In writings in the Reformers Yahoo group, I have mentioned how "agreement" among those immersed in Landmark culture or a "culture of agreement" can have a negative impact on the organization and on participants outside of that agreement. This post is intended to elaborate and clarify those statements so that we can powerfully drive reform in this area.
Agreement in this context is not a good thing. It is not the same as consensus building.
What is meant by "agreement" in the context of the reform and renewal of Landmark?
Agreement in this context indicates something that a group's members in general accept as what's so, perhaps with supporting evidence, but not with anything approaching incontrovertible evidence. With agreement, to fill in where facts are insufficient, there is a degree of faith or wishful thinking or "manufactured agreement," which is agreement that arises through repetition and positive reinforcement of certain themes and/or social censure or dismissal of dissenting viewpoints.
Later in this post, I will suggest some of the agreement that I have observed around Landmark. That an agreement is listed here does not mean that all immersed in the culture believe it or that the agreement does not match with what is so (sometimes agreement fits what is so, sometimes it does not). Listing here simply indicates agreement that is largely shared and frequently repeated in Landmark.
The dangers of agreement include:
1) Getting Agreement Wrong
In agreement, people sometimes accept as fact what is not so, which distorts their choices. When one is confused about what's so, one does not have the correct menu to choose from.
Hearing views outside of the listener's agreement leads to a "something is wrong here" feeling in the listener's mind, which disempowers the listener and can also lead to negative or intolerant behavior. Examples include the listener being defensive, making the dissenter wrong (directly or by suggestion or implication), or repeating agreements as fact in an effort to counter or disempower the dissenter.
3) Group Think
Individuals allow social pressure to conform to agreement to impact expression and/or belief.
Impacts: Inauthenticity, lack of full self expression, loss of power. Group agreement can appear cult-like. Those outside of agreement are disinspired to remain in the community.
Examples of agreement:
Agreement: The Landmark Forum is THE vehicle for spreading transformation.
Agreement: Landmark is not about making money.
Agreement: Landmark does about the best job humanly possible of self correcting.
Agreement: Landmark does about the best job humanly possible of spreading the conversation of transformation to others.
Agreement: Sharing about Landmark and enrolling others is an essential or inseparable part of the curriculum and the process of mastering transformation.
Agreement: Landmark leaders are of the highest integrity.
Agreement: Taking complaints/problems up the organizational hierarchy is THE way to resolve them. Discussion among third parties is counterproductive.
Agreement: There are good reasons for Landmark to be a for-profit business, not a non-profit.
Agreement: There is something wrong with someone who maintains a criticism of Landmark even after they've communicated fully with Landmark staff.
If you find yourself wanting to defend these statements (saying to yourself, "that's not agreement, that's reality" and then running through the evidence in your already always listening), that's a sign that you have a stake in the agreement. A person who is simply comfortable with what is so and who is open to other points of view does not feel compelled to defend. If you feel the urge to defend, take a look at your evidence and consider what assumptions you rely on in believing that the agreement matches what is so. Then for every agreement listed above, write down a "What's so Statement" for that issue that you know (as if your life depended on it) is what's so. The what's so statement may be much more uncertain than the statement of agreement. To be clear, I am not saying that the above "agreements" do not match with what is so. I am saying that people act as though these things are so without sufficient knowledge, and that people have an attachment to these agreements, which results in the negative consequences outlined above (see dangers).
In terms of reform, our task is to reform those methodologies and items in the curriculum that generate agreement.
Examples of agreement manufacturing at Landmark:
Agreement Manufacture: Collapsing Landmark (especially taking The Forum) with transformation in conversation.
Agreement Manufacture: Especially praising, applauding, and rewarding those who bring or register guests (often using meaning making terms like "amazing" or "miracle").
Agreement Manufacture: Public making wrong of Landmark critics (they don't get it, have deep problems, or have other agendas).
Agreement Manufacture: Meaning making around "transformation".
As noted above, agreement runs counter to full self expression. Agreement is disempowering. Agreement breeds intolerance. Agreement breeds group think.
Agreement has people be small. In the end, agreement turns off those outside of the agreement, which includes the throngs of prospective participants who have not yet heard the conversation of transformation.
Just as we have called for the reform of methodologies that unnecessarily create a sense of pressure, for us to create an open and welcoming Landmark that works for many more people, we must also reform training and curriculum and methodologies that manufacture and perpetuate agreement.