We Need a Conversational Shift
The Present Paradigm
It seems that in most exchanges about politics and issues today, whether they be pundits or shows on TV and radio, debate in Congress, or exchanges among regular folks, the same arguments and accusations are made and impasses reached. Rarely is any new ground covered. Each side is stuck in its perspective.
We tend to look at the other side as the adversary, whose voice we believe must be silenced. And, when we do have an “open” conversation, it’s usually among those who share our thoughts. What I’m describing is the prevailing paradigm of communication, which has been going on for centuries.
Meanwhile, problems keep surmounting, while real solutions remain elusive. Many of the old solutions that once worked, no longer apply. We’re coming to a point in human history, when, in order to come to terms with our problems, we need to shift our thinking and communication to a new paradigm.
A New Paradigm
Under such a new paradigm, the old band-aid measures and watered down compromises that passed for solutions will give way to fresh, creative approaches, which result from a synergy of both sides working together.
Communicating under a new paradigm doesn’t mean there will be total agreement on every point. There will still be disagreements, which is natural in our diverse society.
However, a greater discernment will develop as the mindset that was frozen in its beliefs begins to melt, freeing the mind to explore new possibilities. Such discernment will assist us in making the distinction between what we think is a threat from what actually is.
Consequently, the fear, distrust, and ignorance we’ve held and expressed by demonizing the other side will be replaced by a greater sense of peace, trust, and understanding. So, instead of trying to eliminate the opposition, both sides will recognize that each side has legitimate concerns, and therefore will seek greater cooperation and synergy toward one another.
Our political system works best when both sides engage in constructive political discourse and are able to reach a consensus that truly benefits the nation and its people, without disenfranchising large segments of the population.
I’d like to introduce two terms: First, The Conversational Shift defines the leap from the present paradigm of polarized communication to a new, positive paradigm. This shift is the bridge for overcoming polarized politics and will take society several years to achieve.
Second, a conversational shift denotes an incremental, positive change that occurs in a discussion between those with divergent points of view. More than one shift can occur in an exchange. It’s through the baby steps of many conversational shifts over many discussions that will ultimately lead to The Conversational Shift.
As we make conversational shifts, we can start seeing some of the benefits soon after, including improved communication, greater cooperation and synergy, and self-healing.
Certain techniques can be used to help bring about one or more conversational shifts in a discussion.
For example, acknowledging the other side’s concerns and values at the start of a discussion is one of the most, if not the most, effective techniques for creating a conversational shift, since it requires a penetration through the wall of resistance, fear and anger that sets people so much apart.
Facing and overcoming this resistance and negative emotion, not only brings about better communication, but contributes to individual self-healing.
As people use these techniques, they will begin to face and work through those suppressed aspects within themselves that are behind the polarized communication. As they make more conversational shifts, the momentum behind the polarized communication will grow weaker, while a more holistic communication will take root and grow.
Rest assured, having a conversational shift doesn’t mean we have to give in to evil, darkness or danger; nor do we have to agree on everything or concede on every point; nor do we have to have a perfect or near perfect conversation.
When a conversational shift does occur, it will energize the discussion to a new level, making it easier for other shifts to take place during the same exchange.
In subsequent articles, I’ll share some of these techniques and apply them to hypothetical discussions. These techniques will not be a long, drawn-out, to-do list, but rather individual techniques that can be used alone or with others, at your discretion. The idea is to keep their application simple, flexible, and practical, in order to account for the many different circumstances, human temperaments, and forums of communication.
For these techniques to work, it’s important to employ them with sincerity, rather than use them to manipulate the opinion of others.
These techniques are not new. They’ve been used in relationship counseling for years. However, to my knowledge, they are seldom used in the context of people or groups having political conversations, the focus of this article.
As we use these techniques and make incremental progress in our communication, The Conversational Shift will eventually arrive. In addition, as we make progress, our abilities to work together to come up with more effective solutions will grow.