I still very much believe that it is worth it to have a dialogue with “them. It is worth it for us, for “them” (whoever they are), for society. I also still believe that most people on the “other side” are “not dumb”or evil, that most people in the world are very much like us and want the same things in life.
However, the “out of my bubble conversations”, although very useful, have proven very difficult to do, for a variety of reasons.
So what’s next?
1) If you can, please continue the “out of my bubble” conversations (and share them with me). And based on your reactions, I would add a few pointers about mental state and timing.
If you are in the height of despair and frustration about the recent election or policy change, maybe it is not a good time for you.
I believe that both disruption and dialogue are necessary and possible, even at the same time - protesting against a politician during the day, while having a meaningful dialogue with his/her voter (as Jean did in Seattle).
But depending who we are, how we feel in general and how strongly we feel about certain topics, maybe this is too difficult at this point. As one American friend put it, maybe for some of us, it is now the time for “fighting, protesting, boycotting and organizing” , for disruption rather than dialogue.
2) On your own - cultivate respect for others and intellectual humility in oneself. If conversation is too hard for some of us now, I would “just” invite you, when thinking and talking about the “other side” to treat them with respect. As Pavel describes in his story , “it is mainly about working on myself, to be aware of one’s own personal story”. In a discussion with Zuzana in Prague, she touched upon an important point - working on one’s own mental state, happiness and gratitude for what we have is a necessary condition for any thoughts about others. I am currently translating into Czech the TED talk of psychologist Robb Willer, where he talks a lot about respect for the “others” - respect is defined as “due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others”. I also came to like the term “intellectual humility” as an aspiration for myself - in my private thoughts as well as conversations. One path towards intellectual humility is to become aware of one’s own “illusion of explanatory depth” - the illusion that my view is based on deep understanding of the public policy (it usually is not). And on the emotional side, being careful to avoid feeling contempt for others has become crucial for myself too. This Danish emotional video is a good way to remind us about what unites us rather than divides us. Last weekend, I attended a process work workshop and what resonated with me was the idea that there is a quality in our “enemies” that could be very useful to us (thanks to Slávek for facilitating this experience for me!).
3) What if I helped you convince others? One of the obstacles “out of the bubble conversations” is that while the conversation is difficult to do, the rewards are valuable, but not very “spectacular” (slow mending of a relationship, “tiny” change in myself" a sense of empowerment, new information etc.). Maybe framing the project as “let me help you convince the other side” might make it more attractive? Would you rather read an article on “3 ways how to be more persuasive when talking politics” or “3 ways on how to have a political dialogue”?
Many of the same principles still apply - listen, listen, listen, understand their needs, work with emotions, not just facts and adjust your message to your audience and to their moral values. By the way, these are pretty similar to principles of “how to make a convincing presentation at work” or “how to convince a hostage taker”.
4) Shall we get together for this? Maybe a more collective event (rather than one to one conversations) would be more motivating and more fun. My Czech friend Lubor has an idea: “I would much prefer to meet with someone I do not know. Maybe then I could listen to arguments that I do not know and that would make me think. We could make the process easier by defining the topics beforehand, i.e. “would it be better for Czechia to stay or leave the EU” “is it better to be an ally of Russia or of USA?”, etc. Each one of us would declare his position and wait for somebody with an opposing position to talk to him”.
Well, why not get together? Maybe we could start something like Living room conversations or Dinner at the square or Asteroid’s club? Or something similar to Human Libraries? Or something completely new? Ideas welcome …
Or maybe, as Jirka from Prague and others suggested, it is time to take the car and go talk to the “others” in some other part of the country (as students did during the “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia in 1989). Or even better - go and listen to them …
5) What about online/digital? While technology certainly contributes to the bubbles, can it also help us burst them? Some clever people are already studying this. What about some digital storytelling? Like the global collaboration on Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things I participated in last year? Or an app that would pair you up with someone from the other bubble? My personal experience with the Talkabout, an online platform for small group video discussions was not very satisfying, as the two of us who showed up for the dialogue shared lots of similar views. But the platform was fine … Or what training app for the conversations, something fun like my Life coach Karen?
6) Or something more poetic? Maybe we need to move on a different level, different aspect of human experience. Brainpickings quotes American writer and poet James Baldwin on Shakespeare: “Shakespeare found his poetry where poetry is found: in the lives of the people. He could have done this only through love — by knowing, which is not the same thing as understanding, that whatever was happening to anyone was happening to him. It is said that his time was easier than ours, but I doubt it — no time can be easy if one is living through it.” Some of Václav Havel’s plays show what was happening in communism in a way that essays never can. Well, maybe we are not Shakespeare or Havel, but a short story? A haiku to capture the intricacies of our times?
7) Anything else? Your ideas are more than welcome! In the comments here, by email, phone, telepathy ...