In her TED talk Elizabeth Lesser argued for difficult conversations as a means of stretching boundaries and building bridges with others.
The rampant growth of communication technologies and social media as actually intensified the extent to which people talk with people with whom they agree. So much of interaction with others serves to confirm existing assumptions. It maintains prevailing boundaries even while is deepens ongoing connections.
It takes a real effort to cross those boundaries. The first step is getting together, perhaps for lunch, with someone new and different.
Turning the situation into an opportunity requires focus. When under pressure, the usual thing is to do what feels comfortable. Stretching the boundaries means having a meaningful conversation with someone with whom you have profound disagreements about politics, religion, work priorities, or even sports teams. The easy thing is to avoid conversing entirely or to stay on the surface when conversation is unavoidable.
Lesser suggests a few points to help people through those difficult conversations.
A few don’ts:
- Don’t persuade
- Don’t interrupt
- Don’t’ be defensive
A few Dos:
- Be curious
- Be conversational
- Be real
The third items on each list are the big challenges. It may take some practice to get there.
With CREW we bring together people to have conversations that are difficult because reflect directly on their relationships with one another. That’s a critical context for improving one’s immediate community, but there is more people can do on their own every day.