If we are going to live well together, we need to learn how to talk with each other. Not at each other, not past each other, but with each other. This is hard to do because it’s not how we’re taught.
We’re often taught to assert our views and to dismiss those with which we disagree. The patterns of debate, deflection, distortion, and simple dismissal regularly appear in the news, social media, political discourse, and even in many day to day interactions. We need new patterns.
Here are some resources that can help:
- Having difficulty talking with friends and relatives about race and social justice? Review “White Allies: Your Anger Belongs in the Streets, Not at Home” by Dr. David Campt. He clearly summarizes what not to do, and provides a 5 step process for more productive dialogue.
- Do conspiracy theories derail your attempts at dialogue? Review “How to Talk to Conspiracy Theorists and Still Be Kind” by Tanya Basu in the MIT Technology Review. She too gives you some clear guidelines for engagement.
- Not sure what productive dialogue looks like? Review the programs, tips and tools at Braver Angels, a group working to “depolarize America”.
- Need some practice in a low risk environment? Once again we recommend the New York Times “Angry Uncle Bots.”
All these resources illustrate that dialogue starts with relationship – you have to care for and value your connection with those you wish to engage. Dialogue also requires respect for views that differ from yours. This doesn’t mean agreement with those views, but it does mean showing an interest in and willingness to consider what others have to say. And dialogue requires self-control. Yes it may feel good in the moment to rant or vent, but that will only set you back. Scoring “points” through clever put downs and firing off the evidence supporting your position will only invite defensiveness. What does work is listening, asking questions that show both your care for and your interest in the person you are talking to, and reflecting back your understanding of what you have heard before sharing your own thoughts.
Yes dialogue is hard, and you can do this!
If you have questions you would like to ask about dialogue or additional resources you would like to share, post comments below or send us an email at email@example.com.