The Waging Dialogue Model is a work in progress, an attempt to address a problem that may seem intractable, but which is becoming ever more critical to solve with advancements in technology. Humans attacking and ostracizing other humans is nothing new, but the systematic isolation of humans into echo chambers by social media algorithms is unique to this period of history. We have to create a model for radical understanding in order to break down these alienating categories. Otherwise we risk a dystopian future as artificial intelligence learns from our worst tendencies.
Many efforts to address political polarization have moved toward improving debate and discourse on the controversial issues, promoting better listening and more reasoned arguments in place of defensive impulses. It is critically important to provide demonstrations of and opportunities for idealized dialogue, but this approach is not sufficient to address the deeper aspects of polarization. We must recognize that, in many cases, we stake out our strongest positions not because they feel most rational to us but because they support our identities. When our identities are threatened, our fight, flight, or freeze instincts kick in. We either become increasingly aggressive, “freeze” the conversation with repetitive counters, or shut down the interaction completely.
In the following videos, a liberal and a conservative test the Waging Dialogue model. They build on a friendly relationship established in initial meetings and proceed to challenge one another to understand where their positions originate. They are willing to listen to ideas, even offensive ones, without necessarily debating the ideas themselves. They don’t fight against, they dig around and underneath.
It is enormously difficult to have open and honest dialogue with those whose beliefs we cannot rationalize because they come from different experiential foundations. People willing to invest the necessary time and energy to confront this obstacle must be given the space to struggle together to understand why it’s so hard, and Waging Dialogue will provide this space. We are seeking to partner with individuals and organizations that have the human or financial resources to help us scale up these efforts, to bring a larger number of people into this social experiment, and to develop a data-driven methodology for measuring the success of this initiative. If you are interested in learning more or being a part of the Waging Dialogue project, please CONTACT US!