Count to Five

A healthy democracy does not require agreement—but democracy is strengthened when groups share mutual understanding of one another’s views. 

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine there is an equal distribution of viewpoints on a continuum between five different people. The following image is based on a theory of change developed by 1791 Delegates, titled “Count to 5.” 

A person who is a 1 is extremely ideologically different from a 5, so much so that neither party can hear or understand one another. As a result, they are often trapped in patterns of stereotyping their opponents’ positions with the intent to advance their own, often using a zero-sum-game, winner-takes-all approach. 

A person who is a 3 on this viewpoint spectrum is able to speak and hear both a 1 and a 5. Similarly, a 2 and a 4 have the capacity to speak and understand one another's language, aware that mutual understanding need not imply agreement. 

This pattern suggests that one way for the 5s to change their position is for the 3s and 4s to help them take a less extreme stance, while the 2s and 3s help the 4s do the same. 

If used effectively, this approach helps individuals renounce fanaticism by working on the merits of a particular issue. This process, which is most useful in highly partisan times, helps us all see that we have more in common than the stereotypes of one another suggest.