Civil Dialoguer Lisa Flores shared this wonderful video with me today. We may use it for an upcoming meeting. Enjoy!
Our third meeting of the Guild for Civil Politics took place on Sunday, 4/23/17, with 13 participants, 7 of them first-timers.
Doors opened at 3:30PM. A few of us gathered to share a little conversation with light fare and drink.
The meeting started at 4PM. David reviewed our work from the previous two meetings, and we agreed on the proposed agenda for this meeting.
David introduced the topic "Getting Past Disagreement to Understanding, a.k.a. How Do You Have a Worthwhile Conversation With Someone With Whom You Disagree?" by reading a selection from Madison's essay on factions in The Federalist Papers, number 10 (posted previously in this blog).
Learning from our previous meetings, we broke into groups of 3 or 4 to (1) introduce ourselves to each other, (2) share any civil dialogue situations/outcomes from the previous month, and (3) describe what techniques we've found useful in having a conversation with someone with whom we disagree.
We reconvened and each group shared their wisdom. Some themes:
• Keep in mind that most of us are trying our best.
• It helps to re-frame the conversation with things we share in common.
• Another way to re-frame is to do something you may both enjoy.
• Sometimes conversations go awry -- sometimes you have to walk away.
• It helps to get curious: what's behind the other opinion?
As we continued to explore these themes we came back to a central question:
Why do we think we want civil discourse? This can be hard work. What's in it for us?
We recognize that as voters there is an incentive there to convince our fellow voters to go along with our viewpoints.
Personal world views can supply qualitatively different motivations for dialogue. These may have religious, humanitarian, Darwinian or other expressions. If we aren't aware of how our own personal philosophies have shaped our views, it may be difficult to appreciate how another's is shaped.
David shared his default philosophy as an example, and challenged the group to pay attention over the coming month to how personal philosophy enters into civil dialogue.
Those gathered affirmed interest in producing a Big Ethical Question Slam in the fall of this year, modeled after A2Ethics events.
We agreed to change our thinking about "rules of the road" for our group. Instead we will frame up some best practices and use these as a positive guide that should serve our Guild for Civil Dialogue and life in general.
Our next meeting is Sunday, May 21 at the usual time. Our theme will be: "Mind Frames / Re-framing Conversations." Come prepared to share what you've learned about how your personal philosophy enters into your conversations!
As a reminder, our next meeting is Sunday, April 23, 4-6PM at Norton Buffalo Hall.
If you'd like to join us a little early -- 3:30PM -- and bring some potluck-y light fare and drink to share, please do. Enjoying food and drink are, after all, a few of the things we have in common!
Our topic, chosen at our last meeting:
"Getting Past Disagreement To Understanding," a.k.a. How do we have a dialogue with somebody who is opposed to our point of view...and get something worthwhile out of it? Think on that, and come prepared with your wisdom to share.
We may not yet be ready for a "rules of the road" conversation as, with apologies, I did not meet with Arthur and Pennie to produce a proposal. It's been a busy and challenging month! Nonetheless, some samples for discussion will be available (should worse turn to worse!).
Last, let's take 5-10 minutes to talk about whether and how we might work toward our own Big Ethical Question Slam in the fall.
Again, you can always check in with our web page for future topics, resources, and our blog at http://www.nortonbuffalohall.com/civil.html.
See you then --
"By faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
"There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
"There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.
"It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy that it was worse than the disease....
"The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise...
"The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man...A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government...an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good."
--The Federalist Papers, No. 10 (attributed to James Madison), 1787
On February 1, 2017, The Atlantic ran an article titled "The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion" by Olga Khazan.
It's a valuable intro to a strategy developed from the moral foundations theory of Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues.
That said -- a simple trick? Not so fast!
To review the theory, as I understand it: we humans have evolved psychologically through adaptive group behavior, and in the process developed at least six foundations for morals in much the same way that our tastebuds evolved to detect sweet from bitter, savory from bland, salt from acidic, sour from fresh, etc.
Our "moral tastebuds" detect:
When it comes to politics, it turns out that liberals and conservatives gravitate to different sets of morals from this list. While it may be tempting for one side to call the other's argument immoral, it is very likely that there is simply a competing moral value set at stake.
The "simple" trick to political persuasion, says Khazan, is re-framing our argument with the moral set of our opponent.
I can't imagine anything harder! But please do read the article, and see if what follows makes sense to you.
I agree with Khazan that we've got to try to think through the moral suppositions of our opponents and use the language of their tribe if we are to persuade them (and I thought her examples were modestly helpful).
However, we can't leave our morals behind. Perhaps a very clever person can uncouple heart and head -- I can't.
But even if I could, trying out the moral language of the other side is like learning to speak Cockney when you're Cajun, or vice versa. There's going to be a tell-tale dialect when you first try it.
Then you need to practice, practice, practice until your Pygmalion is just right. And once it is -- don't you become Eliza Doolittle?
In other words, I suspect the effort to understand the other side's argument, and then re-frame one's own in order to persuade, opens a door -- whether by neuro-linguistic programming or empathy -- to transformation.
I suspect most of us intuit this possibility and won't let ourselves go there -- because we're afraid of leaving our morals behind!
But isn't this where the action is?
Our culture is more divided now than in recent memory, in part because we've hunkered down in our respective groups, each around our own unassailable values, locked in a win-lose debate.
It seems to me the only way out is to tune-in to each other, work to develop understanding, and experiment with re-framing our arguments using the language of the opposing tribe.
So, chin up! And repeat after me: "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the..."