Why and How Deep Conversations – Three Themes to Guide Me – April 24, 2017

Three Themes to Guide Me  http://ryusho.org/blog/?p=7155

The title is perhaps a bit misleading in that I don’t propose to have all the answers.  At best I have a few strategies which you may or may not find helpful.  I think the best outcome I could hope for would be that this somehow prompts you to think about your interactions with people and how they might be different.  To even consider what is missed in conversations by not deeply listening.  Or even to long for something different. Any or all of those would be favorable outcomes.

This notion of deeper conversations has many names used by various groups and individuals.  It is also not a new consideration.  It has come more to the front recently due to our political and social challenges, the influences of religion and morality on social norms, race relations has also brought to the surface the need to communicate differently. 

One of the long time proponents of different ways of communicating is Buddhism and the teaching of the Eightfold Path. My experience and working wth Nonviolent Communication made the Eightfold Path much clearer and offered a structured way to practice the Eightfold Path.  In fact the founder of Non Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg says pretty much the same thing about NVC

“All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions.”
— Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd

In the past I’ve lead groups in practicing Non Violent Communication techniques.  It is a fairly easy process though as most things it does require discipline to practice.  It can be frustrating at first to employ NVC in ones life because there is an initial sense that it isn’t effective compared to what every old ways we had for communication. 

That notion is an illusion and clearly revealed only by stepping back and being as objective as possible about what the results have been for us in the past.  What we tend to over look in a less critical examination is that often our ways of communication either cause disconnections or avoidance by other people.  It also sometimes ignores the fact that the immediate solution achieved has only created greater potential in the future for more complex problems in communications with others. 

I would offer here that while I still believe in the principles of NVC and the techniques it teaches and continue to feel it provides a framework for actualizing the practice of the Eightfold Path there are some weakness which the Civil Conversations Project addresses or at least acknowledges.

The Civil Conversations Project is right now my current favorite approach and model for engaging in Deep Conversations.  In this approach the notion of agreement or compromise is abandoned and considered outmoded.  Rather than seeking agreement the goal is to recognize there may be differences which can not be overcome yet living together in a civil society is crucial and how do we do that even with our differences.  Also the project steps beyond right and wrong and winners and losers to seek cooperation in solving residual problems resulting from either side and the weaknesses in our own views and how some of the weaknesses can be solved by adopting views held on the other side.

I encourage you to explore the links I have provided here as an initial exploration into considering how you might use a different approach to your understanding of what the problems are and how to address the solutions.  It may provide you with tools you can use as you engage in conversations with those in your community who differ from you.  I have offered two, NVC and Civil Conversations, for you to begin with.  You may have others and I welcome you sharing your discoveries as others may find your suggestions more to their liking than my own.

Finally something I was involved with to a limited degree was the idea of bias versus prejudice.  It is an interesting recent discovery or methodology for addressing many issues and in particular the issue of race relations which trouble our society.  The ideas presented by Mahzarin Banaji is refreshing and welcome.  I invite you to explore this when you are able and offer your thoughts when you can.

The notion of the mind being a difference seeking machine is intriguing and offers some ways of understanding and navigating the complex reality facing us as we are in closer contact with and interact with people and ideas different than us.

The emerging science of implicit bias is one of the most promising fields for animating the human change that makes social change possible. The social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji is one of its primary architects. She understands the mind as a “difference-seeking machine” that helps us order and navigate the overwhelming complexity of reality. But this gift also creates blind spots and biases, as we fill in what we don’t know with the limits of what we do know. This is science that takes our grappling with difference out of the realm of guilt, and into the realm of transformative good.

As I mentioned there are many new emerging models for engaging in conversations and I hope this will provide you some entry points into considering how you might practice deep conversations.

Civil Conversations http://www.civilconversationsproject.org/

Non Violent Communication https://www.cnvc.org/

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About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to http://www.myoshoji.org. I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.