What if we learned to talk with each other again across races, political camps, faiths, and so many other divisions in society? The process of speaking as humans again, also known as dialogue- is needed more than ever. In America today we have no choice but to do that hard work, because unity demands it as President Biden said. We may find that we agree on more than we think, and that we all want the same thing – living our life and being able to take care of ourselves, our families and our communities. And once we discover that, we can go about dismantling lies, silos, walls and other tools that are used to divide us and truly see what needs to change.
What are some of the values and principles of the process of dialogue that we have lost as human beings?
- Suspending our own inner voice and its biases and limiting beliefs: this is the hardest step as it means facing our own stereotypes and negative beliefs about others
- Listening to others with open minds and generous hearts; listening is truly a gift and true listening involves sincerely trying to understand
- Speaking in a way that preserves the dignity and respect of others; this means no blaming, shaming, name-calling, bullying, etc; The idea is to speak in a sharing manner than speaking about others.
- Empathize with others, i.e., trying to feel their emotions and hearing their fears, hopes, desires to understand how and why they think like they do
Dialogue is as ancient as human tribes, and it seems we have to teach ourselves again how to have human conversations. When I was a facilitator for the Dialogue Project, a NYC initiative to bring opposing sides together around the Mideast Conflict, many asked the same question: What is the point? Will facts on the ground change? Essentially it boils down to the question: did the conversation open up a new aperture of understanding in even one person- if yes, it was worth it!
Hundreds of NGO’s are doing this work on the ground in conflict zones around the world, and even in the US which unfortunately has been added to the list of conflict zones, a conflict with itself. I hope to see a governmental group, with authority and power, get involved and help launch these important conversations across the land. And I hope to see the social media giants step in, take responsibility and facilitate such online conversations that break down the deadly silos they helped build and instead build bridges. I, for one, would be the first one to bring my experience and tools to the table. In Urdu and Turkish, we have a term called “insaniyet”, which is hard to translate but roughly means human, humanism; I like to think of it as noble human behaviors, which includes respectful conversations. That’s what we really need, and having President Biden at the helm is a great start!