Do You Dare to Have Courageous Conversations?

Do You Dare to Have Courageous Conversations?

“I can’t believe what he just said,” I muttered to myself as I walked away from the offending person. “He’s either an idiot or he’s been drinking the Kool-Aid.”

I’d tried to correct his inaccurate perceptions. I tried to show him the insanity of his thinking. I tried to convince him that my way was a much better approach.

But he didn’t budge. He was a hopeless case. Obviously, I needed to strengthen my argument. Or I’d need to work on converting someone else. Probably, I needed to do both.

If you’re like me, you’ve likely been in this situation before—and experienced its futility, too. Whether it’s in politics, religion, business or even family, it just doesn’t work.

How have we arrived at a point where we can’t even have a civil conversation with someone who has a different perspective than we do?

Clearly, our political parties benefit from dividing us. So does corporate media. And there are many other factors, too. Lots of money and power is at stake here.

But we don’t have to fall into that trap. What we need to do is figure out how to bridge the Great Divide that separates us.

Last week I was at an event put on by Move for America, an organization whose mission is to “Catalyze a generation of leaders who bridge divides and strengthen civic dialogue.”

After a yummy breakfast and intro remarks, Executive Director Libby Stegger had us pair up with someone at our table for a “Deepen, Not Debate” exercise.

The purpose? To get us to really focus on our partner, actively listening to his/her perceptions on this topic:

“What does the symbol of the American flag mean to you? Why?”

We needed to ask questions, not judge, maintain eye contact, and be genuinely interested. It was a delightful experience to be the listener—and the speaker.

What if we did this all the time—even with people whose opinions are very different from ours? And what if we then asked if they’d like to hear our thoughts? Not to argue but to understand.

By focusing on learning more about the people we’re talking to, they feel heard, not dismissed. Just like we do. But it takes practice and preparation.

Do you dare to make the effort to have these courageous conversations? Do you dare to understand more about the “others”? To find their humanity?

Because when we do, we can work together to create a better future. And that’s what really matters.


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