03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Tentativeness Made Simple

Syadvada is a practice of tentativeness in expression that is associated with the ancient Jain tradition of India (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1957). In Sanskrit, the word syad means "perhaps" or "maybe" or "in some ways." Syadvada system consists of a total of seven propositions that were designed specifically to counteract dogmatic thinking when attempting to describe the multifaceted complexity of reality. Practice the following three parenthetical phrases as a way of infusing a degree of tactful tentativeness:

In some ways, it is.
In some ways, it is not.
In some ways, it is and it is not.

When encountering a point of view that you disagree with practice responding with any of these statements. Say, you propose something that I ardently disagree with. Instead of firing back that "You are dead wrong!" I'd do well to communicate my disagreement with the help of Syadvada style tentativeness: "in some ways what you say is so" or "in some ways what you say is so and in some ways it isn't." Try Syadvada style statements to keep the channels of communication open and to tone down the unattractive definitiveness of certainty.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is the author of "Eating the Moment" (New Harbinger, 2008), "Present Perfect" (NH, 2010), and "The Lotus Effect" (NH, 2010). He is in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit and sign up for Pavel Somov's monthly "Mindful-not-Mouthful" Newsletter