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Ian O'Byrne

If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed. - Paulo Freire In this week's issue of TL;DR - #dialogue

Ian O'Byrne

Oppositional Conversational Style

3 min read

As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style

Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.

What does this look like?

This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.

The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda. 

This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.

There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.

What to do

In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual...or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.

Keep in mind that it's not always necessary to change someone's mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction. 

Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.

Move on

When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.

If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues. 

I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:

Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective? 

If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation. 

Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don't really know, you should change the subject, or walk away. 


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Ian O'Byrne

How to debate

1 min read

We've all been in that situation where a informal conversation quickly becomes a discussion and then we find ourselves in a debate.

A debate is a wonderful opportunity to flex your intellectual muscles and can lead to a deeper level of understanding for all individuals involved.

A proper debate requires intellectual nimbleness, rigor, and attention. There is a need to remain open-minded and cognitively flexible to account for variations in the truth, situation, or the debate itself.

Debate also requires an understanding of the facts. It also requires an understanding of what you don't know.


There are several keys to engaging in a debate:

  • Know your facts. Know what you don't know.
  • Put yourself in your opponent's shoes and understand their views.
  • Don't recite & regurgitate their views. Give it your spin.
  • Find a common ground.
  • Consider and concede when you're wrong.
  • Stay calm and civil.


Keep in mind that it is important for these keys to be followed by both parties in a debate.


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Ian O'Byrne

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast

2 min read

This statement comes from military and police parlance and usually indicates a focus on mobility and dexterity in operations.

Combat and conflict often center on mobility. If you move too fast, you can be outflanked. If you move too slow, you can be pinned down. The best course may be a cautious, thoughtful understanding of planned moves.

From a learning context, this statement provides insight into our focus on work process as opposed to product.

"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" indicates a focus on technique, and speed in learning new things.


As we learn new skills, we need to focus on the small, discrete skills slowly. This allows us to focus on technique and building expertise in our subconscious and long term memory. There is also a need to ensure that we do not focus on improper strategies as we learn these new skills and content.


To make this happen focus on the following stages:

CRAWL - Identify a new skill, practice, or area of content that you would like to study. Identify the theory and basic skills. What are the (3 - 5) major elements, or steps involved in this action or area? Be as granular as possible. 

WALK - Practice these 3 to 5 elements or steps in the process while considering the larger picture. Continue to practice these steps while you continue to learn, and practice the granular steps.

RUN - Work toward mastery of the skill, practice, or area of content. Continue to practice while focusing on the small, discrete skills you identified in the CRAWL stage. Expand toward automaticity with a constant focus on awareness and confidence.


An awareness of these stages can be applied at any level and for any aspect of learning. This builds a strong awareness of strategies, tactics, tools, and motivation in the practice. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Exercise on learning from the view from above

On the final day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

The reflection for this day is from Meditations, 2.3 from Marcus Aurelius:

The works of the gods are full of providence. The works of Fortune are not independent of Nature or the spinning and weaving together of the threads governed by Providence. All things flow from that world: and further factors are necessity and the benefit of the whole universe, of which you are a part. Now every part of nature benefits from that which is brought by the nature of the Whole and all which preserves that nature: and the order of the universe is preserved equally by the changes in the elements and changes in their compounds.

In this I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us of our connection to nature, but also identifying a possibility for us to not be over attached to perspectives and actions outside of our own.

As indicated in previous posts, we have a lot that we can learn from our partners, friends, and colleagues. We can also learn from nature and our environment. The challenge is that we need to focus on our own goals and direction in life while striving for a life filled with virtue.

To remain focused on events in your locus of control, the following activity known as "the view from above" is recommended. This is a guided meditation that is aimed at focusing on the bigger picture in life and understanding your role in the world.

The audio recording above is a recording from Donald Robertson. Alternatively, you can read the script for the guided meditation here. Alternatively you can review the following video here.

Ian O'Byrne

Living in agreement with your personal nature

2 min read

In an earlier post, I provided some guidance on how to have a good life and be happy.

These materials are influenced by my reflections as part of Stoic Week 2016. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

In this post, and my earlier post on examining your impressions, there is an understanding that you should regularly and iteratively review and problematize your assumptions. 

To help you in this capacity, the following exercise detailed below is adapted from the guide from StoicWeek 2016.

First, use these questions to clarify your core values:

  • What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?
  • What do you want your life to ‘stand for’ or ‘be about’?
  • What would you most like your life to be remembered for after you’ve died?
  • What sort of thing do you most want to spend your time doing?
  • What sort of person do you most want to be in your various relationships and roles in life?

In examining the fourth bullet point, you might consider your role as a parent, friend, at work or in life generally. You could also ask how far your own core values match what the ancient Stoics meant by ‘virtue’, especially character traits such as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.

Second, look at all your answers to the first set of questions and ask how far your real actions on a day-to-day basis match these core values. If they do not match completely, think about ways in which you could bring the two closer together. Keep in mind that you're not assessing or evaluating how much these two match or disagree. You're just trying to understand yourself.

Think of one specific activity you could be doing that would help you develop towards expressing your core values or which would enable you to express them fully.

Finally, this exercise could be part of a daily journaling process as you start your day.



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Ian O'Byrne

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. - Aristotle

2 min read

In our lives, the number one priority should be the expansion of our own self awareness. We need to become aware, accept, and in some cases adjust the truth about our selves and our world.

To examine this narrative and build self-confidence, we have the possibility of reversing that narrative and speak from expertise as the person we would like to believe that we are. We are who we think that we are.

We can achieve this through the following:

  • Cease automatically and arbitrarily defending your own viewpoints as being binary (i.e., right/wrong, or black/white). This relentless attack/defense stops us from receiving new ideas.
  • Problematize and reassess your concepts, values, belief systems, assumptions, defenses, goals, hopes, and truths.
  • Understand, evaluate, and revise your real needs and motivations.
  • Learn to trust your intution. 
  • Observe your mistakes and try to correct them. we learn more about ourselves through this process.
  • Love yourself and others.
  • Listen without prejudice and evaluation. Train yourself to listen to WHAT someone is saying without auditing their expressions.
  • Recognize what you are defending most of the time.
  • Understanding that the end result and your unlocked awareness will provide the means and motivation needed to enact further change in your life.

Ian O'Byrne

March 25, 2016

1 min read

Over the past couple of days I've been engaged with Amy Burvall as she's been unpacking this idea of "best practices" and the challenges behind this naming.

Over my years in education, I have spent a lot of time thinking, developing, identifying, and promoting "best practices." It wasn't until three years ago at LRA was I in a discussion with Rich Long and he mentioned that it's not "best practices", it should be "best principles."

Hmmm. I didn't see the real difference in the naming of these two. 

I really like the pushback that Amy provides in this post on ditching "best practices." 

Her perspective is more about knowing and understanding the "rules" and givign yourself the license to go and break the rules. Have fun, be creative, remix, and don't lock yourself in to one's prior indication of what to do...what not to do.


Ian O'Byrne

January 8, 2016

2 min read

Spent time this morning talk with the tech director at Jax's school.

In the discussion we chatted about bringing the LED make that we conducted in his classroom before the holidays to the other Kindergarten classes. We also spent some time talking through working in Jax's class to put together a stop-motion film about a story they're reading in class. Finally, we discussed having one of the 5th grade teachers get involved in the upcoming iteration of the project.

In this discussion I had a reality check of the types of texts and tasks we were asking people to complete and the challenges people might have in even understanding them. 

As we develop tasks like in the Project, we're in our own little echo chamber and how the work we share out with people might be a bit too complex. 

In some of the Learning Events that we shared out last year we would have participants read two poems, respond, and then discuss how they related to the text. The two poems were written for a middle school, or perhaps high school reader. Ignoring the possible challenge of the use of digital tools...our use of texts to act as prompts seemed to stop the teachers I was working with in their tracks.

To address this, I think we need to do a couple things:

  • Have a "directive" at the top of each Learning Event. A basic sentence of "do this" and "don't do this."
  • Have levels of texts selections. Have a sample for elementary and one for secondary.
  • Continue to fine-tune, distill, and whittle down each Learning Event.