In conversations where there is a difference of opinion some irritation, even anger, is usually experienced. This is equally true in the family, in the workplace, and in meetings of all kinds that encourage lively debate. The Peace Weekly recently profiled PET (Parent Effectiveness Training) leader John Kim, who teaches how to avoid contentious conversations by practicing good dialogue guidelines.
John says the reason we lose our temper when
we get involved in a serious conversation is that we have already made a
judgement about the person we are talking with, having already
predisposed ourselves to accept or reject the others views even before
anything has been said; obviously, says John, not a wise approach. Even
if such a dialogue continues, it will likely turn quarrelsome. This is
the reason he stresses the importance of non-violent dialogue. Non
violent dialogue is not just refraining from using violent language, he
explains, but is based on heart to heart sharing. It seeks to observe,
entreat--qualities which he believes are at the center of good dialogue.
There is no attempt to judge the other, only to listen to the other
with the openness of a good listener. When someone says something we
don't like, we shouldn't pigeon-hole the person by saying "There he
goes again," but rather what was his reason for saying
that. That should be our focus.
John, as a vocal representative
of those fighting against violence, has been called an advocate for
social justice and peace. Much of the violence in the world is bred by
injustice, by a failure to listen carefully, heart to heart, to the
concerns of others. We should be less concerned about presenting our
side of an issue, and more open to listening to the other side if we
want more justice and peace in the world.
self-serving arguments are usually based on generalized statements such
as "Young people have no manners." This kind of judgement usually
provokes criticism and blame, leading to a potentially violent
confrontation. A more objective observation, though based on the same
thing that is seen and heard, would ask why such a statement was made,
thus paving the way for meaningful dialogue. There is, in such an
approach, a willingness to understand the other person without first
demanding that the other understand what we have to say.
has shown us the spirituality of non-violent dialogue. We need only look
at his example in the scriptures to know how we should be relating with
others. We know the way he treated the tax collector Zaccheaus, how he
dealt with those who were crucifying him, the way he treated the woman
caught in adultery. He saw them all with merciful eyes.
Kim says we cannot live suppressing all that is inside us. It's
necessary to express ourselves but in non-violent ways. If we
continually remember the way Jesus related with others, we will avoid
self-serving, provocative talk with its potential for inciting violence.
Understanding what good dialogue is, according to John, would also make
a difference in what we hear and see in cyberspace.