There's No Substitute for Talking - BCB #9
"If you can’t say anything nice, maybe it’s time for a talk."
We need to talk across divides to have better conflict; a 2006 study summarizing hundreds of previous experiments found that “intergroup contact” really does reduce prejudice. This is why there are a variety of organizations that continually arrange conversations between Red and Blue citizens, including those listed below.
However, such conversations are difficult, and likely to lead to bad experiences if they’re not approached properly. Negative experiences can make relations worse, and lessen the chance that someone will seek out contact again. The key is mediation, and mediated small group conversations often go well, especially when mediators are able to let go of their assumptions. It is especially effective when groups not only work to shake off in-group bias, but also to think about the conflict in a different way.
But to affect societal change, small group mediation must be massively scaled up. This is not just a matter of quantity. Personal trust and understanding can emerge from a productive kitchen table conversation, but turning this into goodwill between groups is another matter. Similarly, negotiators in direct contact with the Other may be able to come to productive agreements that their broader constituencies would never accept.
Still, there’s no substitute for talking. If you’d like to be part of the solution, there is a growing list of opportunities to take part in facilitated conversations, workshops, and other events – as well as mediator training so you can host your own conversations.
Enough theory; if you really want to learn how to relate better to the other side you can join a structured discussion on a divisive topic today. This group also enables people to host their own conversations, with helpful guides to many hot topics.
A multifaceted organization that organizes mediated Red/Blue discussions across the country (in-person and online), hosts collaborative debates, and produces Red/Blue workshops that teach techniques for communicating with the other side.
Aside from facilitation services for public forums and “town squares,” this organization offers training in mediation and bridge-building, including specific programs for journalists, media, and faith leaders.
A non-profit that supports a wide variety of conflict resolution start-ups and provides guidance to organizations seeking citizen engagement (also our fiscal sponsor).
New and Interesting
A cogent analysis on how successful political movements work over the long term, from an insightful Blue advocate. It argues that this decision is a backlash to the social upheaval of the late ‘60’s and 70’s, and that progressive activists will now likely focus on the long term project changing or expanding the Supreme Court.
A newsletter offering political commentary on social media, class division, and other policy topics from an unusual ideological perspective. Frequently snarky, often insightful. A Most Conflicted Selection.
Among the takeaways from this Brookings Institution study on trust in government: demand for reform is rising, but Americans are divided on what that should be. Meanwhile, the government continues to expand.
Quote of the Week
Having real human connections and relationships that cover a wide range of socioeconomic, educational, and geographic terrain is every bit as important as a solid foundation in history, politics, government, science, social science, philosophy, and the humanities. No amount of book learning or formal instruction can replace it.
Thanks for reading
Mary-Beth Ellis - reporter
Jonathan Stray - editor
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