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Bob Stains: Rehumanizing Difference Through Dialogue

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Empower With Empathy

“How we communicate, impact our relationships… and relationships in turn impact our community”, our Awakin call guest Bob Stains emphasized in early part of his conversation with our moderator for the call, Preeta Bansal. The call theme was - Rehumanizing Difference Through Dialogue.

We all have to navigate through differences, divisions, or conflicts that might be rooted in differing stances /positions, or perceptions developed and fortified from prevalent stories, or conversations following the same pattern over and over . We run into barriers that could be so hard to overcome.

In this call, I got pointers for breaking through or breaking away from the patterns that could be so damaging…

As we started the call, I wondered about my experience with trying empathic listening I had captured from Stephen Covey’s fifth of the seven habits – seek first to understand, then to be understood. When I put myself in the frame of reference of another person to understand him/her… I feel vulnerable, I feel insecure in that my footing isn’t planted on the ground I know of – that is, my own thoughts and belief system. Whenever that I am able to see from another person’s perspective, the quality of conversation is so enriching and growing. Now, only if I could do that every time… :)

Preeta chimed in with her thoughts on communication… “Communication isn’t just about making your point clearly. I have learned that the most empowering thing I can do to someone is to listen. It’s a different language.”

Bob explained methodology and research about cultivating what he called a collaborative, curious stance in cultivating a meaningful dialogue.

As I tried to capture the essence of it during the call, three things came to me stronger than ever before:

One: The power of genuinely trying to understand someone without certainty of knowing or presuming other person’s position.

Two: Mindfulness and self-reflection… the process of understanding our own thought patterns. Reflection helps us discover our thought patterns as we enter into the situation and then reflection as we go through the process of cultivating new dialogs.

Three: Responding to intention rather than from our preprogrammed automatic reactions. These reactions could be hardwired from stories told and heard over and over, or believes reinforced from years or even generations of repeated patterns, or trauma/fear of past experiences. Think and speak in an expanded way that would pave the way to an expanded story.

Bob shared a powerful nugget to cultivate meaningful conversation within a group torn by division and conflict. It is based on six P’s - Purpose, People, Prevent, Promote, Plan, and Prepare.

One: Purpose - Clarify and articulate overarching purpose. What is the end vision? Set that as a guiding compass.

Two: People - What people should be there? What voices need to be heard? What voices that were kept outside, need to be brought in?

Three: Patterns - Which behaviors and patterns should be prevented – the patterns that perpetuated the division.

Four: Promote - What good things from the past actually have been working? Which speaking behaviors we want to invite? Promote them.

Five: Plan - Plan the structure .. talk together, emphasize agreements and covenants about the communication process. Bob brought up ways in which to implement this using the guideline they have developed and refined over a number of years.

Six: Prepare - Invest in helping people prepare themselves. During the call, Bob shared a number of insights on using silent walks together (walking meditation), eating together as a group such that we become more receptive … we develop sense of belonging to the group in a sense that might still feel ever so divisive. That later part drew parallels to me with the Awakin Circles and collectively holding the space that would promote healing from within.

I learned about value of being curious – asking questions to understand the other person… power of asking questions to open myself up to a new perspective, rather than closing down the shutters with preconceived certainty of other person’s position. Bob put it so succinctly and nicely, “When certainty kicks in, curiosity goes out the window. Ask and respond to questions in an honest, open way.

Bob pointed us to their free nuts and bolts guide on this on their website that has all details about cultivating healthy dialouge and communication.

You are able to read the full transcript of the conversation, or listen to the conversation with Bob on the Awakin Call page.

I have always appreciated value of self-reflection. I have always appreciated power of empathic listening – listening to genuinely understand the other person. I am always on the lookout for ways, ideas to cultivate those. I feel empowered from the nuggets and the pointers that I got from conversation with Bob.

How thrilling to see such a focused initiative to resurrect relationships and communities using a very well designed system that is also grounded in timeless principles!


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