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Bubble-hopping

Photo: Lars Joelsson

 
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Bubble-hopping

To bubble-hop is to meet and connect with people from other backgrounds or with different knowledge, beliefs, or opinions. The purpose is to grow understanding and gain knowledge that you otherwise wouldn´t come across.

Read about benefits from bubble-hopping and a little about how it can be done.

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Individually

You can gain better self-awareness, broader perspectives, and a more exciting life. You can develop as partner, friend, or parent.

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Professionally

You can become a better colleague or boss. When you can put yourself in other peoples' shoes, you become more empathetic, creative, and innovative. You can use bubble-hopping in your organization to stimulate creativity, knowledge-sharing, and innovation or to bridge divides within the organization. Or you can use it to bridge between organizations, professions,
or sectors.

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Societal

You can contribute to bridge divides between people and groups. If you talk about your bubble-hopping in a non-polarizing way and get others to jump between bubbles, you might contribute to a world with less worrying, hatred, and conflict.

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Bubble-hopping in brief

Start with bubbles

We start with exploring bubbles and how they divide people. We reflect over benefits of hopping, and why mindtraps and triggers can make it difficult to connect with those unlike yourself. 

Sometimes we also explore the importance of having both bonding and bridging “social capital” as well as topics such as “affective polarization” and “filter bubbles”. It depends on the context. 

 

Photo: Mattias Edvall 

Courtesy of. Cirkus Cirkör
Artist: Jan Unestam 

Fika is also exploring how art can help to bridge divides – and circus is an example.   

Learn the skills

We learn useful skills for bubble-hopping - and life in general. 
 

The first skill is listening.

Listening is difficult. So we use a simple model with four levels, borrowed and adapted from Otto Scharmer. It is easy to get stuck on level one in this model. It is very rewarding to reach level four. 

1) Confirming. At the first level of listening, we pay attention to what we already know. We look for confirmation and nothing new penetrates our bubble. 

2) Widening. At the second level of listening, we notice things we did not know before. New information, new facts, new knowledge. It is not enough if we want to bridge divides. 

3) Empathic. At the third level, we shift our listening to empathic listening. We start to see the situation through the eyes of the other and try to understand their perspective. This is where we, at least, have to get in bubble-hopping.

 

4) Generative. However, if we really want to bridge divides, we need to shift to the fourth and final level, generative listening. It is the foundation for co-creation. How can we together solve problems?  

The second skill is asking questions.

 

There are many ways to start a conversation, here is an interesting one to try:

“What was it like when you grew up?”

It works well in some situations.

Here are three types  of intentions  we explore  to  become better at asking questions: 

1. Explore motive.

Try to understand the motives behind the other person’s standpoint. Why has something become so important to the other person? 

2. Share and shift perspectives.

Share your own story and reflect on each other’s feelings and situation. How does the other person feel when you share your story? And the other way around. 

3. Move forward.

Try to find some common ground and a way forward to talk about ideas to make things a little better. How would the other person solve the problem you are talking about? Where could you meet? 

The order of these questions depends on the situation and conversation. And remember to not only ask the other person, but also yourself. In order to bridge divides, we need to develop our own self-awareness. 

The third, and final, skill is sharing.

 

It will never be enough with just asking and listening, you also need to share your own thoughts. Otherwise, you become an interrogator, and that does not make for a fruitful conversation. 

So, how do you share?

 

If you disagree with someone, research shows it is not a good idea to argue with facts. It is much more effective to tell your own story in a non-judgmental way.

 

Further, you could try to: 

1) Acknowledge the other person’s perspective.

It shows that you have been listening. Repeat what the other person has said in your own words. Ask if you understood it correctly. 

2) Look for and emphasize commonalities.

Even if you don’t agree on a topic, there are probably other things you have in common. When you notice a similarity, point it out. 

3) Loosen up.

Use words such as probably, perhaps, might, etc. Don’t put people into fixed categories. And remember: perhaps you are wrong. Perhaps the other person has a point. And don’t be afraid to use humor. 

4) Watch out for shame.

Don’t act morally superior or condescending. The last thing you want to do is to evoke shame in the other person. Or in yourself. 

5) Finally: be humble.

Make sure to admit mistakes and apologize if someone feels hurt by your comments. Be a role-model. Use a little bit of self-deprecating humor. 

Now you might argue that the same rules do not apply to everyone. That is true. There are, for example, cultural differences in how we communicate. And words are interpreted differently, depending on who utters them. 

Communication also goes far beyond words. Perhaps even more important is the tone of your voice, your facial expression, and body posture. Practice and ask for feedback. 

After having learnt and practiced these skills, you are ready to bubble-hop. Start by setting an intention. We usually use intentions such as “I will try to keep an open mind”. Then you set and carry out a meeting with someone you are curious about, practicing the skills above. 

The pandemic has shown that bubble-hopping can be done both in real life, perhaps over a walk, or digitally. Picking who to bubble-hop with and finding a good place to meet, are important parts of the process. 

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Time to hop and reflect

After having learnt and practiced these skills, you are ready to bubble-hop. Start by setting an intention. We usually use intentions such as “I will try to keep an open mind”. Then you set and carry out a meeting with someone you are curious about. The more you do it, the more you will understand. 

The pandemic has shown that bubble-hopping can be done both in real life, perhaps over a walk, or digitally. Picking who to bubble-hop with and finding a good place to meet, are important parts of the process. 


After the hop we practice story-telling in a non-polarizing way and reflect on what you learned from the hop. You also develop an action plan with your next steps. It ́s when you describe and spread insights from your bubble-hopping it will make an impact – to other humans, in your organization and in the society.