The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.
— SIGMUND FREUD
We Can Dialogue with Dignity
Challenging online conversations across political divides
Our mission is to discover a new language for empathic communication to counteract the cultural and technological forces that divide people across modern society. As we examine these divisions, we ask, what do people want? What do people need? When the same wants and needs are experienced by people on opposing sides, what are the complications in the details that cause shared interests to diverge? How deep do these divisions go? Can we identify patterns? How do divisions harden and turn into “otherizing”?
When hardened divisions deprive us of the focus we need to methodically solve problems, a society can only resolve this impasse if it is willing to examine the nature of prejudice without fear of its darkness. Human nature takes us to beautiful places and ugly ones. We acknowledge this, and envision a multimedia approach to conversation that invites constructive movement between the two.
For two decades, through innovative educational and social media projects, we have explored different ways of getting at this problem. The coronavirus pandemic quarantine, while it isolated us from one another, paradoxically brought us together through a new medium for communication – the Zoom Webinar – to expand our research and develop our model. We can now bring strangers from all across America to talk face-to-face.
In our three-stage Dialogue model, four to six people come together in a Zoom “virtual living room” to share strongly held beliefs across the political spectrum and work through the inevitable friction. Through resilient conversation, guided by a host, participants share their personal histories: how they arrived at their beliefs, how their lives shape their beliefs and how their beliefs shape their lives. By asking each other questions, hopefully each participant can feel better understood. By showing curiosity about one another, they show and develop trust. Once a basis of trust has been established, we encourage participants to continue interacting with one another in our Facebook group, and to return for a follow-up Zoom conversation.
As important as the discussions we host are the lessons we learn from each one. We continually ask, what works? What doesn’t? What are best practices? We see ourselves not just as facilitators but as a research organization. We are inventors, committed to designing a roadmap, to discovering a new language for talking across divides in the service of peaceful coexistence and human understanding.
Changing Our Consciousness, Inc., our umbrella organization, is a 501(c)3 New York nonprofit corporation. 100% of all donations go directly to support our projects and further our mission. Contributions made to Changing Our Consciousness, Inc. are tax-deductible for US federal income tax purposes to the full extent of the law. We do not publish, sell, or otherwise distribute the names or contact information of our supporters.