On this month's episode of Let's Talk About It, dialogue coach David Campt and WFDD's David Ford take on the thorny subject of wokeism. Using role-playing exercises they demonstrate how to ask relevant questions, share personal stories, and find common ground before attempting to persuade someone with an opposing point of view.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: woke (adjective)

1. US slang: aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)

2. disapproving: politically liberal (as in matters of racial and social justice), especially in a way that is considered unreasonable or extreme

Interview Highlights:

On the principles and a method that can help people deal with controversial topics:

"So the principles are stories instead of facts, and the ABC rule. Stories over facts means you want to shift the conversational ground to telling stories to each other instead of marshaling facts and evidence. And the ABC rule means agreements before challenges. If you're trying to persuade somebody, you want to find a sense of alignment with them and communicate that before you try to invite new thinking and challenge them.

Now, these two principles together, result in the R.A.C.E. method: reflect, ask, connect, expand. What does that mean? Reflect. Please calm down if you're going to be in a controversial conversation. Ask. Ask the other person a question to get them to tell you an experience that's related to their point of view. Connect. Using a story, let them know that you don't think that they're completely crazy, and you have some level of connection or common experience with them. And then finally, after all of that, expand. Tell them a story that helps them understand an experience you had that explains why you think like you do."

On why putting the R.A.C.E. method to practice can be challenging at first:

"Our natural urge is to see our conversational partner, if we have a disagreement, as an opponent to be crushed. We're trained to debate, not dialogue. And we should think of them as a dance partner that we’re trying to collaborate with. So our goal is to try to create a setting where we're inviting the person to come up with a solution together. As Jonathan Haidt, the sociologist says — human beings are not logic processors, we're story processors. We've been telling stories for a lot longer than we've had, quote, unquote, logic and facts. We've been gathering around the campfire for 1,000s of years telling stories. So that's going to be more persuasive in any case.

We want to feel a sense of connection to other people. And that trust that we can create helps us look at the other person as somebody who's — they're not crazy. They don't think we're crazy; we can work together to figure out what's going on in this world. And that's why you're trying to shift the ground of the conversation. And that's why this works better. And the good news is, is that all sorts of scholars who are writing about communication are coming to the same general set of conclusions, who have books out about that now — Amanda Ripley, High Conflict; Mónica Guzmán, I Never Thought of it That Way; Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies; NPR’s Celeste Headlee, Speaking of Race; my own book, White Ally Toolkit Workbook — they all circle around a similar set of principles about how we relate to each other, and how to make our conversations more civil and less conflicted." 

On the role-play (see audio above) debrief: 

"Essentially what I'm trying to do is to change our conversation from woke is bad, and woke is good — which we feel differently about in that role-play — to something that's more of, can we work together to look at when wokeism is bad, and when wokeism is good? We're trying to — to use a sports analogy — trying to bring the field of play to within the 40-yard lines as opposed to at the end where I'm not trying to crush you and tell you you’re completely wrong. And nor are you trying to do that to me. We're trying to work together to say how can we, using our experiences, think about how the world is working and could be working better. So that shift from a debate model where I'm trying to dominate you to a more collaborative model is what we're trying to do in conversation.


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