There is a saying with Peacemaking Circles, "You don't get to a good place in a bad way." In other words, the ends do not justify the means. The process or the journey matters.
I feel like we're living in a time where this has been forgotten. But this is not because we are bad people, but because we care about the end result so much that we become blind to the conditions of the conversations.
I've taken to calling this conversational hygiene. Hygiene is keeping things clean so that things are healthy.
One thing that will help us master conversational hygiene is what I discussed yesterday, creating safe or brave zones for conversation and not devolving into violent conversation or silence. Also, having a dual process happening, being in the conversation and an observer of the conversation is an important technique to develop on the journey towards conversational hygiene.
The dual process looks like this--(and this is a real conversation/event)
ME: [finds a bunch of recycling in the trash]
ME TO SON#1: Hey, did you put the recycling in the trash can?
SON #1: Nope.
ME: Okay. [fumes about the values of recycling and who could have done this all day, drawing the conclusion it must have been one of two people in the household]
...partner arrives home...
Now, this conversation can go a few ways. Holding the end in mind, care for the environment, I could place the importance on that goal. Or I can pay attention to other values that might be present. I know that the value of "the recycling bin is over full and nobody else takes out the recycling" is real and that I have a role to play in that. I also know that my partner isn't always the greatest with composting, often trashing compostable items and that bothers me. I also know that throwing away four water bottles and a yogurt container into the trash is super out of character. I can do this two ways:
ME: Why did you throw recycling into the trash can? [channeling my angst about composting and recycling] or
ME: Do you know anything about the recycling items that were in the trash?
I chose to practice conversational hygiene, this time. Asking the second question.
PARTNER: It was "X." [a person who is living with us]
Internally, I had a few more thoughts and maybe I should have voiced them. But my goal, finding out who did this nefarious deed, was upheld and I got to the good place in a good way, without using conversational violence (cutting people off, stereotyping, stuff like that) or silence (sarcasm is a form of silence). It is hard for me to not use sarcasm. Really.
When you get into a conversation that has violence in it, that is a sign that someone is feeling unsafe. But it also means they are withholding meaning from the shared pool of wisdom or they are forcing their preferred meaning into the pool. Neither of those options are particularly good.
Imagine using this technique of conversational hygiene with folks in your community. The technique of observing yourself and others while being fully immersed in a difficult conversation. What could be changed?
ME: I admire Colin Kaepernick for his stance and starting the whole kneeling thing.
PERSON: I just don't want to see it.
realizes this is a difficult conversation now, I see the emotion in the other person and recognize the frustration and adrenaline rising in my own body
Notices: withdrawal ("I don't want to see it") which is a form of silence. This is a sign that the person does not feel safe. Now I ask the question to myself, "What do I really want?"
Well, the rest of this story will come tomorrow. I'll tell you more about this actual conversation, how it went, and how it could have gone using some of the techniques I'm learning. But honestly, practicing conversational hygiene is important. It starts within each one of us and goes outward. No spin, no sarcasm, no labeling others. Get to the good place in a good way.
Where will you go today?
The complete practice today includes:
- Centering with BIBO,
- Breath prayer,
- Music from Robert Cray
- Reflective quote from Kerry Patterson
- Links to scripture in the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions
- Prayers for the world
- Photo by id iom at flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)
- Credit to Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High for the ideas presented
Let my heart rise up to meet mercy, my voice to meet compassion, my hands to meet action.
BIBOLOVE: Breath In, Breath Out--hum(repeat for one minute)
Breath prayer (repeat 3-5 times):
(exhale) Soothe my soul.
False accusations, I can't take back
My mouth was moving but you know that my mind was off track
Buddhist Daily Reading: Daily Zen
Jewish Daily Reading: Daily Study from Chabad
Christian Daily Reading: Revised Common Lectionary Daily Reading
Muslim Daily Reading: Daily Verse from The Only Quran
Please bring your own sacred readings to the daily pattern. If there is something else you'd like to see, please share!
“People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool--even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs. Now, obviously they don't agree with every idea; they simply do their best to ensure that all ideas find their way into the open.”
― Kerry Patterson, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Weekly prayer focus comes from the World Council of Churches prayer cycle. We know the world needs to be surrounded with prayer and positive thought. This allows us to work through the world country by country. We focus on one set of countries per week with the same prayer, lifting them up. I encourage you to fill this in however you see it.
Let us pray.
We know that we fail to live up to being makers of peace. Let us bring in rather than push out, be invitational rather than confrontational--seeing signs of life while mourning for the desecration of hope.
This week we pray for the countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama.
For signs of hope and peace, we pray for
the mercy workers working so hard to put out the fires
those faithful who practice nonviolence
the rains that come to refresh the land, especially hoped for in California
our political leaders, that their hearts may be softened and sensibility will prevail
For the oppressed and weary, we pray for
those seeking food and shelter, especially those whose homes were destroyed in wildfires
those affected by hurricanes, especially Puerto Rico
those who have been harmed by violence, especially those in Las Vegas and Texas Tech
those who suffer in systems of domination, especially the earth
For those we love, those we hate and those we are indifferent to, we pray.
For the transformation from ME to WE, we pray.
Let peace prevail on earth.
So mote it be.
Translation by Neil Douglas Klotz, Sufi
O Birther! Creator of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us— make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now-
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly— power to these statements—
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow: Amen.