How to talk about our differences

The world has always been a place of ideologies and differences that seemingly do not come together, and as well the feeling that these ideologies cannot co-exist, and as such we must be enemies.

Social media has become a channel to sift and sort friends from foes, and create echo chambers in our own image so that we don’t have to listen to or talk about views which are dissimilar to our own.

I’ve taken it as my mission today to change the conversation as much I can, in increasingly unstable times. We need to understand how to talk about our differences.

The first clue is to hold space to create the psychological safety for a discussion to happen. This means we must suspend judgement. Hold our tongues. allow a wide berth for ideas, and reasons why to surface. This is difficult, and requires practice, but without trying, the polarity we experience in the wider world will only become greater.

The second is to remain curious. We often wait for the other person to finish, so we can immediately launch into the point we’ve been premeditating. If we instead let the thoughts drop, listen to them, then ask curious questions about them, we may find our eyes, ears, minds and hearts begin to open ever so slightly.

Have honest conversations. When we withhold ourselves, we create barriers to understanding. This of course only happens with the right level of psychological safety in place. This helps other parties to a relationship to know what you need and how to support you.

Acknowledge we do not know everything there is to know about anything, and this idea of truth may not be as clear as we once thought. There are facts, and there are conclusions based on facts. we need to be able to separate the fact from the conclusion, so we can permanently remain in the question.

I want to conclude this piece with the idea of responsibility. We need to be responsible for ourselves, our reactions, our interactions. We also need to be responsible for our communication, understanding that we put out there what we want to get back, either consciously or not.

What do you need to change in the above, to have a courageous conversation with people who hold opposing views?



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Katherine Ann Byam

Author, activist, coach and consultant for innovation and sustainable change. She’s the founder of Dieple Consulting & Where Ideas Launch.