So much of life is invisible: the roots that nourish plants below the soil surface, the nonverbal communication that conveys our thoughts and attitudes, the years of training that go into a 10-second Olympic sprint.
It’s so easy to be dazzled by whatever appears, and to miss the substrate that props it up.
But the world below the surface matters, and to resolve problems, we have to work that substrate.
Working the substrate might mean not reacting to others immediately, but first reviewing the experiences and assumptions that precipitate their choices and behavior. How did they get here? How did you get here? What’s the wider story, and how can your responses take that wider story into account?
Working the substrate might mean re-evaluating the way an intractable community debate has been framed, and emphasizing what’s possible rather than just what’s been consistent. Is a “problem” group really the source of the discord? Are there new ways you could perceive your contributions and responsibilities as you engage other group members?
Working the substrate might mean transcending the call to conversation entirely in favor of taking action with and for people who are actively harmed and under-served. What does the dialogue circuit require of you? What could you accomplish if you focused less on explaining to the doubtful and more on focused on acting with the willing?
Deal with what feeds the obvious—or work around it, and watch how what grows changes.