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The Art and Science of Effectively Living Together

Course Dates
The Art and Science of Effectively Living Together

Presented by John McWhirter. Madrid , 5 – 8 December 2015.

This workshop will be given in English with sequential translation into Spanish. It is suitable for speakers of either English or Spanish.


As individuals we “find” ourselves in a specific family, community, culture and country. Through this experience we learn how the world works and how to work the world. This includes our learning how to live with others; and with ourselves. Unfortunately many people do not find effective ways of living in the situation they “find” themselves in. Even those that do find effective ways can later be challenged because our rapidly changing world introduces new challenges that require learning new ways to live effectively together. We need to keep learning and adapting to these changes and this can create less than effective ways of living together. Living together is more complex and more varied than is often appreciated.

Changing how we live together

The time when humans lived in simple family groups and later little unchanging mono-cultural communities is long gone. More people in the world now live in cities than the country, the old country ways of living together have become the minority experience. The new experience is not one of stable unchanging but one of increasing change, diversity and multi-cultural. This amazing opportunity to enrich our experience can also be a great threat and lead to many negative responses including resentment and fear. The threats and challenges to living effectively together are increasing.

We are greatly influenced by the ”whole” that we are living in, whether it is a family, a community, a business. We often feel powerless and don’t think that we can improve things, that there is nothing we can do to make a difference. This is especially the case at the big scale, our communities and countries. The more we understand the wide range of dynamics, knowledge and skills that contribute to failure and success in living together at all levels the more we will be in a position to help ourselves and others live effectively together at all levels. The more we appreciate the contribution of every part to the whole the more empowered we will be in contributing to our living together as a whole person, family, community, country, planet.

In recent years there have been changes in the way that people live together. In many western countries there are increasing numbers of people who are living alone, in some countries young people who cannot find work are living at the parents’ home rather than living independently. Many people relate with others through the internet in “virtual” groups. Many spend many hours living in Fantasy games. The underlying needs and issues are similar although each of the different structures of living together offer different challenges and benefits.

Many individuals and groups in the world do live together very well. Sadly many do not. And with our ever increasing interactions with groups and societies from greater distances there are many more opportunities to connect with different people and cultures. The need to manage how we live together is increasingly recognised as a major social issue for all of us. Understanding more deeply, increasing our skills can help us settle current disputes and violence, avoid future occurrences, and help us to develop more positively from living together.

What do we get / need from living together?

Living together is an opportunity to enhance our lives, develop beyond what we could create as an individual. Sadly it is often a poor experience, ranging from “making the best of a poor situation” through to one that can diminish and even destroy.

From early family groups and extended hunter-gather groups through tribes and farming communities to towns and cities the different forms of living together have always offered many benefits compared to not living together. Firstly, and most obviously, is for the long term survival of our species. Secondly, and more immediately, there are numerous direct benefits for our various levels of Needs, Wants, and Likes in the three areas of 1. Living Effectively, including getting the food, clothing, etc. that we need, 2. Affect, including getting the love, relationships, belonging, and caring that we need, and 3. Meaning, including getting access to developed ideas on the meaning of life, politics and religion. The Benefits and Developments include Tolerance, Appreciation of Diversity, Learning, New Ideas and World Views.

Challenges and Limitations in Living Together

There are many challenges when two or more people try to live together. It is relatively easy to cope with things that are familiar, sameness. It is much more challenging to cope with differences. The more differences the greater the challenge.

We often create a sense of “Us” and “Them”. We do this not just with different cultures but also with different sub-cultures and generations, departments, neighbours, within families.

This often leads to negative responses to ”Others” including Fear, Mistrust, Intolerance Antagonism, Violence, Genocide, Selfishness, Deprivation, Loneliness, Separation, Exploitation, Abuse, Demonising.

These destructive responses are the source of much of the misery in the world.

This training will introduce many of the main dynamics and patterns that both lead to fear, antagonism and destruction as well as to effective cooperation, happiness and a more fulfilling life. This will include the management of resources as well as relationships.

We will also introduce more useful ways of relating changing from “Us and Them” to “Us and Different Us” as a basis for a more effective way of living together.

How to follow the “Golden Rule”

Many different ideas about how to relate to each other and especially strangers have been interestingly similar in different religions. Often generally referred to as the “Golden Rule” they are various wordings of a common ideas generalised as “Behave toward others as you would to yourself “ or “Behave towards others as you would like them to behave toward you”. While this is generally a very good suggestion it totally lacks any guidance as to HOW to do it. It is also very difficult to implement while experiencing fear or distrust toward others.

Developmental Behavioural Modelling DBM®

Developmental Behavioural Modelling DBM® has been used to create a deeper understanding of the varied structures and dynamics of living together and is ideally suited to developing more effective ways of living together.

Developing Living Together with DBM®

This training will offer a number of deep insights into how we can effectively live together at all levels of society, how to manage relationships, needs, resources and meaning to help create a more effective dynamic of living together for everyone involved. Participants will explore experientially, developing new distinctions, understandings and skills, organise them into effective models that are very effective for applying the new learning to help themselves and others live together more effectively.

This training will be very useful for personal development and for professionals working with any situation where people live or work together.

The training will explore how to create a more useful “Set-Up” for living together, How to work with Challenges and Upsets and how to get more from living together.

We often begin by “Fearing” strangers rather than with a neutral open mind (and open heart). Understanding the most common ways people create fear we can then find ways of respond differently. We will explore different, more effective, ways of beginning.

We will explore different ways that difficulties are created in living together. We will then explore how we can create alternative, more effective, ways of living together. This will include how to create optimal conditions, understanding, attitudes, skills, and behaviours for effectively living together.

Levels of Living Together and Different Functions

It is useful to identify different levels of living together as they operate differently. Levels if living together range from how we live as individuals with increasingly complex roles to fit together, living with family, friends, community, country and a planet that seems to get smaller as communication, migration and inter-relating increases.

There are interestingly common challenges and patterns of responding at all these levels as well as significant differences that mean that effective ways of managing at one level will not be as effective at a different level. We need a rich and varied range of understandings and skill to effectively live together at all levels.

These patterns work at all levels of society; from nation states down through regions, towns, communities, localities, families and also how they operate within an individual.

Other structures include: Power Structures, Including Hierarchies, Heterarchies and Multi-Archies, Affiliation Structures, Working Structures, Meaning Structures.

The most obvious dynamic in living together is RELATING. Living together offers direct access to others and the richness of experience that that offers. Relating creates the experience of belonging, love, specialness, respect and recognition.

Sadly relating can also lead to more negative experiences such as hate envy, jealousy and resentment.

Relating is also limited by the options available. Increasingly people often find meeting other people a challenge. This is most obvious in couple relationships and one of the results is an increase in the number of people in western society that are selecting to living alone.

Relating is not the only main dynamic. There are others that may even be more important at different levels of living together. These include: NEEDS, RESOURCES, AND MEANING.


As well as our basic needs of food, water, clothing and shelter, we have many other needs as well as likes and wants all of which can be met or frustrated through living together.

A major aspect of living together is resource management. While this is more obvious at the large scale it is also a major dynamic a the smaller scale of family and individual; the sense of unfairness if one child gets a bigger present than the others in a family, or spending too much on luxury items and not enough left for basics.

Good resource management can create a sense of togetherness, caring and increased well-being and happiness.

Poor resource management can put great strain on living together and is a common source of resentment, frustration and aggressive competition.

When resources are limited there are greater challenges to effectively living together.

Meaning is of central importance in life. As social animals much of our individual meaning is through the influence of the others we live with. Families and societies offer ready-made meanings that we can conform with offering a sense of shared reality that deepens the sense of reality and security.

An obvious limitation is when the shared meaning does not an accurately fit with the world or is limiting in some way. Here conformity is limiting and stressful. Non-conformity can also create stress and rejection by others.

Creativity, the means to new meaning, may enhance the whole group or at the opposite extreme be rejected by others.

In a multi-cultural, increasingly changing world how to manage and develop meaning is becoming increasingly important for effectively living together.

We will also explore how to change:
  • From “Us and Them” To “Us and Other Us”
  • From Difference to Sameness (with variation)
  • From Fear to Comfort and Security
  • From Mistrust to Openness
  • From Intolerance to Tolerance
  • From Selfishness to Equanimity
  • From Criticism to Appreciation
  • From Ignoring to Caring
  • From Exclusion to Inclusion
  • From Mono-Culture to Diversity
  • From Fragmented to Integrated
  • From Hate to Love
  • From Disrespect to Respect
  • From Competing to Cooperation
  • From Indifference to Compassion
  • From Maximising and Minimising to Optimising
We will explore different ways of living together, how they work and how to change them, including:
  • Destructive (Genocide/Racism/ Abuse)
  • Antagonistic
  • Dictatorial
  • Ignoring
  • Putting up with
  • Co-Existing
  • Tolerate Existence
  • Competitive
  • Egalitarian
  • Embracing Diversity
  • Cooperating
  • Integrated
  • Develop Existence
We will include a range of useful distinctions and Skills for Effective Living Together Including:
  • Self-Managing
  • Attainment
  • Bonding and Bounding
  • Including and Excluding
  • “Us-ing and Them-ing”
  • “Mono Culturing and Multi-Culturing”
  • Conforming and Non-Conforming
  • Passive and Active Participating
  • Identifying
  • “Same-ing and Different-ing”
  • Self Interest, Other Interest and Group Interest
  • Managing Resources
  • Self, Other, Everyone
  • Competition and Cooperation: Exclusive and Inclusive Competition. Exploitative and Cooperative Competition