In a world of opinion is there still room for truth? If not “The Big T”, maybe some “little t”, or at least “my t” and “your t?” Has the desire for civil discourse died? Are we forgetting how to listen? Black and White, Red White and Blue, just colors, or “fightin’” words? These are questions that need answering…
I’m older now than this time last year. Maybe wiser, (maybe not) but for sure more troubled than before. I stopped watching the debate 10 years ago and never looked back. Debates don’t seem to generate anything new or useful or … real. I tried to dip my toe back in the stream of consciousness a few days ago and found it much colder than I remembered. The arguments seem ever more pointless, the divisions more arbitrary and the drama more dramatic. I saw no attempt at conversation, grew tired of the outrage and turned it off for another year.
Then I had a conversation with my daughter. She was curious and I stopped to listen and we both felt heard and respected and though we disagreed, the disagreeing seemed less important than the glimpse of the other’s thoughts. A week later, I wanted to create that inclusive moment of acceptance again with a co-worker but the mood had passed and I heistated. Being judged is no fun and I did not want to be misunderstood or typecast. So, I defaulted to comfortable but unsatisfying silence and let go the longing to connect.
In a world like ours, I think we still need conversations that matter and eyes that listen to hearts. We are social beings after all and not good at solitary confinement. As a trainer, I recognize the crucial roles that trust and threat and bias play. I’ve learned to recognize when a conversation is becoming adversarial. I know a trick or two about how to ask, affirm and listen. It is my job, after all, to engage people to share their ideas. I’ve learned how to create authentic dialogues and found some useful tools along the way. More importantly, I’m eager to learn more. So, this week, with encouragement from a friend, I decided to step back into the stream and explore the answers to the hard questions:
- How can we make room for truth in a world of opinion?
- How can we rekindle the desire for civil discourse?
- How (and why) should we take pains to listen?
- How can we paint with a full palette and turn colors into “respecting” words.
If you, like me, need to remember what a true meeting of minds sounds like, join me in rediscovering how to let go the debate but stay in the conversation. I think you will find that with a little vulnerability and a little humility, true dialogue is much closer than you think.