How Strategic Dialogue Can Help Us Restore Civil Discourse And Human Connection
It’s no longer enough to just argue our points when discussing controversial topics.
We need a valuable tool that can help us navigate difficult conversations and bridge divides, which is where Justin Lee’s strategic dialogue comes in.
By using this approach, he has managed to unite the Christian and LGBT community and help conservative parents become more accepting towards their LGBT kids.
If this approach can work for such seemingly insurmountable conflicts, then it can certainly help you mend strained relationships in your own life.
With Talking Across the Divide by Justin Lee, you’ll find out why attitudes have become more extreme recently, how arguing gets us nowhere and which five barriers get in the way of seeing eye-to-eye.
You will also learn some invaluable tools on how to discuss divisive topics and even change minds!
How The Internet Has Created An Echo Chamber That Promotes Polarization And Extreme Views
We’ve all heard about echo chambers – that people are only exposed to a narrow range of ideas and opinions due to how the internet works.
We may not realize it, but Google and Facebook both feed us content that is tailored to our location, browsing history, likes and clicks.
And this leads to people becoming stuck in their own ‘digital filter bubbles’, surrounded by ideas they already agree with – leading to less exposure to different perspectives and beliefs.
What’s even worse is the effect this kind of thinking can have on individuals and groups.
Research has proven that when like-minded people come together, their opinions usually become more extreme, a phenomenon known as ‘group polarization’.
So if we increasingly filter ourselves into smaller echo chamber bubbles on the internet, we risk further polarizing our world – creating an environment where conversations become heated debates and relationships can quickly turn cold.
Using Strategic Dialogue To Bridge Divides And Open Minds
It all starts with understanding how to bridge gaps, mend fences and create a productive dialogue between two conflicting sides.
In 1951, during his influential study, Solomon Asch discovered something essential when it comes to encouraging communication between two opposing sides.
He saw that when there is unified group agreeing on something that is obviously wrong, a single dissenting voice will reduce the chances of the initial subject succumbing to peer pressure.
It is this kind of dissent and understanding towards one another which forms a productive dialogue.
Unfortunately arguments are not the best tool for having successful conversations as more often than not they result in the person doubling down on their own beliefs.
This is why we need Strategic Dialogue – it encourages listening instead of talking and allows each party involved to feel like they have been heard and considered validly without any judgement or bias against their beliefs or views.
Using strategic dialogue provides an open-minded environment which isn’t biased by either side but which allows all points of view to be listened to, understood and discussed freely in order to reach mutually beneficial conclusions and further both parties understanding of the other’s point of view.
This is what we need if we want to truly break through the echo chamber and promote change in our society – strategic dialogue between those divided sides which can then be used as foundation for healthier conversations and bridges being built between them.
The Power Of Listening: How To Effectively Start A Strategic Dialogue
When looking to engage a potential ally or convert an opponent on a relevant issue, the key to success lies in strategic dialogue.
Starting any conversation or debate without adequate preparation and active listening can be harmful; as such, it is important that these are among the first steps taken in order to ensure a productive outcome.
The first step to effective strategic dialogue is clearly preparation – researching the opposition’s stance and gathering the facts necessary.
Doing so not only enables you to speak confidently about the issue at hand but also shows respect for your opposing side and suggests that your willingness to listen about their position is genuine.
The second step is equally vital in its importance: active listening!
Taking the other person’s point of view seriously and giving them enough time to explain their arguments prepares the ground for starting a meaningful exchange of ideas.
Even if you find yourself in heated disagreement with them, repeating back what your opposing side has said with empathy and respect – proving that you’ve been actively listening and understanding – will go some way towards building bridges between you both.
Collectively, these steps serve as an invaluable starting point for effective strategic dialogue that could have long-lasting positive effects once complete.
Don’t skip out on preparing and learning how to listen: they truly are the first steps towards successful strategic dialogue!
How To Successfully Bridge Differing Perspectives: Reframe Ego-Protecting Barriers Through Storytelling
Having difficult conversations and trying to sway someone’s thinking can get tricky, especially as arguments tend to become emotionally charged.
Understanding this, author Justin Lee presents many stratagems in his book Talking Across the Divide.
He discusses in detail the five barriers that one needs to be aware of when debating an issue, and the first of those is ego protection.
Ego protection is about respecting someone’s sense of self, pride and individual identity; something each person will guard vehemently.
People don’t want to appear or feel foolish, so if their views or beliefs are challenged without any understanding or willingness to listen they will become defensive and closed off.
To avoid this outcome, it’s best to use a storytelling approach when discussing your opinions.
Craft a narrative that avoids casting the opposing view negatively and cast them as part of the protagonist rather than a villain.
This confirms you have heard their story and conveys empathy for their circumstances.
Lee has put these ideas into practice through conversations between Christians and members of the LGBT community, demonstrating how we can all make headway with difference issues by understanding our opponents motivations and views before entering into dialogue.
Breaking Through Group Loyalty And Comfort To Have Successful Dialogue
Effective dialogue and conversation is key to changing hearts, minds and attitudes.
However, there are often two main barriers in the way of successful dialogue: team loyalty and comfort.
Team loyalty involves wanting to appear as part of a team and taking on the group’s beliefs as your own.
This makes it harder for individuals to think or act independently, which can prevent progress.
The key to breaking through this barrier is by listening to what draws the person you’re in dialogue with to the group, then emphasizing their individual identity and experiences over those of the group.
Additionally, opening yourself up for questions from the other side can also help break down these barriers.
Comfort is another major obstacle for successful dialogue.
When someone holds an irrational idea or belief, they would rather keep it that way because it is easier than having to change.
As such, it’s important to find a new discomfort that could cause them to reconsider their opinion – like when questioning why anyone would “choose” loneliness and depression if being gay was indeed a choice? By asking these uncomfortable questions, we can get people thinking differently in order to effect positive change.
Misinformation Can Pose A Significant Challenge To Constructive Dialogue, But It Can Be Overcome With Patience And Understanding
Misinformation doesn’t only cause misunderstandings, it can also make successful dialogue more difficult than it has to be.
People may have been fed false information intentionally, or they may have simply misinterpreted real news.
The key is to recognize what type of misinformation you’re dealing with and respond in the best way possible.
Strategically relaying facts can help people realize that their beliefs are misguided, but it’s important to avoid sounding condescending.
Instead, explain your own experience of how you discovered the truth and note how surprised you were.
This will open the door for the person who has been misinformed to reassess their own beliefs without feeling foolish or having their ego wounded in any way.
Sometimes a single explanation isn’t enough and someone needs to hear a message multiple times before they’re ready to reshape a long-held belief.
If this happens, keep offering up facts in different ways until they connect with whatever it is you’re trying to communicate – don’t give up hope!
Overcoming The Fifth Barrier Of Successful Dialogue: Understanding And Making The Ask For Next Steps
Strategic dialogue can be difficult to accomplish, especially when someone is standing firm on long-held beliefs they are unwilling to give up.
The fifth barrier to successful dialogue is worldview protection–any conversation tackling a person’s core beliefs may require extensive work and multiple steps towards resolution.
It’s important to remember that when seeking a solution, it’s not about getting immediate results or demanding that the other person completely change the way they think.
Instead, it requires taking measured steps closer towards what both parties want.
Developing an understanding of the other person’s interests–why they want what they want–and articulating your own interests can help lead toward a resolution.
This will then hopefully lead to “making the ask,” or suggesting stepped changes and activities that encourages a shift in thinking while honoring each person’s existing views.
The main point of Talking Across the Divide is that strategic dialogue is key in engaging productively with people on polarizing topics.
When preparing for such dialogue, it’s important to keep in mind the five barriers to success: ego protection, team loyalty, comfort, misinformation, and worldview protection.
If these are avoided – likely by making the other person feel respected – then productive dialogue is still possible.
When engaging in this kind of dialogue it’s important to take a few pieces of actionable advice.
For example, make sure that you bring a pen and paper along so that mistakes can be noted or angry feelings can be worked through at a later time.
These preparation steps are helpful tools for having effective dialogues when talking across the divide.