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Do’s and Don’ts for Peaceful Dialogue

Director’s Reflection

Dear Companions on the Journey,

For a time, many years ago, I was loosely affiliated with Baltimore’s Institute for Islamic-Christian-Jewish Studies. Recently they published “Do & Don’t: Sacred Rules for Peaceful Dialogue.”  I share it with you:

Do: Dialogue is the mutual understanding of each other’s point of view

  • I listen to learn. I take seriously someone else’s point of view.
  • I listen for strengths, so that I may affirm and learn someone’s point of view.
  • I speak for myself. I use my own experiences and point of view. I try to examine my own assumption.
  • I ask questions to clarify and increase my understanding of someone else’s point of view (I try to suspend judgment; and give my conversation partner a fair hearing).
  • I allow my conversation partner to complete a thought. I wait until she/he is finished to respond.
  • I concentrate on others’ words, feelings, body language, and other modes of communication.
  • I respect others’ experiences as true and valid for them. I desire to learn from these experiences to come to new understandings of my own.
  • I respect others’ feelings.
  • I honor silence.
  • I look for new ways to extend the conversation.

Don’t: Debate is the argument of my position over that of another:

  • I listen to counter. I am closed to someone else’s ideas.
  • I listen for weakness, so that I may discount and devalue someone’s point of view.
  • I speak for others. I assert my assumptions about others’ experiences and motives in an effort to vindicate my point of view.
  • I ask questions to control the conversation, or to confuse my conversation partner. I look for ways to affirm my point of view. My goal is to win the debate.
  • I interrupt my conversation partner or change the subject.
  • I concentrate on my response or my next point.
  • I interpret others’ experiences as naïve, incorrect, or distorted. I desire to bring my conversation partner to my point of view.
  • I distrust feelings as manipulative
  • I use silence to my advantage.
  • I look for ways to end the conversation.

What do you think? 
And let us pray for/with one another.
The Paulist Center