The red lines and black dots model helps to understand how people develop communication and interaction problems overtime. This model is also useful to understand why self-awareness and personal development are so crucial for any organization.
Those two circles depict each one of us as we are born. The outer ring describes our interaction with the world, and the inner circle represents our cognitive abilities. Each one of us was born with no limitation to interact with the world and with no destruction of our cognitive abilities. When we are young, we are open to any interaction with others, and we don’t have any communication issues. Regretfully that won’t be the case for a long time.
As we are growing, two main events impact our ability to interact and communicate with others:
1) The Red Lines:
When we have a negative experience with a particular interaction, we burn a specific portion of our outer circle responsible for interaction/communication with others. In our model, a red line on the outer circle represents the burned interaction area.
Once an area of our outer interaction circle burned, we block ourselves from any similar interaction. If for example during first grade while standing up and telling a story about your weekend trip to the class you notice several kids laughing, you might burn the area of public speaking. If you had a painful interaction with an individual that is all about getting things done. You’ll shy away from any individual that exhibit the same attitude.
The interaction with “A” burned area in interaction with others. When “B” or any other person will be impacted by what the interaction with “A” caused. Over time, people have more and more burn areas that are limiting their ability to interact and communicate.
2) Black Dots:
To survive our brain is wired to use cognitive bias. Instead of processing all the data we get from the world logically, reach a judgment and react. Our brain will jump to conclusions based on previous experience. If, for example, you had a frightening interaction (in your mind) with a man having a beard when you were three years old; you will see negatively any man with a beard. You won’t even know of it; it will happen in your subconscious, and it will cause you hesitation any time you see a man with a beard. That is a cognitive bias. In this model, a cognitive bias is a black dot inside the inner circle.
A created the biased B (and all other interactions will be impacted by what A created.
Over time, each one of us collects many red lines on our outer circle and black dots in our inner circle. When you join the workspace, your inner circle is full of dots, and your outer ring is mostly red. The problem is that you are not aware of that, which is very problematic. The lines and the dots restricting your ability to interact with people and create misunderstanding, that can escalate into conflicts.
Self-awareness is the effort of understanding what the dots and the red lines that you are not aware of are (Self-awareness has other aspects not discussed here). Personal development is finding out how to work around (or even remove) the red lines and the black dots.