I recently had the pleasure of viewing a presentation (which I’ve shared below) called “Productive Disagreements: How to Have Civil Conversations,” lead by Dr. Terri Easley-Giraldo. Hosted by Janette Jasperson of the International Education Office at JCCC, this event provides a relevant discourse on the current polarized nature of our society, and discusses a way of navigating disagreements. The scope of this theme is global, transcending borders and nationalities, but also personal in nature. Within our individual lives, touched by the division of national politics, we frequently find ourselves in the midst of unproductive disagreements with those near to us. Dr. Terri Easley-Giraldo outlines several tactics and communication skills we can utilize to turn these into beneficial and enlightening forces for everyone involved.
By developing empathy and understanding toward others, we are laying the groundwork for a broader movement of global awareness. Humility is the antithesis of arrogance, and this quality is cultivated in our hearts through the willingness to be wrong about our convictions. Dr. Easley-Giraldo unveils the nature of the human mind to take shortcuts in order to more easily process information and deal with uncertainty. Unfortunately, these mental leaps or assumptions can result in “cognitive bias,” which is usually comprised of overgeneralized stereotypes that alter our judgement. The antidote to this unproductive habit involves turning our awareness inwards, establishing a foundation of respect, and giving others the benefit of the doubt. Compassion is catching, and the greater mission of global solidarity begins within ourselves.
One personal takeaway from this presentation is the realization that I am prone to conflict avoidance. What Easley-Giraldo refers to as “ruinous empathy” enables hidden disagreements to fester beneath the surface, with no outlet or means of reconciliation. I recognize that in my own life, I am likely to remain silent during moments where my input and sincerity would make a positive difference. This might maintain harmony for the moment, but a long-term consequence is the slow deterioration of the relationship. Instead, arguments can become opportunities to bridge the gap of misunderstanding, ultimately transforming the mode of communication into a style of “radical candor.” There is an illusion of separateness that facilitates our ignorance of others’ personal contexts, and within our excessively divisive culture, developing stronger communication skills is more important than ever. I hope everyone views this presentation and walks away a little more insightful.
Also read my relevant post, A Newfound Compassion.