A simple, yet surprisingly profound experience two or more people can share in relationship with each other is shared reality, sometimes known as mutual understanding. Weaving shared reality is the process of communicating such that we are getting on the same page with another person.
There is your reality, what you experience as true. This includes your perceptions, your thoughts, your feelings, your perspectives, your beliefs, your hunches, and so on. And there’s also their reality, what they experience as true—including their perspectives, beliefs, perceptions, hunches, and so forth.
Shared reality is where we discover an overlap. Weaving shared reality is an exchange of communication where you come to understand that there are some things that are true for you and true for them, and you both know that’s the case. (Some psychologists call this “common knowledge”.)
There are two basic moves you can make when weaving shared reality. One is Revealing Your Experience where you are revealing some of your perspectives, your feelings, your intentions, and your beliefs to the other person. The other is Getting Someone’s World, where you are listening in an active way such that you are confirming your understanding of the their perspectives, feelings, intentions, and beliefs. Both partners in an exchange must to some degree do both of these moves in order to weave shared reality together.
Even when you “agree to disagree” you have found, to at least a small degree, some shared reality that includes what in particular you are disagreeing about, and perhaps some specifics of how you are disagreeing about it.
Weaving shared reality often brings you closer to understanding objective reality, however, this may not always be the case! Our focus when weaving shared reality is to bring you closer to a mutual understanding, and there’s no guarantee that we have arrived to a more accurate picture of objective reality.
When you weave shared reality you continue to build further amounts of shared reality with each exchange. At a large scale, many of the things we call “social reality”—our world of agreements, culture, contracts, laws, justice, economies, norms, ethics, etc.—are built in large part out of many layers of shared reality over long periods of time.
At the heart of weaving shared reality is learning to slow down and zoom in on the most basic exchanges of communication from which our communities of shared meaning—our social reality—arise, step-by-step, one conversation, one thread at a time.
You can learn to tune into a felt sense of what it is like to be on the trail of greater and greater shared reality, in the moment. As we follow this trail, we may experience something called Aletheia—a sensation of uncovering, the revealing of something hidden, the remembering of something forgotten, the discovery of something new about ourselves, or the co-creation of something new together.
At other times we may simply be revealing ourselves and inquiring into each other’s worlds to such a deep and far reaching extent that we experience something profound merely through the exploration. And yet other times, something novel or surprising to everyone present may emerge through our encounter.
The more we practice weaving shared reality with others, the more we’ll get a sense of what Aletheia feels like and what it’s like to be hot on the trail.
No matter how much shared reality we create together, there are limitless degrees of further shared reality possible. We can never know with absolute certainty that the reality we believe we are experiencing and the reality experienced by another are the same, nor can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the shared reality we have confirmed with another matches in every possible detail. There are always further nooks and crannies to explore together! The ability to further explore together is a fundamental human capacity and can be immensely satisfying.
Michael Porcelli is committed to people cultivating more realness in their relationships both personally and professionally. He’s played a key role developing a world-class team of facilitators and Course Leaders with The Integral Center and AuthenticWorld. Whether it’s taking people into deep interpersonal encounters in the moment, crafting a training curriculum, or facilitating a fast-paced business meeting, you’ll find him friendly, down-to-earth, and probably ready geek-out at the drop of a hat.