“‘It takes practice and intention to communicate well in the midst of conflict,’ says Jes Stoltzfus Buller, MCC U.S. peace education coordinator and author of the curriculum. ‘If we can learn to embody healthy dialogue habitually in interpersonal interaction, it will ripple out and affect our communities and society.'”
-“Peaceful Practices: A guide to healthy communication in conflict.” Mennonite Central Committee.
The guide comprised of nine sessions is available for download. I think the key idea is that we should try to understand where the other person is coming from, be curious and actually listen to what they have to say. It’s amazing how feeling like you are being heard can change the conversation for everyone.
- Session 1: Making peace a practice
- Session 2: Curiosity—Be curious, inviting diversity of ideas and opinions
- Session 3: Discovery—Focus on what matters
- Session 4: Engagement—Invite the best in yourself and others
- Session 5: Dialogue—Listen together for insights and deeper questions
- Session 6: Empathy—Seek to understand rather than persuade
- Session 7: Authenticity—Speak from the heart
- Session 8: Dignity—Consider power dynamics
- Session 9: Transformation—Welcome creativity
Perhaps the holiday season is an opportunity to learn this kind of communication and practice it.
“If you are disagreeing with someone you don’t trust and don’t value (e.g. because you think they’re a jerk or out to get you), your disagreement is adversarial. Your goal is to manipulate them into a desired outcome, not resolve the disagreement per se. You don’t need them to agree with you, just to do what you want.”—David R. MacIver, “Notes on Disagreement.” drmaciver.com. June 13, 2019.
Never quite thought about it this way before, but the questions of trust and value are central to every relationship.
There are many reasons to not trust someone. If someone is selfish, they will almost always put their interests above others. If someone is incompetent, you cannot trust them to do what they say they will do. If someone doesn’t like you, then you cannot trust them to pursue your best interests.
Most of us probably don’t think about it systemically. If we decide to trust someone and they habitually or seriously violate our trust, then we don’t trust them again. If we are in a low trust environment, where we have extended trust to different people and had them violate it, then we learn to be less trusting of other people in general. Same is true when someone we have extended trust to keeps that trust and when we live in high trust environments we learn to be more trusting.
There is also the question of instrumental value. Why spend time disagreeing with people of no consequence in your life? Why spend time in an adversarial relationship with someone who doesn’t add value to your life?
Trust and value can be a useful lens to think about not only disagreements, but relationships as well.