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What if we had a different kind of conversation? That’s what I’ve been wondering.
I watched a good bit of the hearings a couple of Thursdays ago, when Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford and then Supreme Court Justice nominee, Brett Kavanaugh both testified.
And then I watched the Facebook posts. Some subtle and brief, others lengthy and fierce. If the person who made the original post had a diverse enough following, the dominoes fell – one way and then the other – in their predictable patterns. Two or three days and ten or twenty comments later, threads trailed off into nothing or into ‘agree to disagree’ or into ‘I need to be done here. God bless.’
Is Silence Complicity?
I didn’t post anything about the hearings on Facebook and I carry some shame about that. And yet, I hesitated to post for some valid reasons:
- I just don’t know if the Facebook world of typed-words is the place to have these kinds of conversations. If most of communication is non-verbal, aren’t we missing quite a bit by dialoging on a communication platform that doesn’t include tone, body language, or facial expression? What if we tried posting videos of ourselves communicating our thoughts and only received video comments on our posts – video comments from our friends talking TO or WITH us instead of writing AT us? What if we could see each other’s faces? What if we could be seen by each other, rather than just being read by each other? (I tried this yesterday, by the way. I posted a video proposing just this kind of communication, and when I tried to post a video comment to be the first to answer the questions I had posed, the comment wouldn’t load. So, maybe that won’t be a thing [I was so hoping it could be a thing!]).
- I also don’t know if the format (opinion / counter-opinion, ad nauseum; fact / alternative-fact, ad nauseum) is the best format for these kinds of conversations (whether they happen through typed-word or spoken-word).
Can Conversations be Contained?
A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of the ‘Container Conversation.’ A Container Conversation creates a crucible of sorts, within which conversation participants experience both safety and challenge. The facilitator of the kind of Container Conversation I was introduced to established some shared values and parameters and then gave participants the opportunity to answer these four questions:
- On a scale of 1-5, how anxious are you about (topic)? (Where ‘1’ is not anxious at all, and ‘5’ is at the point of fighting, fleeing, or freezing.)
- If your answer is above a 1, what is the threat that you are experiencing? (In other words, if there is anxiety, there is a threat – be it real or perceived – that can be named.)
- When it comes to (topic), what are you curious or wondering about?
- Who do you want to be in this conversation?
When I was first introduced to this Container Conversation, I remember feeling dissatisfied at the end. The ‘topic’ had been same-sex marriage, and at the end of the conversation, no one really knew where anyone else stood on the issue. What did we even accomplish by talking about our anxieties and curiosities? “When are we going to have the REAL conversation?” some of us asked. The conversation facilitator said, “I want you to wonder if this just might be the real conversation…”
Well, later in that very day, I had a 2-3 hour conversation about same-sex marriage with someone else who had been part of the Container Conversation. There were lots of opinions and counter-opinions, a few facts and yes, perhaps some alternative facts. In some ways it felt like the ‘REAL’ conversation, but I don’t know that we could have had it with as much candor and creativity and mutual respect if we had not first waded through the anxieties and curiosities.
I have had a few conversations like this since then. I wish I had time to do this more often. I wish I took time to do this more often. In my failed attempt to start a video-Facebook-container conversation, I concluded my answer to the question, “Who do you want to be in this conversation?” by saying, “I want to be a Jesus-follower. And Jesus doesn’t run; he walks.” By which I mean, the best conversations take more time than we think we have, but are worth all the time that we give them.
I would love to hear (in the comments here – typed-word is fine, and really, all that is possible here!) what your experiences have been with really fruitful formats or productive platforms for conversation.