In Luton, we recently ran training sessions about guidelines for constructive dialogue.
Participants looked at what makes for good, healthy, constructive, win-win kind of dialogue when it comes to conversations between people who have very different perspectives. Within that framework, we looked at the guidelines for dialogue that The Feast use in our work with young people.
We shared some stories of young (and not so young!) people whose lives have been transformed because they are now much more able to constructively interact with those from another group or those who have a very different opinion.
Participants were struck just by how powerful these seemingly simple guidelines are in framing dialogues that have the power to transform.
The guidelines were put into practice straight away – not least during a discussion about one of the guidelines themselves: Respect other people’s views, even if you disagree.
The sticking point was – can you really respect someone’s point of view if it goes completely against what you know to be right or if it is destructively extreme? Can you really respect someone’s view if they advocated, for example, that paedophilia is a disease and paedophiles should be treated accordingly?
The guidelines themselves provided the framework in which to explore this. Some people felt that there came a point after which dialogue was not possible if it became impossible to respect someone’s extreme point of view. Others felt that it was especially in those situations that dialogue was necessary, vital even, in order to effect change. Yet others pointed out that it is for that reason that there exists the 11th guideline which gives someone the freedom to be able to stop a conversation when it became fruitless and that each of us probably has a different line after which we personally were no longer able to hold a constructive conversation with someone.
There it is right there …