Mindful Conversation: How to communicate better

What does Mindful Conversation have to do with the D.C. riots?

The D.C. riots threatened two of our most cherished values: democracy and decency. D & D, for most of us, are sacred beyond question. So how should we respond? How can we heal? By “we,” I mean you and I. Not the politicians in Washington, or the Generals, or the Police. You and I.

Assessing the Damage

Democracy and Decency were smashed on the capital steps, trampled by an unruly mob, egged on by years of lies, conspiracy theories, hatred, and self-serving rhetoric, by politicians appealing to the basest fears and motivations. As we wake up to the reality of what happened last week, we are wounded. Deeply. Maybe even fatally. But I don’t think so. Horrible as these events were, they are also a wake-up call. Healing takes time. This will require dedication from many, and multiple levels of response.

Mindful Conversation: An Unlikely Candidate

One of the paths that brought us to this sad place is the proliferation of hate speech. Hate speech drags along its allies: mistrust, lies, no interest in understanding others, inflated and violent language. Poison, all.  The antidote is Mindful Conversation. Mindful Conversation is not dramatic. It’s no instant silver bullet. It takes patience and courage. But it is powerful and deep. We must talk. In a new way.

Right Talk is Right Medicine

In times of trauma, such as now, we need to connect and to express our deepest thoughts and feelings. We must speak out. We must also listen deeply.  Even to those, perhaps especially those, whom we disagree with. This costs nothing. It requires no approval from anyone. It can happen over the dinner table, on the Internet, or at the grocery store.

Start Local

Our venues are restricted due to Covid, but that is no reason not to connect or to express ourselves.  In our small town of Ashland, OR., we held a community gathering, to share thoughts and feelings after the riots. It was an experiment in community healing. A group of 20+ gathered, online of course, to talk about Democracy and Decency. Friends and strangers, old and young, to share thoughts and feelings. It was “one small step.” But an important step.

This is how we grow. This is how we learn. How we come together, how we heal.

You are not Alone

As MLK Jr. said, “We cannot walk alone.” It is not enough to sit alone and mumble about the horrors of recent events. Share your thoughts and feelings with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, whomever you talk with. Listen deeply. We must come together and talk in a new way. Mindful Conversation can help set up such a conversation for success. As the facilitator for this event, I suggested a basic purpose and a few guidelines. We talked for two hours. A reassuring and healing time for many.

If you would like to know more about how we convened and managed this community healing event, and how you can do the same, please respond to this blog. I’ll be happy to share how we went about it.  The necessary conversations are not about blame or judgment or convincing others of your opinions. These conversations are about listening and understanding. It may sound slow. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Start today!

Further Resources

At the community experiment referenced above, different folks defined the problem in different ways. Here are a couple of great sources for additional thoughts on the subject: From the terrific web site / pod cast “On Being” https://engage.onbeing.org/20210109_the_pause

And for a very different kind of look, read the observations from a hotel lobby the evening after the riots https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/dc/how-trump-supporters-explained-capitol-riot/65-7ac90782-0cff-48fe-815c-88743dce48e5

Please feel free to add your own comments below, or to recommend sites or readings you’ve found helpful. If you’re interested to know more about how we organized the community experiment, email me peter@petergibb.org