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New forms of dialogue and listening are developing to offer people opportunities to develop their thinking on important issues, learn new perspectives and participate more fully in the democratic process. See the Social Intelligence Database for numerous inspiring examples. Transforming Violence is also developing training and formats that will enable people to learn skills and create good environments for transformative approaches to challenging issues. For example:

Respect Café
The Respect Café provides a chance for people to listen, learn and understand one another across lines of difference. Using these guidelines, The Respect Café can be created by anyone, anywhere. The Café includes a brief introduction to “Eloquent Listening” followed by structured conversations with people from a wide range of backgrounds. People describe the kind of questions they would like to be asked about their cultural backgrounds (as distinct from the stereotyping questions they are often asked). Participants in the Café then ask questions in order to learn new perspectives and have greater understanding of people from diverse backgrounds.

Examples of participants and their questions:

  • An Iraqi man who feels sad that people in the west mainly think about Saddam Hussein when Iraq is mentioned. He wants to be asked about the Iraqi people in all their diversity.
  • An Englishwoman of mixed race wants to be asked about whether she would choose to be white in order to avoid the painful realities of racism.
  • A Pakistani woman wants to talk about how she deals with not feeling at home either in Britain or in Pakistan.
  • An Irishman wants to be asked about how he feels about being lumped into the general category of “white people” in a way that ignores his heritage.

Eloquent Listening

Training in Eloquent Listening is conducted on an ‘asset-based’ model. In Part One we assume that everyone in the room already knows about good listening from their own experience of having someone listen very well to them. The training collects the knowledge of all the participants and allows people to value their collective wisdom. In Part Two, people are asked to reflect on a question about their cultural identity/heritage that will enable listeners to develop more respect for their identity and a deeper understanding of complexity of their experiences (see Respect Café, above).

Here are the insights about eloquent listening that have been generated by participants in previous training's. We usually start with this list and ask participants to speak for two minutes each about which of these points has been most important to them. Then people have an opportunity to add new points:

Assume the other person has a good intention.

Really pay attention – I want to know about that person. Be curious and interested.

bullet Assume that I don’t know what the other person is going to say.
bullet Be patient – let people develop their ideas.
bullet Empathize – try and put myself in their place.
bullet Enjoy what the person says – appreciate diversity of perspectives.
bullet Acknowledge a connection between myself and the other person.
bullet Cultivate respect for the speaker.
bullet Make appropriate responses and ask good questions.
bullet Take responsibility for my reactions and emotions.
bullet Be centered and maintain focus on the other person.
bullet Stay on the topic – focus on what the person is saying.
bullet Lengthen my attention span.
bullet Constantly intervene with myself to break habits and patterns (interrupting, reacting strongly based on my beliefs, etc).
bullet Redirect attention to what the person is saying – prevent the conversation from going off at a tangent.
bullet Don’t interrupt – open my ears.
bullet Be totally present.
bullet Believe the person really has something important to say. People who seem boring, wrong or ignorant can prove interesting if I really focus attention on them.
bullet Ask questions that evoke the depth of the other person.
bullet Notice similarities and common ground.
bullet Look at people in a friendly way
bullet Be accepting rather than judging
bullet Have open and accepting body language

Fostering Dialogue after 9/11
Transforming Violence and The Coexistence Initiative co-sponsored a participatory workshop that examined the development of community dialogues and discussions since 9/11.  The workshop brought together facilitators, moderators, and conveners who have organized, fostered, and promoted dialogues in different communities over the past year. It was held at the 3220 Gallery in San Francisco in December 2002.

This workshop built upon on a similar meeting held in New York (April 2002) and will be followed by a third workshop (in early 2003).  This workshop series is geared towards identifying changes in methodology, highlighting gaps in the field, sharing resources, and discussing obstacles, successes, and lessons learned.  The results of these workshops will be disseminated widely to practitioners in the field and others interested in the role of dialogue in transforming violence and building coexistence.

For more information contact the Coexistence Initiative

Dialogue Compared with Debate

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"To make peace with an enemy one must work with that enemy, and the enemy must become one's partner." - Nelson Mandella
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