead of new cognitive norms.
The Dialectic methodology emerged from some big questions: how do we communicate in ways that strengthen our personal relationships? How do we disagree better? How can we renew habits of constructive communication in a fundamentally changed cognitive environment?
In exploring the complex root causes of social isolation, tribalism, and deepening polarization, it was obvious that any solution would require an integrated, full-spectrum approach.
Building on lessons learned about past health crises like obesity, nutrition, and addiction, Dialectic designed three core areas of focus: The Person, The Process, and The Platform.
The Person is about equipping people to understand how their minds work in IRL in contrast to the digital space. Our methodology guides people through the choices that can impact their own thoughts, emotions, and relationships. It pairs with tools to adopt healthier patterns of cognitive consumption and constructive communication.
The Process systematically explores how we develop better habits for the new cognitive norms of the 21st century. This means how we communicate with others, both IRL and online - whether in small groups, Thanksgiving dinners, or with large groups over social media. Dialectic draws on decades of accumulated knowledge in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to lay out practices for developing best practices in communication, disagreement, and information literacy.
The Platform is about giving people better options for their "information nutrition." Just like nutrition labels at the grocery store and calorie listings at fast food restaurants have helped people make better dietary choices on a daily basis, Dialectic will help construct an innovative cognitive ecosystem in the digital space to ensure people have "healthy fast casual" options.
It is these integrated approaches, that include education, skill building, and environmental supports, that form the basis of Dialectic's tools for individuals, families, and groups.
Dialectic is not religious, although we seek to partner with faith groups who wish to improve the health of their own communities. For more information about materials for faith groups and organizations click Here.
Dialectic is NOT tribal. That is not to say that as indviduals we don't have tribal tendencies- the idea that tribalism is a human trait is in fact one of our core assumptions. Rather, we are dedicated to helping people not change their beliefs or tribes, but rather to recognize HOW all humans/tribes can best adapt to our information-communication world such that we have control over our thoughts and feelings in settings that have become ever-harder to navigate.