Reigniting the power of discourse

There are folks who see the glass as half empty, and those who see it as half full – some who live in color, and others who live in a black and white world. While we’ve made technological advances, the divide has never been greater. We live in a polarized, bias world where people “cancel” one another when they disagree.

No more do we have open dialogue, try to understand one another or look for common ground. We dismiss, stop listening and add to the existing divide.

But we can all chose to be advocates of inclusion, promote open dialogue and diversity of thought at home, at work and in our communities.

Two speech bubbles intersecting into a heart

Actively listen
Involves constraint and intentionality. How often in a meeting do you stop listening once you get an idea, waiting for when you can interrupt that you subconsciously stop listening to what’s being said? Active listening is a skill and an art. I remember hearing once we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, because we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Keep an open mind
Recognize and push your unconscious biases aside. It’s absolutely difficult to take the high road when some stops listening or does/says something that you find to be offensive. The only way forward is together, and the key is practicing inclusivity by having an open mind. Making no assumptions, nipping any conscious and unconscious perceived stereotypes and prejudice. Be open to critical challenge, new ideas, new perspectives and understand other’s points of view.

Understand why
Bridging the divide takes reaching common ground but the only way to get there is to understand one another’s point of view. Asking why, in an authentic, inquisitive way and openly, genuinely listening will get you further than you think. It opens the door for real discourse without guardrails and heightened emotions. The key is to keep it conversational without a hidden agenda or judgmental reactions. Try playing back what the person says in a factual way to make sure you understand and be open to them asking you questions or correcting your understanding of their point of view. Taking turns explaining our point of view and replaying it back until we’ve confirmed mutual understanding is also a great problem resolution/de-escalation tactic you can you use at home or at work.

Accept challenge
It’s important to understand that you won’t always agree, i.e. agreeing to disagree. This is the biggest challenge for our civilization. People’s views can evolve but it will never happen in a high-strung, all-or-nothing environment. They key here is to keep the dialogue going, in a respectful, thought-provoking matter and knowing when to give someone space if they need to step away/disconnect from the conversation. Some triggers to look for are closed body language, lack of eye contact and elevated tension. For tension, take it back to the why. Let them know you just want to understand because their view is important to you and that even if you may not agree you’ll keep an open mind. For closed body language and lack of eye contact, lean in and mirror open body language. If neither of these two tactics work, take a break. Also, consider cross-sharing information if it is an ongoing dialogue, like I was reading this article that reminded me of what you were explaining the other day.

Connect deeper
The only way to reach a deep connection with anyone is respect, honesty and vulnerability. Being vulnerable takes courage and as noted above may not also work out. If a person is important to you, you’ll put in the work to get to a mutual understanding. Over time both of your views may evolve as you grow together learning for one another because the world isn’t black and white. The world is colorful diverse and multifaceted just like each of our experiences and perspectives.

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