In this episode of Let’s Talk About It, David Campt and WFDD's David Ford discuss ways we can forge connections with our dialogue partner by cultivating our sense of curiosity and compassion.
On turning a moment of disconnection into a moment of dialogue:
Part of what happens is that we have a very debate-oriented culture. And I think that if we try to shift to a dialogue focus, then it requires a shift of our consciousness, which is counterintuitive. Somebody says something you don’t like, and our natural inclination is to try to combat it and knock it down, etc. But if we want to turn that moment of disconnection into a moment of dialogue, we need to shift how we think about the moment, them, and ourselves. So, think about the moment of conversation differently. One of the most important things is we shift towards exploring experiences as a source of the truth, not just external facts. That's a shift in what the conversation is. And we need to think of the conversation as something we're actively managing, as opposed to just where we're reacting. We need to think about the person differently. I need to think about you as my conversation partner, not as somebody who needs to receive my great wisdom, but rather as a collaborator, in our attempt to try to come up with a way of seeing the issue that we can both live with. We're collaborating, as opposed to I'm trying to enforce mine on you.
On compassion boosters:
That's something that you do consciously in order to boost your compassion for the other person and to see them as somebody that you can learn from, and to open your mind and heart to them. For example, one of our learners said, when she knows she's going to have a tough conversation, she sometimes does what she calls a vinegar dump, where she like goes to a private room, and like there's a lot of cursing about the whole issue. Like to get her frustration out. And she goes, "Okay, now I'm going to have a conversation." [laughs] So, you got the vinegar dump. Another one is, think about how the other person is going to tell the story of this conversation. Just imagining that can be helpful for you managing yourself.
On modeling good behavior:
Across the conservative-liberal divide, one of the things that we've suggested people do, and people have told us works, is to own up to bad behavior that you've done with people who have a different view in the past and even say out loud, "You know, I've been in conversations where I wasn't really open-minded to a person with different views. And I'm not going to do that in this conversation." And just saying that out loud, just committing to it, it not only reminds you of what you want to be, but it has an effect on them. And even saying, "You know, I'm a little nervous about this conversation, and I really want it to go well," just even saying that being vulnerable about that can really be effective. What's critical is that you don't expect the other person to do it. It's like you're just saying, "I'm going to do this." You're not trying to ask them, "Are you willing to do this?" No, you're asserting that "I'm going to do this." The core idea is that by making assertions about what you intend to do in the conversation, you are reminding yourself and you’re also modeling for them what you want them to do.