Pendulums Swing Both Ways

Published: January 4, 2022

Difference of opinion is usually the fodder for division. Us and them factions split easily. Yet, both extremes are needed to understand the whole picture. Darkness makes us appreciate light. Active phases need dormant periods for refueling. Conservative views provide a counterbalance for liberal perspectives. Embracing opposites as necessary components of the whole is far more valuable than outright rejection. Each side relies upon the other. Consider the advantage that welcoming dichotomy brings to teams.

Attachment and Loss

Not every connection is the same. An allegiance to a sports team is different than a vow to a marriage. The greater the attachment, the greater the loss. Your favorite sports team losing a game is not as painful as your spouse announcing their departure from the relationship. Whatever the depth of the alliance, attachment is always measured against the prospect of loss.

Dependence and Independence

The degree to which we rely on others determines the amount of freedom we enjoy. No one dances freely on a rickety platform. When the foundation of mission and values is clear, teammates are set loose to explore, experiment, discover, and invent. When the left hand of the piano takes care of the rhythm and bass structure, the right hand is free to create melody.

Commitment and Risk

Trust demands safety. If your wild idea is slapped down, the chance that you’ll serve up something unconventional in the future decreases. Conversely, teams that build diversity of thought into their norms communicate permission for innovation. The commitment to mutual respect unleashes limitless possibilities when teams address new problems with unique solutions.

Togetherness and Distance

Healthy relationships are capable of feeling closeness while apart and distance while together. We need both. The music of teams requires both dissonance and harmony. Imagine a telescopic pole connecting you with everyone on your team where each partnership is empowered to decide how close or far they are from each teammate. Not everyone would be in synchrony. Some teammates might be seeking closeness while their partners prefer more space. Proximity is constantly being measured and remeasured in relationships.

Dichotomies are everywhere. Black and white. Right and wrong. All and none. Always and never. On and off. Good and bad. Active and passive. Left and right. Whichever way you choose to define the opposites, they need each other to survive. Pendulums swing wide in both directions in order to sustain momentum.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.