Len & Libby Traubman: A Marriage and Life in Dialogue and Bridging Divides
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Dec 31, 2016
Jan 2017 Awakin Call
Speaker: Len and Libby Traubmann
Host: Birju Pandya
Moderator: Aryae Coopersmith
Aryae: Len and Libby are peacemakers, filmmakers, authors, and co-founders and co-leaders of a 24 year old nonviolent conflict resolution group called "The Palestinian-Jewish Living Room Dialogue," which they established in their home in 1992 in San Mateo.
The one-to-one, face-to-face method of conflict resolutions which they have modeled in this group has been looked to globally and served as the global model for educators, researchers, journalists, activists, trainers, and strategists around the world, including the US State Department, which has distributed their instructive films in Africa.
They have supported live face-to-face dialogue in places as diverse among citizens of Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Myanmar. They also do long-distance dialogue via Skype and Zoom.
Libby is a retired clinical social worker. In 1991 she helped organize the "Beyond War Conference" for Israel and Palestinian citizen leaders, which resulted in a historic signed document called "A Framework for Public Peace Process." She has co-produced three films modeling listening and communication. They are called "Peacemakers: Palestinians and Jews Together at Camp"; "A Dialogue at Washington High"; and "Crossing Lines in Fresno." For her community service and global influence, she was awarded a place in the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame.
Len is a retired pediatric dentists, and Len has been bringing so-called enemies together over 30 years. He tirelessly documents and how-to manuals of how this works--a successful dialogue-based peace processes. It included early on back in the day of the Soviet Union of bringing Soviets and Americans together. And then bringing together Armenians and Azerbaijanis and Jews and Palestinians, and more recently, Muslim and Christian people in Nigeria.
He co-produced the 2012 documentary "Dialogue in Nigeria: Muslims and Christians Creating Their Future." In 2013, "The Dose Garet Tribal Healing in the Ivory Coast."
If you ask Len and Libby what is the secret to what you do, you will probably hear them say, "it is all about listening." I had a personal demonstration of this a couple of years ago when we were just getting to know each other and invited them to my birthday party. Unexpectedly, in the middle of the birthday party, Len got up and offered an appreciation of all kinds of things about me, and I said, "how did you know that stuff? I haven't said anything about any of that."
And Len smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Yes, you have." He listens very deeply.
Wendy and I had an experience of appreciating the global reach of Len and Libby's work when they started participating in our OneWorldLight [OWL] Wisdom Circles which are global Skype calls. Before long there were some young peace activists joining us from Nigeria, from the Ivory Coast, and, more recently, from Myanmar. When we asked these activists from around the world, "How did you learn to do what you do with such courage in such dangerous places?" The answer was always same. We learned from Len and Libby.
So Len and Libby, we are so happy to have you with us on this call, and welcome.
Libby: Thank you so much for inviting us. That was rather humbling to hear you say all that and take us back to a lot of history. Actually, very moving to think about all the people we've met along the way and all of our mentors and all the people who just get who we are. So thank you.
Len: Good morning, Aryae.
Aryae: Good morning, Len. I want to start off with a very basic question as kind of a baseline. The question is what is dialogue, and specifically what is dialogue as the two of you have been practicing it?
Len: Well, what is distinctive about dialogue as a way of communication is very different than conversation which is shallow, conversational, and usually pretty safe. And discussion which is like percussion--batting a ping-pong ball back and forth, waiting for what I want to say. And it is definitely not debate which is I win, you lose; we learn nothing; and we become further apart.
Dialogue has a really new quality of listening and listening to learn, not waiting for what I'm going to say next. And what it does is it dignifies both people. It dignifies the listener and it dignifies the person who is being listened to, rather than humiliate or dismiss or cause the other person to withdraw and feel more desperate. Is that helpful?
Aryae: Yeah yeah. The key I’m hearing is it’s a different quality of speaking, it’s truly listening. So Len and Libby can you give us some recent examples of in your own work how dialog is actually being used in different places around the world today.
Len: So many people are desperate to be listened to as you said on the website from Maya Angelou, “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story”. For instance with our colleagues in Cote d’Ivoire and also in the Democratic Republic of Congo almost in parallel they’re bringing together people who have never been together. Like people with normal skin tone and people with albinism no pigment in their skin, who are often harmed often killed. Their body parts often used for sacrifice. And they are coming together and understanding the humanity of the other, and the medical implications of why they look different. And there’s a healing. And the same with tribes who are alienated.
It’s all in knowing that everybody has a story, and experiences life. And that truly an enemy is one whose story we have not heard. From changing this existence on the planet from one of staying in one’s clan and separatism to moving out your front door and being with the other person. It’s magical and it’s very close at hand, within our reach.
Libby: In the DR Congo they also brought together two different fans of football, two different teams -- it wasn’t the teams it was the fans of those teams who really at the games sometimes literally killed each other Such hostility and competition. So our friend there brought together fans of the two teams and had them sit down and talk about what the sport means to them and how they felt about their teams and what it means to win and lose, until they were all able to change their thinking about what it means to be a fan and how to work together so the sport is fun and not a deadly one.
Aryae: In situations when people are feeling so worked up and they are in the flight and fight mode and feeling so angry how do you get them to shift to listen to the other person?
Len: In my faith tradition in Judaism the primary prayer is called the Shema and it means to listen and to hear. And really the first person, the person who can do it first, who can still oneself and hear the other’s story is the one with the power to transform the relationship. That is the power that each of us have to change the environment right away.
Libby:I think it’s important to say too that it’s really, really difficult to make this happen in the heat of the moment when people are really angry and frustrated and you’re not able to hear at that time, so a lot of the work has to be done either before, it’s like a training, how do we learn how to listen, in these difficult situations how do we practice. It’s not something we do well in our culture. We are not good listeners. We like to express ourselves.
We like to be right, we like to win, so it’s a practice that we have to begin to undertake. And also in the heat of the moment we have to learn how to still ourselves and remove ourselves from the situation wso we can then come back and provide a safe place and sometimes it might take a third person to come in and provide a safe place and help two people or a group of people how to listen to each other. So it’s not a quick fix. We have to work at this.
Aryae:Yeah. You know I’m hearing a slightly different angle from what you both said. Len what I think I heard you say is that in a conflict type situation the person who begins listening to the other has the power to change the situation, and Libby what I hear you saying is that when tempers rise and people are worked up maybe you can’t do anything in the moment that you have to step back and then come back. In your experience if there is a situation that’s very heated is it actually possible to change what’s happening in the moment or do you have to retreat and come back later?
Len: If you can be still and usually, this is interesting, because the entry point isn’t issues. People talk about issues but what they long for is to have their own untold and unheard personal story expressed. So in the middle of talking about issues if you can sit down and ask somebody, bring it back into the room, and ask a person, “Why does this mean so much to you? How does it relate to your life, your story, your people, your family?” That’s what draws people closer together. A story, a personal story is really the shortest distance between people.
Aryae: So you’re shifting the direction from the argument about a particular issue, toward “I’m interested in your story.”
Len: Yes. And dialog is about meaning, Rumi a sufi mystic said out beyond. I’ll meet you there. And it’s really to discover not what’s right and wrong, but what has meaning for a person, and why this means so much to that person.
Aryae: Guess what from our listeners around the world we have our first question. And this is from someone you guys actually know. It’s from Yoav Peck in Jerusalem in Israel. Yoav is also the exec director of - for those who may not be familiar it’s a peace organization where Palestinian and Israeli Jews get together to hear each others’ stories.
Yoav’s question: “In dialog work here in Palestine and Israel one of the places we get stuck is in the inequality between the two sides. The Palestinians are happy to share their experiences with Israelis. But some of them resent giving equal time and equal time to representatives of the other side, the side that oppresses them daily. In your dialog work how do you address and embrace the inequality and the balance of power when there is an inequality like that between two sides.”
Libby: I think this is one of the most challenging things that we have to look at. There is an inequality, there is a dominator and a dominated, an occupier and the occupied and it does make people feel less than, and they want to be equal before they can begin to talk about the things that are meaningful to them.
But it’s actually just the reverse has to happen. You can’t become equal until you know each other and you learn of your common humanity, you experience that common humanness. This was one of the things that was really difficult in the early days of our Living Room Dialog.
In the beginning the Palestinians did not want to sit down and feel equal in the living room with Jewish participants because they said it wasn’t a fair deal. And we said until the Jews learn the Palestinian story and learn to appreciate them as human beings and experience their common humanity that would never be able to change, and that in fact is what did bring about the possibility of the dialog continuing and being sustained was that the participants began to see that by meeting each other building trust, learning how to really appreciating each other as human beings it had nothing to do with Jew and Palestinian, or Christian or Muslim it was about being human beings and people, then we were better able to begin to talk about the more difficult topics that would come up. And you wouldn’t think of it as the occupier and the occupied, it was more the people in the room were really looking for a settlement and a solution that met the needs of everybody involved,.
Aryae: Libby Was their a particular action that someone did or something that somebody said that sort of broke the ice on that and changed the feeling of inequality to one of common humanity,
Len: That’s exactly what happens when there’s dialog, dialog is really where equality begins. For instance, when we went to Nigeria where they are used to having titles where there are Somebodies and Nobodies and a lot of rankism - we said no on your name tags there will be no titles no professor, no doctor, no imam no priest, Father this or that. Just first and last names. And this is what happens in dialog. The change that happens inside of human beings is you hear each others stories and you begin to see that you are equal human beings, and the change that happens inside the person and this is about people in relationships, you begin to want the best not only for yourself but for the other more equally.
In Israel and Palestine there are almost no relationships. Half the Jewish citizens of Israel, a recent peer report just published to have Arab citizens exported from the country., On the other hand the Palestinians not understanding how change happens at all abuse their own people and discourage their own people from even engaging the others because they feel it the word is it “normalizes” the political situation. What is normalized is the absence of relationship, and that is the tragedy and that’s what needs to be -- it’s global it’s international and that’s what’s important to understand these days, it begins with the human relationship and the politicians follow.
Aryae: Thank you and Yalov thank you for that question and I want to encourage you if you got anything else to respond to or ask since you're doing this online just continue by email we will bring it into the dialog. You know Len, listening to what you just said I want to sort of veer off and ask about the current situation in the US. Where there is such a gulf between the people who voted for Donald Trump and those who voted for Hillary Clinton. I've heard people say to me, “well it would be nice if we could get a dialogue with them but they don't want to talk to us.” How does your understanding of dialogue apply to the path forward, of what we might do to start bridging this gap in the US today.
Libby: It seems to me that the beginning point is exactly what we’ve been talking about.The way we introduce dialogue and build relationships through the personal stories and what has meaning for each individual. And you said it during this last election we realized how little we know about the other, the other being people who might lead a different lifestyle or have different political beliefs, and thought that their candidate was going to be able to solve certain problems that they have, whether it be Trump or Bernie or Hillary or whoever. Everybody had their reasons for thinking those candidates were going to do something for them, but we didn't really understand the need that those people had, and that they were seeking answers. I think we can sit down and talk about how would we describe the world in which we want to live. How would we describe the communities that we can envision providing a safe secure environment for all our citizens what are the needs and what are the responses that we think would be helpful? Here in San Mateo we are going to have an event called Crossing Lines we are inviting citizens to come and share their own personal stories and to begin talking about how to create community that meets the need of all the people. The biggest problem has been just like we said earlier that even in other places in the world like Boko Haram and organizations that seem to do terrorist activities, we keep saying Who are they? Why did they do that? and I think to me that is just a symptom of the lack of knowing each other and understanding the greater needs in the world and how we are all in it together and how we need to appreciate the needs that all people have and how we need to address those needs by getting to know those people.
Aryae: Is this event in San Mateo county is this open to anyone who wants to come or is it sort of the specific group of people invited?
Len: The public is invited.
Birju: I am riveted by this conversation. I am curious about inviting in safety in dialog. I find in conversation with others to really invite my truth involves me going into places in myself that I might not have seen before or that are new to me. And that demands a pretty high level of safety in the container. I am curious do you have suggestions on how to invite vulnerability into dialogue?
Len: the way it looks to paint a picture when we bring people together, it is about sharing your personal story. So it begins with somebody being an exemplar and telling their personal story whether it's in a short film or right there in the room. But people are paired in dyads, so it is a safe place and it is about one's own story. And of course there isn't a controversy around how a person experiences his life, it's authentic. It just becomes a safe place and it's a dependable experience. It has to do with just a little bit of facilitation but not much. It's much simpler than people think. And when a person starts to tell his or her story they are nervous for about a minute and after that the room becomes abuzz because it is what people long to do. And it is an experience of unity and it seems from our experience that the person's soul remembers union and the deepest longing of the person and the soul is for reunion and so people become vulnerable quickly because it is a mutually desired and longed for experience -- of sharing your story. The opposite is beginning to debate about an issue that's not where to start. It's to start with knowing who the other human being is in the room and it becomes a safe place rather quickly and beautifully and magically.
Libby: And I would like to add that if the dialogue starts by them sharing their personal stories in time, if people continue to meet, it does go more deeply into personal feelings and life stories. And people as they gain trust and they develop friendship and care about each other are better able and want to share more deeply. Because that's where the real human heart connections are made, where people are their real selves and they expose their hearts. That's where the real growth takes place. And there are agreements in that about listening and keeping things confidential and not telling stories outside the group so there has to be a little of that as well. It works beautifully and it's the deepest desire.
Aryae: I am really struck by what you both said. And what you said Len -- that the soul remembers union and by sharing stories it's expressing that longing for reunion. My goodness if we can tap into that energy in ourselves and each other that's a powerful force to work with! I'd like to make a shift right now. Speaking about stories of people's lives I'd like to go a little bit into your life and how you got into doing this work, and I know that you said online and said to me personally that one of the key events for both of you in developing your dialogue practice has been your marriage. You come from different backgrounds--a Jewish background and a Christian background. You had to learn how to talk to each other. Can you share that story with us?
Len: We met in the summer of 66. It was wonderful, and in the summer of 67 we married and in 1969 our first child was born Elinor, and it was the same year that that photograph of Earth from space came back from the space program. So in our marriage and in our family we were moved by seeing our home the Earth for the first time in a photograph and having a child. And it brought us closer together and gave us great purpose, and also many questions to ask about how we were going to live our lives and how we were going to parent, what kind of relationship we were going to have and what it means that the Earth is one that we are one. We had always heard it a lot in the prayers, but it meant much more now and had implications for our marriage.
Libby: And I would add that that was kind of the big picture and those were outside inspirations but in the house you have to stay, we were two different personality types and we didn't live together before we got married, so there were lots of surprises after we got married about who we'd ended up with. And we were too strong personalities and we had our differences and our challenges, and we learned early on without consciously saying we need to be better listeners. We learned throughout the process that everything in our marriage-- listening with Keith and getting into each other's frame of reference--was key and we also did a lot of personal work where we did learn how to tell our own stories and appreciate each other's background and where we came from and our own conditioning and expectations that we had from relationships. So I would say we've often said that marriage is the gymnasium of the spirit, and it was the place where we had to learn how to listen and to capitulate and to have fun and to appreciate each other and compromise and all of these skills that we learned over the years. We've been married 50 years in August. We've been slowly learning them like everybody else does. I think our marriage or a relationship with any partner is a great place to learn how to listen and to participate in the bigger world.
Aryae: I was thinking about those years 66 67 68 it was kind of a magical time and I get this confluence of the magical time in your life--the marriage, the birth of your child the picture of the Earth from space. I'm wondering if in the midst of all that was there a time when you came across or you realized something differently or you had some kind of disagreement and you had to step back and learn to listen to each other?
Len: Absolutely. When we were married we weren't married really young we were in our late twenties I admit I wanted Libby to be more like me.
Libby: Good luck on that!
Len: It's interesting that you ask because we were just asked to write and we did an article for a magazine on family therapy. The name of the article was “Pre-deciding about Violence.” Really it is the pre-decision to be committed that freed us not to withdraw from our marriage relationship, and it was the religious with smaller “r” decision to be are ourselves: to vent, to rage, to weep, to blame, to do everything we had to do to get stuff out and the other person would not leave, no matter what. That commitment allowed us to empty out and be real humans because like in the myth of Noah and the arc, the Raven goes out of the scene first and then the dove with the Olive Branch comes in, so we found it real important to be able to express ourselves fully in the context of the marriage relationship. And most of what we learned about bringing other people together we learned in our marriage.
Aryae: That's a beautiful and inspiring thing. You said something to the effect that we are in it together we are staying together no matter what. That seems real important.
Caller: Hi I'm Jerry Green I’ve been interested in dialog for many years. We are dancing around the influence of the relationship between our personal stories that come up in dialog and I know how important that is, and the influence of the events around us. I was in a Jewish Palestinian dialog group for a number of years here in Sonoma county and it became strained and broke up around the time of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. The forces that came to bear upon it were the actions of Holocaust survivors who were not a part of the dialog group, but acted out on the dialog group as a result of an event that we created.
Keeping the focus on our inner dialog how do we make constructive sense over what’s happened over the last week between our countries, Israel, Palestine and the United States. Something big has happened and my fear is that it’s going to affect us in an adverse way. Our efforts to come together individually. Do you have a similar fear? Do you see a way in which we can make positive hay out of that?
Libby: Hi Jerry thanks for that. There is a big concern about everything that's going on politically and globally, it's affecting all of us and our thinking and how we are going to live and cooperate together.
One of the things that we learned a long time ago was when we were having an introductory evening for new people to tell them about our dialog work, and a huge event happened in Israel the day before where a lot of people were murdered in Hebron. We were afraid if we had our event people would not want to come, they would be very angry and they would ruin the event. Then we got together with our dialogue group and we said we're going to have the meeting we are going to go forward and we decided at that time no matter what happened in the news we were not going to go up and down with what happened in the outer World. Our focus was on our own relationships and that was one thing we could work on, that was one thing we could control. We knew we couldn't change political outcomes; we knew we lived here in America; we knew we couldn't do much about what was happening in the Middle East. But we can certainly export solutions and show and model how people can build new kinds of relationships. And I think that's exactly where we are today in the world -- where if we go up and down with all the terrible news and half of it's probably not even true, we are being told stuff everyday we don't even know if it's true or not, we just have to hold on to the beliefs and the knowledge and the relationship that we experience that are true and real and firm and hold on to that, because that's what we have. And if we can model that and if we can show that we are one earth, we are one humanity and one future, and live according to that I don't think we can do much more and we don't have to worry about what's going to happen in the Middle East right now.
Len: An example is as Libby said, our purpose is to export solutions and for people to be in relationship, which they are not overseas, nor are we in this country as the recent election just showed. The Palestinian and the Jewish students on the campuses here are preoccupied with asserting themselves,defending themselves or their people and they spend all their energy justifying what others are doing with ill-will, hostility, harming and death. Instead of being in relationship. And the students here in America on the campuses have almost no real adults to help them sit down and become able to listen, which is the destiny of the human being and why we were given all of our senses. And instead we import the problems and export more problems. We can't build treaties that's not the purpose of people. But we can create relationships and that is the great need and the sacred Trust of the people is to connect with one another and create a culture of connection.
Aryae: One thing that really strikes me, Len and Libby about what both of you are saying is that the practice of listening, of dialogue, of people being in relationship with each other is like a spiritual practice that needs to be practiced regardless of what's going on in the outside world. If I meditate, I'm going to meditate regardless of what the news is in today's newspaper. It seems like what you're saying similarly is, if I do dialogue I am just going to keep doing dialogue because that brings connection and connection brings peace.
Libby: Exactly and Jerry I am sorry to hear that your group kind of disbanded. It is a huge challenge and I know that many groups have come and gone and what we have been told by being in contact with many of those groups that have come and gone is that the failure was to hold on to the relationships. And that people got polarized over political issues over which they really had no control. And to me that's the really sad part is that they split up over something that they couldn't do anything about to begin with. Again just to repeat it, the most important thing we can do in dialogue is to model the possibility of building relationships. Whether we are alike but even out of diversity we can build incredible relationships based on trust and appreciation for our common Humanity.
Len: It might be worthwhile to talk about the importance of story.
Aryae: Go for it Len!
Len: A story is very important and of course Elie Weisel said people become the stories they hear and the stories they tell. And most of the stories that all of us including the listeners on this call hear, are stories of human failures. Every time we turn on the radio or the television or open a journal. So the choice of story is very important and so that is why in the life that Libby and I have chosen to live, part of it is bringing people together religiously and the other part is telling the stories and not only our stories but the stories of all the human successes because there are many and people deserve and need those stories of human successes. And that's another way we can use our daily life to discover and then pass forward what people are doing to bring them closer. Because it takes huge courage, there is great fear of moving forward and sharing with, and listening attentively to somebody whom we have assumed all our life is our adversary. And usually that fear is exaggerated and often unnecessary.
Aryae: When you are talking about how we hear such negative stories and I'm with you. I kind of stopped reading the papers to a large extent because I get tired of all the negative stories. If we're encountering people whose views of what's happening in the world is a huge collection of negative stories is there any way to turn that around in relationship and to invite positive stories?
Len: I wonder if any of the listeners would like to contribute at this point what this conversation means to them, and if they too have stories that they would like others on the call to hear.
Birju: I love the invitation to move from question to reflection. I think it's a beautiful invitation. Also keeping in mind that it is a bit of a vulnerable thing to open yourself in a conversation like this so, listeners, no worries if you feel shy but we would like to invite your involvement.
Aryae: By the way we do have a comment from Wendy.
Wendy: Hi Len and Libby. I do have one question that I've always wondered about which is, initially when people are making contact and coming together as a group, for the people who are on the ground doing the work how do they attract others to be in the group especially those who are on a different side or a different perspective than they have been? How do they attract people to come into dialogue in the first place? How do they make that kind of contact and make it in a way that it's inviting to the other side?
Libby: That's a really good question because that is often one of the big Hang-Ups how do I find the other To invite them. It reminds me of 25 years ago when we were starting the Jewish Palestinian dialogue in our living room. I didn't really know any Palestinians and I felt like Len was still working and it was going to be up to me if I could find some Palestinians who might be willing to participate in this new adventure and we didn't really know what to expect. And it turned out that our daughter had a girlfriend who worked for a deli and the deli was right up the street from us and it was owned by a Palestinian couple. So I went up and I had this little entry into it by saying, “Oh our friend Courtney told us about your deli and you’re Palestinians and I came to see if you would consider it or be interested in at all participating in a Jewish Palestinian dialogue group.” And a very nice couple the Salems said, “Thanks for asking us that sounds great we'd love to.” and so I said, “Okay the next meeting is --” and I gave him the date and I was all excited and told our group -- and then they didn't show up, and then they didn't show up again, and then I go back up and say, “We had our meeting and you didn't show up and everyone was so disappointed!” and they said, “Oh well tell us about the next one maybe we'll make the next one.”
I'm telling you we went back and forth like this for like four or five months and
I finally went up and I said, “Listen I'm not going to give up asking you to come to the dialogue so you either show up or you tell me that you're not coming, but as long as you keep saying you're coming I'm going to keep following up.” And they looked at me and I remember Adham saying, “You really do want us to be there!” And I was just blown away, and I said, “We. Really. Do.” And at the next meeting not only did the Salems show up but they came with two other fabulous Palestinian couples, all kind of leaders in their Palestinian Community, and they stayed. They were like the Palestinian backbone of our group for many many years. And some of them are still in the dialogue now in fact the Salems are hosting our dialogue in January. It's been 25 years. I guess the answer Wendy is you have to be persistent and you have to be interested and you have to go out and you have to be willing to reach out to somebody you don't really know and give it a try. And believe me over the years we have bumped into waiters and waitresses and businessmen and people on the street who seem Palestinian and we say, “Are you Palestinian? Would you be interested in a dialogue group?” every once in awhile people say yes. But if you don't try you're not going to get it.
Len: It's like war except you’re a different kind of warrior. We have to jump out of our bunker run across the battlefield jump into the enemy's bunker and say to them,”Tell me your story. I'm interested in your story.”
Aryae: I love that image
Caller: Hi my name is John I actually have two questions related to the observation about our college campuses today.
Ayrae: Where are you calling from John?
John: San Diego. The observation that on our college campuses there's no adult wisdom to balance things out. I think the web amplifies that with the echo chamber -- so two questions based on the fact that this is really a lost art that needs to be restored. 1. Are there any organizations yours included that are focused on teaching young children the art of dialogue and listening so that we can begin to scale what has become a lost art of the tribal council or whatever you want to call it, active listening appreciative inquiry there are many names for it. How do we scale it with children? The second question is you've really shared beautifully in many ways the art of listening and dialogue and only made a little bit of reference to facilitation. Can you say a little bit about what you've learned about facilitating and just one comment about that from my own experience is listening to people's stories and making it safe and drawing them out is important but sometimes there are assumptions that either party will make that are not apparent to them because they don't know that it's not Universal. So how do you use the elucidation and the elaboration and the silent assumptions as part of your facilitations to help explicate the story to the listener. Those are my two questions scaling with youth, and how do you explicate assumptions that are not Universal.
Len: We do live mostly by our assumptions. Martin Luther King said it real well. “We don't treat each other well because we're afraid of each other and we're afraid of each other because we don't know each other and we don't know each other because we don't communicate.” He said it really well. Right there in San Diego there is the new flowering activity that started in Chicago it's called Hands of Peace and it's a summer camp-like experience that brings diverse young people together. So you might look for that. Also there used to be a Jewish Palestinian living room dialogue there. There is a film that streams online called Talking Peace. And it's very instructive and helpful. It was created in San Diego at UC San Diego by a professor and it streams online so that might be helpful to you. Facilitation really it comes from the word facile. It's not having all the answers it's just making it easy for people to be listened to. to be sure people share time and to keep it personal. In the beginning we were kind of terrified because we didn't know all the facts and that's not the way you facilitate. It's just create the environment and get out of the way just make it easy for the others to be ears and voices.
Libby: When people make statements that feel like an assumption or projection that's when it's really good to practice listening and say can you say more about that? What in your life experience led you to make that statement? where have you experienced that particular assumption that you're making about another person? And to just continue saying why? why? tell me more and help explore with the person instead of cutting them off and saying that’s stupid or that's not a real fact or that doesn't make sense, because usually when people say something like that, they either heard it or somebody else told them but not necessarily have they experienced it. So we're trying to help all of ourselves get in touch with what is the most real picture here by just continuing to dig and look and be real.
And the other thing that I would just say about children and I can't give you names and specifics but I've been hearing that there are a number of schools around the country and they are starting at a very young age helping kids when they get into a fight on the playground instead of scolding them and sending them to the principal's office they’ll bring the kids together they have a little youth panel and they say what's going on tell us what happened and then they kind of help each other talk about it and overcome whatever it is that they are fighting about.
There is a lot more of this teaching to listen and to be conflict resolution specialists at a very young age because there's a huge need for this with bullying and a lot of the different things going on in the school starting at a young age. I think this is very promising. I saw an article the other day about children if they misbehave in class instead of punishing them they send them into a room where they sit on the floor and have a little period of meditation. They teach them how to meditate and how to still their mind and calm themselves and then in 15 minutes they come back and rejoin the class. So a lot of creativity going on there which is going to be very helpful for the other people coming along.
Aryae: I'm just imagining a world where as part of the education of children around the world they actually learn some of these skills what a different world it might be!
John: those are beautiful answers thank you so much
Aryae: I've always been intrigued by your early days when you were bringing about dialogue between people in the US, American citizens Soviet citizens back in the days of the Soviet Union. Can you tell us a little bit about that story and how it came about what you did and what you learned?
Libby: Well back in the 1980s we were very active in a group called Beyond War and there was a big threat of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States as you all probably remember and Len as a children's dentist was a member of the international Physicians for the prevention of nuclear war which enabled us to go on a trip to the Soviet Union in 1984 for 3 weeks so it wasn't just a little quick thing we went to several cities. What we did there was we shared our personal stories and we would stand up in meetings with doctors and nurses and clinicians and we would stand in the clinic and one by one we will tell our story and they would tell their story and we always included in our stories what we were taught about the other. We would say-- I would say-- I was taught to fear communism. My parents were fearful of my making this trip. They were afraid that something bad might happen to me here or I would be kidnapped because these were all the assumption that we had in the United States about those evil Soviets and what we found was that they were the most remarkable wonderful creative, thoughtful, sensitive people and we would tell our stories and they would tell us how they were brainwashed and conditioned about the United States that we were the evil United States and really bad people and we would all cry and say it’s sad isn’t it? The waste of energy? Such a terrible way to spend life -- hating the other. So when we came home we had had this amazing positive experience of meeting the other face-to-face, heart to heart and following that we heard that quote for the first time about an enemy is one whose story you have not heard and we realized that that was the experience we had just had.
Len: After that trip after that experience things changed. There's a difference between reading about something and having the experience. After that experience the idea of enemies meant very little to us.
Aryae: That changed your mind about what the word enemy meant?
Libby: Exactly we really had a lot of assumptions and projections on who they were we did go feeling a bit nervous but being there was just an incredible powerful positive experience that we've never forgotten. And to this day we have a lot of notebooks full of letters and personal communications that we've had with many many of the Soviets over the years and I would just conclude that by saying it breaks my heart and it's really sad that once again we are posing the Russians as our enemy. And underneath we are sure that all the citizens would really like to save those relationships that have been developed over the years and not get pulled into this terrible posing as enemies again.
Aryae: I guess it's weird how that's happening.
Caller: Hi this is Dinesh Chandra in San Jose. You asked for a story that has really touched me. I read it first in the book on community building by Scott Peck and I attended one of his Workshops 25 years ago and I've heard many versions and I'm sure you've probably heard it too. In the story there is a temple where things are not going well and people were not showing up so the priests sent one of their folks John to meet the rabbi in the next Village. They heard he was very good so John went to see the rabbi and asked him, “What's happening to our Temple why are people not coming?” The rabbi thought about it and he said I don't know much about your temple but one thing I can tell you is that among the priests there one of you is God-like.”
So John went back and all the priests asked him what did the rabbi say? And John said, Well he didn’t say much but he said that one of us is God like one of us is Divine. And all the priests they really felt that if one of us is divine then we must show a lot of respect and we gotta treat whoever that is like God, and so they started to respect each other appreciate each other with new vigor and with new eyes and as a result the temple energy shifted and the energy was so good that it began to attract the villagers and a few villagers came and they talked about the energy of the place and pretty soon the temple was rejuvenated. So that is the story that really impacted me a lot and I brought it into my organization.
And in India we had about a hundred people from India and Pakistan and we have tried to look for what is common and encourage dialogue all the things I don't need to repeat that you shared I learned a few new things today and one question I’d like to ask is can anyone share a story between mother and son where they are alienated. Maybe the son feels the mother is dysfunctional, and the mother feels after the son married he's totally lost to his new wife and completely brainwashed. What can build trust between mother and son in such a case? I'd love to hear your stories.
Libby: Thank you for the beautiful story that it's really inspiring fantastic.
Len: Thank you Dinesh is there anything more you'd like to say about how that story has affected your life?
Dinesh: Like I shared I have used that story in my organizational work and I have simply encouraged people where the focus is totally on what's wrong with everyone and a friend of mine she did a lot of work and influence my thinking also appreciative inquiry. Recently started to ask people questions with suggested four or five questions like what has been the most empowering moment of your life? What has given you the most joy at work? Asking those questions begins to bring up all the positive in people and then when they are feeling good, they look at you in a positive way and pretty soon the whole top executive team begins to appreciate each other. Some of the things which I learned in the story really worked well. Say a short story beginning of Workshop to set the stage in the past. There are several stories like that and this is on top of my list. Our teams are trying to collaborate or where teams are trying to build trust where there is a hidden agendas this story is an excellent one.
Len: What you said certainly is help people dignify one another get to know one another and become closer and begin to want the best for each other it's beautiful thank you.
Dinesh: is there any other story around mother and son -- any stories or advice?
Libby: I can tell you a quick story that's personal to me because I think the mother-son relationship is a very powerful one and it can be very positive and it can be very damaging. And I remember when my son was a freshman in college. He came home for Christmas and the gift that I gave him for Christmas was a box and it had two apron strings cut. If you've heard the term tied to the mother's apron-strings, so I cut the two apron-strings off and I put them in a box and I wrote a long blessing message to Adam and I just said you're a young man I have absolute trust and faith in you. You have a -- and I commented on particular skills he had and I said I want you to know that I am cutting the Apron Strings. You're on your own. I am here if you need me. I am not going to breathe down your neck and tell you what to do anymore. And Adam when he read that I remember he burst into tears and he said this is the best present I've ever had. I don't know maybe with the mother son connection the son just needs to know that he is trusted he is viewed as a man and you are wishing well instead of clinging and demanding and holding those string so tightly that the poor guy doesn't have room to be himself.
Dinesh: Thank you thank you so much wonderful story
Caller: My name is Joanie Chardeli and I’m a co-founder of Pathways To Peace and I am really touched by this call. I am calling from San Rafael California. What I'd like to share is kind of a broader perspective. We've been working for over 30 years with United Nations to extend the participation in the international day of peace and in building a culture of peace and non-violence, and it's a psychological shift really because our culture has been so full of violence and opposite sides and you know all that better than I do.
Anyway, so what we've been doing is working to gain participation in the international day of peace throughout the world and it has expanded tremendously over the last 30-plus years, working with children's programs many different children's programs and it started before the internet so that was challenging but then the internet made it much much easier and there are websites about it and Facebook pages. And really building Pathways to peace on one of the 8 pathways to peace--through culture, through law, through environment and so on. And religion has been one of the big ones and we work with many different organizations to try and bring dialogue among the faith and so on I will be brief .I would encourage folks to look at Pathways to peace.org Thank you so much for your work over these many years. I've watched it and participated a bit and many blessings of the new year.
Libby: thank you Joanie many blessings to you, all hands are needed. Great work.
Caller: My name is Bonita Banducci I’m calling from Hayward California. Len and Libby thanks so much it's been really wonderful to get to know who you are and youve contributed so much to what I'm doing that I haven't really labelled or named as much as you are giving shape to it in your conversation.
My work is primarily with men and women. The relational competencies and bringing what you're talking about the cultural Connection in the world and actual competency that we need in a new workplace. That's what I wanted to acknowledge you for that we are working on bringing a culture of connection into the world. And I still think it's also important to be able to name and articulate the value of the more individualistic, more rational and how we need both but that there's a place for both and it's really important that not one delete the other or oversight of the other.
So it's as much as this is kind of more of an intellectual statement just want you to know that this has profound meaning for me as I am trying to articulate how looking at how to begin to write a book myself about this. The one story I would like to share is I have a very close friend who unfortunately is no longer with us, but she taught me many years ago that she said that really all of the conflicts between nations you will find that there is a difference in culture between the more rational individualistic Western culture and a more collectivist, subjective culture. And of course that's reflected in the men and women differences that I work with. But I also just hear it in terms of what you are saying in terms of wanting to bring a connection culture to the whole world. We need to have an understanding of how we even think and how we process and how we make decisions. I heard you saying that we tend to export solutions and I think that's so profound that you know we try to figure out answers to problems rational answers rather than make connections and so I'm hoping that you're making something of these different pieces of the puzzle I'm putting together. It's my way of saying thank you so much for for this for the contribution you're making to me and my own work and to be able to get to know you and the incredible work you’re doing in the world.
Libby: Thanks Bonita and keep on doing what you’re doing it’s absolutely critical!
Len: Thank you for reminding us that being together is step 1.
Aryae: We are getting toward the bottom of the half hour Birju I will turn it over to you for our closing segment.
Birju: So grateful to all our callers for the engagement. Len and Libby I’ve been really appreciating this conversation just in inviting how the overarching topic of the Awakin Calls is this journey of inner transformation and hearing how you’ve connected that into how does inner transformation reflect in interpersonal relationships has been astounding for me and all our callers. I’m curious if you guys have any suggestions on how our audience can be in service to you?
Len: Let’s stay in relationship. Let’s stay connected. We have the website just Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialog or just google Traubman. We can stay in touch by email, phone, zoom, Skype and get creative together and all the videos you described in the beginning are free. All the How-To materials are on the website free of charge freely downloadable and we are here for you.
Libby: I would just encourage everybody to ponder what it means to be a really good listener. It doesn’t have anything to do with us and our work; iit has to do with you and your life and your personal relationships what kind of world you want so when you go out today and you see people see them through new eyes we could say soft eyes. Just be interested in everybody and every time you have an opportunity to ask people about their personal story who are you, just do that and see what it feels like to get to know another human being at a very personal heart to heart level. If we keep doing that we can build a much safer saner happier more joyful world I’m sure.
Birju: What a soft and beautiful invitation to our audience. Thank you again for joining.
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