Guidelines for “Adult” Conversation #16 – Stepping Back: Bringing a Bigger Picture into View

Please scroll down for sample poems, which begin below the initial February 3, 2019 blog post.


Welcome back. Here are the subtitles of the fifteen essays in this conversation series with links to each individual piece. As the writing unfolded and the content found its way into a workshop at the Unitarian Society of New Haven in early May, the following sub-headers (bolded) began to make sense. They are currently useful (to me), and they may continue to evolve. Stay tuned for more about upcoming workshops.

#1Introduction and Overview

Knowing Yourself, Your Biases and Your View – Working with What and How You See

#2 – Who (You Think) You Are in Conversation – Culture’s Hidden Influence

#3 – Who (You Think) You Are in Conversation, Part 2 – Beyond Culture

#4 – Suspending Preconceptions, Judgments and Assumptions

Honoring Facts and Identifying Opinions – Really? Will That Hold Up in Court or in the Laboratory?

#5 – Avoiding Labels, Insults and Generalizations

#6 – Honoring the Difference Between Opinion and Fact

#7 – Engaging Specific, Factual and Preferably Personal Examples to Support Opinions

Learning Intentionally – How Do You Want to Be, and What Do You Hope for, in this Conversation?

#8 – Curiosity, Knowing and Not Knowing on the Path of Learning

#9 – Learning, Understanding and Clarifying (Rather Than Teaching, Persuading or Disproving)

Acknowledging the Forest and Staying on the Path – Wow, You’re Human Too!

#10 – Finding Similarities as Well as Differences

#11 – Staying With the Agreed-Upon Topic

Emotion, Empathy and Ripple Effects – Feeling, Honoring and Regulating Emotions  

#12 – Recognizing, Understanding and Regulating Emotions

#13 – Understanding, Feeling and Embodying Another’s Story as if It Were Your Own

#14 – Who Wins and Who Loses if You Get Your Way – or I Get Mine?

Truth – Understanding “Truth” and “Truthfulness”

#15 – The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

While some of these subtitles/topics are more complex, and require more work than others, each provides a foundational element for conversation that does more good than harm. Some are more or less “mechanical” skills that can be learned, but even those will be interpreted, understood and manifested differently based on the participant’s worldview (essays 2 and 3), and the extent to which the participant is aware of this worldview (i.e. does the person have a worldview or does a worldview have the person?). The worldview will also impact the intentional choices that are available to (that can be seen by) the participant.

Generally, someone who primarily identifies with a fundamentalist, absolutist, black-and-white view of the world is more likely to intend to teach or persuade, as opposed to learn and understand, than is someone who primarily identifies with a scientific, rational, evidence-based, okay-with-the-gray view of the world, and is more open to curiosity, following the evidence, understanding and clarifying. In the most extreme cases of these two views, the individuals effectively speak different languages – as much a barrier to resolving a dispute as, and perhaps more than, any of the content about which they disagree.

Each of us needs to ask how important consciously civil and intentionally mutually beneficial and respectful conversation is to us. Each of the subtitles above requires a deeper dive in order to be understood and embodied. Any one of them can enhance the quality of conversation. If you choose to begin, perhaps begin with something that feels easier; or begin with the one you know you need to develop; or take them in the order listed.

Just begin. Practice. The world needs you.

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