As we read and talk this year, we’re going to have some hard conversations (if we’re doing this right). Hard conversations are good (if we do them right)!
We’d like to offer these as agreements for conversation in this community. If you think these need to be changed in some way (tweaked, deleted, or added to), please let us know in the comments. We consider these a starting place. Before we begin our first book discussion in February, we’ll finalize our agreements and ask everyone to commit to them.
Assume positive intent: This means remembering that we are all here to learn and increase our understanding of each other, and looking for the ways in which a person intends their comments to be constructive.
Listen/read to understand: This means focusing on the meaning of another’s words to understand them, rather than focusing on how to refute them.
Ask questions to seek/understand: This means asking questions because you are truly interested in a person’s answer them, not because you want to prove that they are wrong.
Look for common ground and acknowledge it: This means pointing out areas of connection before jumping into where we disconnect from each other.
Speak your truth responsibly: This means being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings, and not just saying what you think others might want to hear. It means doing so respectfully, using language that will not demean or create barriers.
Call people in, rather than out: This means that when someone says something that we know is harmful or incorrect, we assume good intentions and figure out a way to address it that will build a relationship rather than destroy it. (You can find more on that here.)
Be willing to experience discomfort and remain engaged: Addressing issues of race, sexism, ableism, and religion is bound to create discomfort! These are things we’re used to not talking about and topics about which many of us are divided. Pushing through our discomfort and staying in the conversation is the best way to bridge our differences.
Expect and accept non-closure: This means knowing that some questions will remain unanswered and some disagreements unresolved. It took all of us lifetimes to develop the understandings we have now. It will take time to find our way to new ones.