The Art of Conversation: How to Have a Turquoise Dialectic

Dr. Keith Witt and Corey deVos explore the concept of “turquoise dialectic” - a sophisticated form of integral discourse that emerges at the later stages of human development. Drawing upon their deep understanding of adult development and integral theory, they explore the feeling and transformative potential of the turquoise “we-space”, and how we might create the conditions for this type of conversation to unfold.

Join Corey and Keith as they unpack the core qualities of integral communication, the evolutionary intelligences that underpin it, and the “rules of the game” that can help sustain a higher quality of interaction between us. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or simply curious about the frontiers of human communication and understanding, this is a conversation not to be missed.

What is a “turquoise dialectic”?

The term “dialectic” originates in ancient Greece, signifying the various methods of reasoning and discussion in order to discover the truth. It is most often associated with the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose well-known process of “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” is often regarded as a fundamental aspect of integral thinking and sense-making. In this discussion, we refer to the term “dialectic” to represent a fluid, multidimensional form of discourse that acknowledges the constructed nature of all perspectives, and seeks to both situate and synthesize those perspectives (and their associated methods of knowing) into a more coherent understanding of reality — consciously inquiring into the frameworks and assumptions that shape our perceptions and understandings of the world around us.

This kind of Turquoise discourse facilitates the emergence of new forms of consciousness, co-creating novel ways of being and understanding that align with the interdependence and mystery of existence. Communication becomes a sacred practice of conscious participation in the evolution of humanity and the kosmos, demanding radical humility, transparency, and a release of fixed identities. Participants continually challenge themselves to expand awareness, embrace paradox, and open to the unknown, engaging in an ongoing exploration of the frontiers of human potential.

To learn more about the attributes of turquoise-stage dialectic, including its overall approach to communication, handling of conflict, and decision-making processes, be sure to check out this Context map: The Stages of Communication.

How do we set the conditions for a turquoise dialectic?

Imagine that every conversation is something like a poker game, where the players decide the rules before each hand. If you’ve got five players at the table, and each is coming from an Amber stage of development, then the rules will be set up according to Amber-stage views and values, and it will basically be an Amber game. If all the players are Turquoise, you’ll get turquoise rules, a turquoise game, and therefore a turquoise we-space. It’s as simple as that!

Or is it?

Human beings, after all, are far more complicated than this. We are not developmental stereotypes, we instead possess an entire stack of evolutionary intelligences within us — all of which are constantly growing and adapting, and any of which we may be inhabiting at a given time, depending on the context we find ourselves in. Turquoise people can happily play Red games, Amber games, Orange games, and so forth, because all of these stages are still alive within them.

The trick, therefore, is not just getting the right people to the table, but also establishing the right rules and norms that are most conducive to turquoise enfoldment. Of course, these are not the sorts of strict rules and regulations that we might find in an Amber game. They are rather a series of basic guardrails, orienting generalizations, and attractor points that can help the group to self-organize, participants to self-regulate, and the dialectic itself to self-govern. It’s about “rigging the game” so that authentic transformation, deep empathy, and collective sense-making become the winning strategies, allowing us to create a space together that invites and includes all of us, and all of the multitudes we contain, while guiding us toward our highest and wisest possible Self.

To learn more about processes, postures, and containers that can help support a turquoise dialectic, check out Corey’s six-step process here: Turquoise Dialectical Process.

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We love you too Sidra :slight_smile: And your description of “sometimes it feels like I’m visiting a zoo or museum of strange, beautiful, fragile, and endangered tidepools” is how I often feel when I am looking at reality itself through the multifaceted prism of integral metatheory.

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I shared this graphic on Facebook:

…and received this wonderful set of questions:

Hello, thank you very much, Corey, for this overview. One question that arises for me is: where does Zone 1 end and Zone 2 begin?

Example 1: I perceive a bodily sensation. Now comes the thought: “This stabbing in my foot, it must be from too much jogging, I need to be more careful in the future.” Is this mental reflection of a sensory perception already Zone 2?

Example 2: I look outside, feel, and think: “Oh, what a joy, how beautiful is this tree, spring is finally here.” Zone 2?

Example 3: I experience a thought and reflect on it: 'Why am I having this thought right now? I want to meditate!" Zone 2?

In your description of Zone 1, you use terms with a high reflective-cognitive component such as “experience a fluid dance of perspectives”, “palpable sense of interconnectedness”, “profound openness”, “insights”. Is all of this still Zone 1, and if so, wouldn’t insights into one’s own structural level then also belong to Zone 1?"

Here was my fairly long response. Thought I would share the geekery:

Great questions Michael! Let me see if I can do them justice. I am also often fascinated with how these zones relate and intersect, especially since they aren’t necessarily discrete categories of phenomenological experience, and therefore there can be quite a bit of “bleedthrough” as phenomena is simultaneously enacted through multiple zones at once.

I’ll do my best with your examples.

Example 1: The perception of the bodily sensation itself is happening primarily in zone 1, which describes “my first person is taking a first-person view of my own 1st-person reality.” So the raw experience of “ow, my foot hurts” is taking place in zone 1. However, that experience is being framed and interpreted through your zone 2 structures — “I need to be careful in the future” would be an example of an interpretive structure, because you’ve internalized the importance of self-care, and probably have a few memories of more severe injuries that are informing your in-the-moment experience of the pain. There could be any number of other structures that influence how you frame and interpret the pain as well — “I need to power through this because I’m not a wimp” being one (possible maladjusted) example.

One additional note — we could also look at the sensation of your foot hurting from Zone 5, which would show us the intricate network of our nervous system and how the organism self-organizes and responds to pain in order to protect itself whenever sensations go beyond a certain threshold of pain tolerance. This won’t tell you much about what that pain actually feels like in your own first person, but it will show the third-person biological correlates to that first person experience of pain. And the moment you say “I need to be more careful”, you are saying “I need to alter my Zone 6 behaviors, so that my Zone 5 pain receptors aren’t being activated, and I stop having this direct feeling of pain in Zone 1.”

Example 2: I also see this as a primarily Zone 1 experience — “Oh, what a joy, how beautiful is this tree, spring is finally here.” You are experiencing these feelings of joy and beauty directly, in 1st-person. And of course, as with example 1, those experiences of joy and beauty are being mediated by any number of structures and shadows in Zone 2. And these are arising alongside your observation of the Spring season, which is itself a Zone 8 reality in the lower-right.

Example 3 is an awesome example, because it’s something that practitioners often experience when engaged in practice (e.g. “Am I meditating, or am I thinking about meditating?”) And it lets us geek out a bit more with the math. Bear with me for a moment.

1p (1-p) x 1p means “My first person is taking a first-person perspective of my own first person reality”. That’s pretty clear cut.

However, what if I am looking at or describing my phenomenological experience, bringing an additional 3rd-person perspective into the mix? Wouldn’t that make it Zone 2, because now my first person is taking a third-person perspective of my 1st-person reality? [1p (3-p) x 1p]

Well, if we are limiting the number of variables to three (observer, perspective, observed), then we could make a case for this being a zone 2 experience. However, we have another approach that actually brings a bit more granularity — adding additional perspectives that the observer is taking on the observed.

In other words, instead of just 1p (1-p) x 1p, we could describe it as:

1p (3-p x 1-p) x 1p

Notice the additional 3-p inside of those parentheses, which would essentially mean “My first person is looking objectively at my own first person phenomenology within my first person reality”.

This is a very useful Kosmic Address to consider, because it helps us understand how we can apply objective perspectives to our own phenomenology. For example, Ken Wilber’s description of the major states of consciousness (gross, subtle, causal, witness, nondual) is a 3rd-person representation of these 1st-person realities. But it’s not Zone 2 — those would be the vertical stages in the Wilber-Combs lattice, not the horizontal states. Ken’s framing of states is describing Zone 1 realities, but it’s adding an additional 3-p into the perspectival stack the observer is looking at the observed through [1p (3-p x 1-p) x 1p].

Which means that, if we are looking at the Wilber-Combs lattice, we would say the map of horizontal states would be 1p (3-p x 1-p) x 1p, and the map of the vertical structures would be 1p (3-p x 3-p) x 1-p.

As for your last question, “Is all of this still Zone 1, and if so, wouldn’t insights into one’s own structural level then also belong to Zone 1?”

Where it gets a little bit tricky, is Zone 2 realities are not available to Zone 1 phenomenology. We can’t really see our developmental structures, because it’s very difficult for us to directly perceive the shape of our own mind. So, while we are contemplating our own Zone 2 structural development (which I think is itself the product of fairy advanced development in Zone 2, even thinking to ask the question!), the contemplation itself is taking place in Zone 1. As is the direct experience and feeling of whatever insights we are gleaning — we are experiencing the insight and those “aha!” moments from the inside, as 1st-person subjects.

Of course, when we have powerful insights, these experiences then get internalized into our Zone 2 structures and shadows, which will then influence how we interpret future insights.

This is a lot, but I hope it’s helpful! Let me know if there’s anything I didn’t address adequately.


Zone 1

1p (1-p) x 1p = the direct phenomenological experience of reality.

1p (3-p x 1-p) x 1p = a map or description of the possible phenomenological experiences of reality

Zone 2

1p (3-p) x 1p = the unseen structures and shadows that are governing and mediating my phenomenological experiences

1p (3-p x 3-p) x 1p = a map or description of the possible structures and shadows that are governing and mediating my phenomenological experiences.