Monday, September 21, 2015

Breaking Bread (with Brett)

Attempting something along the lines of 100 words and Theatre Sport, Brett Fish and I have tried a new form of guest post (Here is Brett's guest post on my blog, and mine on his). 5 posts each. Someone starts. You get 100 words on each round. You follow the rules of theatre sports and go with the flow, attempting to build on what the person has said before rather than shooting it down. Here goes: 

Trev: 
I have never met someone who has changed their view mid conversation. Slowly, I am recognising the power of listening and gaps. Of making points and dots rather than threads. Dots can attach where they resonate. Threads tend to be too personal and have too many bits that scratch or irritate. I have also had my view altered so drastically that I now approach things with a lot more humility knowing that in order to change minds, your mind needs to be open to change. In order to grow community, we need to connect dots together.

Brett: 
Different people process in different ways. My chief means tends to be a delayed reaction. Kind of 'No... No... No... Oh!' Probably hindered by the fact that I typically don't take very long to respond to something I read or hear. Often requiring me to return later, tail somewhat between my legs with a statement of 'You know, actually, come to think of it...' Which is good in that I do to to do that, but bad in that a stronger focus on listening deeper, earlier, might save a whole lot of in between trouble and unnecessary push back?

Trev: 
Perhaps there is not enough space for conversation. Everyone is very busy, and so when we chat, our intention is to extract information or give information quickly, i.e. not to 'take very long'. We don't kuier. When you kuier, you are very relaxed and so people can tell you their story without you feeling the need to respond automatically. You can listen, breathe, perhaps take another sip or two. Dunk your rusk. Ponder.  A challenge I face is my 'unnecessary pushback' often comes through body language. Even if I hold my tongue and listen, my disagreement is written in my posture, eyebrows and comfort level.

Brett: 
This is the very reason for the Deep Diver Conversation Dinners tbV [my wife] and I have been doing. Inviting a group of people, who may not all feel the same, and preferably don't, on a particular topic, to sit and break bread with one another. And have a four to five hour conversation [without phones - they go in the phone basket - so distraction-free] and the invite to really kuier and, I would add, wrestle.  Face to face with food tends to slow things down, and help you focus on the whole person's response, and attitude, and hopefully words too. Where have you found this kuiering to be most successful?


Trev: 
I haven't tried the group discussion thing yet, but am keen. I have a bias toward books. It lets me have a visceral emotional reaction to barbs in people's speech without them knowing. I recognise that much of our softer communication is carried in body language and physical interaction (which is why emails are often hand grenades) but books tend to be very considered. I'm trying to read more by a wider variety of thinkers. For personal interactions, I am trying to shift from debate to listening. To understand people's stories for what they are, not for how they affect my story.

Brett: 
One of my biggest shifts in recent years is diversifying the people I choose to be informed by, much like you. So refusing to only read white, male, Christian authors [which was probably my natural disposition before]. I seek out black writers, and women, and people of different faiths and experience journeys, as they are more likely to have something to teach me than those who say what I already believe, and think, and think I know. I love you last point on hearing stories for what they are, and not for how they affect your story.

Trev: 
I grew up in the Church and the circle of people I exchanged ideas with changed quite significantly over time. Because of disagreements, people ended up parting ways. I have actively been trying to re-engage. I like the idea of a 'Bull Quota' similar to the suspension of disbelief we use in movies. If the movie is great, a few inconsistencies add flavour rather than causing us to leave the cinema. We all have some crazy ideas. As long as they don't get in the way, a poker face can be handy. With sufficient in common, perhaps it is easier to fix disagreements that do matter?

Brett: 
I LOVE that idea Trevor. Saw two people challenged on Facebook today, and both immediately walked away. I would love to see us embrace the 'uncomfortable' as well as the 'not what I think/feel', and not fell pressure to change our mind. But be open to trying to see the different perspective that presents. I also saw a long and quite in-your-face argument/conversation between two women of different races result in one apologising, and changing their position. It is not frequent enough, but it does happen. That give me hope to continue engaging in hard conversations.

Trev: 
Spot on,  but they can't always be hard conversations. You have to 'play enough Ping Pong'. Meaning, you can't always be on the attack. You have to make space for open time, fun time and silly time. You seldom change your mind to agree with someone you don't have some sort of relationship with. There is no incentive for uncomfortable conversations with someone you feel you have no connection with. Walls are cheaper than bridges. We don't change our mind mid conversation. But if we want the conversation to continue, we seem to prioritise each other over our divisive beliefs. That's what gives me hope.

Brett: 
I think for the most part, I agree with you in terms of the majority of people. But sometimes you get the odd exception who really just are wanting to learn and will engage in the uncomfortable conversation despite the lack of relationship. But for the most part building genuine relationships is key. Because space for grace, and honest listening, makes such a difference when things get uncomfortable, and awkward, as they likely will. You need people who will commit to push through, and be around for the long haul.

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