#069 DFQ

As we have explored in previous thinking lessons, Western thought has been dominated by the Platonic ethic: the importance of The Truth. Eastern thought has been dominated by the Confucian ethic: the importance of The Relationship.

In the context of what we have been exploring about information viruses (or memes), about how ideas spread by word-of-mouth and about how cultures become infected by ideaviruses and memes we can identify the following Platonic and Confucian memes:

PTV – the Plato Truth Virus, and
RMC – the Relationship Meme of Confucius.

It is interesting to understand and appreciate the different thinking strategies that have evolved out of the Plato Truth Virus and the Relationship Meme of Confucius. In my experience with teaching thinking across cultures, when one better understands the thinking style of a different culture it makes it easier to appreciate the unique elements of one’s own.


PTV places the emphasis on having the truth, on being right. To demonstrate that one is right, in this tradition, it has turned out that the best way to do this is by showing others to be wrong. As a result of PTV we have seen the rise of dogmatism, intolerance, arrogance and persecution. This is not what Plato intended, of course, but is a consequence of PTV. Our own parliamentary behaviour, based on the Westminster system, is a regularly televised example of “I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong” in action.

RMC places the emphasis on the interaction, the interchange, the connection. This fits in with contemporary media-driven trends in psychology, sociology and philosophy where the accent is on understanding the relationships and defining the roles. Behaviour is governed less from external laws and more from internalised concepts of “the gentleman, the yuppie, the genXer, Mars/Venus, netiquette, greenies” and identification with brands and lifestyles.

In summary, the main difference between the Confucian ethic and the Platonic one is this:
– the Confucian ethic is more concerned with manners and appropriate behaviour. It doesn’t matter so much whether you are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as long as you behave well.
– the Platonic ethic is concerned with ‘truth’ and whether you are in the ‘right’ or not. If you are ‘right’ then that can excuse your behaviour because ‘truth’ is on your side.

In today’s shrinking world there is an overlap of PTV and RMC as the cultural boundaries are becoming more fuzzy with globalisation. Yet the differences are still there and the recent US/China incident regarding the spy plane is a clear example of how the two cultures have different views of the situation.

It seemed that China felt the Americans did not behave well regarding their lost pilot and protocol required an apology. While, on the other hand, America felt they were in the ‘right’ so they did not need to apologise.

No doubt these things are more complicated than that but it does help to get an overview if you can.


DFQ #069:

Can you think of an example from your own experience of life that may highlight the difference between PTV and RMC?

Have your say here:

276 thoughts on “#069 DFQ

  1. As a child I saw my father as the head of the house, his way was law. Mom was the obedient slave that did as she was told.
    My father had learned this excellent method from his father and possibly even from the Holy Bible’s laws.
    Naturally this was the right way and I carried it forward with even more intensity when I met and married my unfortunate wife 49 years ago today. It took me over forty years to learn there was a better way and now with my new CVS to BVS thinking, it brings it home every time I put my brain into gear before opening that mouth.

    Probably a Confucian saying; We have two ears two eyes and one mouth and that one mouth should be used only one fifth of the time. Which lead to much better relationship all round.

  2. As a mentor for a peer who was just starting as a manager she thought that always being right (PTV) was more important than anything else – to the point where her team rebelled against her and almost mutinied! Through coaching and understanding that this was an ingrained ‘truth’ in her I found ways of teaching her the ways of relationship building (RMC) to get buy-in from her team and improvement in their relationships.

    I have always maintained that you should foster mutually beneficial relationships with both your internal and external customers as you never know when you might need to call on a favour.

  3. I was responsible for managing the design and implementation of several changes to an area of the company I worked in, but was meeting with significant resistance from one peer. My peer’s manager asked to see me and requested I be very tolerant as my peer was going through a difficult time.
    I changed my attitude, developed a great relationship with my peer and then we thoroughly enjoyed delivering change together.

  4. An interesting anecdote that I heard from one of my friend much older than me which brings out the difference of PTV and RMC. I have not authenticated this but it is interesting to read about it.

    In an old and poor village in India when the christian missionaries who were spreading the word of christ . They asked them to accept Jesus as their saviour and son of God … or something to that effect. Most of them accepted that and added Christ to their list of Gods. So they had Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha etc….. and now they added Christ. The missionaries were not expecting this as they believed when someone would accept Christ they would dissasociate with every other god that person beleived in earlier. But in the hindu set up people just started accepting Christ as another god.

    The missionaries were PTV infected and the poor people being referred to were in the RMC realm.
    Of course then the missionaries had to resort to convincing the poor that their god was not the true god but jesus was, which is a typical strategy that PTV infected people took.

  5. It reminds me of what happenned in the 70’s between Japan and Australia.
    A deal was agreed upon to sell grain the following year to Japan. A price was set. It was a time of drought all around the world so the price was high. When the crop came time to harvest there was a bumper crop all over the world. The buy now price was substanctially less on the open market.
    Japan said we will not pay, becaus the price is “unfair” (RMC). A contract is a contract(PTV). Eventually Australia comprimised.

  6. many of our daily one-on-one meetings are like this. May it be the kid vs. parents, partner vs. partner,…
    I have a few personal experiences in mind, when writing this

    In my case i think, Six Thinking hats increased my natural calmness, which is more like RMC (BUT: if someone totally ignores good manners in a conversation, i think i become PTV – believing to know that Six Hats is best way to talk -> getting better with age)

  7. I still see a lot of PTV but not much RMC. I think that the weaknesses of PTV are quite evident but I wonder what the weaknesses of RMC are?

  8. My proposal, take the best of both:
    be concerned with the truth
    be concerned with manners and appropriate behaviour

  9. Relationship between Management and Employees. Often managers views are – I am right -It’s my way or the highway. Maybe much better outcomes would be achieved if more time was spent building relationships and a cohesive team – where everyones input was discussed in a polite and respectful environment. There are many examples of where an employee has come up with an innovative idea that has initially been rejected but has ended up saving the Company huge sums of money.

  10. Examples of appropriate behaviors.

    People argue about many things. No matter to what degree they disagree or how angry they are with each other, they don’t hurt each other physically.

    Also, when a person finds a better way to perform a task, they don’t gloat or make others feel uncomfortable. Or when a person’s fault was pointed out by another, they don’t get defensive.

  11. Relationship between father and children always fathers view are:-its my right to give my children batter behaviour while father think is not always wrough is always right.father seen children fort base the teaching of different people which imfacted their behaviour.

  12. My daughter and her husband are evangelical fundamentalists and creationists. To their horror, I am not! Consequently, regardless of the fact that I have good ethics and morals etc., I’m not accepted into their world or life. They have the PTV! They are RIGHT and anyone with a different or contrary opinion is WRONG.

    The dissonance displayed by them has reinforced my opinion of the hypocrisy of many fanatically religious doctrines and the people who follow this cult-like behavior.

    Where is their christian mantra, ‘love thy neighbor’ etc..?

    Lastly, it’s very frustrating because my 7 grandchildren whom I’m not allowed to visit are being raised by these parents.

  13. Can you think of an example from your own experience of life that may highlight the difference between PTV and RMC?

    Have your say here:

    My former PTV was that knowledge was everything, do people got things because they know them.
    My RMC that I took actually from Napoleon is that people will defend more their interest than their own rights. So in each situation I do not care who is right or wrong, I prefer to understand the participants and their interest, and If it is possible take an advantage. Instead of analyze who is right or who is wrong, or I agree with them or disagree with them; I prefer to ask what is in it for me?

  14. In asia, “face”,respect, and relationship might be more important than “being right”. In china,” no” is never said.and at the same time,any answer but” yes” can mean “no”.

  15. There is a tendency in the work force that I am involved in, that people talk about one another, point the finger, creating conflict, and a hostile work environment. They want to be right, instead of building relationships through the simple form of communication, respect, and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  16. There is the relationship advice i heard from a friend — do you want to be right or happy. Seems like PTV VS RMC.

  17. A recent example that illustrates the differences between PTV and RMC thinking strategies is a TED talk by Carol Dweck – The power of believing you can improve. Within the content Carol initially discusses the standard western education approach of a child either passing or failing an exam (PTV- right or wrong) and the damaging long term effects that believing you are a failure can have. She then goes on to provide examples of where schools introduced a grade of “Not Yet”, meaning that the child at that moment in time had not yet obtained the required knowledge to be able to successfully obtain a “pass”. This simple change that immediately places the emphasis on interaction, communication interchange and connection with the child to help them understand and believe that it is still possible to succeed, clearly aligns itself to the RMC thinking strategy. Carol also goes on to further develop this theme by providing coaching and grade marks for effort and improvement alongside the actual exam result. The end result is a hybrid scenario where both thinking strategies are able to co-exist. Worth watching.

  18. A recent incident, March 2015: I was to lead a facilitation team to deliver a training. One member of the team did not consent to being part of the team preparations ahead of the training and took his presentation for granted. Subsequently, while trying to address the issue I noticed the belligerent attitude of the particular member. Since I consider him a friend I made a decision to assume a laid back position. He did the opposite and picked on another member of the team who he harassed and then walked out of the day’s meeting. In addressing this behavior I kept in mind that the issue had to do with a friend. However, it was also important to correct (there again, the issue of ‘rightness’) the behavior. This I had to do with full consciousness that I was working with friends.

  19. When I was taking my Latin exam I was unlucky to choose the card which contained one question I could not find. But I was a diligent student, I attended all my Latin classes. My Latin instructor gave me “an excellent mark”, though she could give me “a four” according to the assessment table (PTV). So she apprecited my efforts. (RMC)

  20. Traditional Psychologists think of clients as patients and as someone with a mental disorder who therefore needs a cure.
    Modern psychologists, for example those who use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), don’t really care if a patient has a problem or not, but focus more on commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.

  21. Often times when people are proven right, they feel no requirement to apologize for treating poorly. I often experience this in sport, if a team wins they feel compelled to inform the losing team of how poorly they performed, even if the winning team won by the smallest margin.

    If you win, say nothing
    If you lose, say less

  22. If you’re young and coming out of business school, you can not start your own business because you have theories only, and you don’t get support. It is only, the elders can do business because they have experience working in malawi government and they cannot fail. But experience show different results.

  23. Of all the company’s I have worked for, all tend to be modelled on the pyramid system where is “my way or the highway” culture. This style I see as PTV as its “I’m right and your wrong”. One company I did enjoy working for was focused on the EMC as the culture was set about employee focussed and to ensure everyone oerated within a set of values.

  24. How about junior sports teams, it’s more about the participation and getting along with your team mates, as they get older the result counts for a lot more.

  25. Interestingly enough, both have their pros and cons. For example my workplace contains a number of people in one corner who are very knowledgeable and experienced in the industry. On the other hand you have a bunch of university students who all behave very well but have no knowledge, experience or any interest in the industry, because there is not interest or knowledge it ends up in the position of arguments going around and around in circles between the 2 groups and ends up nowhere.

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